From the time I was very young, I knew I’d be famous. This conviction was different from wanting to be famous, or wanting to be good at something that would make me famous. My impending fame was constitutional. It lodged within me and bided its time as I sat in all the plastic chairs of childhood, static electricity pulling my arm hairs delicately away from my body. My ankles knocked loosely against the chairs’ metal legs, and I waited for the future to float up and meet me.
My patience stood in contrast to my fame-seeking classmates, who devised their personalities as advertisements for their future selves. These spotlight-chasers were my best friends. They saw something in me they couldn’t put their fingers on, and so their hands were always on me. Is it normal to knead a friend’s shoulder so robustly, to intuit endless knots in a best friend’s hair and allow one’s fingers to work their way into the waves to debarb them? Normal wasn’t a viable bridle path for any of us. They loved me and I let them.
When I did become famous, it was for doing something I never thought I’d do. It was the thing that when I was doing it I thought less about my fame than when I was doing any other thing. One of my best friends who was famous for her work with crystals had given me a polished crag of lapis lazuli. She’d told me that lapis activated the higher mind and encouraged honesty of the spirit, so I put it on a windowsill in my workroom because I liked the color. It was the color blue of the earth from space—that warm and distant. I missed it even when it was in front of me. The stone filled me with a hopeful desperation that made me produce the best work of my life. It was only a matter of time before the phone started ringing.
For the first few months I played a game I invented: I picked up a magazine from the stack on my coffee table and allowed my body to foam with surprise when I turned the page to a mention of my name or a photo of my face. In the game, I felt famous to myself. Because I had never felt anonymous, the new attention I got from fans and neighbors didn’t bother me. Because my friends had never befriended me disinterestedly, I wasn’t suspicious of my increased popularity. I became known for always wearing a startling blue.
Q: Do you think being famous is the same as being loved?
A: I think being famous is a form of love. I think wanting love isn’t a way of getting love.
Q: Do you consider fame to be an extra or an essential part of your daily life?
A: Soon after becoming famous, I bought a farm on 100 acres. The real estate agent told me that the barn—my current workroom—has the capacity to hold 40 grand pianos.
Of my dear old friends who are now also famous, I see many of them misplacing aspects of their former selves. They are no longer from Florida, they never did stints as accountants. They never loved women. Sometimes, the women they loved come to me and ask me what they should do: Should they go to the media? Should they try the talkshows? I tell them the sort of fame they’d gain from doing this would likely be unflattering and aggravatingly long-lived. I offer to name them as my former lovers at the next available opportunity, and most of them take me up on it.
My sex life, since you’re wondering, is as fine as it’s ever been. I’m far from lonely. I keep my hair long enough to build up some knots.
Q: Where were you when you first realized that you would be famous?
A: When I was three years old or so, I was out to dinner with my parents in the city where we lived. A woman came up to us and gave my parents a business card. She said that she was a photographer, and that she was making a book of photographs of children in the neighborhood. Some days later, my parents took me to her studio. They sat on a couch to the side and were offered soft drinks while the stylists dropped me on a tall stool, flipped my hair back with gel, clipped on heavy pearl earrings. They dabbed on some makeup. Instead of a shirt they wrapped me in a feather boa that they made to fly around by pointing a fan at it. Most of this I know from photos and from what my parents told me. What I remember most is that the fan blew a hard wind and the feathers of the boa flew around me, like a bird trying to take off, though the photographer had asked me to keep very still.
Sara Jaffe is a fiction writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her short fiction and criticism have appeared in publications including Fence, BOMB, NOON, Paul Revere’s Horse, matchbook, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She coedited The Art of Touring (Yeti, 2009), an anthology of writing and visual art by musicians drawing on her experience as guitarist for post-punk band Erase Errata.