“What does this mean?” the tattoo artist asks.
“Second to the right,” Pete sighs heavily, with the air of someone who is explaining something for the ten thousandth fucking time. “And straight on until morning.”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It’s my address.”
“It’s what.” Peter decides not to dignify such an obvious question with a response. “…You want your address inked on you?”
He nods, taps her fingers against the counter. “I’m super forgetful.” A girl walks by outside the window, the twenty third he’s seen in the past seven minutes. There’s a Catholic school down the road, grades six to twelve, classes must’ve just let out.
He likes this one though.
“So, I’m like way busy today, but we can do it two days from now, yes? Around eleven?”
He goes to the bar after getting his tattoo, his favourite bar, because it’s a Sunday and there are going to be a lot of assholes there watching the football game, and he likes to mock them.
He’s relatively tall, but not a very big guy, otherwise, and usually that works to his advantage.
People trust you when you don’t look like a threat.
And Pete, who keeps his tattoos covered with his button-down Oxfords and perfectly pressed slacks, doesn’t tend to look like much of a threat, not really.
And Pete needs people to trust him, unfortunately; it’s the biggest requirement of his job.
He goes to the bar because it’s a Sunday and there’s a game on and Wendy always gets stuck with the Sunday shift.
He quite likes Wendy.
He walks Wendy home after her shift ends because they both know he really only showed up there to see her, and anyway, he doesn’t have a car.
Well, he has a car. He has a few cars. He doesn’t have a license though. Wendy seems like the sort of a girl who’d care about that sort of a thing.
They get to her place in Santa Monica, three in the morning, kissing in the doorway and then they’re inside and both boys are awake, sitting in front of the television.
Looks a lot like Pete’s not getting laid, but.
Sex kind of bothers Pete anyway.
He always feels like he’s phoning it in.
His phone rings at five thirty and Pete swears a fucking litany of fuck wank bloody fucking shit Christ on a fucking crutch who the fucking hell before answering cordially, “Peter Pan.”
Unknown number, he shouldn’t have bothered, but this is what he does, isn’t it.
This is how we live.
“You want how much?” he rasps, skeptically, but taking the numbers down nonetheless.
No one—no first-time buyer, anyway—wants that much coke unless they’re a narc.
Pete agrees to meet that night anyway, at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at The Grove because he’s an asshole and also because Pete’s not going to show up.
Rusty shows up five minutes late, in his trademark red sweatshirt, ripped jeans, and a beat-up pair of Nikes.
It makes Pete sick, just thinking about Rusty’s wardrobe, let alone having to look at it. It’s a pretty dire situation.
“So what’s the job?” Rusty asks, falling into his seat. He has a black eye. Pete doesn’t care.
“I ordered you a muffin,” Pete says. “Also, hello. Also, good morning.”
“It’s fucking seven, Pan. You think I’m awake at seven?”
Rusty’s new; Pete picked him up streetfighting for fifty bucks a night two weeks ago. It was the saddest thing he’d ever even seen.
But he’s new, is the point.
Probably older than Pete, but new, which means young, like a fucking baby.
He hasn’t learned all his lessons just yet.
Pete leans in, nice and close and personal, purrs, “You’re awake whenever the fuck I want you to be, honey.”
His hair is fucked and something needs to be done about it and so he goes to see Rhonwen.
“Roots growing in?” she smirks, when he walks into the shop—ignores the receptionist because if she’s not used to this sort of behaviour by now, there’s something inherently wrong with her—but he just rolls his eyes and sits down in Rhonwen’s big black chair, spins around in it a few times insolently, as he does. “I have an appointment at three, Pete.”
Pete doesn’t care.
“I don’t care.”
“I do, I do care.”
“Okay, Lisa Rowe, chill the fuck out. Time?”
“So?” Pete sneers, rolling his eyes, tugging his beanie off his head. His roots are growing in something awful, bright shiny auburn. He hates it. “Thirty minutes. They can wait. I have an emergency.”
“You know,” she sighs, running her fingers through his unwashed unbrushed completely horrible hair. “People pay to have hair this colour.”
“Well, I’m paying to not have hair this colour.”
“You never pay me, Pete,” Rhonwen says, very matter of factly.
Pete accepts this because it’s true.
“You’re kind of an ungrateful bitch, Rhonwen. I saved your life, you can’t do my hair for free?”
She’s already getting things together to make a start of it though, so he’s already won. “You didn’t save my life.”
