The Marble Girl Has Become a Party Trick — Katie Krantz
I was there when the Marble Girl died. It wasn’t as dramatic as people think, but it’s still a story to tell at parties after a glass or two of champagne. My new roommate has asked for the story a thousand times, and I always tell her the same version.
It happened on a Friday. We were sent on location together by our agency, forced yet again to share a tiny room. The motel room in upstate New York was even smaller than our studio apartment and slightly dirtier. After a full day of shooting, Liv wanted to go to a house party some of the guys had heard of from friends two towns over. My feet were swollen from heels too high, and nothing felt sweeter than the embrace of a one star, ambiguously stained motel bed at the time. Every time I laid down, she grabbed my hand and pulled me back onto my toes.
I’ll never know why she wanted to go to that house party so badly.
“Donn, please come with me. You know I hate going to parties alone,” she begged, pulling my party dress out of the closet. She laid it across my bed, tangling it up in the sheets. I gave in quickly, my resolve sinking like glued-together popsicle sticks masquerading as a boat. Pulling the dress on over my pajama pants, I nodded silently. She squealed and buzzed around the room, an excited puppy with new playtime. I saw her dressing by accident. Her skin was bruised, purple roses blooming on her knees. When she saw me looking she tried to tug down the hem of her dress to cover them.
“Trying to hide your photographer blowjob knees from the Versace shoot? It’s not working,” I teased. She laughed like it was simply a joke, but tugged her dress down a few inches further when she thought I wasn’t looking. Her feet floated above the floor on sparkling heels. Her twenties-style dress looked as though it should sound like a chandelier when she walked. The only sound it actually made was a swoosh as she dramatically spun while claiming the bathroom for makeup.
When I first roomed at the agency’s apartment after they imported me from Florence, she took to calling me “greenie.” The green satin that stretched over my hips reminded me of her teasing, pulling my hair over cereal. I would have done anything to prove myself to her: drinking bottles of liquor, flashing old men at a red light, working with the most off-putting, sinister photographers. One time I found myself shot as a naked Ophelia, only flowers floated above my body as clothing. It made the cover. Nothing was off limits; from the moment I saw her, I wanted desperately to be already worn, already mean, already wise. As months passed, I’d had enough of bitter sins.
“Enough already. Let me in.” I knocked on the cracked bathroom door. It swung open and I let myself in. She had already covered half of her face in heavy colors, the lining on her eyes like melted coal. There was something skeletal about her collarbones against the dress’s straps, something lost about those blue eyes peering through the black makeup. I believe that she stole the bathroom to use my eyeliner because she has always told me how she thinks that black is too stark against her pale skin.
We tottered into a cab on our heels. The entire way, she texted the boys to make sure that we were going to the right address. I was in the group chat, too, but I just turned my phone on silent and watched the road go by. The stars were stronger here than the city. More beautiful.
I hadn’t been in rural New York before. It made me sad, abandoned barns and houses with gaping fronts and decaying boards like crooked teeth. The shoot had been in one, glossy clothes against rotting wood. I felt drowned in the rows of fences. Going forward was sinking further into nowhere, depth measured by white, plastic slats.
The cab pulled into the neighborhood. White fences and abandoned barns gave way to cookie cutter houses even more unsettling. With an open wall, you can see inside a broken barn. Beautiful houses all look the same. You never know what’s inside. It could be a loving family of four. It could be a serial killer. It could be a raging house party, but that we could identify by the rainbow lights and pounding music spilling through the window fixtures.
The two boys came out to greet us. Laurens and Maurits. Dutch. I had met them on shoots before. Laurens looked like a lanky corpse in a motorcycle jacket, and Liv and Maurits ran off together to kiss sometimes. I don’t really remember what he looked like.
They led us inside. The not-a-couple slithered off into the tentacle mass of swirling limbs. Laurens let me hold onto his arm like a little girl at a dance. He knew I didn’t want to be there. Sometimes, during the shoot, he would let me ride on his back to rest my feet when they didn’t bring chairs to locations with dirty floors. He never expected anything for it.
“How are you tonight, Donatella?” he asked, leaning in close to my ear. His breath wasn’t too hot. His accent was thick and heavy, like a warm curry sauce poured over freshly cooked fish.
“I’m here,” I said, my accent thick and rolling, like the waves lapping against the buildings of Venice. I tried to grin, but just looked like a dog showing its teeth. Laurens laughed. We stood together on our phones in the corner, refusing drinks and dances. No one ever asked twice. I eventually came to the conclusion that torn jeans and sweaty t-shirts fear satin and black leather. Or are at least slightly ambivalent toward us. They can tell that we are not from here.
When Maurits and Liv came back, she no longer had lipstick. Her eye makeup had begun to slide off of the right side of her face and onto his. Laurens and I made empty eye contact. They wanted us to smoke something with them at the Graniteville quarry. Maurits had picked the baggy up from a friend in the crowd and he wouldn’t repeat what it was louder, no matter how many times I asked. I think it was supposed to be marijuana. I don’t really like how that stuff makes me hungrier, but Liv grabbed my hand again and nodded. She tugged on me like she had tugged me around her head and nodded so vigorously I thought her head would pop off like an abused bobble head. Her hair shivered around her shoulders.
The four of us called another cab, and we piled in. Laurens in the front, giving the driver directions from his phone, and me, Liv, and Maurits in the back. I pretended not to see his hand slide up the inside of her thigh. The countryside was much more comforting to look at, anyway.
