Introducing… Bad Cherry

 

dark-red-cherries

 

Cherry van Winkle goes to Art Basel : A Work of Fiction

Cherry van Winkle storms into the glass and marble lobby of an FBO off of Miami International, wearing the same clothes from last night. There are cigarette holes burned into the back of her Alaia dress that she will not see until she gets back to New York, the result of four ill-spent hours in a dark French pop-up club filled with bored Angelenos chain smoking cigarettes and feigning the molasses-like apathy of heroin addiction. Heroin is back, they tell her. Cherry van Winkle doesn’t get it.

“Where is my plane?” Cherry screams, her voice cracking through the air like lightning. “Where is my fucking plane?!”

In truth, the plane does not belong to Cherry. The plane belongs to a man who splits his time between Connecticut and New York and sometimes Monaco, depending on the tax breaks. He lets her borrow the plane wherever she wants on account of him being married and on account of that time she threatened to send all of his (highly unimpressive) dick pics to The Post. The man in question made millions of dollars on faulty mortgage loans, robbing the American people blind so that he could purchase Cherry van Winkle – and a handful of others — a litany of designer handbags and dresses like the Alaia one she is currently wearing, all of which lives in the closet of an apartment he also pays for. The cost of maintaining Cherry van Winkle is less a testament to her worthiness, and more to the extent of un-impressiveness of the aforementioned dick pics.

The man is an old man, 77 years old, with de-elasticized skin that resembles the delicate silk crepe de chine of the finest ‘90s Calvin Klein gown (of which the late Caroline Bessette-Kennedy would have surely approved). At least this is what Cherry tells herself after she and the ancient rich man have copulated, which she makes sure only to happen on a quarterly basis. Sometimes she throws in a bonus bang, but only if she has been adequately sedated. Her drug dealer has roofies.

Her drug dealer also has coke, which is good. Because after a week at Art Basel spent not buying art and partying until 7 in the morning, Cherry van Winkle is very, very, very tired. The coke, however, only exacerbates the sea of aggression living inside of her. So does the Adderall, which Cherry has been taking on a regular basis since 2008, even after she heard something about how chronic Adderall abuse destroys your intestinal tract, so that one day you will need adult diapers. No, this insignificant scientific hearsay does not stop Cherry van Winkle, a young woman forever on the quest of being exceptionally popular and frighteningly thin. Because, in life, there is beauty or nothing, even if it means you are rotting on the inside.

You see, when beauty is gone, when the fat coats your bones and softens you like an old, agreeable woman, all purpose is lost. Kill yourself. That’s what Cherry van Winkle’s mother used to tell her, a creed she herself lived by (and died by) when Cherry was only nine. To this day, Cherry still does not understand this. Her mother, in her opinion, was never a very beautiful woman, so it stood to reason that she should have either A) Killed herself long before Cherry was even born, or B) Continued into old age not caring about something she was incapable of possessing. Sometimes Cherry thought she’d be a little less fucked up if she had had a different childhood, but everyone wishes for that.

Having received no adequate answer regarding the status of her airplane, Cherry walks into the bathroom and does three lines of blow off of a credit card with someone else’s name on it. Cherry van Winkle’s name is not Cherry van Winkle. It’s Charlene Wotkowski. She is from Ohio. The credit card has a limit of $2,000 because of student loans she never paid off from a college she didn’t bother getting a degree from. But Cherry van Winkle doesn’t care about her credit score because she has the old man and his private plane, her Alaia dresses and a three-bedroom apartment that costs her nothing. Technically.

Cherry walks to the coffee bar where a young man in a cheap suit asks her how her day is, a pleasantry that she ignores because Sloan Pierpont has just walked in the door with a rapper Cherry used to sleep with for drugs, back before she met the old man at a sham of a charity auction that supposedly bought glass eyeballs for children living in a country that didn’t even exist. The money went straight towards the charity of Georgiana Hayes’ wallet, the host of the bi-annual rob-fest with whom Cherry had become friendly with. Cherry sometimes thought about these fake children with glass eyeballs and she felt bad for them, even though there was no one to really feel bad for. It was a victimless crime, really. Assuming Georgiana wasn’t barren (which was a nasty rumor that had been floating around for awhile), her yet-to-be-born child would inherit her money. So, technically, one child would eventually benefit. Cherry had to justify this because Cherry never paid for anything when Georgiana was around, and to judge Georgiana, she would have to judge herself, and who the fuck wants to do that? Plus, Cherry really liked brunch, and brunch at the Carlyle, where they often went, was expensive.

