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i turn eighteen with the police at the foot of my bed in my hotel room. i am not there in my head. i count down aloud to midnight. they ask ‘can you please spell your boyfriend’s full name for us?’ and ‘can you please describe everything’ but i am not there at all. all numb and unhearing. my boyfriend is out in the winter night without a jacket, wearing a shirt covered in blood hiding from police and i am beginning to shake. the fat policeman says ‘happy birthday’ and i say nothing.
it’s the last day of shooting the ad campaign so we throw a party in a warehouse in the city. it has big open windows and you can see all the buildings lit up outside like the world is on fire. i feel very pretty because everyone keeps telling me so. i dance around and everyone keeps giving me drinks. things begin to melt together. i shoot into the night until we get the last shots and everyone cheers. shooting is over now.
one of the male models says ‘you’re only 17 a few more hours, be young and stupid’ and so i do.
we all take taxis to the hotel room in kings cross. my agent brings me a cake and champagne and we sit on the roof, laughing. on the roof there is a garden and i walk through it and look over the city. i think about how scared i am to become an adult. i imagine the effect i would have on the world if i climbed up and jumped off. at least i would never have to grow up. i am ignoring my boyfriend, something has come over me and it’s not me. i am mean-tongued and stubborn. i can’t find my love anywhere, it’s run away.
soon i am in an elevator with a skinny ukrainian model who calls me nina and there are drugs and all i think is, this will be interesting to write about someday. i like the way she speaks and moves her wrists. then we are on the ground level and some of the other models are there and my boyfriend comes and he knows. he never drinks but tonight he has, he is unusually loud. he thinks another boy kissed me but no one has. we yell.
a bottle is smashed against tiled floor, my boyfriend punches a boy and runs through the hallway and punches a hole through the glass window in the front door of the hotel. glass is stuck between his knuckles and he bleeds down his arms and runs. i am on the ground crying and everyone is holding me in every direction but i feel like i am down here alone. breathe, everyone says, breathe really deeply.
in the street my boyfriend is so cold so he takes a jacket from the trash and wraps it around himself. he lays beneath a truck for a long time and waits.
i am in the hotel room and my beautiful friend from los angeles is reading to me to calm me. her voice is honey. i drift in and out of unfeeling. in each pause i worry about matt, so much it makes me sick. i don’t know where he is and i am scared we are over. my body shakes hard.
here and there are blurred spots in my memory i am yet to remember.
the police come and the police go. my agent hugs me tightly and promises everything will be okay. everyone sends so much love my way i am almost soothed by it all. i do not know that thirty policeman arrest matt and put him in the back of their wagon. i do not know that when they ask him why he did it he replies ‘love’. my friend from la and one of the models falls asleep in our bed.
there is only me to my thoughts for the entire night and morning. i do not sleep or eat or pass time with anything but sick worry. at every noise i open the door, every half hour i go downstairs to see if he is outside the hotel. he is never there. a thought creeps across my mind and it makes me cry. the dead of night breeds frightening thoughts. i am scared he is gone.
the night is the longest living night there ever was.
i watch the sun rise. my boyfriend is taken to the police station, to the hospital and then to a jail where he spends the night. in the morning he is taken to court. i do all i can to find out where he is but i don’t hear anything back. morning is here and one of the models comes over and worries beside me. he brings me chocolate because i have hardly eaten in the last few days.
matt knocks on the door and i run at him so hard we fall over into the hallway. his arm is casted and his clothes are torn and bloody. he is home. it was like i’d been holding my breath the entire time and i could finally let go.
later the same day somebody asks me ‘did you have a memorable 18th?’ and i smile and say ‘yes, something like that’.