Bottomless Bully

Kizzy suggested a new place on the Lower East Side for brunch. Lydia arrived early, put her name on the waitlist, and grabbed a Bloody Mary at the bar. This had been a long week of fights, flights, and funerals; the pre-breakfast cocktail was especially refreshing. She dug her notebook from her bag and started sifting through her scribbled thoughts until Kizzy showed. She didn’t have to wait long. As Lydia began looking at some jokes she’d written about her dad’s wake, she felt Kizzy’s arms slide around her and her body snuggled against her back.

“Baby, I’m so happy to see you!”

“Kizzy!” Lydia giggled, tickled by the soft lips nuzzling her neck. “I’m so happy you’re here!”

Kizzy hung her bag on the stool beside Lydia’s. Before she could sit, the hostess approached to tell Lydia her table for two was ready. Kizzy smiled, retrieved her bag, and asked the bartender to please send two Bloody Mary’s over to whatever table they were seated. He told her he would make it so.

Their table was jammed into an alcove and wedged closely between tables, surrounded by other diners. Weekend brunch was more than a meal in ‘90s New York, it was a scene. Groups of smiling friends dressed in black, beverages in hand, chatted over loud, happy music. Servers scurried around with trays brimming with glasses of iced water and champagne flutes overflowing with Mimosas. It often seemed a lot like being back in the club you were in last night, but with omelets and waffles, fresh hair and makeup, and the house lights on.

The ladies had spoken over the phone during the week. Kizzy had already heard the funeral details. She also knew Simon started an argument with Lydia after her audition, and he’d decided not to talk to her for a couple of days as punishment for whatever grievous sin she’d now committed.

“Girl, he didn’t say shit to me until Friday night between shows. I suppose I should be hurt he didn’t talk to me for 48 hours, but I can’t say it sucked.”

“I still can’t believe he didn’t talk to you for two whole days.”

“As they say in New Orleans, neither me.”

Simon was mad about Lydia’s audition. He told her she should deliver the lines a certain way, and she disagreed, so she did the read the way she’d prepared it. He decided since she wasn’t listening to him and didn’t take his advice he wasn’t going to “waste more words” on her.

“If only he’d kicked you out! You could have come over,” Kizzy grinned.

“Yeah, well, I think he felt needier than he wanted to admit about Rose dying. Otherwise, he probably would’ve tossed me out. The silent treatment is unlike him.”

“It is a rather passive-aggressive, kinda’ feminine way to deal with confrontation if you ask me.”

Lydia shrugged, “I prefer his feminine traits to other dudes’ masculine bravado.”

“Good, cuz’ your boyfriend is a diva.”

The arrival of Bloody Mary’s interrupted their conversation, which resumed as soon as they’d ordered Eggs Benedict and French toast with bacon, two extra plates.

“Why does he always tell you how to do your auditions?”

“He’s older, more experienced? He took some acting classes a long time ago with some big director, and he owns a comedy club, and he has famous friends, and he’s been in New York longer than me, and he’s the one who ‘knows how casting people think’, and also, you may have noticed, he’s a man. A very, very bossy fucking man.”

Kizzy raised her drink to toast Lydia.

“Simon Says!”

“Ohhh, perfect! Simon Said, ‘enjoy your brunch with Kizzy’ so yay!”

Kizzy reached for Lydia’s hand across the table. “You better do what Simon Says.”

Lydia took Kizzy’s hand. They sipped their weekend tomato juice.

“Anyway, he was mad at me for telling him I did it my way. Then he got pissed because I told him I didn’t think the casting chick vibed on me anyhow. He said I was being a “fatalist” but you know, I can sense people, Kizz, and this woman was disinterested in me. I could tell from moment one. She didn’t say ‘hello, nice to meet you, too’; there was no eye contact; no ‘can you try it another way’? It felt like she was seeing me because she had to, not because she’s looking to fill the role.”

“She may have already found who she’s looking for earlier in the week,” Kizzy offered.

“Who knows? That manager I’m working with told me most of these things are pre-cast anyway, they know who they’re hiring. Auditions are just a way to justify paying casting directors and to find new talent that might be good for future projects.”

“Your business is so ugly.”

“I don’t audition well, that doesn’t help. I get too nervous.”

“Simon’s badgering probably doesn’t help.”

“He means well. He does have successful friends.”

“This is New York. Everybody has successful friends. I’m sure the busboy over there is a model and he’s been to a party where he got Versace’s phone number. The server probably grabs coffee with Eve Ensler once a month, and the chef was at a cigar bar last night where Rudy Giuliani showed up. Big deal. Everyone has their process. Simon shouldn’t get inside your head like that, Lydia. He ain’t Fellini. He’s not even a comic. He owns a freaking bar where the people onstage tell jokes.”

“True. But he did give me money for acting classes. And he did enroll me in that diction workshop so I can lose my accent. And he did talk his family into us keeping Rose’s car so I can get more road work.”

“Your dad left you a truck and you were already taking classes and working on your accent.”

“He likes making things better for me,” Lydia said. “It’s sweet. Most straight guys I’ve been around don’t really care about a woman’s career. He’s invested.”

“Yes, he definitely does seem invested. But he’s not the one onstage. So, trust yourself, Baby, not him,” Kizzy said while motioning for their server to bring them two more Bloodys.

It was romantic, though, thought Lydia. The way Simon nurtured her dreams. Nobody else ever had. She’d never had money to take acting classes with top coaches, or fancy diction workshops with experts. He would hand her hundred-dollar bills, “Just put in what you can pay, Babe. I’ll cover the rest.”

She’d noticed a writing manual on a newsstand as she and Simon walked along Central Park one fall afternoon, back when they were first dating when she hadn’t yet moved in with him. Simon offered to buy it for her. When she gratefully declined, he insisted. “It’s the Jewish way, Lydia. We put money into what our children want to accomplish, things they take an interest in pursuing. What’re a few bucks to spend on something that helps your child progress?”

Lydia blushed. She’d grown up in a home where nobody cared if she could afford the textbooks she needed for her college courses much less a book that caught her eye walking down the street. Her family didn’t even care if she had enough gas to get to campus, or money to eat lunch. Until her father died and left her his truck, she didn’t think anyone in her family supported her doing anything except getting married and having some kids. But that fall afternoon, many months ago, Her Boyfriend the Unicorn was offering to buy her a writing manual simply because she’d noticed it on a newsstand, and he thought she had potential as a writer. She was so moved that someone who told her he loved her was talking about how he would raise children, meaning he wanted a family as she did, and that he was offering to buy her a book on writing, meaning he believed in her.

But unicorns are mythical creatures, romance novels are works of fiction, and in real life, there are way more supervillains than heroes. Lydia was so wrapped up in Simon’s early love-bombing that she didn’t realize he was gaslighting her about what kind of father he would actually be if he ever did have a family. He was a controlling, punitive bully who treated her like his “child.” Lydia was too naïve to understand that Simon would never be capable of seeing her in any other light, and too cruel to ever be anything more than a bully.

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