A Beautiful World
by Michelle K.

California isn't what he thought it would be.

He'd always pictured sun-dappled beaches, palm trees, perfect people with warm smiles.

But the truth about California is that rain does fall. And the smiles are still fake, as fake as his mother's concern about anyone but herself.

His mother. Fuck. He hadn't thought about her for days. It's hard to forget, which sounds like such a cliché that he can hardly bear to consider it. But, still, he can't forget.

His mother's final breath, a smudge of lipstick on the bag that ended her life. For one moment, loving her. Loving her just because she was his mother. And, for all he knows, maybe she even loved him once.

Probably not. But maybe she did, so he loved her back for a tiny sliver of time.

He remembers the similarities in the faces of his mother and father - not DH because, damn it, that man isn't his father - how they both looked so lifeless, despite the fact that one of them could still breathe. He loved his father for being so tragic, so beat down by life. For being crushed.

He remembers thinking that leaving New York would keep him from feeling stifled. He was wrong.


Finding a job wasn't hard. It's the same as the 'work' he did for Russell - but his new boss isn't a fey non-painting painter. Bob doesn't let him hang around at his house. Bob doesn't pretend to have a higher purpose. Bob doesn't mind beating the shit out of him if he feels Igby's holding out on him.

Sometimes, he is. But that's beside the point.

The point is that selling drugs to California airheads is as unfulfilling as selling drugs to New York airheads. And not nearly as interesting. His clientele doesn't include his former teacher or badly dressed party girls just back from France.

The most intriguing person he's met in his current line of work is a girl named Terry with dead eyes and purple hair. She's more depressing than interesting, though, if he actually takes time to think about it.

Usually, he doesn't.


He gave his number, somewhat foolishly, to Ollie. He calls every couple of weeks and pretends to care about what he's up to.

"How much money do you have left?" Ollie asks.

"Why? You want a loan? I knew that Columbia would kick you out eventually," Igby replies.

"I just wanted to know how you're doing," he responds flatly.

And, of course, money is tied to well being. He could say this, but he just decides to roll his eyes. "I'm fine," he lies. "I've got enough money left. And I've got a job." That, at least, is true. Somewhat.

"Doing what?"

"I'm a male prostitute. Sometimes it's tiring, but I think I leave them happy."

Ollie sighs. "You don't need to be such a smartass all the time. I'm just asking you a question."

"How's Sookie?" Igby asks, an edge to his voice. There's silence on the other end. "I'm just asking you a question."

"I haven't seen her recently," he replies nonchalantly. Ollie's probably at peace with his decision to steal his girl and promptly throw her away.

He probably didn't need a lot of time to forgive himself.

"Fuck you," Igby says.

"That's uncalled for. And, also, I think California is dulling your already dull wit."

"Fuck you," he repeats. He hangs up the phone and considers calling Sookie.

He doesn't.


He sees a lot of people who remind him of those from his past. Strung-out junkies who look like Rachel; stuck-up businessmen who have the air of DH. Sometimes, he sees men who look as empty as his father.

It seems that you can even get your soul crushed in sunny Hollywood. Who woulda thunk it?

It's one day on the beach that he finds a girl who reminds him of Sookie. He's not sure what it is about her - maybe it's her eyes, maybe it's her hair, maybe it's the curve of her lips.

Whatever it is, he asks her to have lunch with him. And, for whatever reason, she accepts.

After they've ordered - she's gone with a vegetarian platter, and Igby wonders if this girl reminds him of Sookie because of some meatless shine - he finally gets around to asking her name.

"Colleen," she answers. "But my friends call me Collie."

"You're not afraid that comparing yourself to a dog might have some ill effects?" Igby comments dryly.

Collie scrunches her nose up. "What? I'm not comparing myself to a dog. And if I were, I doubt that would effect me. Would it?"

Igby rolls his eyes. "Yes. I'm sure you'll be barking in no time."

Collie's laugh sounds like a horse with mucus overflow. He really misses Sookie's dull response to his humor.

As lunch carries on, Igby forgets what it was about this girl - who's fake, vapid, and without a sense of irony or actual humor - that reminded him of Sookie.

She gives him her number; he's not sure if she's ignorant to his distaste for her, a masochist, or just incredibly lonely.

A few blocks away, well after Collie's number has been disposed of on the sidewalk, he sees another girl who reminds him of Sookie.

He decides that his mind is just playing tricks on him.

He's already grown to hate himself; he can add this to the list of reasons why.


It takes a while for him to decide to actually call Sookie; tens of lookalikes, dozens of pot sales, lamentations on the state of his life that are too numerous to count.

"Saperstein residence. What is your name and whom do you wish to reach?" He can tell it's her even underneath the thick layer of pretense.

"You. Who the hell answers the phone like that anyway?" Igby replies.

"Well, me, for the moment. I'm trying to be more professional. Apparently, I won't get anywhere without it."

"Without what?"

"I don't know. I stopped paying attention before I was talking."

He smiles to himself. "That makes two of us."

"That's funny," she notes without emotion. "Why did you wait so long to call me? I almost thought I got back on your hate list."

"Not yet. Unless everyone in California turns to dust."

She's silent for a moment. "Things aren't going well?"

"Things are great." He tries to downplay his sarcasm, but it somehow manages to be more abundant then even he could imagine.

"Why? What's going on?"

He can't tell if she's alarmed or disinterested; he can't explain why that makes him feel so comforted. "Nothing. The same shit that's always happened, except with new supporting characters."

"You could come back here," she offers.

He pictures him slinking back to the city with his tail between his legs, wounds being licked with a weak tongue. The picture is far from pretty. "I don't think so. It's highly obvious that I can be miserable anywhere. I may as well stay here, where it's just strangers who judge me as opposed to family and so-called friends."

"Do you consider me a so-called friend?" she asks.

"No. You're a friend," he says easily. He swallows the remarks he could make about the apparent demise of her and Ollie's pseudo-union. Because she is his friend, one of the only people who will actually listen when he talks, and she could easily hang up on him and never again answer his calls. "Maybe you could come out here soon."

"I don't know, Igby. I have things to do," she says. "I'm going back to school soon so I'm just, you know, busy."

He thinks she's lying, but he doesn't have proof. It could just be his need to be a victim acting up again.

Or maybe she's just sick of him. Maybe she's going to forget about him in a few months' time, maybe she's going to lay in bed with some stranger and say the same things that she said to him.

Maybe he's over thinking things.

"Whatever," he says.

"Don't be like that. I'm not blowing you off, I'm just busy."

"Sure," he adds flippantly.

At least he's not weeping at her rejection; he wonders if she's as grateful for that as he is.

"Look, I'll talk to you later."


He hangs up the phone and wonders how long it'll be before he decides to call her again.

Maybe he never will. Maybe he'll forget her quicker than she can forget him.

Even his jaded view has trouble seeing that.


Sometimes, he goes down to one of the beaches - they're interchangeable to him, just like all the parks in New York - and sits in the sand with the sun on his face. For a moment, he can convince himself that everything's beautiful. The world and its people are good.

Then, he looks around. Sees the girls with track marks on their arms, the guys with rage in their eyes, the kids who have parents who aren't parents. Sees everything that gives him evidence that nothing's ever perfect.

He seethes with his own darkness; darkness that he feels has been foisted upon him. And he waits for the next moment that he can pretend that everything's flawless.

And when it's over again, he balls his fingers into fists and damns himself for ever leaving New York. Damns his mother for creating him with someone as slimy as DH. Even damns his father for shattering and disappearing.

He damns everything around him. And wonders if he'll ever be able to see beauty for more than a fleeting moment in time.


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