Less Than Zero Page 2

I bring Daniel to Blair’s party that night and Daniel is wearing sunglasses and a black wool jacket and black jeans. He’s also wearing black suede gloves because he cut himself badly on a piece of glass a week earlier in New Hampshire. I had gone with him to the emergency room at the hospital and had watched as they cleaned the wound and washed the blood off and started to sew in the wire until I started feeling sick and then I went and sat in the waiting room at five o’clock in the morning and heard The Eagles sing “New Kid in Town” and I wanted to come back. We’re standing at the door of Blair’s house in Beverly Hills and Daniel complains that the gloves are sticking to the wires and are too tight, but he doesn’t take them off because he doesn’t want people to see the thin silver wires sticking out of the skin on his thumb and fingers. Blair answers the door.

“Hey, gorgeous,” Blair exclaims. She’s wearing a black leather jacket and matching pants and no shoes and she hugs me and then looks at Daniel.

“Well, who’s this?” she asks, grinning.

“This is Daniel. Daniel, this is Blair,” I say.

Blair offers her hand and Daniel smiles and shakes it softly.

“Well, come on in. Merry Christmas.”

There are two Christmas trees, one in the living room and one in the den and both have twinkling dark-red lights coloring them. There are people at the party from high school, most of whom I haven’t seen since graduation and they all stand next to the two huge trees. Trent, a male model I know, is there.

“Hey, Clay,” Trent says, a red-and-green-plaid scarf wrapped around his neck.

“Trent,” I say.

“How are you, babes?”

“Great. Trent, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Trent.”

Trent offers his hand and Daniel smiles and adjusts his sunglasses and lightly shakes it.

“Hey, Daniel,” Trent says. “Where do you go to school?”

“With Clay,” Daniel says. “Where do you go?”

“U.C.L.A. or as the Orientals like to call it, U.C.R.A.” Trent imitates an old Japanese man, eyes slit, head bowed, front teeth stuck out in parody, and then laughs drunkenly.

“I go to the University of Spoiled Children,” Blair says, still grinning, running her fingers through her long blond hair.

“Where?” asks Daniel.

“U.S.C.,” she says.

“Oh, yeah,” he says. “That’s right.”

Blair and Trent laugh and she grabs his arm to balance herself for a moment. “Or Jew.S.C.,” she says, almost gasping.

“Or Jew.C.L.A.,” Trent says, still laughing.

Finally Blair stops laughing and brushes past me to the door, telling me that I should try the punch.

“I’ll get the punch,” Daniel says. “You want some, Trent?”

“No thanks.” Trent looks at me and says, “You look pale.”

I notice that I do, compared to Trent’s deep, dark tan and most of the other people’s complexions around the room. “I’ve been in New Hampshire for four months.”

Trent reaches into his pocket. “Here,” he says, handing me a card. “This is the address of a tanning salon on Santa Monica. Now, it’s not artificial lighting or anything like that, and you don’t have to rub Vitamin E capsules all over your bod. This thing is called an Uva Bath and what they do is they dye your skin.”

I stop listening to Trent after a while and look over at three boys, friends of Blair’s I don’t know, who go to U.S.C., all tan and blond and one is singing along with the music coming out of the speakers.

“It works,” Trent says.

“What works?” I ask, distracted.

“An Uva Bath. Uva Bath. Look at the card, dude.”

“Oh yeah.” I look at the card. “They dye your skin, right?”




“What have you been doing?” Trent asks.

“Unpacking,” I say. “What about you?”

“Well,” he smiles proudly. “I got accepted by this modeling agency, a really good one,” he assures me. “And guess who’s going to be not only on the cover of International Male in two months, but who is also the month of June in U.C.L.A.’s college man calendar?”

“Who?” I ask.

“Me, dude,” Trent says.

“International Male?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the magazine. My agent told them no nude stuff, just like Speedos and stuff like that. I don’t do any nude stuff.”

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