Record 2: Koreatown, Los Angeles, Thursday, July 5th, 2010. Night.
No one wants to get into a fight sober. No one. This leaves me with two options: 1. ask Hea Woo for a Jameson double and assume she’ll put it on my tab, which I’m hoping she’s lost track of, or 2. fight sober.
I signal for Hea Woo. Catch her periphery. She cranes her neck just far enough left so as not to leave the eye line of her dead faced man of the hour, two gins away from ramble-mouthed euphoria, three from blackout, and offers me a wink. Hea Woo is a winker.
I push my breasts together and lean over the counter so that the blue neon bar light gorges my cleavage. In this light, I’m chiaroscuro. I’m the vamp. I’m 35 with a red Mercedes SLS-Class Coupe, and, no, I don’t use Snapchat.
Hea Woo notices me. Pulls her golden booty shorts up. Pours the dead faced man another Seagrams and stalks my way.
“You’re still here.” She says.
I glance at my iPhone 5s. 1:53 a.m. My stomach sinks. My face flushes warm.
“So are you.” I say.
“I’m closing tonight. Probably better if I stick around anyway.”
She raises an eyebrow in a way that would normally be read as condescending, but it calms me. I like her in charge.
She eyes my chest.
“Pull your shirt up. You look ridiculous.” She says.
I do this because she tells me to.
“Better?” I ask.
I brush my hair behind my ear. Hea Woo doesn’t like when I do this. Says it makes me look weak.
I think the gesture conveys my age. I remind Hea Woo that it’s good to be young in Hollywood, and her eyes wax malicious.
“It suggests vulnerability.” Hea Woo says.
I cannot be vulnerable.
“Can I get a shot? Something from the well? Anything?”
“I can’t keep buying you shots, Crystal.”
And she shouldn’t have to. Hea Woo pays half my rent. She watches Netflix with me when I’m sad. Even gets me work on occasion.
Hea Woo is my friend. Hea Woo is my manager.
For two months now she’s driven me to and from auditions. Some were in North Hollywood. Others were Downtown. She hasn’t once asked me for gas money.
Hea Woo slides me a shot of something clear. Vodka, I figure. Doesn’t matter.
I throw it back. My esophageal machinery corrodes. I ask for another.
“Last one.” She tells me, and pours.
I stare at the shot and think of how the vodka looks like hair gel from this view.
It’s now 1:56 a.m. according to my iPhone 5s, and Rosario is going to show when my iPhone says 2:00 a.m.
I take the shot. I slam the glass. I close my eyes like I’m being pensive.
“You remember what we talked about?” Hea Woo asks, and I know the answer.
“The agreement, which we both signed, clearly states that you, Rosario Velez, are to compensate me, Crystal Grimes, a day rate of $200 – a rate that you’ve refused to pay.”
Hea Woo nods, meditative and sober.
“And where is this contract?” She asks, testing me.
“Rosario shredded it.”
“You have video of Rosario shredding the contract on your iPhone.”
Hea Woo nods, and I think she’s proud.
The dead faced man calls her over. She glances over her shoulder and says this:
“We’re closed, Bae. Go home.”
The dead faced man reluctantly drops $40 on the counter and ambles away. He’s the last to leave the bar.
Hea Woo and I are alone.
It’s now 1:58 a.m., according to my iPhone.
At 1:59 a.m., my leg starts to shake. Hea Woo knows I’m nervous. I can’t stop thinking about Rosario and her missing index fingers. Is it a birth defect? A result of some senseless vehicular collision? Or are two forefingers, singed and mangled, floundering in sewer water beneath Sunset and Vine?
Hea Woo acts coy and tells me she can’t comment on the subject of missing human appendages. She looks away and says something ominous.
“Let’s just get this over with.”
When Hea Woo pours herself a double shot of Johnnie Walker, my other leg shakes.
Hea Woo doesn’t drink.
Hea Woo notices my trembling lower half and slides me a paring knife.
“Don’t be nervous.” She tells me. “Just remember what we rehearsed.” I nod and my iPhone’s marimba blares.
It’s 2:00 a.m.
Hea Woo takes my hand and looks into me. She says something consoling, but I don’t listen. I’m focused on the knife. Its blade is blunted and edged with lemon trace.
Hea Woo slides the knife closer.
“Put it in your pocket.” She says, and gestures to a gaunt brunette in tight black jeans and dumb neon shirt with a band’s name. Or a cute catchphrase. Or saying.
This is Rosario, and I’m afraid of her.
She approaches, and I can see the contracture scars on her neck. Hea Woo says never to ask about these scars, so I don’t.
Rosario greets us.
I shake her hand. I make sure my grip is firm.
“Crystal.” She says with no inflection.
“Rosario.” I say.
Hea Woo hops over the bar. Signals for us to follow.
“Let’s have a seat, huh?” Hea Woo says, and I think: ‘Hea Woo has never said “Huh” before.’
Hea Woo takes a seat and winks at Rosario, pulling out a chair.
Rosario and I sit, and no one talks. Hea Woo says it’s not good to speak first. Rosario sighs.
“Look. Kids. I don’t appreciate having to come here in the middle of the night. Quite frankly, I don’t know why we couldn’t have handled this over the phone, the old fashioned way.”
Rosario glares at me.
“I understand that you want to work again. That’s great.”
My eyes dart to Hea Woo. Hea Woo looks away.
Rosario goes on.
“The only reason I agreed to show up here, at this hour, is because Hea Woo tells me you’re interested in working for free. Ready to build a reel. Get some exposure.”
Rosario scratches her neck with her middle finger. I study the deformed nubs where her forefingers used to be.
I’m sure she notices this.
Rosario goes on: “I know of two gigs coming up next week. One’s a car commercial. You’ll be wearing a bikini. The other’s this Kickstarter-funded indie shit about…”
“…I can’t remember. You’re some dude’s roommate and you walk around the apartment naked and fuck all his friends.”
This is the dream, everyone tells me. I’ve made it.
Hea Woo speaks up: “Crystal has something to say.”
Rosario shuts up and raises an eyebrow.
“Rosario, the agreement, which we both signed, clearly states that you, Rosario Velez, are to compensate me, Crystal Grimes, a day rate of $200 – a rate that you’ve refused to pay.” I say.
“I have video of you shredding the contract on my iPhone.” Hea Woo says.
“I don’t give a fuck.” Rosario says.
Hea Woo shoots up. Wraps her fists in Rosario’s hair. Yanks her neck down over the chair’s backing.
“Now!” Hea Woo tells me.
I withdraw the paring knife. Grip Rosario’s left wrist.
“Let me go!” Rosario yells, writhing and kicking.
Hea Woo says nothing. Hea Woo withdraws her iPhone, positioning it over Rosario’s hand.
I know this cue.
I hold the knife over Rosario’s middle finger. I saw back and forth. I force my way through tough metacarpal.
Now detached, and in my hand, I hold Rosario’s middle finger to her face.
“Show it here.” Hea Woo says, her iPhone aimed at me and my very proud moment. So I do, and Hea Woo releases Rosario.
“You get the video?” I ask.
“Yeah.” Hea Woo says. “I’ll Snapchat it.”