Blue Orchid

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Blue Orchid, Uncategorized

That night, Doll and I lit into a bottle of vodka that didn’t last very long at all and before I knew what I was doing she’d convinced me to take her stencils for the project we’d been thinking about and lay it down on the blank billboard that had hung over the 33 for the past two weeks, pure white and perfect for a good piece.
“Think about it this way,” she had breathed out in soft white clouds of clove cigarette smoke, her head resting on my chest, “you got anything better to do? Other than fantasizing, I mean.”
I had laughed slightly, trying to look anywhere besides at her.
“I know you want to do it.”
My apartment was just a couple of blocks from the overpass, and soon we were scrambling up onto the ladder hanging high off the ground to the scaffold around the empty billboard. The lights that normally illuminated it when taken up by ad space were quiet and dark; no one could see us from the freeway or anywhere else for that matter. It was three in the morning.
I had brought a stepladder so I could paint higher up on the billboard; tying some rope to it, we hauled it up from the ground and leaned it against the board.
Doll pulled the hard cardboard stencils from a black tote bag hanging haphazard from her shoulder, shivering as a cold wind whipped around us. She handed the stencils to me and pulled her hood around her head, both to block the cold and to cover up her fluorescent orange hair from the sight of any passerby. The hood was covered in patches of blue orchid petals she had stitched onto it herself; actually light purple, the petals shone dimly in the darkness, lending Doll’s head an aura of mottled violet.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye as I laid the stencils by my feet, slinging my backpack around to open it while she sat down, dangling her feet above the thirty feet of empty space between the platform and the ground.
“Be careful,” I looked down at her, “you fall and I’ll kick your ass.”
She lit another cigarette to piss me off, waiting for the wind to swoop back around before she exhaled and the smoke whipped into my face. I smiled despite myself, taping the first stencil to the billboard. Glancing down, I saw Doll’s small hand offering me a can of black spray paint.
The piece took about twenty minutes; it was almost four, and the billboard was redolent with the aroma of fresh paint and Doll’s cigarettes. A marked improvement, in my opinion.
“How long do you think it’ll take for them to cover it up?”
I shrug. “Depends if whoever cares enough about a blank billboard happens to see it. Hope it’s up for more than a day though, that’s all I want.”
“I think it should stay. They could turn it into an ad, pay you a commission for the lovely art,” she smiles broadly at me.
I laugh. “What company would turn this into an ad?” I scoff, turning back to my work. It’s Buddy Holly, decked out in a checkered suit and his signature chunky frame glasses, hanging still from a noose that extends to the top of the billboard; on the wall next to him are pictures of Lil’ Jon, Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber. Next to them, a shaky message in bright red blares out “LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE”.
“Someone can make it fit, I’m sure,” she yawned, stretching her arms out; as she wobbled on the edge, her phone beeped. She reached for it automatically.
In the moment before Doll fell off of the scaffolding and down thirty feet onto dead grass and chunks of unused concrete from old construction projects, I saw a flash of panic and absolute dread cross her face, something I had only seen once before. For a single moment crystallized by my terror, her hood slipped back, her bright shock of blazing orange hair a beautiful sight in the dark vacuum enveloping her. Then her head hit the platform and she was gone, slipping down into the dark abyss without preamble or any time for me to stop and take stock of the situation.
The shock held me fast and unable to move until I heard her loud cry of pain from down below. I scrambled down the ladder, ignoring the stencils and paint left behind.
“DOLL!” I screamed, dropping from the ladder at a safe height and running to where she laid, body crumpled across the uneven terrain. She was sobbing from the pain; blood ran down from the wound on her head to mix with the tears; I grasped her hand.
“I’m getting you help, Doll, don’t worry-”
“Don’t leave, Silas, please don’t leave,” she cries out, eyes scrunched closed against the oozing blood, “please, please, don’t go!”
As I reached for my phone to call an ambulance, something made me stop; my mouth dropped open with amazement.
“Silas…it…it doesn’t…it doesn’t hurt.”
When I had gotten to Doll, the wound on her head had been a wide, jagged gash; had I looked closer, there may have been exposed skull to see. Yet right before my eyes, the wound was sealing itself up.
It was like watching a time-lapse video; the blood quickly scabbed and hardened around the wound, growing lighter and lighter until it faded into thick-looking scar tissue and eventually disappeared altogether, leaving only the blood already on her face. I looked down into her wide, scared eyes, touching her face.
“What was that?” she whispered fearfully.
I couldn’t answer her.
* * *
I was seventeen when I first met Doll at a house party near Ventura Beach. Her hair was pale pink and red, tapered to one side of the front and tied in braids in the back, and she wore a deep purple dress with a black belt cinched tight around her thin waist. Seated on a stuffed armchair, her legs and arms were crossed. Next to her, on the floor, a guy with bleach blond surfer hair took a long hit off of a bong between his legs.
