I’ve been working on My Bad Side for four years now, and I’m close to being done. The third draft is finished. One more read-through, and I’ll move on to another thing – maybe my giant sci-fi film! And that’s good. I did it. Yeah. But there’s a bad side (you’re damn right!!) to it as well. I’m in a freaking fog right now. My fingers hurt. I sleep too much. Nothing makes much sense. I’m a bit grumpy too. Ugh. That’s all I’ve got. I don’t like this. No! I need the constant fix of working through plot details, going back and forth, putting it in and taking it out and putting back in again, writing, writing, writing, deleting, deleting and writing again. Her arms are long. She chews her nails. She has a memory bracelet and small diamond ring. She is elegant but she’s done something she can’t understand. She abandoned her mother.When it’s done, it’s done. I have to leave it alone and be stuck with random images and ideas and wondering, “What if the polar caps really did melt? What then?”
It looks like we might make a short film out of the opening scene of My Bad Side. Yesterday, I met with Mike, a filmmaker, to discuss this possibility. The opening scene (written in Blog #1 “The Beginning”) runs like this: Dee comes home in a cab, talks with the doorman and then confronts Derek in her apartment, and when she realizes that Derek has shot her exotic cat Apollo, she wrestles the gun from him, shoots him, and flees the building (and city) with her wounded serval.
It was a dynamic discussion, focusing on how to shoot each scene: cab, outside building, elevator and inside apartment. Is it a yellow cab? How old is the doorman? Is the TV on in the apartment? Exactly how does she get the gun? We also discussed how to light, costume and cast. One thing we decided immediately is that we will not be using a serval for the shoot (as exotic pets are illegal in the New York) and are considering my dog Biba instead.
Brigitte Bardot appeared in over 40 films in the 1950s and ’60s, most notably Godard’s Contempt as well as her breakout film, Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman; however she was not known for her acting talents, her ability to create a character, as much as for her to-be-looked-at-ness, as the film theorists would frown and say.
She knew how to strike a pose, how to highlight her eyes, how to part her lips, and she certainly wasn’t shy about showing her body. Popularly referred to as a ‘sex kitten’ by the paparazzi, she did not hide the fact that she had many sexual relationships. “I leave before being left. I decide.” Also known for her singing duet with Serg Gainsbourg, Je T’aime, she accentuated the music with breathy moans and hence furthered the conception of her profound sexuality.
Bardot retired from the entertainment industry in the early ’70s and devoted herself to the cause of animal rights. “I gave my beauty and my youth to men. I am going to give my wisdom and experience to animals.” She created a foundation and has waged many battles since, including those against bull-fighting, seal-hunting and the slaughter of dolphins.
Dee, the protagonist in my novel The Bad Side, is inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her foundation. She wants to be an inspector for the foundation and writes to Ms. Bardot, receiving the following reply:
Thank you so much for your lovely letter. I am so sad to tell you that you must live in France to be an inspector for the Brigitte Bardot Foundation. I know you will always be a friend to me and the animals all over the world. I wish your life to be filled with love always.
While Dee is disappointed by this response, she is fascinated by Bardot’s lipstick signature.
There was a lipstick kiss at the bottom, the lips slightly apart. I touched it, my pinkie just against the red. It was real. The lips had made a mark on the back of the folded page. I read the letter again and folded it and slipped it neatly back into the envelope and then opened it again and peered at the lips. I wanted mine to be like hers. I stole a lipstick from Nani and kissed a blank piece of paper. It didn’t look like anything, just a messy smudge. I tried again, pressing less. They still weren’t much, just lines. I kissed my arm and then the mirror. I did it all along the edge of the glass and looked at myself through the marks. My face was surrounded by my kisses. I liked that. But then I couldn’t get the smudges off and got in trouble for that.
Researching Brigitte Bardot for the book was quite interesting. While a great many continue to be enamored by her image, she has remained distant. Is that what it is to be a sex goddess?
My Bad Side is my novel. It begins in New York, present day:
I watched my face fade in and out against the shadows and buildings, my eyes and mouth, my neck and chest, my dress suddenly there and then gone into the scaffolding and lights, a police car, its blue and white lights swimming back and forth. The cab turned, and my face was in the window again, the flat stone of Battery Tunnel and then the gravel and bent-over plastic fences and the wide emptiness and the front of my building.
I gave him $8. “It’s a $7 fare.”
He turned sharply, his collar jutting out at the side. “I’m not a beggar.”
“I’m not a tourist.”
“The fare is $9.40.”
I was only half out, my foot just on the wet asphalt, when the car lurched ahead, and I had to pirouette, kick down and catch myself to a stop, as the wheels spun, jittering, and jolted away, the door still half open.
“Miss Sinclair?” Sully had his hand out for me; he wore his suit perfectly, tie tight, shirt sleeves just out from his jacket,
We watched the cab’s tail lights flash on and off, menacingly, and then turn to the park.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with people.” He walked me up the steps. “I really don’t.”
“Yes.” He bowed as he opened the door. “It’s going to snow.”
“It’s supposed to be spring.”
He smiled. “We always have the late snow.”
“Good night, Miss Sinclair.”
The elevator doors closed. The hall was empty. My key went badly into the lock. Apollo was lying in the middle of the rug, curled away, his bottom leg sticking out, his paw over his head. I couldn’t understand why he was like that.
I stepped back and banged my elbow into the wall. “Jesus fuck, Derek.”
He was slouched at the edge of the couch, his uniform half off. “Sorry.”
“What are you doing here?”
He doubled up, coughing horribly.
I crouched over Apollo; there was a hole in his shoulder, a tiny nothing and then a watery line of red trailing into the rug.
“Dee.” Derek was suddenly too close, almost at my shoulder. He had something in his hand, dark and heavy, like a phone, but it wasn’t that. It was a gun. I swung out wildly, twisting away, falling forward, both of us full onto my side and arm, and kicked at him, punching the floor, the gun loose and in my hand. I pushed myself up, everything in me twisted tight, my heart erratic, a mess of veins squenched together, making me think that I was more real than I was, and I raised the gun at him. He wouldn’t stop coughing.
“Your fucking cat—“
It snapped up and hovered, a living thing, and there was a vibrating sound, the light hard and burning. He slumped back like he was pretending to be mad and then he was struggling to get up again.
I was going to shoot again. “Just stay.” He listened to that.
Apollo whipped his tail at me. I tried to lift him, but he swiped back and hissed, and I was just dragging him awfully. I got his cage and pulled him into that and knocked everything off my dresser into a bag, like I had been waiting for this and pulled him after me onto the elevator, getting my phone and was going to call the police but just held it stupidly, thinking they would come after me and decided I had to get away.
“Miss Sinclair?” Sully ran to us. “Are you all right?”
“Apollo? Let me.” He took the cage out the glass doors. “What’s happened to your hand?”
I looked down, my left hand tight and bent against my chest. “I—I…It’s…I twisted it.”
“You should get it looked at.” He had the cab door open. “You’re sure you’re all right?”
He slid Apollo’s cage in after me. “You’re sure?”
I smiled back. “Thank you, Sully.”
“You should go to the hospital.”
I closed the door. “Penn Station.”