by Carey Callahan
It’s in Connecticut, which is nicer country than Pennsylvania, where Taylor’s parents are. More upscale. When there’s serious money involved your neighbors are equally invested in their privacy. Yes, your picture is on the cover of US Weekly, but the neighbors have to problem-solve around protesters and disgruntled whistleblowers. You’re not the only one with dramatic problems to solve.
Privacy is both necessary and luxurious. Cameras catch everything now, and so you’re always looking at yourself, never being yourself, which of course means those moments of being no one in particular, observing your sweetie’s forearm, the tiny blonde hairs pulling the skin up into goosebumps, so compelling in their smallness, so precious to be the observer of an intricate body.
Taylor and Karlie’s lives are something like being assaulted everyday. But the money is out of control. The money can buy distance, quiet, a very experienced security detail.
Taylor keeps a garden. She doesn’t get to be at this house as much as she wants, so the gardener really keeps the garden, but he teaches her a lot. She pays attention. The composition of soil seems to be the most important mystery to solve. She was stoked about her corn last summer. Corn makes a garden almost a farm. The daily comments about her corn turned into Karlie re-naming her Farmer Joe.
Why Joe? Who knows why Joe? Taylor has an old man within her, an old man who wants a library and a garden and tea she can tell you so much more than you want to know about. Taylor said goodbye to her youth early because she was sick to death of being young. She knows she’s been through more than is healthy for a person. But that’s why she needs a lot of old man time. The housekeeper sets up the fireplace in the evenings. Taylor reads a very thick Michener book. She and her dad like to talk about Michener.
Karlie reads in the bath instead. She reads a lot of religious stuff. She’s not totally convinced two women shacking up is okay by God. Sometimes she feels silly for worrying about God, when she knows the universe is so much stranger and frillier than a Father God could create. But she talks to Him all day long. She reads a lot of Hindu stuff. She likes all the erotic energy. That’s really her favorite kind of book to bring into the bath, a long erotic poem about sex with God. You can find these in every religion, and Karlie thinks that’s a good way to live, being a mystic and so nutty and sexed up about the universe.
Sometimes Taylor will knock on the bathroom door and always waits for Karlie to call her in, even though they’ve done this a hundred times. Karlie calls her in and Taylor sits on the edge of the whirlpool tub. She’ll dip her hand in the water, but when Karlie tells her to get in she won’t. She just wants to visit and then get back to her book. They don’t talk about schedules or flights at the tub. They will talk about costumes. They will talk about set designs. They will talk about parents, and birthdays, and friends having surgeries and friends having babies. Karlie would like a baby at some point in the distant future. Taylor is a worrywart about the future. That’s why she works so hard, to bank the money while she can. She doesn’t know how a baby would work in this ongoing circus they’re making a life in.
Taylor tends to worry more, and talk faster, and her thoughts go through her head faster too. Karlie loves Taylor’s breakneck speed. Taylor’s fast thoughts are a constant surprise, making quick turns, veering into heretofore unknown pools of latent anxiety which dot her psyche. Karlie likes feeling like the calm one, the optimistic one. She knows Taylor needs a more settled mind from her, needs her to make light of that tendency towards expecting disaster, needs her to envision a golden future ahead. But she does truly see a golden future. Things work out. We found each other, she tells Taylor. How unlikely was that and it still happened.
They try to get here every month. It often doesn’t work out. Karlie will try to visit Taylor on tour, which is not in any way like a country weekend, because Taylor enters an altered state. She gets so tired and so straightforward and so enthusiastic. On tour you need to be very focused on the day at hand. You need to trust your whole crew is operating on level, exhausted enthusiasm. You can’t think about the end of tour. You can’t think about the beginning of tour. Here you are, in Minneapolis or Seattle or Mexico City, and there’s a lot of money at stake, so everyone get it right, how we all have practiced.
Karlie can also lives in that head space. Her work requires it too– up at three, to the gym, to the fitting, to the business meeting, to the shoot, fall down dead by eleven. Her limit is she can do that for five days if it’s absolutely necessary– a fashion week or something. Then she needs three days off- one day for sleeping, one for eating, one for orienting her head to what the next five days need from her.
Yes, they’re both workaholics. Yes, they’ve both been hungry for twenty years. But embracing the masochism can get you freedom. That’s why they’re blessed. That’s why Karlie talks to God so much.
They’ve both dated a lot of men. But Taylor knew something was up when she was fourteen. It was hard to know if it was something to pay attention to– she was a chronically dissatisfied kid, chronically bored, chronically looking for the highest level of drama to bring into daily life. She was also a perfectionist, so that aspirational urge has taken her far. What’s even the point of figuring yourself out before you meet a person worth it?
Karlie didn’t see it coming. They were friends for two years, close friends, their respective biggest fans, before Taylor brought up that there might be an edge to all of the affection. Karlie was thrilled by this unveiled fact about herself. People always think she’s boring and white bread. Karlie liked finding the scary thing. Taylor can be a scaredy-cat, so Karlie gets to be the brave one. She knew there would be something someday she’d have to be both careful and brave about.
But yes, beyond that edge, beyond the fear of God, beyond the anxiety, it’s the bath and the fireplace. It’s the knocking before coming in. It’s the family talk, the friend talk, the book talk, the corn talk.Before Taylor goes back to her book, she’ll brush a wet piece of hair back from Karlie’s temple and she’ll kiss her on the lips and she’ll cup Karlie’s face with both her hands and say in a sing-song voice, “So pretty.” Pretty is their work. At the country house Taylor wears her glasses the whole time, Karlie keeps her hair in a dirty bun, secured by the same headbands she used in her lacrosse days.
The inside joke is always there, protected between the two of them. There without cameras, there without staff, there greasy, there sloppy, there tired, there wet. God watches, US Weekly watches, men watch, cameras watch. Out of all the eyes you pick the gaze to matter.