Edie Sedgwick, 1967

Bobby told me to write it all down. Write, write, write it, write what? I’m not an artist, poet, creative. Not like him. A few paintings once, before it all. Before this, before Andy, before all that death. In Cambridge, there were paintings once, oh yes! I remember now. I had wanted to paint, paint what? Eyes. I liked to paint my eyes with black liner.

Write it down, why? Whatever there was to write, he didn’t want to hear, didn’t want to be reminded.

I have a family of writers, artists, creatives. Fuzzy, my father, took to sculpting. But not me. I paint my face. How could I pick up a pen? I try not to keep paper in the apartment except money because of fire. A cigarette could slip and we’d both go up in flames.

My brother Minty died first. Hanged himself at Silver Hill. Then my brother Bobby ran his motorcycle into a bus. That death was easier. We’d all been through it once. Like getting your eyebrows waxed. First time, your eyes are watering, second time, you know what to expect, know how not to feel, know how to blink so that your eyes don’t fill.

And then I met Andy. Andy, who made me a star—first his star, then everyone’s star. Superstar, Superstar, Edie Superstar. He made me love my new signature. Oh, he was a darling, he had been, he made me feel so... but it was all a disaster, really, in the end. Everything special, he took it all.

You look fantastic in my coat, darling. Leopard really goes with your eyes.

Now Bobby—he was like Fuzzy. Even Andy knew it, never liked him, never trusted him. Andy always so jealous and he didn’t even want to fuck me. He’d rather fuck my father. God, he’d kill me for saying that. Then he’d laugh, and we’d laugh and laugh and I miss laughing with him like laughing with Minty.

Every man in my life is some twisted version of another.

You know, sometimes I forget I have a mother, sisters, girlfriends. It’s like they’re just songs playing in the background.

Write it all down. There’s nothing worth remembering, except you, Bobby. None of it. Even Minty, I’d forget him. I want to forget anyone who isn’t in this bed with me like you are. Except you’re not right now, but I thought? I just—I thought you were just there, weren’t you? Oh, weren’t you? Things are so confused these days. I feel I am forgetting.

I hate it when you tell me that I’m not making sense, when it’s you, it’s you who doesn’t make sense. Write what down? A list? Instructions? Whatever anyone wants to know? I haven’t got time to write! My god, darling, who has time to sit still? No one sits still in New York, not even when Bobby’s on his guitar, on the stage with his harmonica and no one just closes their eyes and listens. They sway because you never stop moving when you feel good, and you can’t stop moving when you feel down, at least I can’t; if I stopped I’d never start again and no one stops to write it down—you’re just there, and then you forget, and then you’re somewhere else.

Where’s my coat? Don’t bother asking me to stay. But if I’m staying... If I’m staying, I wish you’d turn the camera off.

Did you see where Bobby went? He told me to write something down for him. I just can’t remember what he asked me to write.

Andy told me once that I was just a reflection. A reflection of all the things he wanted and thought he would never be. And I said, is that true? Is that really true? Is that all I am? And what a waste! All this time thinking I was a person with blood and bones and pain and really I’m just a little piece of fragile glass.

He said he’d given up painting. But he never gave it up, how could he? He was a liar, always a liar, a liar, all lies! He painted me! Painted my face!

I told you, get that thing away from me! I do not give you permission to film me now, darling, I’m a mess, an absolute mess. I mean, look at me. Put it down and come here, come closer.

Bobby. Is it really you? You look so different now, almost like Minty. But Minty’s dead and you can’t be him, you can’t be you. Oh, Bobby, I’ll write it all down. I will. I’ll write anything you say, just promise not to go—I get so scared when I’m alone. Stay with me, stay, and I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you what you want to hear.

Edie Sedgwick, 2007

I shimmer under black lights and sway to the sound in my perfect purple-sequined dress purchased just for this. It flows over my hips, skims my fishnet thighs. I’ve tied up my hair in a silk scarf. I am Edie before she was blonde. I am Edie before Andy.

No one knows who the hell I am.

My friend, an eighties Madonna, tries to explain. “She’s Andy Warhol’s muse from the sixties!” Always the emphasis on the word sixties because everyone knows it’s a word that implies rock and roll, art, and most importantly, drugs. It’s a word that implies lost cool.

But no one cares. This is a Halloween party at a state college surrounded by country roads and cornfields in a decade that doesn’t care much for the past. Andy who?

All that matters is how I look in my costume. But still, if I must dress up, why not be iconic? The girl in the photographs, frozen forever with a cigarette in hand and a faraway look. Why not be Edie? Edie who is so careless, so smooth in those black and white portraits. I’d go back in time to be Edie. Why not tonight?

But with enough to drink, I give up on being Edie. Instead, when anyone asks who I am, I shout, “I’m a superstar!” This makes them laugh. I like to make them laugh.

Edie and Madonna dance and dance like we haven’t since summer. This is the music we like, some new sound: everything electronic and sharp and vibrating in our undulating arms. We have been drinking from red plastic cups with red plastic liquid inside. But we don’t care what we’re drinking so long as it’s getting us wasted. The room is so dark and the music so loud, everything so, so, so. Glowing spiders on the walls strobe in and out. I run my hands through Madonna’s hair, pressing our hips together. Sequins flutter to the floor.

