FICTION: The Crown by Vanessa Garcia

Casting

M’s penis was like a blunt spear. I swear that man fished inside me. He’s the only one I still think about from last year. My year as a slut. That all ended, though, because eventually I got sick of all the men, even M. Maybe especially M. All that slow penetration. That’s all there was. No conversation. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but what about the rest of the day? MFA in poetry. This is what you do with it? Day job at an architecture firm, drawing up ideas for the owners. Minimum pay. M, or whoever else, at night: good lay. But it wasn’t enough.

So I went abstinent. It’s been six months. And, as a result, strangely, I got fit. This is going to annoy you, but it’s how it happened. I don’t know if I’m the closest or furthest I’ve ever been to my body. What happened was that, without sex, I started to hit the gym. Started to copy the gym rats around me, and I started lifting weights to release my burdens, pour them into the dumbbells. I took to the pool like a fish that would not be speared. I know part of me had a stupid notion that I was getting whole again. And in the meantime, I got leantime. “Live tight,” said the trainers at the gym. Idiots. I didn’t want to live tight, I wanted to live loose, be open. But, somehow, my body had betrayed that idea and had gotten hard, and now I’m trapped in it. I’d never had an abdominal muscle in my life before this. Like I said: MFA in poetry. I’d always been soft pretty much everywhere. Had always been ok with that. Always laughed at those Instagram “before and afters.” I didn’t have a before and I don’t have an after. After what? Aren’t I still living, man, what’s your problem?

That’s why: This. Now. This job. On location, in New Orleans. A friend of my friend, Sandy, who’s a make-up artist out in LA, called me up one day and told me that Melinda Carlyle needed a body double and I was like: So what? Whose Melinda Carlyle? You know, the girl from all those sci-fi series and Marvel movies. Oh. Well, so what? What’s that got to do with me?

Apparently, Sandy had shown Melinda Carlyle’s agent pictures of me in a bikini – Sandy and I had gone to Vegas together during the summer. Desert, dunes: disaster. But I guess that picture came out of it, and found its way into the hand (or sight) of the right (or wrong) person. The agent showed my pic to a casting director working on a show Melinda had been hired for. The Crown, that was the name of the show — a violent, British-American, sci-fi telenovela type of thing that went on forever and killed off main characters.

“Melinda thinks her body is sacred and doesn’t want it captured, naked, on film. Doesn’t matter, point is, we need you. I can’t believe you’ve never noticed, you’re her doppelganger, except more fit,” said the casting director on the phone. Her voice sounded like there was a hook at the end of each word, pulling it upwards from the depth of the ocean. Should I tell her I didn’t even know who Melinda Carlyle was?

70K for a year of doubling on The Crown for Melinda Carlyle (option to renew), that’s what they were offering. Fuck it, I said yes. Said goodbye to the firm and prepared to take off my clothes. I’m not that sacred.

First day of filming: Season 1

So here I am: first day on the job.

They told me to wait.

Everyone around here says that this is what most of my days will look like, just a whole lot of waiting. That’s why I went out and bought this diary on my break. It has a locket, which makes me feel twelve. Maybe some poems will come out of it later, but for now, looks like this is pretty much journaling. I should probably quit poetry anyway. It’s pretty fucking lame and I’m not very good and I don’t want my head to end up in an oven, like Sylvia Plath’s. Even though that would probably never happen because I hate cooking.

I’ve read the script. It’s “epic.” If this goes well, I can double for Melinda for seasons. Until they kill her off. Which might or might not be soon. It doesn’t matter that she’s a central character in the show because they kill off whoever they want in this show, even the Queen. Yep, there’s a queen. Queens, actually – multiple. Of many municipalities. Good ones and bad ones. The King in the show — I won’t tell you who plays him because that’s still top secret — reminds me of K.

K was the Cuban guy I almost screwed last year, in June. Started writing to me every night through FB IM at midnight, long conversations. I think he actually found me on Tinder, but then he didn’t want to contact me on Tinder, or maybe I rejected him there, so he found me on FB, because we have some friends in common, and then he just started writing. It was fun for a while, until I wanted to hang in person, and I realized that, for him, these conversations were just killing alone-time, or maybe he was auditioning me. He was bored, but he would test me out at the same time – no strings. “Maybe, maybe not.” Fuck you, dickwad. Nobody tests me out. I’m not a car. You either say yes, or you say no, or you go fuck yourself. God, guess I didn’t learn how to disconnect my body from my heart/mind as much as I thought I had during my year as a slut. I thought I’d learned. I kept fucking and dumping men, and it was totally a blast, until K started IMing and I realized, shit, I’m getting pissed off at K, and maybe that’s because I want a relationship. Not with him, but with someone. Wowzer, talk about romantic comedy. Too bad I’m not playing a body double for someone in a romcom, nope, I’m in a weird period piece set in the future, even though it looks medieval/Roman.

