From the category archives:

single years

Tanya: Creature of the Night

by anna on July 10, 2009

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People, we’re on vacation this week at this quaint place that doesn’t have wireless internet. This makes it hard to do new blog posts, and also there are these things called “family time” and “relaxation” that keep getting in the way of blogging progress. So today we’re in reruns–I’m bringing back a classic Tanya story for the benefit of people who might have missed her the first time around. This post originally appeared on October 2, 2008. Enjoy. Again.

It is the late fall of 1994, and you are sitting in the outer room of the small apartment that you share with Tanya at Kingscote Gardens. You are just where you wanted to be, living with Tanya, smack dab in the middle of campus, and just a few hundred yards away from the Coffee House, where you will undoubtedly down a pitcher of beer later, just as soon as it doesn’t seem so totally early in the day as to be embarrassing.

There is a stench coming from the general vicinity of the kitchen, the sink of which holds a pile of dirty dishes, including several plates covered in cheese, because cheese is mostly what Tanya eats–cheese, and sometimes pasta or the occasional piece of cheesecake. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her–she looks like a young Catherine Zeta-Jones, though you don’t know who that is yet, because it is only 1994 and The Mask of Zorro is still several years away. But Tanya’s home is in France, and though she is not French, she has mastered the French woman’s knack for eating whatever she wants without gaining weight, and, more to the point, she is anosmic, so the stench might as well not exist to her.

But what is your excuse? They are not your dishes, no, but this is your airspace, right? Was it primarily your trash that you finally gave in and emptied, dragging it down the back stairway, carefully breathing through your mouth so as to not pass out, and shuffling carefully out of the way of some other residents making their way up the stairs–overhearing, but determinedly ignoring them saying, “Uggh, it’s like something died in here.” What was it that made you give in with the trash, that the dishes have yet to accomplish?

You are halfway through Jane Eyre for your senior seminar, but a rumbling in the next room prompts you to take out one of the neon green earplugs you crammed into your ear to drown out Tanya’s three separate alarm clocks going off. The last time you saw Tanya was two days ago, but you knew she was there, because you had been checking periodically, listening at the foot of her loft to make sure she was still breathing, marveling at the fact that she could sleep through that kind of noise, and even more wondrous, at the fact that there was still any cocaine left. But here she was again, in her pajamas, her hair still strikingly perfect after two days in bed sleeping off a three or four day coke binge.

The crazy girl was talking about vampires again. She was obsessed with vampires, back when it wasn’t cool to be. There was no Twilight series then, no True Blood on HBO, and I’m not even sure how big Anne Rice was in those days. But Tanya was obsessed, and she had found TV shows on basic cable, way past anyone discerning going to bed, that dealt with the plight of the vampire who wanted to be good, but who fought their unholy urges to drink blood. She really thought this was an interesting topic, this being a vampire, and spoke of it as something that might be an ambitious aspiration, yes, but still something that could be accomplished, not unlike others of our classmates would talk of McKinsey consulting jobs or getting into UCSF Med School.

Somewhere in the vampire monologue, you notice something blackish all over Tanya’s otherwise perfectly white teeth. What is that? Chocolate? You have never known Tanya to eat chocolate, at least not in the obsessive, hiding food beneath the mattress kind of way that it would have to have been–given the fact that she has been holed up in her loft for two days. What is that, you think? At length, you decide to ask, though you are never sure if you should do that in these kinds of situations. What is most polite? Never mind, Tanya is headed to the bathroom.

It’s blood. She has blood on her teeth. And you realize then that this cocaine thing has gotten totally out of control, she sleeps all day and stays up all night, she has blood in her postnasal drip, she is disappearing for days at a time, talking obsessively about bizarre topics, making lists of things that make no logical sense, avoiding class, avoiding friends, unless they come equipped with an 8-ball or a bottle of Night Train. Somebody is going to have to do something. It seems absurd that it would be you, given . . . well, just given. But who else will do it?

She walks out of the bathroom, wiping her mouth, tasting the blood, smiles and says, “Maybe I really am a vampire.

Work In Progress

by anna on March 13, 2009

People, I’m not happy with the writing I’ve been producing this week. So instead of a new piece, I’m going to share a bit of something I’ve been working on for a while. I’m not sure if this is part of a chapter of a novel or just a short story, but I know I love this character and wanted to see where he could take me. You will recognize Frank from my previous introduction, this is where I try to turn him into an actual character with a past, present, and future.

