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Authors: Tiffanie DeBartolo

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BOOK: God-Shaped Hole
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Driftwood. Jacob just floated around like driftwood. Everything was copacetic but nothing really mattered. If I was simply confused by Thomas Doorley’s posthumous revelations, Jacob was positively spellbound, and he sought no constructive outlet for the chaos he felt. He barely acknowledged my presence when I came home. He’d taken to drinking midmorning, sleeping it off in the afternoon, sometimes disappearing in the middle of the night and not coming back until late the next day. On more than one occasion, he’d snuck out of bed at one or two a.m., unable to sleep, and quietly left the apartment. Jacob explained his absences by telling me he’d been driving around all night—an excuse I found highly suspicious until I checked the odometer on his car. One night he drove to Vegas and back. I asked him if he’d gambled and he said no, he just stopped to ride the roller coaster at the state line.

“The thought of the city up ahead, the lights and all those people, it made me feel rotten. I just turned the car around and came home.”

Another time he took off to Joshua Tree National Park, where he allegedly slept on the desert floor with nothing but his jacket, Dante’s
, and a bottle of cheap red wine to keep him warm. The afternoon following that excursion, he stopped in to see me at the studio, looking like a sewer rat, to tell me that another publisher had turned down his book. His hair smelled like vomit, and he kept babbling on about not wanting to end up alone.

“Promise me you won’t leave me, Trixie. Promise me.”

“I promise.”

“Wanna go to Disneyland?” he said.

“Right now?”

Things had been crazy around the studio since the mood ring frenzy. I couldn’t just take off on a whim like I used to. I told Jacob I had to work and he sulked away, accusing me of not loving him anymore. It was an unfair tactic but it did the trick. I had two choices: either go to Disneyland with Jacob, or let him go home, drink a bottle of Wild Turkey, and pass out on the couch.

Jacob made me stop at Pete and Sara’s on our way to the park to see if they wanted to come with us. Sara was awash in morning sickness.

“Just the thought of greasy food and the Mad Tea Party is enough to send me running for the bathroom,” she said. Pete was off painting a house somewhere. I was glad they couldn’t tag along. Jacob and I needed to be alone. We had to talk.

We went straight to Fantasyland. Since it was during the middle of the week we didn’t have to wait in line for anything. We walked right onto It’s a Small World and stayed there, riding the little boat over and over, our own jolly cruise around the globe. I loved all the dolls, with their native outfits and smiling faces.

“They’re freaking the living hell out of me,” Jacob said.

It was peaceful inside the tunnel. Except there was an eerie chill in the air, as if we were floating on dry ice.

I took Jacob’s hand and begged him to tell me what was going on inside his head. Motionless, he stared at the water and said he didn’t know what was wrong with him.

“The last few weeks seem like a blur,” he said. “I wish I’d done so many things differently. I wish a lot of people had done things differently, things it’s too late to change or ever take back.”

Jacob might have been right about the dolls. I knew I was going to be kept awake all night by plastic munchkins singing that sunny fucking song. The amount of faith in their voices eventually made me want to set their little heads on fire.

“This is going to sound supremely ridiculous,” Jacob continued,“but I really feel like I lost something when I lost my father. And I didn’t even

The Eskimo boys and girls went by. For a second I forgot they weren’t real, and I accidentally waved at them. “That’s not ridiculous at all,” I said, “but don’t let it consume you, Jacob.”

The thing was, everything that interested Jacob consumed him.

“Maybe things could’ve been different. Maybe I could’ve helped him, Trixie. Obviously, the guy needed help. I was so busy thinking about myself and what I wanted from him, I never got the chance to find out what he may have needed from me.”

“Jacob, whatever you do, don’t paint your father as the victim here just because he’s dead. He’s the one who made the choice to obliterate you from his life thirty years ago, remember?”

“So why did he leave me the fucking house? I’ll never know why he did that. I’ll never understand.”

“Why don’t you think of it as a peace offering instead of a riddle?”

“Because,” Jacob said, “that makes it worse.”

It was time to switch rides. After Space Mountain and Pirates of the Carribean, we ended up on the Monorail. Jacob gazed out over Orange County and tried desperately to clarify his thoughts.

