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Taylor Swift called me today and said, “I want your life.” I said, “I know, right?” She said, “Seriously, I’m just so fucking exhausted and everybody wants a piece of me — I mean, I’m twenty-three years old and I’ve got these old greasy music guys fucking creaming themselves over me, all while singing some sing about how they’ve gotta make me look cuter and younger for the little girl fans.” She sighed and took a sip of something. I looked at the clock, wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. It was 6:30am. I hoped she was drinking coffee, but then I heard the ice clink and figured straight bourbon. She’s a down-home girl, you know.
“You’re going to use this, aren’t you?” Taylor asked. I could picture her running those tiny fingers through her long hair, pushing her bangs away from her eyes and out of her drink. “Probably,” I yawned, shoving my pillows behind me so I could sit up straight. There were the dregs of last night’s coffee on my bedside table, and I drank that with a couple of advil. “I mean, I kind of have to, right?” She just snorted. I remembered how, when she was little, she’d run through the neighborhood pretending to be a bull — all the other girls wanted to be the Spanish ladies with the long earrings and frilly skirts, but not Taylor; she was always bent over at the waist, careening herself toward the belly of the boy waving his red coat around. I always thought to tell her that a real bullfighter in kept a sword behind his red cape – she never knew that part of the story, that even though he was the most powerful thing in the arena, the bull always got killed in the end.
She said,”Just don’t fictionalize me, ok?” Another drink. “I want to be real.”
“You are real, honey,” I said, waiting for the ibuprofen to make a dent in my hangover headache. “Hey, pour me some of whatever you’ve got there. I could use a little help.” She giggled, and I pictured her front teeth on the edge of her crystal tumbler.
“Where are you, anyway.”
“Good show tonight?”
“They said so. The fans seemed to like it.” She yawned. I wondered if any of those fans had been in her room with her. “I just — I wanna go out for a walk or something, yo know? Be invisible for awhile. Look at all the green just starting to appear. It’s so pretty, early spring. Don’t you think so? Back in home it was always green, even in December. I like these cold places that go all bleak when the winter comes, all the leaves falling away from the branches, grass dying — it’s like everything gets quiet.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. We got plenty of winter back home; but she was in her Nashville persona. “Everything gets to rest,” I said.
“Yeah, isn’t everything supposed to get a rest? Why can’t I just be unknown for a while, like you?”
“Thanks,” I said, not chuckling, but grinning.
“I know, I’m sorry, but you don’t know what it’s like.”
“Poor little rich girl,” I said, a line from the refrain of one of the first songs she ever played for me, back in Wyomissing.
“Poor little rich girl,” Taylor said.
“Nice cover on Vanity Fair.”
She snorted again. I wondered where her knives were. “Do you know how much I got paid for that?”
“Do I want to know?” I stretched, looked around for my notebook. She could feel me pulling away from her.
“Do you miss me still?”
“Of course I do, honey.”
“If I came there, could I sleep in your bed like we used to?”
“Sure,” I said. I cradled the phone between my ear and shoulder, reached for my cigarettes. “I’ll tuck you into my regular old Ikea sheets and read to you from Shel Silverstein.”
“And we’ll both have cocoa.”
“We’ll both have cocoa,” I said, exhaling smoke.
“Will you fall asleep in the rocking chair again?”
“I guess probably so.”
“Is there someone there with you,” she asked.
I shook my head around my drag. “Not today.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She giggled. “Hey — did you see that video someone made of me and that goat?”
“As far as girl-with-animal videos go,” I said, “it’s not terrible.”
She laughed for a minute, that old laugh, the one with the bray in it. Her handlers don’t let her use it anymore. “I hate the video for Trouble — I hate that damn song. I told them, why do I have to do this? Have you listened to the lyrics? It makes me sound like I want this guy to kill me — it’s just this side of some murder ballad.” She paused, and I listened to her swallow. She started up again with a gasp. “And, I mean those are all well and good, murder ballads, I mean, if you’re in Appalachia or something where a girl grows up knowing how to handle a gun — but not up here in the soft city.”
Taylor sighed. “I think the goat improves the whole thing — the goat highlights the farce.”
“Totally,” I said, but she was on a roll.
“I told them I wanted to do something anti-rape or anti-woman-beating or something next, all girl power like Ladies First or Independence Day or — what was that one by Eve? You remember it?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Way back in grade school, maybe right after we moved there to Wyomissing, I had a friend made me a mix tape of all the real girl power songs — not the Spice Girls, I mean like the good country and hip hop and punk, The Cramps, that one about Valarie Solanas. I’d told her I was gonna be a singer, and she said, Do stuff like this, ok?”
Taylor got quiet for a second. I lit another cigarette. “Her dad was raping her, I think, that girl. And I took that line for Trouble from her — she said it once about this guy she dated when she was twelve. The guy was eighteen, I think, she met him at her dad’s convenience store on the edge of town. Knew he was trouble when he walked in, that girl told me later. Her ribs were busted by then. She never did go to to the cops — her daddy didn’t like anyone messing what was his to break.”
This was what I liked the best about Taylor’s calls, when she just started talking story and forgot all about me. Used to be she wanted to be singer-songwriter — I wondered when she’d be able to get back to her real dreams, thought again about that bull-girl she was.
“Anyway,” she said quietly. “Sorry. I guess it’s pretty early there, huh?”
“Yeah — it’s fine, Tay. You know you can call me anytime.” I listened to her sink into the quiet between us, pictured her folded up on top of the bedcovers, fully clothed, feet tucked beneath her, holding the hotel room phone receiver in both hands.
“You need to get some sleep, honey.”
“Bus pulling out in half hour.”
“On the bus, then.”
But she was already asleep.
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(Surprising morning write today — take fifteen minutes and imagine an interaction with a pop culture figure. See where the writing takes you…)