The quarry was chained off, the chain-link fence uninviting. Laurens had to tip the driver double to get him to pull up and leave us there. Liv and I tossed our shoes over and had the boys boost us to climb. As she went over, a piece of fringe caught on the fence and tore off the bottom two inches of her dress. I expected her to get upset, but she just laughed.
“Shows you the quality of twenty-dollar fabric, doesn’t it?” she giggled. She put the thin strip around Maurits’ neck like a shimmery scarf. “Let’s get crossed!”
Liv began to dance. My lovely roommate, twirling again in that dress, asking it, and us, to orbit her. She hummed as she moved, gracefully weaving around rocks to save her bare feet. Maurits was too captivated by her slow, seductive movements to reach into his jacket and pull out whatever high he kept hidden there. Laurens and I stood awkwardly once again.
Liv’s circles got wider. She began to hop in little bits. I noticed her edging towards the cliff’s edge of the abandoned quarry. She was still far from it, but moved closer every time she changed the tune of her hum. All three of us watched cautiously, captured by her dance, wanting to call out but unsure of her intentions and unwilling to stop her. She looked so happy. Her face is blurry in my mind, but I think I can remember the flash of her teeth in the moonlight, a smile or a call out to us. If she yelled, it was eaten by a wind that had picked up soon after we hopped the fence.
She stood on the edge of the cliff, dress torn above the knees, Versace-blowjob marks out for all to see. Her face was serene, the makeup smeared across her cheeks ran valleys into her skin. Those hollow eyes had seen something like the rise and falls of heroes a thousand times. They filled up with tears as she savored the dusty taste of the wind, filling up her lungs with marble formed on a molten planet. She had been standing there a millennium, waiting for us to call out. Her arms stretched wide, she lifted onto her toes and leaned into the abyss. She was a statue of the unsettled dust that choked us all on that ledge. And in her moment of beauty, the edge of the big reveal was the end of the story.
There was a gust of wind. She spun as she fell. Or did she leap? The moon behind her kept us from seeing what happened or the look on her face as she plummeted. The silver tassels of her dress orbited around her, glittering in the low light. When she disappeared, she uncovered the moon. As her chest sunk out of the way, the beams stretched to fill our eyes. It was a headstone carved from moonbeams. The stars sank into the quarry with her, a thousand shattered versions of the moon. I felt a silent scream claw its way up my throat, pushing tears out of my eyes. Heat filled up my cheeks. I began to run forward, but Laurens’s hand on my arm held me back.
“You won’t like what you see.” He pulled me to the ground to sit, steadying me as he came with me. Maurits slammed down beside us minutes later, toppling like a child’s tower pushed over at the end of their play time.
We sat in the same positions until dawn. Even though we knew it was coming, we found ourselves shocked by the peach sunrise. We could feel the night’s scum growing on our tongues, but not one of us moved. Standing up would risk looking into the quarry. The sun lit up our eyelashes. It could have been a photoshoot—three ragged models lined up, draped across each other in the golden light. We wouldn’t have sold a single print.
I can’t remember who called the police. Maybe it was someone who walked by and saw us trespassing. Maybe it was Laurens. He would do that. Whoever it was, they called the cops on three kids staring vacantly at the mouth of a quarry, unable to move even when flashlights were shined in our eyes. It probably was not Laurens.
They followed those frozen eyes into the quarry and looked where we couldn’t. I remember their shouts, emergency-activated voices calling for a long ladder. They sank into the pit too, but slower. Their accents sounded like the crunch of peanut brittle as they snapped back and forth. The media came next, first local, then national.
The news called her Marble Girl because by the time they brought cameras to the scene, she had melted into the quarry. Her body was stiff, her skin still so pale. The makeup that ran down her cheeks and the blue veins tracing down her body gave her the appearance of a statue girl. She would be happy to know that she photographed beautifully until they zipped her up and took her home in a helicopter.
We took another cab back to the motel. Maurits sat in the front, the silver fabric missing from around his neck and wrapped around my wrist. The agency didn’t make us stay another night, so we packed up and checked out. Laurens sat on my motel bed as I packed up her clothing and mine, hers to be shipped home to Somewhere, Wisconsin.
I was given an offer to break my contract, but I didn’t want to go back to Somewhere, Tuscany. I flew back to New York City next to a man who had gotten off of the standby list. He told me that he had decided to fly to the city to propose to a girl who had moved away after college. I congratulated him and kept his business card in my wallet for a few months before throwing it out.
Maurits sometimes kisses the girl who sleeps in Liv’s bed now. That little girl is wild beyond compare, three-lines-of-cocaine-a-runway-show wild. She eats Raisin Bran, and I now understand what it looks like to be green while eating cold cereal. I take her silver eyeliner sometimes, even though I never thought silver was my color. I was gold, but the silver matches the strip of fringed fabric that I hang on my towel hook. Laurens and I sometimes find ourselves on shoots together, but we more often find ourselves on trips to the beach where there are no abandoned barns and wear sandals all day. We tried to stay in the same life, go to the same parties, but we found that our leather and satin had turned to marble, and leather and satin fear marble. Or are at least slightly ambivalent toward us.
When we indulge Maurits and go to parties, they always ask us about the Marble Girl. What was she like? Did she jump or was she off balance from the drugs in her system? How long had we known her?
I’ll answer a few questions after they bring me my glass of champagne in tribute. They’re always disappointed by how quietly she slipped away, screams swallowed by the wind. They have asked for the story a thousand times, and I always tell them the same version.