J. Francis Christakis was nearly vertical. As his midnight blue Mercedes G500 idled the slippery steep corner of La Cienega and Sunset, his eyes pointed directly through the rain at Pink Dot, but his stare was absent and blurry. His head needed a good shake. It was early in the winter, late in the decade, and Frank was figuring out the order of things. Apparently, the equities market was in the toilet. Frank knew this because he heard somebody say it on the radio. They were telling him that now was the time to buy up cheap real estate, but cheap was a relative term in this instance. Shortly after that, they were telling him that he might be able to cure chronic pain in just a few easy treatments. He was skeptical of both of these concepts.

The country was either headed into a recession or in the middle of one. Still, tourists clogged the city’s streets like a cheaply dressed, poorly-coiffed mass of bad cholesterol. Smugly, they eyed the coming rainstorm, relishing both the opportunity to comment upon the inability of Southern Californians to deal with real weather conditions, as well as the opportunity to report back that the weather out here—much like the famed beauty of the city’s inhabitants—was not so perfect after all. They were collecting their stories. He was much smaller in real life. She actually has very bad skin.

Briefly rejoining us, Frank watched a group of them gather at the crosswalk, surreptitiously glancing at one another. This place is overrated, he imagined them saying to each other, though later they would pack oversized Hollywood t-shirts into their Costco bags, decrying the cultural tyranny of New York and LA, shaking their fist at the Liberal Media, and its desire to make them feel bad about themselves! Frank was neither an economist nor a tourist, but he understood this need to find reassurance in the face of this great uncertain. Not yet midway through his life, he already found himself in the middle of a dark woods, but then Frank had always been an overachiever.

The light turned green. Frank pressed down on the accelerator and felt the his tires skid on the wet pavement, and not unlike Wile E. Coyote, realized he was moving very fast at the same time as clearly getting nowhere. He was confident his automobile was solid, and even if this commodification of personal safety came at the price of driving something out of the Third Reich, it was for moments like these that he made the hefty car payment each month. The tires would eventually get a grip. To entertain any other belief would mean to contemplate a roll backwards down the hill that cut the city in half, past the mini-malls with headshot studios, tanning parlors, and vitamin stores, smack dab into the middle of Santa Monica Boulevard, where an embarrassing and possibly painful maiming and/or death awaited him. Or worse, skyrocketing insurance premiums.

But there was little time to reflect on the possible complications involved in this kind of vehicular faux-pas, for at that moment the treads caught, and Frank’s car, the gas pedal pressed perhaps a little too aggressively in overcompensation for his inability, just moments before, to get the car to go anywhere at all, lurched forward and slammed into one of a pair of pedestrians. As he watched his beloved wife of two and a quarter years fly through the air and land, ass first, on the hood of Frank’s car, John Smelt of Harrisburg, PA, thought that perhaps this was really what the Law of Attraction was all about. They were no fools, they had seen Crash, and though they were cautious of the storied racial tension that engulfed the city, they were hip DINKs, in the prime of their lives, and not ones to let white guilt interfere with the enjoyment of important landmarks like the Saddleranch on the Sunset Strip. Besides, John had been able to negotiate a fantastic rate at the Culver City Days Inn, as long as they stayed over two Friday nights and did not partake of the continental breakfast.

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Tanya: Early Warning Systems

by anna on January 23, 2009

Colby Barnett was a Delta Kap, and by the Fall of your Senior year, his signature crazy printed aloha shirts had become so reliable as party fixtures that you had taken to greet-hugging him in your insipidly sochie way at the first sight of an errant palm tree. This practice was just one of several somatic symptoms of your unconscious need to demonstrate just how much you belonged wherever you were, and at Delta Kap, Colby was the easiest target. Though you hardly knew Colby, and in spite of the fact that he likely couldn’t stand you, Colby tolerated you because he was a nice guy. And if he despised you, at least he never let on, and was always willing to shepherd you through the masses of drunken humanity who crowded the floors of his frat house on weekend nights, making you feel special, if only temporarily, and if only in the service of a desire to get himself closer to Tanya.

Colby and Tanya could not be said to have a relationship in the most traditional sense of the word, but what they shared was certainly closer to intimacy than anything you had seen Tanya engage since she had put that hex on Matt during Sophomore year. It was clear that Tanya was amused by Colby and his goofy, affably drug-addicted ways: perhaps their common thread was that of being oddballs among a mass of privileged children growing up in coastal resort towns–she from Monte Carlo and he from Laguna–a gap of tens of thousands of miles that was bridged inch by inch, late at night, after everyone else had gone home.

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