“It’s like I’d been missing something my whole life, but I didn’t know it wasn’t there until it was too late. I mean, I always knew I was missing a
, but what that really meant, I didn’t know. How could I?” He paused. “It’s more than just someone to watch you play Little League and teach you how to ride a bike, it’s part of your history. It’s half of who you are. It’s how you find your place in the world, from what comes before you and, ultimately, what you leave behind. Without that, how do you know? You’re empty,” he said. “I’m empty.”

The hole, I thought. That ever-present, God-shaped hole. Having a father doesn’t necessarily mend it, I wanted to tell Jacob.

“You’re not empty,” I said vehemently. “You’re the least empty person I know.”

“Tell it to my soul.”

I wish I could have. I wanted to be enough to fill the universe inside of Jacob Grace. But I guessed that no matter how strong it was, love alone couldn’t turn a speck of dust into a galaxy of stars.

I asked Jacob if he still thought about Memphis. I told him that the best thing we could do would be to just pick up and go. “Immediately,” I said. “We’ll start all over.”

“What’s the point?” he said, and just shook his head back and forth, as if it were impossible. “Don’t you get it, Trixie? To go right now would be the
thing we could do. It would be an admission of defeat.”

Joanna insisted that Jacob take half of the money she received from Thomas Doorley’s estate. He refused, of course. But after bartering for days, she finally convinced him to accept a measly ten grand so he didn’t have to go back to the
for a while. The money made Jacob feel even worse. He said it was like cutting the course in a marathon when you were the fastest runner there. He said it was cheating.

I was scared when we left Disneyland. I knew Jacob and I hadn’t solved anything. I knew nothing was going to change. I also knew that I couldn’t sit around and watch the slow disintegration of his spirit. For so long I’d been able to read Jacob. I could look at him and know, without a word spoken, exactly what he was thinking. I always saw a man who longed to
; a man who, unlike most of the automatons that crossed my path, was actually conscious of his existence and felt there was something else out there, something
. It was still all I wanted. It’s what got me out of bed in the morning. But when I began staring into Jacob’s eyes, seeing nothing but two puddles of mud, I wasn’t so sure it was ever going to come to pass. Either I wasn’t equipped with the knowledge to help him, or I was afraid of getting too deep in the muck.

That’s what happens when you’re raised around a lot of static.

You learn to tune it out.


I hated socializing in Los Angeles. The whole Hollywood scene of frighteningly beautiful creatures posing as long lost friends was something to be avoided like the plague. Thus, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been caught dead at a black tie charity gala in Beverly Hills. Namely one being hosted by an ever-important style publication acting as the foremost authority on fashion trends. But I made an exception for philanthropy. They were auctioning off one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, clothing, and handbags from various local artisans, the proceeds of which went to a summer camp for kids with terminal illnesses. I couldn’t say no to that. I’m a sucker for a sob story and a good cause. Most of the other artists involved in the auction were much ritzier designers, but a couple of us anti-flash renegades made the cut. As usual, there were a bunch of celebrities in attendance. Chip and Elise came. As did my mother—she’d suffocate a baby before she’d miss an opportunity to extol the talents of one of her children. Even if it was the misfit child—the one who found herself dubiously flirting with the mainstream. To have so many obnoxious people appreciate my work felt like a small failure to me. My mother acted like it was the biggest occasion of my life, some pivotal turning point of success and social status.

I just wanted to eat and go home.

Originally, Jacob told me he had no intention of coming with me. He liked the aforementioned crowds less than I did, and he wasn’t too thrilled about having to dress up. I didn’t blame him, but I was hurt by his lack of support. I told Kat she had to be my date. She was so appalled at Jacob’s attitude that she stopped by our apartment the day before the event just to let him have it.

“Hey, Grace,” she said, kicking the bottom of his foot with the tip of her pointy shoe, “what the hell’s your problem?”

Jacob was laying on the couch with
on his lap and a bottle of beer beside him on the floor.

“Don’t you care that Blanca will have to walk around alone? She’s going to look single. Cheesy Hollywood rich guys are going to hit on her while their wives are off powdering their noses. Is that what you want?”

“Get off my case,” Jacob said.

“I swear, every time I see you lately, you have a scowl on your face. Snap out of it already.”

