The question had an inevitable answer. It was instinctual.
Men prefer blondes. Maybe it’s the whiff of peroxide that makes their ears perk and sniff the air. Like babies that fall asleep to heartbeats, men follow the rhythm of her hips when she walks. Hollywood follows not far from behind.
Hollywood scares Norma.
She is in disguise – or rather, out of disguise. The woman Hollywood drools over is non existent, she’s a fake out, she’s an imposter – The woman who carries Marilyn on her shoulder is Norma.
Norma is being haunted. She’s being haunted by something much more sinister than herself, bigger and darker. Once upon a time it was a hole in her chest, one that made her feel hollow, hungry, powerless. Now it takes the form of Hollywood. She was no songbird, not much to look at, but maybe it was that shattered quality that followed her through life was what drew the cameras.
Norma shed her skin and became Marilyn, the woman with a name that rolls off the tongue like cigarette smoke. Norma exposes the sheen of her bones and the hypnotic contrast of blood on flab to call Hollywood to her heels. Hollywood likes to bite and that’s what terrifies her. Marilyn isn’t afraid at all, and that’s the point.
Marilyn follows Norma around. She looms over her, hides in the closet like a bogeyman. She possesses her body and turns her into something immaterial, “romantic”, sultry. Tap, tap, tap, her heels blend in with the sound of the city that never sleeps. Norma’s steps are even, paced. Marilyn floats behind her.
Norma can’t figure out if Marilyn is meant to protect her from Hollywood, or if she uses Norma as bait. Norma, Marilyn, and Hollywood are in a fighting ring. Is Marilyn the referee, the coach, or a third opponent? Norma never knows.
“Do you want to see me become her?”
The question slipped off Norma’s tongue before she could stop it, shivering as Marilyn’s hand appeared on her shoulder. Maybe the question was a defense mechanism, because she saw the flap of Hollywood’s coat around the corner. Maybe she’s just seeing things.
Her friend looked to her in surprise, and before she could stop it, her friend answered.
Marilyn’s grip tightened, and Norma felt her breath escape. There’s that cavity again, eating away at her insides, melting it like acid.
Marilyn has a healing touch, Norma tells herself. Marilyn will take care of it.
So Norma became Marilyn. Norma shed her skin, and the whole world stopped to take a peek. Hollywood’s head raised, sniffed the air, and breathed in the peroxide.
Tap, tap, tap. The music in Marilyn’s steps seem to put people in a trance. Like magic Norma disappeared, and Marilyn took hold of the ship. It was like a mask, ripped off to reveal the brain and skull underneath. Marilyn is a zombie, her smile is a secret everyone knows.
“…They were recognizing that this was Marilyn Monroe as if she pulled off a mask or something, even though a second ago nobody noticed her…”– Amy Greene, wife of Marilyn Monroe’s personal photographer, Milton Greene
It’s because she’s an enchantress, the strings behind the curtains. Norma is a vessel for an energy bestowed onto her, a poisoned chalice, and thorny gift with a pretty ribbon on it. Hollywood is a creature. It’s a beast. Only Marilyn Monroe can enchant it, fool it into a false sense of ease.
“I had never seen anything like it before.”
She wouldn’t have. There hasn’t been anything like it since, a walking, talking, singing, dancing, kissing, dealing, crooning, cheating enchantress. A spirit. A bogeyman.
Hollywood snarls and spits, so Marilyn looks over her shoulder and smiles. Men applaud. Hollywood heels.
Norma breathes a sigh of relief.
The match can be put to rest for now.