SCARLETT’S LETTERS: A Secret Homelessness
Dear James —
I am walking. Walking. The runway is endless. Literally, it’s a marathon with only one row of seating, and mass of bodies clustering behind it. We were told to run, twice through, while keeping our cool. I’m wearing what hasn’t been seen before. Slightly afraid the Egyptian-esque tubular hat will fly off my small head. This is not my first time strutting down the catwalk; still, adrenaline kicks in, helps me keep up pace. Adrenaline encourages me. All you got to do is walk. The world’s fashion elite are watching me. Watching as I walk. Flashes from their little snappers. This is nothing compared to my formative years at age four singing and dancing in front of ten thousand spectators.
In the flashes I recall: Two days ago I was in Bali. I am still there, spiritually. The blinding Parisian runway becomes sun rays and warm glow that embraced every inch of me only two days ago. The warmth is still in my bones.
A tinge stings my heart as the taxi leads to the event called homeward bound. I have no desire to leave Bali. What will I miss more, the place or the clown? They might be one and the same. The Bali bug gets under your skin and crawls deep inside. What is it about this place? He says it’s because there is a lack of culture shock and you never feel homesick.
This is not totally true in my case. It’s been nine months since I’ve been “home”; honestly, I long to climb the rolling hills at La Cienega and Jefferson, promenade with my dog E.D. in the ‘hood’ and cruise the freeways. Above all, to hug the lovely smiles of so many dear friends.
True, if Paris were home, like the clown and so many disgruntled implanted Parisians I know, I may not be sick for it either. Sick of it is what got me on this adventure in the first place; after three months of on-and-off bronchitis, the bosses agreed I was due for a holiday.
I turn a corner and there are the cameras. Stare straight into one lens and don’t break a smile – all you got to do is keep one foot in front of the other. I wonder how that picture will turn out. Will I ever see it?
“Home is where the heart is,” they say. ‘Home‘ has always been a troublesome word for me. Where is mine, where do I dig my roots in? L.A., London, Paris, Tuscany? For a second, I saw a psychoanalyst in Paris. He said because of my upbringing I would never be content with one or the other, America or Europe. Conceivably, I needed to create lives, secret or openly, of families and lovers in both, for the foundation of my persona was such that… Thanks for that advice, have some Euros.
Is it okay if I just be me?
Turn another corner, and try not to stumble down the five steps in front of me. I’m wearing shoes size 40 while my feet are really 36, but I got that covered with two insoles, two pairs of neoprene surfer socks and one pair of cotton ones. The feet are snug as bugs, bound like sausages – I’m a Chinese noblewoman. Turning another corner and up the stairs once more, another group of photographers is waiting to pounce like a pride of murderous lions. I walk in the center and lance them with a glare.
These questions of home, or more accurately homelessness, I carried to Bali, with the hope and intention that the carefree journey, of being off the hook from constant decision making, would allocate some peace of mind. Yet it seems I am leaving with heavier questions, just as my luggage is weighted down with more colorful clothes than I would ever imagine wearing in Paris.
Can one be rooted in motion? What if I totally changed my life and moved to Bali? At the airport one of those Panic Moments of Existential Questioning come on, a feeling of fading away, floating in space, when I don’t know who I am or where I belong.
Then, there he is, the clown. I spot him on my second round pounding the fashion ground, ear-to-ear smile and glowing eyes, so colorfully dressed he sticks out like fireworks at a funeral amidst the black-uniformed crowd. I catch his gaze and can’t help the instinctual facial reaction, the Bali need to laugh and tumble. I manage to swallow my laughter; mercifully, there are no cameras at this angle of the catwalk.
Take a deep breath. Remind myself, Simple. A human stumbling the earth like any other. All I gotta do is exhale in joy. Enjoy.
This is also part of the attraction to Bali: you don’t have to chase after the rat; you can sink in, find your own pace. And still, behind palpitating fear, the longing to control, the suffocating iron mask of anxiety, beneath ambition and devotion to progress, lies those sacrifices that seemingly lift the ordinary to extraordinary.
Right now, all I have to think about is walking. So I walk on, almost there, out of the public flare into the safety of backstage… ‘one two three soleil’ is a game we played in French grammar school.
Bali pokes my mind, evokes my spirit, reminds me that prosperity is not the achievement of ego supremacy. So much further beyond and above, I am recalled to the simple fact that like attracts like, birds of a feather flock together… And so I found my new tribe.
Before Bali I had an ideal, a lofty mission anchoring me to a purpose in the chaotic world I believed myself to belong to. Something greater than me I had volunteered for. Now that ideal seems like the illusion of grandeur. Perhaps not fully faded away, though definitely refined in color. Now I move from problem to solution, imagination the most useful tool in my belt, while keeping a perpetual smile — a gift from the clown — no matter how long the mile I walk. And I walk the line, modeling the next seasons “must haves.” Let’s go. The final stretch. Walking, almost running, looking cool, benevolent and nonchalant. That’s modeling: Being present, not caring about presence. Walking on and walking hard. Chinese sausage feet. Intensely looking and standing tall. Got to admit I am happy to not be alone in shortness or among the “real women” models on this marbled floor.
A few days ago I was being pulled under a roaring cascade, absorbing the compelling, occasionally humorous and sexy Balinese art, getting fired up with alcohol and wildly shedding my clothes on a dance floor, then momentarily bathing in a piercing sun that suddenly turned to torrential storm. Here on the catwalk I’ve returned to the place I left. Something has changed. An invisible spirit inwardly tugs, longing.
There is an urgency that is new, a subconscious knowing of what to say yes to. Finally.
The full results are still not in, nor a candor completely formed within. Give me time. We’ll talk about it more after time.
Bali baptizing, Bali blessings,