“Oh, of course I did, baby. That’s what I do,” Pete says, because it’s true.
Pete tries to never lie.
Lying is unattractive. It’s what adults do when they don’t like reality.
Pete loves reality because his reality is entirely his own.
He lives in his own world where he gets everything he wants whenever he wants it.
They don’t finish his hair until four thirty because Pete is the worst client ever.
He knows this.
He just doesn’t give a fuck.
He leaves with his hair two inches shorter — his idea — and two shades lighter brown — Rhonwen’s idea that he didn’t actually know about until it was already done and he suspects it was just to punish him for fucking up her actual appointment with an actual paying client, but.
He could fucking kill her for it, he likes being dark and mysterious, it’s his fucking thing.
He could fucking tear her the fuck apart, but he can’t yet because she’s still useful.
Rhonwen sees and hears things from rich, bored housewives and B-List celebrities who’ve their own boring as hell reality TV shows, all day, every day, and that kind of information is fucking amazing to have, about five percent of the time.
The rest of the time, it’s boring as hell, but.
Everyone has to make sacrifices for their art.
And it is art, really.
Pete’s whole network, his little gang, his lost little boys and girls who tell him things and help him with things, bad bad bad things, without even really knowing about it, well.
You can’t buy that sort of thing.
You have to build it.
It takes years of hard work and shit like that.
Or, okay, honestly?
Pete hasn’t put in years of hard work.
But work, definitely.
Pete’s like a fucking architect or something, is what he’s like.
He goes home from the salon, ready to pass the fuck out when his phone goes off again.
Some days, Pete wants to throw his fucking cell phone off the Santa Monica fucking Pier.
“This is Pete,” he says, unlocking the door with his free hand.
“Hi, Pete, it’s Wendy.”
She pauses like she’s expecting him to have something to say to that.
Obviously it’s Wendy.
“I know it’s a huge thing to ask and completely out of nowhere and I’m sure you’re really busy but could you pick up my boys from care? I got a shift last minute from Kate, and I need the work, and—”
Pete interrupts because her voice is fucking grating. He’s not hung over, but maybe he’s getting a migraine? Or he’s caught the flu or something. Maybe whooping cough is going around again. Maybe it’s just that Wendy’s English. He fucking hates English accents. “Yeah, when, now?”
“Uh, yes, if you ca—”
“Text me the address,” Pete says, grabbing the keys to the Ferrari and heading back out the front door.
Her kids go to some hipster hippie vegan all-natural organic Montessori daycare school hybrid in Venice and Pete stands outside the building, shuddering, glaring at the place from behind mirrored aviators.
It looks like the sort of place you would only send your children to if you wanted them to come home with nightmares.
“Are you the Darlings’ father?”
“What?” Pete demands, whipping off his sunglasses to stare at the woman who’s just come out of the school. “Fuck, no, what, no. I’m their. Mom’s. Boyfriend? She said she was going to call—”
“Yes, I’ve just gotten off the phone with Wendy, yes, she just implied—”
“Nothing,” she says, smiling tightly. It’s a polite little smile.
It makes Pete want to stab her in the fucking mouth.
Put a little colour, a rush of red, on her plain little face.
“And then we played ninjas!” John says.
“Boring,” Pete mumbles around a sucker that he conned out of the boys’ caretaker. Small victories and that. It’s strawberry-flavoured.
“I don’t like ninjas,” the smaller one says.
John sneers, in that vaguely superior I know something you don’t know way that only small children can master. “You just don’t like them cos you had to play a pirate.”
“Wait, there are pirates?”
When Pete was two, he ran away from his parents.
They didn’t bother trying to find him.
That’s when he grew up, a little.
He doesn’t think he’s really grown up too much since then.
Peter calls Arthur because Arthur has a good prescription drug hook up, some fashion model with a horrifyingly real name that Pete’s gotten introduced to on three different occasions and he still can’t remember the fucker’s name or number or anything, so.
So he goes through Arthur.
Arthur has exceedingly rich parents and an exceedingly hot coke addict for a girlfriend and Arthur isn’t very fun to be around. In fact, he’s kind of an asshole but it’s okay, it’s all okay because drugs.
“Why do you even like this shit,” the coke addict says while Arthur counts out Pete’s antipsychotics.
Pete sits at their kitchen table, watching their cats play on the floor.
The cats are called Heathcliff and Catherine.
These people are sick.
“Seriously,” she continues, “Voluntarily taking Seroquel is like date-raping yourself.”