The drink in her hand was something blue that I didn’t recognize. I had a cup of beer that I wasn’t really interested in, having only come to the party at the request of a part-time friend that had abandoned me for drunken karaoke contest. The girl in purple, though, she was fascinating. I made my way over to her, unsure of what to say but unwilling to continue to wander the party without attempting to make at least one connection.
“What are you drinking?” she surprised me by speaking first, smiling slow with lips pinker than her hair.
“Just beer,” I shrugged, “I haven’t really found anything else.”
“Then you’re missing out.” Already halfway done with her drink, she downed the rest and stood quickly, taking me by the hand. “I’ll be back in a second, Kurt,” she tossed back to the kid on the bong, who didn’t seem to notice her departure.
She led me by the hand through the labyrinthine hallways of the cramped house, gliding past the hazed faces of the party attendees with a single-minded determination to find me liquor. We emerged into an empty kitchen and she released my hand to search through the cupboards for another glass.
“Check in the fridge for vodka, cranberry juice and…Blue Curacao,” she said in a distracted tone, standing on tiptoe to reach a shelf.
“What’s this called?” I asked as I retrieved the liquor from the fridge, setting the two bottles on the kitchen counter.
“A Blue Orchid, one of my personal favorites.” She set a glass next to the bottles and opened the Curacao, pouring a small amount of the blue liquid into the glass.
“It’s a little misleading, this drink,” she murmured as she mixed the drink, adding a liberal dose of vodka. “A real blue orchid flower is actually more of a purple or violet, but this color is pretty regardless.”
“Yeah,” I said quietly, transfixed by the deep sapphire of the drink and the similarly-colored polish on the girl’s nails.
“Go ahead,” she pushes, “I want to see what you think.”
I took a sip from the glass, feeling the slick, familiar sensation of vodka and the newer, more bitter taste of the Curacao. I blinked.
“It tastes like oranges. Kind of bitter.”
“Good, huh?”
I nodded, laughing a little. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue orchid flower before, come to think of it.”
“It looks like this.” She set down the cranberry juice and turned her wrist up to my eyes, exposing a vibrantly purple tattoo etched with such intensity that the flower appeared to pop out of her thin arm like a prom night corsage.
“That’s a great tattoo,” I marveled, wanting to touch the violet body art in amazement. Her other hand took mine and placed it onto her wrist, right on the petals of the orchid.
I looked back to her face. “Why’d you get it?”
“Because names can be misleading. Something that people call blue might actually be purple, and that changes things. What’s your name?”
The question had taken me off guard. “Silas.”
“That’s the name of a prisoner that God freed in the Bible,” she smiled, tilting her head to the side.
“Oh, um, I didn’t know that.”
“Are you religious, Silas?”
I shook my head.
“Were you a prisoner, freed by the almighty glory of God?” A twinkle was developing in her eye.
I laughed. “I’m not so sure there is a god, really.”
“See? Names can be very different from who we are. That’s what the tattoo’s about; it reminds me to question, to seek that greater truth.”
“What’s your name then? You’ve caught me at a disadvantage,” I grinned, taking another swig of my drink.
She smiled, tilting her head to the side again. “But if I tell you, I’ll lose all traces of my mysteriously alluring figure. I’ll just be another face with a misleading name.”
“What am I supposed to call you then?”
“I like Doll.”
“Like a Barbie?”
She shot me a withering look. “Do I look like a Barbie?”
“God no,” I laughed. “Is Doll a nickname?”
“It’s short for Dahlia.” She extended a hand daintily, a sly smile on her face.
I took it in mine, glancing down at the deep purple emblem embedded in her skin for a moment. “Nice to meet you, Dahlia. I’m Silas.”
She laughed, taking her hand back and pressing it to my chest, pushing me slightly. “Call me Doll from now on, Silas.”
She paused for a moment, looking up into my eyes. Hers were hazel, a green that encircled an almond brown at the center.
“Because I’m not a Dahlia, sweetheart, and I don’t aim to mislead anyone.”
* * *
It’s been three days since Doll hit her head, and I haven’t seen her for the last forty-eight hours.
After I watched her head wound erase itself, I insisted that she go to the hospital; in accordance to her nature she refused, seeming far more mentally shocked than physically. She stayed at my apartment that night and dropped right off to sleep. I had fallen asleep in an armchair keeping an eye on her; by morning she was gone. I’ve called and texted her endlessly since then, but she hasn’t responded yet.
Two days after laying it down, the city arrived to clean up my Buddy Holly tag without much buzz around it. I didn’t care.
I’m sitting in my apartment now, phone glued to my hand and a hopeful eye on the door to open and deliver Doll to me. A kettle of hot water lays forgotten on the stove; I’m unwilling to get up and do anything except watch and wait.
A phone rings; not my cell, but my home line. I’m confused for a moment, as Doll never called me on it, but I rise anyway and cross the floor to pick the phone up.
“Silas?” Her voice sounds nervous and short of breath, but it’s Doll nonetheless.
