As the pandemic hit the East Coast, my barber shop closed. At the same time, people began to improvise masks. I vowed not to cut my hair again until an efficacious vaccine was running through Dr. Fauci’s and my veins. I was able to amuse myself in many ways, among them my "art project": creating a monthly “Hair and Mask Update” on social media.
Mayor Andrew Yang had expressed concern about so many people traveling to the city from states where vaccination levels remained low. “I want them coming to New York to spread their cash around, not COVID-19,” he said. “Our city’s positivity rate remains one of the lowest in the country, but we have thousands of tourists arriving every day from places where too many people believe that the vaccines will implant magnets and nano computers into them or turn them into Knicks fans.”
“Silver, I may have been awkward back then, but I was responsible and dutiful when I was still in the crib,” Hopper said. “Any act of my younger self that would come back to haunt me occurred only when you and Olympia dragged me into your Daria dramas and cosplay.” Silver was silent. Hopper thought he had hit a nerve. He didn’t hate his sister, not really, and he did not want to hurt her, either.
“I would recognize you anywhere,” Dilly told Hopper, “even though you stopped cutting your hair and are hiding behind that cute face mask. You walk around in public like a man who is wearing only a large diaper, hoping no one notices that he is barefoot.”
Hopper had acquired his fear of heights when, at the age of eight and standing in the cupola of the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor observatory, he diverted his gaze from New Jersey across the Hudson River to look down. Though encased in impenetrable glass and concrete, Hopper imagined a force of nature -- or perhaps a mystical intervention – forcing him through the building’s membrane and hurtling him towards a violent and gruesome death on the street below, like Evelyn McHale.
“Again, let me explain it to you, Hopper,” Ingrid began, “even though you already know the answer. You are a jerk and impossible to live with – and I am grateful for our divorce – but we are always going to have something between us. It’s like we are still married even though we stopped being married. It’s both disconcerting and wonderful that I can always count on my ex-husband to have my back.”
Olympia had been designated as the “Chloe Sevigny of her generation.” She was the girl everyone wanted to succeed so they could watch her fail and collapse. She disappointed on that front; rather than collapse, she just faded from view.
Lola looked at the ceiling for a moment, then at the new abstract painting, then sipped his martini. “Like that painting over there, we all harbor our complexities, Hopper,” he said.
The movie adaptation of Hopper’s first book had been sidetracked when Reese Witherspoon fell in love with his sister Olympia’s fake journal. “The whole story about 'Astrid' may be a lie,” Reese told Olympia’s mother, “but it is a brilliant, well-told lie by a representative of the new feminist literary wave.”
Hopper believed that his parents had agreed between themselves to use the phrase “My son, the bestselling author” whenever discussing or introducing him. Hopper had heard these five words uttered in the same adoring tone hundreds of times. Now his mother got to add, “I’m adapting my son’s bestselling book for the screen.”