REAL LIFE

Andy adjusted the
corset and regarded himself in the mirror. He wondered idly if he could turn
the medical necessity into a fashion statement. Not with his scrawny body, he
concluded, as he pulled a black polo neck over his head and tucked it into the
waistband of his trousers. Already, the corset chafed the underside of his
scraggy male breasts. Andy pictured the end of this day, when he could release
himself from the torturous device.

He picked up a New
York Times from the news stand on the corner, and walked the two blocks to his
regular coffee shop. It was only April but the early morning sky was blue and
he felt the faint warmth of the sun on his face. Despite the sunshine, he
avoided the tables on the sidewalk and found a booth at the back of Carlo’s,
where he could avoid the stares of the curious.

As he flicked through
the pages of the newspaper, a headline made him pause. “SOLANAS RELEASED” was all it said. Andy
laid the paper carefully on the table. He lit another Marlborough. There was no
photo. But he could picture her face clearly, as though she was before him
right now. Once more he saw her raise the gun. He instinctively covered his
face, as he had done three years ago.

“You alright, Mr Warhol?” Carlo
was placing a cup of soupy black coffee on the table. “Somethin’ wrong
with your eyes?”

Andy lowered his hands
and looked up at the coffee shop owner. He shook his head. “I’m
fine Carlo. Just not been sleeping so well. The coffee will fix it.”

Carlo picked up the
newspaper and looked at the open page. “What the hell’s
John Lennon still doing with that Chinese chick? She’s seriously
going to screw him up.” He dropped the paper back on the table. “You’re
a friend of his, Mr Warhol. Can’t you talk some sense into him?”

Andy took a final drag
on his cigarette. “Carlo, she’s good for John. I envy him, having someone like that. I never used
to believe in love. I always though that everybody winds up kissing the wrong
person goodnight. Maybe John and Yoko are an exception.”

Carlo shrugged and
walked away. Andy picked up the paper and read the first few lines of the Solanas
story. “Radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who shot pop artist Andy Warhol in
June 1968, walked free from gaol yesterday, less than three years after the
shooting. Solanas, 35, wrote the SCUM Manifesto, which calls for the
elimination of men from society.
” The corset dug deeper into his chest, a
daily reminder of the injuries that had nearly killed him.

On the corner of East
16th Street, Andy pushed open the heavy metal door of the Factory. As always, he
was the first one there. In the distance, the shrill, insistent ring of a
telephone cut through the sunlit studio space. He walked over to the small
kitchen area. He paused, his hand above the receiver. It was as if he was
re-watching the scene from three years ago. Valerie had been standing behind
him then, as he had picked up the phone. He looked around, but there was no one
here. It was like watching a scene from TV. He only felt half there. The
ringing stopped as he put the receiver to his ear.

“Still an early riser, Andy you shit?” The
woman’s voice rasped in his ear and he closed his eyes, breathing.

“Saw you’d moved the
studio. But I took a punt on you keeping your number. Still painting that
consumer crap? Coke bottles, soup cans? Why don’t you do some
more, like that lovely mushroom soup your mama made? Still love your mama Andy?
Fuck knows why that bitch dumped an asshole like you on the world.” The
voice paused and Andy could hear the woman take a long slow drag on a
cigarette.

“Listen to me, little man. I’ve
got your number. And I’m going to get you. Any day now.”