First of all, I’d like to thank all those of you who have contributed in the last week. Gloria, Penelope, Mary, Sandra, and all the others.
As a matter of fact, contributions have reached $580, which is incredibly close to allowing me to buy a second hand laptop, with which I could do my job.
There’s one more issue: I’ve been told (by people and by Indiegogo) that they couldn’t contribute. It was something with PayPal, and I had to verify my identity. Now it should all work just fine. Also, you can now contribute directly (in case you hate PayPal or something like that.) All you need is a credit card.
Once again, here’s the link. Lots of perks available, lots of cool stuff. Also, it’s kind of for a cause.
Now, before you get to read the first chapter of my upcoming novel (which I don’t have the tools to properly save it as a PDF for you to download), I’d like to share with you one of my favorite quotes by William Faulkner: “An artist is a creature driven by demons… He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.”
Kind of interesting, considering my current situation, which has forced me to rely on the kindness of people to resolve a somewhat personal issue (uhm… the whole no computer thing, of course.)
So, yeah, here’s the first chapter of my upcoming novel.
A couple of heavies are guarding the entrance to the apartment. They are more like statues actually, because they have to let everyone in.
One of the heavies raises his hands in despair. “There are too many fucking people in here. And the music is way too loud.”
The other one shakes his head. “I can’t hear you. The music’s too loud.”
The lobby is overwhelmed by a mesmerizing cocktail of colors, music, and people carelessly shaking their limps to the beat. In a corner, a DJ is mixing with his headphones over his ears. On the other side, a huge bar changes its color like a chameleon every minute. Bartenders juggle bottles and flirt with gorgeous women.
Simply put, the lobby is a human mosaic.
Guarding the staircase that leads to the second floor, another heavy. He has a list in his hand. You don’t get to climb up those stairs if he doesn’t find your name on it.
“There’s got to be returns when we search your name on the web. There’s got to be a Wikipedia article about you.”
That’s what he says to anyone who’s not on the list. There’s got to be some sort of proof that you’ve done something in your life. No one knows who makes the list, not even this twenty first century Cerberus. All we know is that we have to do something, anything just to get our names on it. Just so we can climb up to the second floor, where the music from downstairs is but a murmur travelling across the marbled floor.
On the second floor, in an atmosphere of organized chaos, the guests are chatting and laughing vigorously. Twenty year old scotch goes down their throats, expensive champagne bubbles inside their heads. Cigars send smoke ghosts around paintings and sculptures.
Men’s haircuts: a monument of perfection. Toned bodies, skin glowing because of so many spa treatments.
On the second floor, if you see a guy whose hair is tied back in a ponytail, his eyes sarcastically darting around the room, then you know he’s a wealthy art dealer looking to meet the next Andy Warhol.
A woman walking in high-heels like she’s on a catwalk and it’s clear she’s a supermodel in need of a billionaire to help her forget about the strict diets and insane work schedules.
A ridiculously ugly guy wearing a tuxedo, a gold watch wrapped around his hairy wrist, contemptuously glancing around, you know he founded a very profitable Internet company. He doesn’t know about being rich, he just wants people to notice him.
If there’s a single cliché about the rich and famous missing from this party, then most certainly it’s sick or in jail, serving time for securities fraud.
Once in a while, you’ll even get to see a blue eyed, blond guy with an incredibly long name. And you’ll know he’s European nobility and owns five thousand acres of forest in Germany. And, of course, he is looking for a beautiful woman to make him feel less lonely.
The second floor is the place where everyone is looking for something.
A girl is sitting on a leather sofa, her eyes glowing, her head bowed, looking haggard and tired. From the pathetic and artificial way she pants and sighs, she might just be a washed up actress desperate to find someone willing to help her make a comeback on the big screen.
This is where beauty decades one second at a time.
In the main living room, a man is singing at a piano. Around him, a crowd of ecstatic millionaires. His brown shirt soaked in sweat, plastered around his body, his hands strolling across the piano, his eyes closed, he smiles because he knows he’s really good. When he stops playing and turns around on his stool, people start clapping and cheering. He raises his hands in the air and ceremoniously bows his head as the rich clap and say that William Bower is a real artist.