“Go do a line or something; men are working here,” Pete sneers irritably.
He needs the Seroquel because he can’t sleep and nothing knocks him out better.
Arthur glances up, smirks, waves the girl away and she goes, and it’s ridiculous. Pete doesn’t understand people in relationships. He’d never let anyone talk to a girl he was into like Pete just talked to her. He’d never take orders from a guy like she just did from Arthur and yet.
People make no fucking sense sometimes.
He loses five hundred on enough Seroquel to kill a small army and goes home and sleeps for two days.
He has seven missed calls and only one is from Belle which is nice, it’s usually a lot worse than that after such a long period of time.
Belle has daddy issues.
“Baby,” he murmurs into the phone when he calls her back.
He’s in the bath, feet up, ankles crossed, on his Blackberry because that’s what he uses to talk to Belle and anyway he can’t risk getting his iPhone wet.
Getting a new one of those is always shit.
“Don’t ‘baby’ me,” Belle snaps. “Where the fuck have you been?”
“Around, babes. I’ve been, like. Sick. I can come over tonight, take you out? Anywhere you want.”
“It’s eleven, Peter.”
“It is eleven at night, Peter, we can’t go anywhere.”
He didn’t think it was eleven. Weird that he didn’t notice it was dark out when he walked past the windows.
“Baby, it’s LA, nowhere’s open until eleven.”
“I don’t want to go to a club.”
“We’ll go to a bar.”
“I’m not drinking anymore.”
Pete holds the phone away from his face, stares at it in disbelief.
He passes out for two days and the whole world fucks up without him?
He slowly puts his cell back to his ear. “Oh….kay. We’ll go out to dinner tomorrow. Okay?”
Pete ends the call and drops his Blackberry over the side of the tub, onto a towel, then carefully dips his head beneath the water to get all the Bumble and Bumble Cool Brunette conditioner out of his hair. He wonders how long he can hold his breath, tries really very hard to pass out again and then realises he’d have a much easier time of it on Seroquel.
He tries it on Seroquel and wakes up safe, in bed, somehow, except with slightly damp hair.
Safe, except he had a dream that he was a homicidal mermaid.
The fuck even.
Pete takes the bus to Intelligentsia in Silverlake, and after five cups of espresso and fifteen minutes of serious introspection, vows off Seroquel.
He means to go out with Belle but he goes to her place and she’s either passed out or she’s not around so he figures, you know, fuck it, and goes home.
He’s at the Barney’s sale (Beverly Hills, of course — he likes New York but not enough to brave Fifth Avenue around Fashion Week, that shit’s suicide) when some kid, fourteen, fifteen, sprints past him, literally running, white blonde hair flying behind him or her, whatever, it’s impossible to tell by the clothing.
Running in Barney’s is simply not done.
Pete looks around instinctively for the kids’ parents.
Instead, he sees two security guards racing in his direction, and he realises the kid was shoplifting.
He sighs and goes back to rifling through fedoras. He wants a green one. With a feather through it. It’s insane that he can’t find one. It’s not like he’s, whatever. Reaching for the fucking stars here.
None of the salespeople will come help him, either, because, quite like Lana Del Rey, he looks like he was born dead.
Everyone knows that Seroquel withdrawal is always shit.
Pete pops a half a Xanax and decides to go to Pinkberry for a frozen yoghurt.
There’s this kid with way crazy eyes wandering through the tunnels beneath The Beverly Center when Pete leaves Pinkberry.
He could just leave through the main entrance, like a normal person, he knows this, but he went on a class trip as a kid once, to the mall, and they taught them all about security systems and emergency exits, and now he’s fucking ace at getting out of the labyrinths. It’s like. A guaranteed twenty minutes of fun every time.
Even television can’t promise you that.
“Sorry,” the boy says, just when Pete thinks he’s going to get away with not talking to him. God damn the shamelessly intrusive youth of America. “Have you seen a boy with white hair and a waistcoat? And, uh. And a pocket watch?”
“A big, like. Gold. Watch. On a, like. String?”
Pete’s pretty sure his mouth has dropped open. Total cliché. But. “Are you high?”
“I dropped some acid like yesterday.”
“Like wow did you like really where even do you live like in a fucking time capsule in Sherman fucking Oaks,” Pete sneers, mostly unconsciously. Mocking Valley kids is a reflex. Whatever. “Fuck off, stop doing LSD. That’s so forty years ago. Who even are you.”
