Savory morsels of meat crumble to the plate, to be retrieved later. For now, all my attention is given to the whole glazed duck I’m double-fist clutching like a mad woman. Viciously tearing off chunks of tender meat, letting the juices run down my chin with no shame, I lick my fingers clean and groan.
The neighboring table of office workers cringe at me in disgust; I can’t be bothered to care. It’s been years since I’ve eaten anything this delicious. I smother the bullying thoughts that bombard me while I inhale my food and soon all I can hear are the sounds of chewing and my moans of delirious pleasure.
I’ve decided to drop my joyless modeling career of sacrifice and suffering. No longer will I follow the demanding demon of perfection that sucks the pleasure from my life.
My self imposed prison is run by Spencer, my agent; a four foot tall weasel topped by a curly black toupee. He dictates my diet and work schedule to the point I have lost all control of every aspect of my life. Hell, the second I decided to step onto the street and end my career, I felt lost. Free, but terrifyingly lost.
The thing that actually drove me out of the studio was a simple offer from Natalie, a fellow model. She stood in front of me shaking a tiny powder packet. The promise of a fun, carefree day came from her pouty red lips. It wasn’t the first time a hollow eyed colleague had pushed a drug, but it was the first time I’ve been seriously tempted.
It scared the shit out of me.
So I put my pink Bling sweatsuit on over the string bikini I was supposed to model later and walked into the LA sunshine; a new woman.
A hungry woman.
I’d been ignoring hunger for so long that once I dropped that barrier, I was starving. I wanted fatty, salty, sweet, empty calories. As my mouth watered, my stomach awoke from its coma and growled its demand to be filled.
Then I saw the Chinese place up the street. Walking as briskly as I could without running, I ordered half of the menu in one breath.
So now I sit, fit to burst at the seams of my tiny waist. The grunge punk waitress, who fits in about as well as I do in this run down restaurant, saunters over and asks, ” Would you like anything else?”
I think for a split second about desert, but decide I don’t really want to taste all that food in reverse; there is just no room for it.
“No thanks, just the… bill.” Oh shit! I forgot my wallet in my beach bag at the studio! I just didn’t think about it, since I haven’t directly paid for anything in over three years. Spencer pays for everything with my card; my money.
I hang my head.. I was going to have to call him now to come and pay for my meal like a child and he would know exactly what I’d put into my body. A wash of fear came over me and I’m sure my face went white. But then the realization hit me, I was scared of a person that worked for me. I paid this man’s salary and I was terrified of him.
The waitress returned with the bill and stared into my face, recognizing me. “You’re Sara Gip.” I nodded yes and smiled tentatively, sure that my face was still covered in duck sauce. She lost her smile a little and her shoulders dropped. “You got any money?”
“No. I’m sorry. I’ll just call someone and have them bring some.” I searched my pockets; no phone. “Uh, do you have a phone?”
The squatty young woman, flipped her hair and began walking to the register, but stopped and turned back with a smile. She calmly sat across from me. “You know, this happens more often than you think. Successful models like you have a tiny mental break and we’re the closest food joint. They end up in here and like you, they forget that the world runs on money, not beauty. So my guess is, you don’t really want to call who you’re going to call right now and so I have a proposition.”
“Okay, let’s hear it.” I’m intrigued and relieved to have a choice.
“I like your outfit.”
“I’m confused. That sounds like a compliment, not a proposition.”
She put her tiny tan hand to her face and sighed. “You give me your Gucci sweatsuit, I pay for your meal. Fair trade.”
I screwed up my face, “That’s not even remotely fair, this is a couple thousand dollar outfit and my meal is..” picking up the bill, “eighty dollars!”
The girl gave me an evil grin, “it’s used now, depreciation you know.”
“You know these won’t fit you, and to point out the obvious, what am I supposed to wear if I sell you my clothes?”
“First of all, I’m going to sell it, not wear it. Secondly, I’ve got a tube dress I was planning to wear clubbing tonight and you can have it free of charge. We got a deal?”
I probably would have given more to avoid that call to Spencer but I also didn’t want to look like a pushover to this street-smart girl. “I guess, but I get a favor too.”
“Wait… what’s the favor?”
I shrugged and studied the gaudy wallpaper a minute, “I don’t know yet. I just don’t want to feel taken advantage of.”
“Alright, alright, I get it. Deal.”
We got up and I followed her into the employee bathroom, where she dug a sparkly Lycra tube dress out of her bag that looked decidedly streetwalker-esque. I didn’t know where I was headed next in my rebellion but I changed into the awful dress and handed her my outfit. I took a minute in the mirror trying to adjust the dress so that my ass wasn’t hanging out the back but it was a loosing battle.
My reflection made me stare. My eyes looked lost and so scared that the waitress noticed. “You really should go back to work. If you’re looking to change your life, running away isn’t the way to do it.” I fixed my hair and let her words sink in before answering.
“You don’t know what it’s like. People think it’s all glamorous and beautiful and nothing but fun and parties but it’s closer to slavery and torture, you know.”
“Even if that’s so, I bet you got contracts, assets and money that you don’t even have control of that you’re just going to hand over to those people. That don’t seem smart to me. Be smart. You be sneaky if you gotta be. Be a ruthless bitch!… That’s what I’d do anyway.”
“I will be!” I said with the borrowed confidence of this spunky little waitress.
And I was…
AND THAT is how I met my best friend, Mindy.
She saved my career and most likely my life.
The pic is from London Unattached