Maybe I sound bitter, but K was really not a good person. He made me nervous because I knew, deep down, that he was the kind of person that, eventually, cheats on his wife and becomes a dirty politician without scruples. He pretends like he wants to open a dog nursery in Montana, but that’s not really who he is. He’s really an ambitious prick who longs for nothing more than ambition, meaning he doesn’t understand that life lies in the process. Process, process, process. And then there was his chubby chipmunk face. That can be cute sometimes, and it was at first, but it turned ugly real soon. He was a lawyer, but he called himself a “businessman.” Danger, danger. Poets, enter at your own risk. He was probably crap in bed anyway. Immature piece of shit.

Anyway, the king, who reminds me of K is three trailers away. He’s more handsome that K, less of a chipmunk face, but I for sure don’t know yet about his soul, so I can’t tell you if he’s a douche like K too. Not even the script has decided if the King is a good guy or a bad guy. I’m eventually going to fuck him. Well, Melinda Carlyle’s character, Queen Jacobina, is going to, even though my body is going to actually do it. Or, pretend to do it. I’ve never done a sex scene. I’ve never even actually doubled, obvi. But, whatever, that’s not until way later in the season. My body, standing in for Melinda Carlyle, playing Queen Jacobina, is going to fuck King Tyler. So tip a canoe, and maybe Tyler too. We don’t know yet.

Got to stop writing. They’re calling me. Finally.

…Ok, so that was kind of fun. At first. Until the tenth take because Princess Dipshit couldn’t get her line right. Princess Dipshit wants to dethrone me. Her name in the script is Liza. Queen Jacobina and Liza are on a first name basis, but Ronina (that’s Queen Jacobina’s first name. I know, it rhymes, Ronina Jacobina, insert eye roll) knows that Liza is after her head. Ronina is really nice to Liza, pretends she doesn’t know a thing about how Liza feels, but Ronina’s secretly planning on keeping her head at all cost. All cost. I don’t know what she’s gonna do yet, but I have a feeling it’s gonna be big.

So for this particular scene I was just in, me and Liza are in the bath house. This really glam bath house where the aristocracy goes to do business. Women with women, men with men. It’s like the sauna’s in mob movies, I guess, but the women have power, they aren’t just housewives, they’re a big fucking deal. Also, these are more lavish, kind of Roman (which I now realize makes sense because if mob movies are Italian, then the sauna is like a watered-down version of what The Romans did). But this isn’t Rome, it’s Chastiza. That’s the name of the municipality we were in, though God knows it isn’t chaste, even if Melinda Carlyle thinks her body is sacred.

So, we’re in the bath house, Ronina and Liza are naked, obvi. Talking about the slaves. About how we need to liberate the slaves of Chastiza, which are the immigrants that come from Drunden, which is this horrible place with hardly any water. Chastiza is full of water, so the Drundens come and they sign a contract with the landowners in Chastiza, promising they will work the rivers to funnel their energy into power, and the Drundens think this is going to be great. Because, first of all, I mean, they’re going to be working with so much water, which is scarce at home, and second of all, they think they can get out of their jobs/contracts as soon as they save enough to leave, buy water, and go back home. But really, they have to live while they work, and keep taking out loans from the landowners, so they’re never free of the yoke of the landowners. They’re indentured servants basically, immigrants, but Ronina and Liza call them slaves, and they want to free them.

Ronina and Liza are on this unified mission to “free the slaves,” but secretly Liza wants to be the Queen that does it, that goes down in history for doing it, even though she’s only a princess. She’d have to get rid of Ronina if she were to be the queen that saves the slaves…

Blah, blah, blah. You get the idea.

My part in all this: Liza keeps calling me over to come into the big pool she’s already in: “Ronina, my dear, join me. We have much do discuss.” And I’m supposed to cross the whole length of the bath house pool, which is steaming hot, and then descend my body into it. They’re filming the whole backside of my body, including my head as I walk. They made me style my hair like Melinda, into these lush long layers that I’d never wear, but whatever. Once Ronina’s covered by the water, they just move straight into the scenes where they had filmed Melinda the day before in the water with a bathing suit, and they only show her face in the show, in those pool scenes.

So there I went over and over. “Ronina, dear. Come over.” Cut. “Ronina, dear, join me. We’ve got.” Cut. “Ronina dear…” You get the idea. Until finally, I got a chance to walk across the pool, into the steaming water. Boobs in the air (they get a shot of those just as I’m going into the water). Ass swaying just before it dips into the steam, in one, straight take. Break. And here I am again.

