There’s a scene in Amazing Spider-Man 25, when Mary Jane Watson is first introduced. Her face is obscured from both the reader and Peter Parker, and up until this point, Peter has only known her as the girl his aunt wants him to ask out on a date, “that nice Watson girl next door.”
Peter isn’t interested. If his aunt likes her, Mary Jane is not his type.
Then in issue 42 her face is revealed and Peter realizes just how amazing she is. It’s a gut-punch moment: Peter’s been an idiot.
This is as good an analogy as any to describe my relationship with Lorelei Castle. I was married to Lola for exactly thirteen and a half hours, and if I were a smarter man, maybe I would have taken the chance while I had it, instead of assuming—just because she was wearing a short dress and getting drunk in Vegas—that she wasn’t my type.
But a few hours later, we were all drunk . . . and impulsively all married. While our friends defiled hotel rooms—and each other—Lola and I walked for miles, talking about everything.
It’s easy to share confidences with strangers, and even easier when drunk, so by the middle of the night I felt quite intimate with her. Somewhere the Strip turned dark, hinting at the seedy underbelly the city has to offer, and Lola stopped to look up at me. The tiny diamond Marilyn piercing in her lip caught the light, and I grew mesmerized by the soft pink of her mouth, long since rubbed free of lipstick. I’d lost my buzz, was already thinking about how we’d deal with the annulments the next day, and she quietly asked if I wanted to get a room somewhere. Together.
But . . . I didn’t. I didn’t, because by the time she made it an option, I knew she wasn’t one-night-stand material. Lola was the kind of girl I could lose my mind for.
Only, as soon as she returned to San Diego her life exploded in a hurricane. First, her graphic novel Razor Fish was published and quickly stampeded onto every top-ten list on the comic scene. And then it went mainstream, showing up in major retailers, with the New York Times calling it “the next major action franchise.” The rights to her book have just sold to a major motion picture studio, and today she met the executives putting millions into the project.
I’m not sure she even has a millisecond of time to think about romance, but it’s fine; I think about it enough for the both of us.
“I don’t know who started the tradition that the birthday girl cuts her own cake,” Lola says, sliding a shot glass of questionably green alcohol in front of me, “or this new version where the girl whose movie is being made buys the shots. But I’m not a fan.”
“No,” Mia objects, “it’s that the girl who is about to run off to Hollywood buys the shots.”
Everyone turns to give their best skeptical look to Harlow. Compared to the rest of us, Harlow’s entire existence is rooted in Hollywood. Raised by an actress mother and Oscar-winning cinematographer father, and married to a man who is about to be a break-out Adventure Channel star, I’m pretty sure we’re all thinking the same thing: if Hollywood entrenchment determines who is footing the bill, Harlow should be buying the shots.
As if sensing this, she waves her hand saying, “Shut up. I’ll buy the next round.”
Everyone raises their shot glass to the middle, and Harlow delivers the toast: “To the baddest badass that ever lived: Lorelei Louise Castle. Go fucking conquer, girl.”
“Hear, hear,” I say, and Lola catches my eye, giving me her secret grin one more time.
We clink our glasses—Harlow, Mia, Joe, Lola, London, and I—and tilt back our shots before giving in to an oddly synchronized shudder.
Lola’s roommate, London, gags. “Green chartreuse.” She coughs, and her blond hair is piled in a messy bun on top of her head; it bobs precariously as she shakes her head. “Should be outlawed.”
“I had the bartender make up something called Celebration,” Lola says with a grimace, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “Sorry. I feel like I need a shower now.”
Mia coughs. “That guy must equate celebration with pain.” She steals my beer and takes a swig before turning back to Lola. I so rarely get to hang out with Mia without Ansel attached to some part of her; it’s actually quite nice to get her alone and excited to socialize. She’s sweetly delicate, in the way a little sister might be. “So let’s hear it, Miss Fancy. Tell us about this morning.”
Lola sighs, sipping her water before giving a wide-eyed, awestruck shrug. “Honestly, what is this life, you guys?”
I lean back against the booth and listen fondly as Lola recounts much of what I’ve already heard. In truth, I imagine I could hear it a hundred times and it would never really sink in; I can’t imagine how it must feel for her.
Lola, who by her own admission spends more time talking to the people in her head than to the people all around her, is truly brilliant. As much as possible, I try to temper my reactions to her work, because I know in part it’s carried by my affection for her. And anyway, it’s not like I can blab on to her constantly about how the creator is a fucking genius, and one of the smartest, sexiest people I know. But I do emphasize however often I can to customers that the book itself is fresh and unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and yet it feels familiar.
Razor Fish makes me feel that same buzz I felt as a kid picking up my first comic from the local newsagent. I’d been obsessed with the strength, the battles, the power of a story told in words and color. At age eleven, I was the tallest, skinniest kid in Year Seven—our first year of high school—and aptly nicknamed Stickboy by the class bullies. Even when my mates caught up by Year Eleven, the name still stuck. But by then, I’d towered over the other boys for so long and had begun cycling everywhere. I wasn’t skinny anymore—I was strong, and dominating in school sports. Stickboy was the name of a superhero, not a coward.