“Uh. Al? Alexis, but. But Al. But look, I’m kind of los—”
Pete’s already walking towards the glowing green EXIT sign but he, very generously, drawls over his shoulder, “Yeah, okay, except I don’t care.”
“It’s like you’re Carrie Bradshaw.”
“Uh, what is that, is that a band,” Pete mumbles around the pink spoon from his frozen yoghurt. The fact that he hasn’t had a frozen yoghurt in like, three days, is entirely unimportant. What is important is the Westwood waistcoat that has just arrived at his front door. It’s cream and burgundy wool, with gold buttons, and Pete is in love with it.
It goes perfectly with his new fedora.
Naturally, he called Jim to talk about it because he’s the closest thing Pete has to a best friend. Jim doesn’t really have many friends either. Pete knows this for a fact because when Pete called, Jim was fucking some guy and he stopped just so he could chat about Pete’s wardrobe.
The man is a fucking gem.
“Carrie Bradshaw is the main girl on Sex and The City.”
“I don’t. What.”
“It’s a show,” Jim informs him, slowly. “And they made two movies? And in the first movie, she tries on a wedding dress by Vivienne Westwood and then Westwood just gives it to her.”
“That’s stupid,” Pete scoffs, turning to glance at the waistcoat from the back. It’s cinched with a gold buckle. It’s gorgeous. “That would never happen in real life.”
“And yet, there’s Westwood at your door.”
“And yet,” Pete agrees. “How even do you know that?”
“That’s kind of weird,” Tigris says, during their weekly rendezvous.
Last week, Tigris chose where they met up and Pete had to get his updates while looking through lipglasses at MAC.
This week, they’re at the massive candy store at Universal Citywalk, because Tigris is dieting and Pete is an asshole.
“It looks so good though.”
“Yeah, but it’s worth a lot, right? Why would anyone just give it to you?”
“Aren’t you, whatever, like, Native American,” Pete asks, entirely rhetorically, around a mouthful of candy corn he has no intention of paying for. He knows Tigris is Native American. “Aren’t Indian gifts a thing.”
“Oh, oh, look, Wonka bars, I didn’t know they still made those.”
“Look, Pete, seriously, you’re going to get yourself killed,” Tigris says.
“My God, woman. You’re so queer. If I don’t care, why do you?”
“You’re my friend.”
“I don’t have friends.”
“You mean a lot to me, Pete. I want you to be okay.”
“What does that even mean?” Pete snorts derisively, pockets a Jawbreaker and stalks out of the store.
“It means,” Tigris snaps, rushing out after him, obnoxious hipster TOMS smacking on the ground loudly behind him. “It means, I fucking love you, and I don’t want you to die.”
Peter stops, laughs in a way that even he can recognise as kind of manic, a bit frightening. “I’m a criminal mastermind, Tiger, babes. Let’s be reasonable here.”
Pete hates when people try to tell him that they love him because he doesn’t get it.
He knows they don’t mean love like family like friends they mean love like I want to marry you and have babies with you and move to the Valley and buy a house with you and send our kids to horrifying public schools and die of, whatever, the same exact strain of influenza.
Pete doesn’t love anyone like that.
He never has.
He doesn’t understand it.
He’s pretty sure Wendy loves him like that, and so does Tigris, but that maybe comes from him saving her life and all, more than anything else.
Belle loves him like that, that’s for goddamn sure.
He doesn’t know about anyone else.
“Don’t throw a fit in the middle of the grocery store, Pete.”
“Fuck you so hard. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to come to your house and kidnap you and drug you and take you to the zoo and throw you in with the crocodiles.”
“You think the people at the zoo will let you get away with that?”
“I’m brilliant and I have the IQ tests to prove it, okay? I’ll do it when they’re closed.”
“Right.” Jim now sounds suspiciously like he’s lighting a cigar. He’s going through a cigar phase. It’s more of an affectation than anything else; Pete has no fucking idea why Jim is bothering if he’s just sitting alone in his house. “I think they have security and shit though.”
“S’like fuck you fuck you fuck you, y’know,” Pete slurs. Possibly he took too much Klonopin. If ten would be considered too many, then yes. Too many. Whatever, though, he’s fine, it’s all fine, drugs are fine, he does this shit every day.
This is how we do it.
“I don’t want to grow up. So fuck you fuck you fuck you.”
“I don’t think anyone wants for you to be someone you’re not, Peter.”
“Everyone does. Absolutely everyone.”
He’s not going to kill himself, not really, he doesn’t think.