He feeds on their cheers like an ancient god.
He stands up and takes off his round rimmed eyeglasses.
A woman comes up to him and gives him a napkin. “William, darling, you were amazing.”
He takes the napkin and rubs the back of his neck with it, then puts his glasses back on. “Thank you” he says and leans forward and gently presses his lips against the woman’s cheek, his left hand curling around her lower back just for a second. “Thank you,” he whispers as he pulls away. “And now if you’ll excuse me…”
And he leaves her there to blush, to burn, to dream.
On the terrace, two men, wearing silk suits, are talking. Next to them, his back pressed against the railing, a young man is listening indulgently to their conversation. Over his shoulders, a view reserved only for Fortune500 CEOs: New York City seen from the top of the world: a billion little lights piercing the dark veil of the night. New York City, modern man’s version of the Garden of Eden.
“I tell you! Profits are bound to rise in the fourth quarter.”
The young man covers his mouth with his right hand. His eyes half-closed, the wrinkles that cover his forehead deepen and his entire face contracts for a second. The other two stop and stare at him. He smiles nonchalantly. “I think you should dump the stock,” he says with a silvery voice.
“Chris is right,” one of the men replies, shaking his gun finger at the other man’s chest. “I think we should dump the stock before it’s too late.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” William says as he locks his hand around one of the men’s arm, “I think that you’re… boring our host to death.”
The two men glare back at William with a dumbfounded expression glued to their faces for a while, then they shrug their shoulders in unison and walk away.
“That wasn’t even rude,” Chris says.
William gives him a hopeless shrug. “You’re welcome.” He takes a cigarette from his pack and lights it.
“I thought you gave up smoking.”
“Part-time only.” William winks.
Chris furrows his eyebrows. “How’s that even possible?”
“Well… let’s say I don’t smoke when I sleep.” William takes a long drag on his cigarette and holds his breath. He lets the smoke out through his nostrils, then throws the cigarette over the railing, leaning just so he can watch it free fall from the top of the world. “What the hell were you doing with those boring accountants anyway?”
“They’re not accountants. They’re associates of mine.”
“Even worse,” William answers with a brooding look on his face. He puts his right arm around Chris’s shoulders. “It’s Summer. It’s New York.” He waves his hand at the never ending ocean of skyscrapers. “You should be falling in love…”
“I don’t really…”
“Of course you don’t.” William leans in a little closer. “You didn’t even notice that girl staring at you.”
William sighs theatrically, a downcast expression covering his face. Chris shrugs his shoulders, but turns around to see this petite blonde eyeballing them. She’s wearing a leather top and skinny leather pants. William waves at her. She waves back and smiles. “That girl.” William’s voice turns into a soft whisper, “People want only one thing in life. They want to fall in love.” His voice less than a whisper, “And they fall in and out of love thousands of times during their lives without even realizing it.”
Chris pinches the bridge of his nose. “I don’t get it.”
“Of course you don’t.” William gives him a pat on the back. He starts circling Chris, rubbing his hands with a deadpan expression on his face. “You’re only thinking about figures and numbers.” Pointing his index finger at his chest, he says, “I, on the other hand, am the right brain. I am creativity. I am art. I am love.”
“I just think that you fall in love only a few times during your life,” Chris says flatly.
William shakes his head in disbelief. “You see a beautiful woman walking on the street toward you. The moment your eyes make contact, that’s enough to stir everything inside you. And I bet that you’re not thinking whether or not she reads Sartre. And she’s not thinking if you’re a good provider. No, in that split second, when every single cell in your body burns with desire, there’s no time for nonsense like that.” He smiles to himself. That’s a really good line. Maybe he should write it down. “And when she passes you by, when you lose eye contact, that rattle inside you fades away.” He takes another look at the blonde. Tapping his lips with his index finger, he says, “That’s a love you’ll soon forget.”
“I think that one is rather called lust.”
“No, no,” William’s distraught figure stares down at the floor. He raises his head. “That’s where most people get it wrong. They think love is like growing a tree in your back yard. But no, love is just an impulse. A single moment that shakes our entire being like an earthquake.”
