in writing •  last year  (edited)

my painting from 2003

by Lawrence Wells
The Starman came and he blew our minds, that much I know for certain. I caught it on channel two, when he landed and, man, I was out the door so fast. I threw on some threads, first, of course, and grabbed my sheepskin. Everone was out there, I mean everyone, in Beckenham Common, and the light was like all golden, like fluid, like honey. I thought I must have been on something, but it didn’t matter, ‘cause he just kept lifting us higher. There was so much love, so much, everywhere, and we were all there, together, digging it and it seemed like forever. But it never is, you know, it never is, and as the slow light began to fade, we knew it was over, that it was over for good, that he was gone, and, man, what a come down, like we all fell from being up so high, to being down so low, and, man, the tears came, running down our faces, we just all broke down. But we were still together, and that was good, there was comfort there, ‘cause he had shown us how, but it hurt, to come down so hard, and it still does. But I will never forget that day, The Free Festival, it was everything and more.

Sometimes I feel like I must have slipped into some alternate universe, some parallel time stream where reality took a different turn sometime back. How many of me are out there living other lives, I wonder, and if I were to meet myself... but I just don’t think it’s possible. I inhabit many places, but in different times and different spaces ... I couldn’t even write myself a letter. But if I could, what would I ask myself? What do I need from me? What advice should I give myself? Its like that weird postcard I got from Prague last year, I mean I don’t know anyone there, it’s a communist country and all, and along comes this postcard, addressed to me, and all it says is “Don’t come”, what the hell, y’know, and Angie was really spooked by it, ‘cause she said the handwriting looked like mine, well maybe, but I’m not going there anyway, so she doesn’t need to worry. She wanted me to burn it, cause the picture really freaked her out too, but I just rolled a joint and we drank some tea and she calmed down, well, she fell asleep actually, and I hid it away in a book, and told her later that I’d burnt it. But the picture is a bit scary. I catch myself sometimes, standing by the bookshelf, like how did I get over there, and I’m staring at that card, and that gold face, man, like it’s staring back at me. It’s a picture of some gold man, like metal, a robot or something, could they make something like that in Czechoslovakia, and anyway, the eyes look so real...

I had been wanting a white suit for ages, all white, y’know, a tailored, sorta dandy look, like Donovan, and ,man, I’d been looking everywhere. I spent a whole day tramping all over Manhattan, and you would think, y’know, in New York, that I could find what I was looking for, but no luck. And it’s so dirty there too, not like in London, but, anyway, I was walking in the Village past the pimps with their gold rings, and all the hustlers, when this strange tall girl came walking up to me, she was so pale like and tall, and she had this star in blue glitter on her forehead and lots of red hair all piled up on her head, and she gave me a paper with this collage on it and some address in Mid-Town, some invitation, and, damn my eyes, but when I looked at that collage I saw in one comer that face from the postcard, that robot face and it really got to me, my heart started racing like and I had to catch my breath, but when I turned to ask that girl about the party and everything she was just gone, like poof, into the air, where had she got too? It was weird, but I was definitely intrigued, so I called Angie, cause the party was that night, and we met up at St. Mark’s Place and went Uptown.

That party was just too much, so far out. It was up this long narrow flight of stairs in some old warehouse, but up there was this huge loft space. So many characters there, and I think everyone was on acid, or speed, or both at once, really crazy, and before long I think we were both tripping out too. Someone must have slipped me something I don’t know. At one point Angie came up to me all excited ‘cause she had figured out that all the people there were in the art world, and that it could be really good for my career if I would talk to some of them. For example, the main guy was this strange cat named Andy who had this really blank look, it’s hard to describe but his eyes looked all black. I had been dancing with this girl, maybe it was Angie, and I don’t know how, but under the lights her skin was this crazy blue-grey colour and all cut up, like she was bleeding. I knew it must be the acid, but she wouldn’t let go of my arm, and she kept laughing, really hysterical like, and her teeth looked positively wolfish.