If the real Edie were here, she’d be dancing too.

This Edie dances until panting. Until I can feel sweat pooling in my underwear. I grab Madonna’s hand and make for the bathroom. There’s a line but I don’t do lines, so I push through the mass of sexy superheroes and wild animals to a sink where I can spew out the poison being passed out at five bucks a cup. Down goes my sickness. Down the drain, through the pipes, under the foundation of a castle housing a hundred false kings.

I start to laugh, head clearing, and tilt my neck to drink cold water from the tap before facing the damage floating in the mirror. And there she is, in all her slovenly glory. Skin aglow with sweat, eyes wilted and smudged, and a fake blood mouth.

“OK, Edie is officially gross.”

Madonna lifts her tiny breasts in the pleather bra. “Tell me about it. Let’s go upstairs and explore. I wonder if they still do those ice luge shots?”

First, Edie needs to recollect. Outside, I smoke a cigarette on my long filter that I stole from the costume store. The price tag less than the frat drink. A whole horde is boozing outside, so I’m not alone. Collective smoke billows over the garden wall. A squinty-eyed girl dressed as a latex black cat saunters over and asks, “Are you that Breakfast at Tiffany’s person?”

I sigh. Another idea, just an image, a cigarette on a long filter. Nothing more than glitter. At least Edie would’ve liked that. She was, after all, essentially the same—a muse, equal parts magnetic and toxic, a waif. Only without the alleyway, the cat, that ending. I finish my long cigarette, wondering if my own ending would be closer to that of actual Edie’s.

Behind latex-cat, I make eye contact with Bob Dylan. A simple costume: big, wispy waves, sunglasses even in the dark. The clip-on harmonica is a nice touch. Bob Dylan stands alone in the courtyard. Finally, I think, someone who knows me.

Drunkenly bold, Edie materializes before him, kissing without caring.

“Damn, babe,” he croaks.

“Do you know who I am?”

“Um.” He laughs and there is that familiar husk Edie knows so well. “Are you in that statistics lecture on Mondays and Wednesdays?”

Edie runs away, upstairs, to find Madonna. She’s probably somewhere taking ice luge shots. “Have you seen a Madonna?” Edie asks the brothers passing in the too-bright stairwell.

Third floor, fourth floor, sixth floor by the keg. Must’ve skipped a floor somewhere. Suddenly Edie is so gone. She is being passed down the hall by different brothers, kissing so many boys, must be at least ten, but it doesn’t matter how many boys because they are all the same; it is one long lick. Edie stumbles into a room to find Madonna with her pleather top off, sipping greedily from a joint, bordered by boys.

I wake up in bed with Bob Dylan. I know he is Bob Dylan because he’s still wearing his harmonica. What I do not know is how I got here or if I had sex with Bob Dylan or what happened to Madonna or where the closest bathroom is. The only other thing I know is that I really have to pee.

Bob Dylan is snoring. His head is tilted so far back the skin of his throat trembles. I seize the opportunity, climbing from the bed, briefly straddling his bare chest. I crouch on the carpeted floor. My underwear is still on, a good sign, so I pull them down. Yes, I am going to do this. This filthy thing. I pee ever-so-quietly on his floor, the warmth sinking into the green carpet like rain in the grass. The small room already smells like piss mixed with Abercrombie & Fitch.

Somehow, I flee the scene without being seen by anyone. Apart from the mark on the floor, it would be like Edie was never there. It’s a dark morning, the first of November. I press my body through the air toward my dorm on the other side of campus. I shudder in the cold and at the horror of ending up in bed with Bob Dylan. What would Andy say?

I try to remember walking into the room where Madonna was topless and smoking. I can see myself as Edie, shrieking and hiding behind hair-sprayed hair. Did I cry? How pathetic. I remember wishing the real Edie were there to hold me. Edie would’ve understood.

“What’s wrong, baby?” Madonna had asked. There were so many boys in the room, all laughing, laughing, always laughing.

“No one knows who I am!”

They were chanting and Edie was spinning on the couch. Above, a flash—a picture taken?—that made her eyes slam shut for protection. There was a mouth on Edie’s neck, her thigh. Someone pulled the scarf from her hair. Why was she crying? Why was she covered in sequins? Why had she ever wanted so desperately to be Edie?

“Don’t worry, baby, we know who you are!” Madonna called from somewhere far away. “You told everyone. You’re a star. You’re our little wasted star.”

TAYLOR SYKES  is the author of the novella Many Small Disasters. Her fiction has appeared in Hairstreak Butterfly Review, The Masters Review, the anthologies The Horror is Us (Mason Jar Press, 2020) and Dreamland: Other Stories (Black Shuck Books, 2021), and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2017 James Hurst Prize for Fiction and a 35 in 35 Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Originally from northwest Indiana, she holds an MFA in fiction from North Carolina State University and teaches writing at UNC Asheville.