Chris puts his right hand on William’s shoulder. “I don’t believe in love at first sight,” he says with a strained voice.
“Is there another kind of love?”
Chris opens his mouth to say something, but William raises his hand. “All love is love at first time. It just, sometimes, takes your mind a little while to process the information. You see, the heart is faster than the brain.” He runs his hand through his hair. “Anyway, I have to get going,” he says as he stares emptily at his wrist watch. “I have to write an article on the way today’s technology is isolating us more and more.”
Chris smiles. “William Bower, a modern day Leonardo DaVinci. He writes, he sings, he paints.”
“And he smokes part-time.”, adds William. He puts his hand on Chris’s shoulder, then he heads back inside and starts shaking hands, kissing cheeks, making jokes. Wannabe actresses give him warm hugs.
If you’re rich enough, everything becomes an art.
On the terrace, his arms around his chest, Chris is trying to think. His eyes cold, empty, anyone could see he’s no longer living in the present. He’s someplace else, contemplating a distant future, or maybe replaying parts of his past.
“There are two things we can’t change: who we used to be and what we did.” Who said that? He doesn’t remember.
A lifetime seems to pass seamlessly in a few seconds as memories flicker inside his eyes. Something snatches him back to reality. The blonde girl is standing beside him. She’s got this Mona Lisa smile on her beautifully sculptured face. She knows who he is. And that makes it infinitely easier.
And he knows there’s only one pickup line. “Do I know you?” He looks her straight in the eyes.
She giggles. “It’s the first time I’ve been to one of your parties.”
“I just feel like I’ve seen you before.”
She shrugs and smiles. She holds out her hand. “I’m-”
“Would you like a tour?” he interrupts her.
She looks puzzled. “A tour?” she mutters, then glances back at Chris and smiles complacently. “I’d like that very much.”
As they walk through the living room, Chris notices something. A face. Moth-like eyes exhaling darkness. A deep scar. He stops in the middle of the crowd, closes his eyes, and shakes his head violently, as if trying to get rid of a bad dream. He opens them and the face is gone – as if it evaporated into the noisy crowd.
“Are you okay?” The girl grabs his hand.
“I’m fine.” He squeezes her hand in his as they make their way through the chaos of the living room.
As they climb up the staircase toward the main bedroom, the girl grabs him by his tie and kisses him. Perfect lips touching his and he doesn’t feel a thing. His heart is as steady as the grave ticking of a clock. They go into the bedroom. He unbuttons his shirt. He turns around, sees the girl frozen a couple of feet away from him, her little mouth agape.
The bedroom walls are covered in paintings and prints, decomposing in the silvery light of the moon. Opposite the bed, overlooking the huge windows, there’s a small desk. She finally manages to get a hold on herself and walks over to Chris, who is now sitting half-naked on the edge of the bed.
She caresses his shoulders and back, he wraps his arms around her hips and gently presses his lips against her chest. He can feel her heart beating insanely loud inside her body as he kisses her sweet skin, slowly moving up, toward her neck. Her perfume is insatiable. He can feel her skin burning against his lips. His fingers are dancing on her chest, his lips are kissing hers, but his mind is empty, his soul is dark.
There’s always something keeping Chris Packlem from falling in love.
He turns her on her back. She takes off her bra.
Chris Packlem is like those intricate Swiss watches. So old and complex that no one knows how to fix them anymore.
He knows what’s going to happen; he knows what he’s going to do. He just can’t make himself care. He tries. He tries as hard as he can, but it all feels less real every time he does it.
Because people only want to fall in and out of love a thousand times before they die. Or stop feeling anything at all.
He just wants to get it over with. Because he can’t fall in love. Because there is no tragedy greater than this.
He just needs something to keep him busy during the night. Just another body to keep the other side of his bed warm for a few hours. Such a stupid way to erode his soul.
So what if he doesn’t love her? It would have been selfish of him if he did.
If you enjoyed this sample, feel free to pre-order it (and help me buy a computer thingy and actually properly publish it) here.