Still, suicide hotlines are interesting, aren’t they?
Death would be interesting too, though, maybe.
A fun sort of adventure.
The biggest adventure.
He’s selling a group of teenagers on Tuesday and he needs to pick which ones they should bother marketing as sex slaves and which ones they should just murder.
It’s a shitty day, though, and Pete wants to murder everyone.
So maybe he’s not exactly impartial, today.
“She’s fat. I don’t like her.”
“Sir, she’s a size two.”
“So what? Two is like ten now, didn’t you watch The Devil Wears Prada?”
They bring forward two more girls and Pete takes one glance at them before shouting, “What is happening to Los Angeles, I don’t understand, do we not manufacture hot girls anymore? Isn’t, whatshername. With the hair? Sky Ferreira, isn’t she from here? Can you just go to, wherever, Culver fucking City and grab me ten girls who look like Sky Ferreira except with big breasts, can we do that, please?! Let’s get that done.”
Everyone just stares at him like he’s gone mad.
“Peter Pan has spoken,” he says in his darkest deepest voice and his boys all scarper off to do as they’re told.
As well they fucking should, as far as Pete is considered.
Belle finally shows up from wherever the fuck she’s been, some crack house in like, fucking. Pomona probably, and she’s high as fuck on meth.
Pete is kind of just like go away go away go away I am busy but he hasn’t seen Belle for awhile and honestly he’s still waiting on his Sky Ferreira lookalikes so he hasn’t really got too much work to get to so he lets her in.
This is how we do it.
Pete is the king of mature decisions.
Belle is like that blonde anorexic off the first season of Skins, or something.
Not in general, but tonight, definitely—the bitch will not shut the fuck up about shit that does not make sense.
Pete wants to hit her.
He doesn’t want to deal with her daddy used to abuse me thing though so he just asks her if she’d maybe like to have sex, instead.
His phone goes off when he’s sunbathing.
It’s early February but these are the highlights of living in Los Angeles: your hair always looks like you were just at the beach, drugs are everywhere, and you can have a tan whenever you want and no one can judge you like those freaks on Jersey Shore.
“Peter Pan,” he answers sleepily, staring at his hand move. It’s moving weird. He wonders if it looks that way all the time.
“You go to Amoeba last night?”
Jim hums the opening tune to Blue Jeans and Pete stubbornly pretends he has no idea what that is or why it matters.
“Why are you being boring.”
“I’m always boring,” Pete says, takes a drag and takes for fucking ever to let it out. Jim still hasn’t said anything. “Why are you calling me, isn’t there a review online somewhere?”
“I’m in San Francisco.”
“What, and Google doesn’t work in San Francisco? Okay. SF. How’s that.”
“Rainy. Boring. Everyone here is, like. Gay. Or a slam poet. Or both.”
“Yes, poor little Jimmy. All alone in a foreign land.”
“Fuck you, Pan.”
There’s silence from both of them for a minute and Pete sighs heavily, kicks off the edge of the pool and resumes floating, goes, “I miss you. Come see me.”
“I haven’t booked a plane yet. Probably nothing’s available for a few days though.”
“Take a bus.”
“That’ll take years; you’ll forget me by then.”
“I just said—”
“Steal a kite from some, whatever. Gay kid at the park and fly to me! Think happy thoughts, it’ll work!”
“Are you stoned, Peter Dorian Pan? Have you been smoking weed? Did you call me while you were stoned?”
Pete rumbles out a laugh that somehow turns into manic cackling. “Hey, you called me, cunt.”
“Guess I did,” Jim says, and Pete can’t see but he swears the fucker is smiling when he hangs up.
“Be a man, Peter Pan,” Rhonwen snaps.
“No!” he gasps in return. She should’ve been expecting it. Be a man. Peter Pan?! What a ridiculous request. Pete would never!
“This is for work.”
“I’ve never needed to be clean shaven to deal drugs before,” Pete says, holding on tightly to the chair in front of him. It’s the only thing standing between him and Rhonwen turning his (admittedly outrageously out of hand) facial hair into something…God forbid, respectable. “This is new.”
“It’s to make you look like a man? An adult? Someone these people can trust? Do you know what trust is, Peter, it’s kind of important for your job.”
“I don’t care if they trust me. And anyway I don’t see why I can’t have a seventies pornstache if that’s what I fucking want.”
“That’s… not what you have now. At all.”
“Because it’s not what I want now but what if I did.”
“Well, you can’t, so.”