So I found myself sitting on the couch with the tall pale girl with the star, whose name was Viva, or Vina or something and I wanted to ask her about the robot picture, but instead I found myself talking about my search for a white suit, and she just quietly took my hand and led me down to this little room, it was her bedroom, and while I was screwing her, and, man, let me tell you, she could really work it, she started telling me about Andy, how he was this really big artist and filmmaker, really famous and how sweet he was and good to be around. I thought it was kinda strange, ‘cause I had never heard of him, but I wasn’t really listening to her. I kept looking at that star on her forehead, how it was glimmering, and the soft white of her eyes. Afterwards we were smoking and she got up and rummaged around in her closet and she pulled out a white suit, I mean exactly the type I wanted. I was ecstatic and while I was trying it on, and it fit perfectly, I noticed her collages on the wall near the mirror. They were abstract, but very well done, very rich. She told me they were about man’s destruction of the environment, which made sense at the time. She told me I could keep the suit, that it would make me famous. I couldn’t believe it, ‘cause it was all too perfect, too good to be true. While we were leaving she handed me a small book of her collages as a gift, and as I slipped the book into the suit pocket she said, “It’s time for you to meet Andy.”

Andy was sitting up on this platform on an old dirty couch with a little cluster of fawning groupies. I couldn’t understand the fuss, because he was really strange, with this pasty skin and I swear he was wearing a wig or something. But I figured he must be something just ‘cause how he acted and all the snippy little rich fags he had around. And Angie was eyeing me from a distance, looking a bit reproachful, ‘cause I hadn’t been paying much attention to her, but, y’know, what could I do, I was working on my career .. so Viva introduces me and Andy just kinda looked at me with that blank look of his. It was quiet for a second, kind’ve awkward, but I just sipped my drink like I do when I don’t know what to do. But, man, my glass was empty, like I mean, there wasn’t even any ice, so I just pretended to sip my drink from an empty glass, which probably looked stupid, but what do I care. I just sat there with my empty glass for awhile, and all those party people and drag queens were ignoring me, basically, and I noticed the sky was starting to lighten outside, when , out of the blue, Andy leaned over to me and asked me if I wanted to be in a movie. I figured he meant sometime later on, but he said no, that he really liked the way I looked in the white suit and he wanted to do a screen test right then. All the hangers-on and speed freaks got really quiet and just stared at me. One guy in leather pants, and man I swear he was holding a whip, looked at me really nasty and envious like, so I figured yeah Ok lets do this screen test.

I followed Andy into this side room where he had a bolex on a tripod facing a little sofa. So I sat down while Andy loaded the film. The sun was just starting to come up outside and I stared at the dead eye of the lens. It was just the two of us and Andy, y’know, for someone who was supposedly so famous, was really pretty awkward. I was pretty nervous, ‘cause I thought that it could be important for me, this screen test, and Andy pressed the shutter and started the film rolling. He told me I had three minutes and then he muttered something like “Do your thing man” and walked out of the room. But get this, and I’m not shitting you, the moment he left the room, in walked that robot, that gold man, on the postcard, right, and Jesus but I was completely freaking and paralysed with fear. The robot had really lithe movements like a cat and its body was ornamented with some kind’ve crazy red plastic squares, but what really gripped me was his face, so impassive, so motionless, like a Japanese mask, but with eyes so alive, so penetrating, man I thought if I looked too long they could suck out my soul.

I forgot all about the camera and Andy and the party, and as the robot strode silently towards me I just bolted, like I flew and even though the robot dived forward at the same time, I managed to leap out the window just in time. And then everything happened so fast, I mean I was pumping adrenaline like no tomorrow and I found myself running like a madman down the street with that gold devil right on my heels. There must have been a fire escape or something, I don’t know how I got down exactly, but somehow I found that I had some superhuman strength, maybe it was that white suit, I don’t know, but man I was going faster than is humanly possible. Y’know like when the semaphores start flashing and you kick the guns running and in a second to ten you’re in maximum overdrive and everyone else is just left eating your dust, complaining, like where the fuck did he go, well it was something like that.. and, man, I don’t know if you’ve ever been Uptown in Manhattan when the sun is just hitting the horizon, but even though that gold robot, and man, you have to admire the technology and the grace, I mean it was as beautiful as it was terrifying, even though that gold fucker was still keeping pace and even, like, gaining on me, and even though I knew I was probably going to die, I have to say the way the sunlight was hitting all those glass towers, and at the speed we were going, well it was as if we were racing through a million prismatic reflections. Unbelievably psychedelic, the way the red edges were melting into green, and in between the blue, bluer than the sky, and I thought to myself, man if I live I have to try to paint this, to get this down. But that was when the robot got me, those gold and red hands came down around my throat, with their superfine joints and gears, and everything just went white, a blinding flash of white and I couldn’t breathe with those hands tightening around my windpipe, and man, like shit, I knew I was done for.

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