An excerpt from the novel by Lee Matthew Goldberg
“Hello, Vodka,” I said to the third martini I’d made myself that night.
I had a little neon lamp that said Vodka o’clock, a lit-up palm tree in pink with a bottle for a trunk. I liked to turn it on when I was home alone making cocktails. The sweet buzz it offered, the comforting pink blur. Since I drank martinis so often, you’d think I’d be good at making them, but mine consisted of straight alcohol in a glass with a pickled green olive from a jar. Classy, Lexi.
After Classy Lexi left three messages on Steve’s voicemail—the first apologetic, the second worried, and the third, rage monster—I studied my phone for a half an hour, waiting for its ring. I could go over to Steve’s, but an Uber there would be sixty bucks and I was sober enough to know I was too drunk to drive. Oh, and Steve left with his car anyway.
Spending the next hour blowing my sadness into a box of Kleenex proved necessary, but then the snot dried up and there were no more tissues left. It was Monolopin time, though I prefer to call them my little blue pills that kept you frozen. Didn’t uplift your spirits or bring you down, but simply let you maintain. Perfect for spending the rest of the night binge-watching my shows.
I queued up an episode of The Real Housewives of New York. After ten years with these crazy gals, they always delivered. Tonight’s episode wound up not being a classic, but enough to entertain, and I was sad when it was over because I didn’t have another one saved up. I popped another little blue pill and hunted for another show I could binge. Sure enough, a marathon of Socialites was airing. I hadn’t tried out the show yet, but it seemed intriguing. Six friends, more like frenemies, navigating New York City’s socialite world. The premier episode was about to start. Martini in hand, I wedged into my spot in the couch and prepared to be transported.
Well. The first episode was REALITY TV GOLD. I wondered how I could’ve gone so long without tuning in. The star of the show, clearly, was Magnolia Artois, a stick-thin, modelesque blond in her mid-twenties whose great-grandfather was a Norwegian that patented paperclips and made her family mint. Magnolia paraded over a posse of girls who were heirs to similar fortunes and worshipped and feared her with equal panache. They partied hard, clubbing at the most exclusive haunts, always found their way onto a yacht, and fought with one another as if the very fabric of humanity would die if they ever backed down, or worse, owned up to their wrongdoings. The supporting characters were all fine, mostly overdone reality tropes. Bella was dealing with a pregnancy where she didn’t know the father and thought it might be Magnolia’s on-and-off boyfriend Shade. Taylor had an older husband who was being investigated by the SEC. Nikki was reuniting with an estranged stepsister. Char got arrested for DUI. And Kimberly had Crohn’s disease. But it was Magnolia who shined with her viper tongue. To be assaulted by Magnolia was to be in the presence of one of the greats. She tore down Bella when she suspected Bella’s affair with Shade, so much so that the girl threatened to kill herself. And when it was revealed that Bella was pregnant with possibly Shade’s baby, oh boy, Magnolia went over to Bella’s place and lit her curtains on fire. Luckily, Bella’s housekeeper had a fire extinguisher on hand. Magnolia demanded a paternity test, which Bella provided and cleared Shade of being the father. But Magnolia didn’t stop there. She hired a private detective who declared the test made up and followed Bella for a day where he caught her drinking (while pregnant) and even more damaging, having a phone call with Kimberly about making the whole thing up to get back at Magnolia. And when Magnolia found this out, she entered the reality TV Hall of Fame. At Chic Chic Club on West 12th, she knew Bella would be partying with the girls in their own cordoned-off section upstairs. The music pulsed and lights flashed when Magnolia entered with her long blonde hair pulled back so tightly that the veins in her temples pumped along to the beats. She wore a gold dress that looked painted on and high heels that made her five inches taller. Like a predator, she stomped over to the girls who all welcomed her with fake kisses, except for Bella dancing in the corner. And then Magnolia charged at her prey while Bella shrieked and Magnolia pushed her over the balcony. The girl pinwheeled to the ground one story down, splayed in the middle of a circle of club-goers that all gasped. And then, Magnolia, firmly taking her crown, looked down at her beaten foe, and said: “You always were a clumsy skank, Bell,” and ended the season with a giant loogie that landed right in Bella’s eye.
It was four in the morning and I was delirious, completely forgetting about what happened with Steve. And it was all thanks to Magnolia. She wouldn’t think twice about a guy dumping her. She’d make his life hell until he begged for reprieve. During the reunion show, Magnolia and Bella were seated on separate couches facing each other like leaders of warring countries. Magnolia had the two girls next to her who were on her side, Bella the same, as all six shouted insults at each other. At the end, it was revealed that Bella wouldn’t be returning next season. The light began to the filter through the back window.
It was six in the morning now and Sammi was mewling for her food. I hadn’t gotten up off the couch in ten hours, not even to pee. I was exhausted but exhilarated. Never before had a show kept me so viciously entertained. Even though I should’ve probably gone to bed, I picked up my phone and followed Magnolia’s Instagram page. Here she was on some guy named Yago’s yacht in the Seychelles. Here she was frolicking on a white sand beach, splashing a shower of water at the camera. Here she was with Shade, who was dressed in a tuxedo with the caption “Mah Boo” at a restaurant opening in the Meatpacking District. Here she was with Taylor and Nikki, posing at the network’s upfronts for season two along with the hashtag—#BellaBitchBeGone. And here she was on her perfect white sofa, in her perfect loft apartment in Tribeca, snapping a pic of herself watching TV, and the hashtag #SometimesAGirlNeedsANiteIn. OMG, she was just like me! She liked bingeing TV too. We could be sisters. The two of us actually looked a little alike. She had my same equine nose. I thought what it’d be like to call and tell her about my breakup with Steve. “Oh, girl,” she’d say, “listen, you coke whore, you don’t need him. You don’t need any man.” And then we’d put on our most rocking outfits and march into a hot club with every eye on us. Steve would call, and she’d whisper at me not to answer, so I’d block his number. And we’d laugh over three-hundred-dollar bottle service, laugh until our gums hurt, and she’d say, “We’re girls for life,” and then take a selfie of us and post it on all her social accounts for the world, and especially Steve, to see how good I was doing now that he was gone.
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels The Ancestor, Slow Down, the Mentor, The Desire Card, Orange City, and the Young Adult series Runaway Train and Grenade Bouquets. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. More at www.leematthewgoldberg.com