A woman smelling of baby powder and Aqua Net approaches Cherry, her hands cupped in front of her and her head tilted to one side, eyes glassy and agreeable. This is how you approach rich people. She tells Cherry that the plane will be delayed for two hours because of weather in New York City. Cherry tells her to go to hell.

Sloan Pierpont and the rapper are now sitting in the corner, picking out filters for a picture of them on a yacht with Harry Brant that they will post on Instagram to a collection followers who both loathe and revere them. It will get 1,342 likes, along with comments like “your tattoo is wrong Chinese meaning” and “this sucks.” Cherry hasn’t seen the rapper in two years, after they ran into each other at a party at Milk Studios where the daughter of some designer was having a “show” for her “art.” Some years later, after the rapper has become extraordinarily famous, Cherry will feel a twinge of regret for all of those times she explained their brief, seemingly incongruous relationship by answering her friends’ judgmental, quizzical stares with, “Well, he’s not black black. He wears plaid.”

A familiar chemical tang has begun to drip down the back of Cherry’s throat, an unpleasant side effect of her very exceptional life. She fills up a paper cup with black coffee and scans the table, searching for something she cannot find.

“Don’t you have soymilk?” she asks. “Don’t you know what these do to your body?” Cherry van Winkle is appointing to the plastic containers of non-dairy creamer and tiny doses of half-and-half. This is the first time she has bothered to look the young man in the cheap suit in the face, something she generally tries to avoid. “You should have soy milk.”

The young man in the cheap suit briefly considers explaining the waste inherently involved in providing transient passengers like Cherry a fully stocked array of fresh milks, and how such a luxury is not economically feasible for this particular FBO. Instead, he says nothing, only cracks a dumb, blank smile at the raging, feral, blonde lunatic standing in front of him, wondering how people like this exist in the world, and live better than most. But in life, everyone gets theirs in the end. The young man in the cheap suit is currently a senior at Miami University with a double major in Organic Chemistry and Philosophy. By the time he turns 30, he will have invented a drug that stops people from liking things like Doritos, cutting the obesity rate by 75% and saving insurance companies trillions of dollars per year. Cherry, alternatively, will have moved back to Ohio, where she will spend most days considering her thickened, aged frame and think about what her mother told her some years back, but never have the courage to do anything about it.

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That time I got to the airport with the help of three Europeans and a delivery van.

 

Casualties_of_a_mass_panic_-_Chungking,_China

 

Mass panic is serious business. Okay, mine wasn’t this serious in that I’m obviously still alive.

The train is shittier than I remember it being. Five years ago, I took the RER to and from Paris without incident. I was a cheap and ambitious 23-year-old who couldn’t fathom forking out 80 euros for a cab both ways. In the years since, I’ve been spoiled with client paid-for trips and $200 cab reimbursements. Not this trip. This trip I’m on my own. This is money in real time. Train it is.

There’s graffiti all over the vinyl seats and trash on the floor. Two pale blonde boys sit in the corner, where I am certain homeless people take dumps or shoot heroin. They move quickly to another spot on the train, having likely discovered something akin to my suspicions. Behind us, a lunatic bellows in French. “VOILA! VOILA! VOILA!” he roars. It is the only time the language has made me think of something other than bedrooms and croissants, rococo molding and sculpted foliage. For all I know he could be screaming “Voila! I’m going to shoot all of you in the head right now!” but my French-speaking traingoers seem largely unperturbed. I stare forward without compassion. Ah, feels like home.

The Paris periphery passes on my right, a swell of lesser buildings than those at its center, neighborhoods that reek of relative poverty and gray depression. A tent camp runs adjacent to the train for some stretch of time and then disappears seamlessly into a trash heap. It’s a far cry from my brunches at Le Maurice, the late lunches at Hotel Costes, the designer stores on Rue Saint Honore.

An announcement is made overhead in French. An English translation never comes, but I can tell from the ensuing collective groans that there is something wrong with the train. The gray-haired man next to me, suspecting I’m the clueless American I am, manufactures a ham-fisted sentence in English: “The train, it stops here and goes no further. Accident.” He points up at a map at a little circle indicating a station five stops away from CDG.

“Do they say how long it will take?”

He shrugs his shoulders and puffs his lips. I take this to mean a time frame that exists somewhere between two hours and never. Either way, I’ll miss my flight if I wait for service to resume.

The train makes it final stop and the passengers spill out, many rolling pieces of luggage and sporting looks of general panic. The pale blonde boys from earlier saddle up next to me, as does a young bearded guy with a hiker’s backpack and glasses. By hazard of all being screwed, we adopt each other.

One of blondes speaks English. I tell him what’s going on.

“What should we do?