“Doll? Where are you?” An edge of panic crept into my voice. “You’ve been gone for two days.”
“I’m sorry, Silas. I just…needed time to figure out what’s going on. Will you forgive me?”
“Are you coming back?” I pressed.
“I…no. I don’t think I am.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Look, I have…I have something new here now. A purpose I can dedicate to doing something with my life, not just drawing up stencils for graffiti that gets taken down after a couple of days.”
“What is it you have? Are you some kind of superhero now?”
An exhalation of air rushes static over the phone, exasperation clear in her sigh. “It’s not like that. I don’t know what the hell it is, but I’m getting help for it.”
“I’ve met this guy in LA that knows what-”
“You’re in LA?”
“I have some friends here. I just, you know, needed to get away from what happened. You saw what happened to my head.”
I swallow hard, throat constricting.
“There’s something special about me, and I intend to find out why I’m like this.”
“Then I want to come with you.”
“What? No, Silas, it’s going to be dangerous.”
“Dangerous? What the hell, why?”
“I can’t explain. I wanted to call and let you know that it’s okay, I’m all right.”
“I want to come with you, Doll, I can’t just sit here and not know what’s happening with my friend.”
The same rush of static pushes back over the phone. “I’m not telling you where I am.”
“I’ll find you.”
“Goddammit, Silas!” A hard click and she’s gone.
Without another moment’s hesitation I’m packing a bag and pointing my ancient Mustang south on the 101, eyes cold and searching for any signs of Doll on the horizon in front of me. Special powers or no, I wasn’t about to abandon her to deal with this on my own.
I stop in the Valley to refuel my car after about an hour of driving, nerves still jittery on the subject of searching for Doll. I had no clue where I was going to find her, where to start or even where I was going to be sleeping that night.
The place I stopped at was just off the freeway, a seedy-looking gas station plopped squarely in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. Five minutes into getting my gas, my ears prick up and fear sped slick down my spine. I turn away from my car.
Three guys, all around my age, clustered around me with a menacing air. One of them has his hand in his pocket.
“Got any cash, man? I could use a buck or two,” the one in the center says loudly, a shit-eating grin on his face. The two flanking him smirk.
I tighten my grip on the handle of the gas pump, unsure of what to do.
“Are you fucking deaf?” he spits, charging closer. He draws his hand out of his pocket, a silver butterfly knife clutched tight in a fist covered in tattooed stars.
“I don’t have any cash.”
“Gimme your credit cards then.”
“Fine, fuck,” I mutter, reaching for my wallet and pulling the cards out.
“Just gimme the whole damn wallet, dumbass.”
“I need my driver’s license. Just take the cards.” I wasn’t about to jeopardize finding Doll for the sake of some asshole junkie with a knife.
He lunges forward and jabs the knife at me, eyes wide and mouth curled into a snarl. I raise my arm instinctively, feeling a shockwave sensation course up the bones in my wrist as the knife plunges deep into the skin and out again.
I don’t scream, but I do pull back and away from the mugger, jerking the knife from his grasp and leaving it embedded firmly in my wrist. I stare wild-eyed back at the three guys, heart pumping fast and skin wet with fear. They all stare strangely at me; the one who stabbed me has a look of bewilderment at my wrist.
I glance down at it. The knife is squarely through my wrist, but there’s no wound, no blood except for a few dark smears around the hilt of the weapon. The skin and blood and bone has healed directly around the cold steel of the butterfly knife, and I can feel it inside me.
I grip the handle firmly, tugging it out of my arm and watching as the hold left behind seals itself up after a few seconds. Tossing the knife to the side, I stare at the suddenly empty parking lot in front of me. The three men are now running far from me across the street, disappearing into one of the myriad alleys extending deeper into the city.
Blinking, I slump against my car and sit down on the dirty ground, staring ahead of myself and unable to grasp what’s happening. A cracking sound and blast of cold street air to my face allow me to focus on the figure suddenly appearing in the empty space in front of me. It’s Doll.
Her hair is green but I know it’s her; she wears the same hood with the blue orchid petals. Her hands are jammed deep in her pockets and she looks at me with a sort of sorrowful indignation, shaking her head slowly. A clove cigarette dangles dangerously from her mouth.
“I told you not to come looking for me, Silas.”
My mouth hangs open and I feel punch-drunk. “How did you….?”
She finally gives me a reluctant smile. “There’s a lot you and I have to learn, hon. I’m here to take you to Paul.”
“The man who’s helping me. I think he can help you too, explain what we are.”
I frown, pushing myself up to a standing position. “What the hell are we, Doll?”
She smiles mournfully, reaching out and touching my face. I can see the edge of the blue orchid on her wrist and suddenly I am more afraid than I have ever been and all I want is to be back on a cold platform in front of a blank canvas with a mysterious girl that I love. I swallow and inhale the clove smoke-scented air and I look at Doll, trying to conceal my abject terror.
“We’re not what we were named, Silas,” she whispers.
“We’re lies.”


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