“Fuck off,” he said. He was in no mood for her.

Kat looked my way. “Did you hear what he said to me?”

I just shrugged.

“Fine,” Kat said to Jacob. “I’m going to search out the cutest guy there, one who happens to be able to recite poetry. And listens to weird music. And wants to move to Tallahassee. And I’m going to make sure he sits right next to Blanca. Then you’ll be up shit creek, won’t you?”

Jacob slapped his book down. “Didn’t you hear me the first time? I said fuck off, Kat. Just
fuck off

“Bite me,” she said.

“No thanks, I don’t eat leftovers.”

“Enough!” I yelled, just in time to stop Kat from screaming another obscenity.

Kat bent down really close to Jacob’s face. “Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Jacob only got jealous when he was depressed. When he was down, he thought everything that could possibly go wrong would. And I suppose some of what Kat threatened him with had germinated in his brain overnight. The morning of the party, he said, “All right, I’ll go,” and I had to scramble to get him a tux.

The soiree was held in an enormous, swanky hotel ballroom that echoed with the incessant cacophony of bad orchestral music. It was the kind of sound that foreboded disaster. I felt like I was on the
right before its little run-in with the iceberg.

The walls of the room were papered in a pale gold fabric that I swore was gift wrapping. And hanging from the middle of the ceiling were the two ugliest chandeliers I’d ever seen. They looked like upside-down champagne glasses, dripping with crystals that left freckling fragments of light on a number of the already glittering faces below.

The only thing I looked forward to all evening—the food—was impressively disappointing. The alleged four-star chef threw soggy Feta cheese on half the meal and called it a Mediterranean feast. Nobody noticed or complained about it though, except me and Kat, probably because nobody else in Beverly Hills eats.

Less than thirty minutes after our arrival, Jacob began asking me how long we had to stay. I couldn’t leave until the auction was over, or at least until my piece was sold. Jacob’s anxiety and inability to even attempt to conceal his indifference drove me mad. Hell, it wasn’t my idea of a pleasant evening either, but I managed to masquerade as a person having a good time. Jacob looked on with a mix of repulsion and detachment, as if he were watching an appendectomy. Moreover, whenever I was introduced to new people, I would, out of common courtesy, begin to introduce Jacob. Before I could get his name out, he’d chime in with, “Henry Chinaski. Of Chinaski and Sons. Good to meet you.” Then he’d shake their hands at warped speed like some kind of maniac.

“And what do you do, Mr. Chinaski?”

“I’m a mortician,” he’d say. “You kill ’em, I fill ’em. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Finally, I dragged him into a corner. “Jacob, are you going to act like a jerk all night?” I said. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“You used to think I was funny.”

“You used to be funny.”

After that, he stopped talking to me altogether.

Most of the designers who had been invited to participate in the festivities made tasteless necklaces and broaches, things normal people with any real style would never wear. I designed something just as impractical, but with much more class—an intricate little tiara that turned out to be the most talked-about piece of the evening. It was a sprinkling of tiny diamonds set in platinum, but had been carved in a rough vein to resemble a rose stem. A metallic crown of thorns. It probably could have retailed for about twenty grand, but after a lot of back and forth bidding, a young, Oscar-nominated actress ended up scoring it for ten. She told me she was doing a big feature with
Vanity Fair
and wanted to wear it on the cover. My mother was orgasmic over the whole deal. She went around bragging about me to everyone she made eye contact with.

“That’s my daughter. She made the tiara. Isn’t it an amazing piece of artwork?”

The irony was, if my mother had seen the tiara in a magazine, she would have scoffed at it and called it trashy, or avant-garde, or some other word she didn’t understand the definition of.

I guess I should have been excited over the attention, but something about all the phony hoopla made me sad, and rendered the evening completely inconsequential in my mind.

“Where’s Jacob?” my mother said toward the end of the night. She was trying to make up her mind about what to bid on, and she wanted his opinion. She’d narrowed down her choices to a dragonfly pin with emerald eyes, or a diamond tennis bracelet.

“I don’t know where he is,” I said. I tried to act like it was no big deal because if she thought Jacob and I were having problems, she would have blamed it all on me and asked me what I’d done to mess everything up.

BOOK: God-Shaped Hole
12.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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