Fucked if I know. My cell phone doesn’t work in Europe and we are in the middle of nowhere, stuck in an unfamiliar suburb where taxis are as common as shooting stars and unicorns. I nervously chew on my lip and look around the station, as though some answer will magically come to me by way of paralyzed stagnation.

“Ummm…”

“Okay,” he says. “I guess I will go talk to someone. You guys stay here.”

The other boy, who I suspect is his boyfriend, lights a cigarette and says “Fuck!” which is apparently the only word he knows in English, or will at least admit to knowing. The bearded guy, who also does not speak English, dumbly surveys the inhospitable scene.

“The taxis pick up on the other side,” Pale Blonde Number 1 says upon return. And we silently hustle around the corner and down a street, up around to the entrance of the station, where a swarm of increasingly frantic people stand in the middle of the street and on the sidewalks, positioning themselves to steal cabs whenever one might arrive. There are about forty people here who need to get to the airport. One cab arrives every six minutes, if it’s even available. I’m not very good at math, so let me pull out my calculator…

MANY PEOPLE + ZERO CABS = HAHAHAHAHAHA

Everyone else has apparently done the same calculation, dividing supply by demand and factoring in their flight time. Getting from this train station to the airport will be a modern, first-world-problems example of the survival of the fittest. Those who do not act, perish. When a large taxi pulls to the side of the curb, the stranded descend like hungry vultures pecking at the last carcass in the field. Shouting ensues, a lot of hands being thrown into the air. It fills up with randoms and quickly disappears. The four of us stand in the street becoming increasingly helpless.

It’s 3:30 My flight boards in 45 minutes. This is almost as bad as my whole “Hey, I booked my flight a whole month off” trip to the Maldives last March.

There, stopped at a red light, is one of those white vans you imagine delivers European flowers on birthdays and funerals. His window is down. I run across the street, my carry-on bag swerving wildly behind me.

“Parlez-vous anglais?” I breathlessly shout into the window.

“A little,” he says.

The light changes green.

“The train is broken,” I start, my English hampered by fear. “Can we pay you, uhhh, 80 euros to take us to CDG? The four of us?”

I point to my three new brothers standing across the street.

“Yes, yes,” he says. “Okay.”

I wave at the boys and scream for them to get into the car. There is that awkward moment when we forget that this is not a real cab, but a good Samaratin with a car, and we stand at the back, waiting to put our luggage in the trunk. The driver stays put and the boys grab onto their bags and launch themselves into the backseat. I jam myself into the front, my luggage on the floor and my knees up to my throat, shoes crammed against the dashboard.

“I don’t speak very good English,” he says. “Airport? CDG?”

The quiet bearded dude confirms in French.

I turn towards the backseat, taking this moment to get to know the people I have just hitchhiked with. The Frenchman with the beard who doesn’t speak English manages to tell us that he is going to Rome. The two pale blondes are from Moscow. The one who speaks English has blue eyes and cute dimples. A Russian Gerber baby. They’re going back home.

“Where are you going?”

“New York.”

“I love New York.”

“I haven’t been to Moscow,” I say. “I’m dying to go.”

“Come visit!”

And we laugh because wouldn’t it be ridiculous if this whole ordeal started a bizarre international friendship, the kind that doesn’t happen anymore because of Facebook and telephones and instant connections through a tighter, known periphery because the world is a scary, massive, terrifying place of which you have unparalleled access to.

The car goes silent, save for French rap playing on the radio and air pushing through the open windows. I imagine this is what being in war is like. You’re fighting with strangers for a very similar cause, which gives you an instant camaraderie without the usual requisite history to establish it. We resume a nervous silence in the car.

It takes six very long minutes just to snake through the narrow, unfamiliar side streets and onto the freeway, at which point I let go of any possibility of something untowardly horrible happening to us. Thankfully our driver isn’t a psychopath or a horrible driver. His car smells of nice cologne. We take a corner and the contents of his trunk tumble over. Everyone laughs. And then, again, silence.

The sign for CDG comes into view. Ohthankfuckinggod.

I’m the first to be released. Terminal 2B. I hand one of the Russians my 20 euro contribution and extract myself from the car, limb by limb, wallet falling onto the sidewalk along with hat and scarf, while I say, “Merci! Merci! Merci!” to our unnamed driver. “You’re an angel!”

I wave to my new friends, who will remain forever strangers, say goodbye and wish them luck.

“Have a nice life!” says the Russian.

And I run towards my gate, where I make my flight with minutes to spare, sweating under my jacket, graying at my temples, ready for a travel experience nearly as horrible as the RER: American Airlines.

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