One more scene today. Then I go home.

Second day of filming:

So, today they’re not using my body. I’m just sitting here. Doing nothing. I wish I had my fucking vibrator. Even though I don’t have a trailer, so I don’t know where I’d do it anyway. The vibrator has saved me during these six months of abstinence. I know what you’re thinking. Is it really abstinence if you’re still getting off? Abso-fucking-lutely. As long as there isn’t anyone trying to possess me, trying to enter me, trying to do anything to me, except myself, that equals, for me, abstinence. You have your own definition, then good for you. This is mine.

I just realized you’re just a journal, you don’t have an opinion except mine. But don’t we always write in journals, hoping they’ll be read? Is that what’s really wrong with us? As a people? Is that why Trump got elected?

It might have been him and that whole “grab them by the pussy” bullshit that made me get off the men. Because at first, my year as a slut was so liberating. Those were the good old days, when we knew Hillary was running for president, and Trump was too, but everyone just knew he would lose, and I was happy, we were going to have a fucking Queen running the show and not some King Tyler tonto, and I was free, and I was like: woohoooo, fucking is fun. How come only men got to do this for so long, fuck whoever they wanted, whenever they wanted. No consequence. Well, no consequences if they wore protection. Why did women have to abide by Chastiza chastity crap for so long? Chastity is a cast for an unbroken bone.

So yeah, it was liberating. But then, I started to feel like a robot. Like, ok, here’s my body, and my mind would wonder, even during a good fuck. And I stopped climaxing, and that’s when I knew. My head and my body were becoming more separate in this experiment, not joining, like I’d wanted them to.

Truth was too that, after my divorce, I didn’t want to get into another relationship right away, and I thought fucking around would solve it. Yeah, it’s complicated. Sure, it’s about the whole “grab them by the pussy” comment – a high ranking businessman running for president talking on a bus about how he likes to “grab them by the pussy” because he can – it was so degrading. I felt it personally. A sharp spear this time. It was all of that, but it was also about my personal divorce. On one level it was like my body was the country and on another it was this totally intimate thing that no one had seen in a very long time except my ex-husband. So I went on a fuck-o-rama.

But then K happened, who I didn’t even really like, as you know, he just made me realize that the talking was something I liked. All that talk on FB IM, I wanted to talk and fuck. Not necessarily at the same time, I actually like quiet fucking. But talk, fuck, then talk again. That’s the only way not to be disembodied, if you can talk to the person you’re fucking. Basically like a best friend you wanna fuck. That’s what I want now, but I gotta get clean first. I feel like I have all this residue on my body from M, the spear, and B, who couldn’t get it up, and G, who I really shouldn’t have been having sex with (yeah, G is my ex), and T, who had the dog that climbed into bed, and almost turned the whole thing into sodomy, and M#2, who was hard as a rock, I mean literally, so hard it hurt, and he was a little too rough, I was always bleeding the next day.

So enough of that.
Hang on, they’re knocking on my door.

Apparently there’s a new script for the next episode. Pause while I read.

…Fuck.

Epilogue

I called the casting director. Does this mean I’m fired? “Not fired, you just don’t have to come to work anymore,” she said, though I’d still get paid the 70K…

It’s not what you think. They didn’t kill off Queen Ronina Jacobina. Not at all. What happened in the script changes was that Princess Liz finally got close enough to Ronina to plot an assassination. Or what Liz thought was an assassination. But Ronina was two steps ahead. Liz had Ronina decapitated, sure. Except, Ronina knew this would happen, so she got the best neurosurgeons and sorcerers in the land to help her preserve her head without her body. To make sure her mind could still work, and she could still operate as a person, without her body. Ronina Jacobina planned it all ahead of time.

A person, a leader like Queen Jacobina didn’t need a body. This was her claim. She just needed her mind. So the sorcerer and neurosurgeon, which were now sworn to her, her right and left hands, put her in a glass container and Ronina would rule from there. She could still speak. She didn’t need her heart. She would be a heartless leader, not symbolically, simply literally. But she could still go down in history for freeing the slaves. She had blood pumped in and out of her head, externally, that was enough. For the rest of the show, probably until either the surgeon or the sorcerer got greedy, that’s where Ronina, the head of State (sorry I couldn’t help myself), would rule from. And because she didn’t have a body anymore, they definitely didn’t need a body double.

They didn’t need me. 
Now what? MFA in poetry. Fucking A.

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Vanessa Garcia

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Vanessa Garcia is the author of the novel, White Light, one of NPRs Best Books of 2015, for which she won an International Latino Book Award. Her essays, articles, and editorials have appeared in the LA Times, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Narrative.ly, The Huffington Post, and numerous other publications. For more:www.vanessagarcia.org

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