“I’m the one who has the crazy vision and he’s letting me be me,” Avril Lavigne said of her hubby-to-be, Chad Kroeger. “I just want to make sure I really enjoy this amazing time and I want all the guests who come to have this once in a lifetime experience. I want everyone to say ‘Wow!’ and for it to be special for everyone, not just us.” (Miranda Furtado, Canada.com, June 12, 2013)
She thought she should feel guilty but when she locked herself inside her own head, there was no guilt there, only so-what? She could do that, lock herself inside her own head. People assumed that she was ignoring them when she did that (or worse, that she was on drugs) but she was just inside her own head, visiting and revisiting certain thoughts like should she feel guilty. No.
There was no one around except for security—a big Native guy called Whoopie and Sergio, a big Russian guy. Even Stephanie, her assistant, was somewhere not here. She was probably inside the recording suite, calming everyone down.
Alone, Avril had a moment to herself. So she could sit in her head all she wanted without anyone getting bugged out about it.
In her head, she went back all the way to Napanee. Went back to the bushy bank of some stinky old river—or really, just a narrow canal dug out to carry shit away from the cornfields—and saw herself there with Jason Chaves, her first boyfriend, and they were making out and he had his finger in her and it felt neither nice or not nice. But she was thrilled to be experiencing this part of growing up, having a boy’s finger in her, and the thrill was more arousing than the finger itself. Later on, she thought about the finger frequently and felt aroused. Even now she did.
She thought some more about the riverbank day and how the sun burnt a red welt on her back where her top was purposefully torn. Chaves walked her home and kissed her deeply on the old train tracks as the train from Toronto to Kingston hurled by. In that moment, Avril knew that she was not in love with him. At home, she drew in her sketchbook the scene of them kissing, the blurry train, but it was no use—she was unable to trick herself into believing that she was really into it.
Stephanie had her hand on her shoulder, gently shaking her, “We can go now if you’re ready.”
“Yeah, I can’t do anymore tonight. I’m pooped. Tell everyone,” Avril said and walked out of the room without looking back at the window behind which the dog-eager faces of her manager, her producer and the audio guys waited, futilely, for the sheet of her pale hair to swing over the shoulder.
At home, the lights were dimmed and she left them that way. The pool looked neon blue from inside the house. There was metal everywhere, metallic furniture. It glinted in the dim lights. There were black furry pillows all over her new white-leather couch. (She bought a white leather couch every year. It was her thing, annual white-couch shopping.) The black furry pillows didn’t go with it. Or maybe they did. She’d have to ask the stylists, Tamara or Francesca, if black furry pillows were too much, if they were too pretentious. And what kind of fur was it. It was soft and curly, long silky strands of it. It didn’t make her sneeze, a good thing. The pillows looked like cats. They looked like Chad’s cats, Venus and Zeus, both black Persians with squished faces.
Her phone buzzed. She pulled it out of her pocket and laid it on the granite counter. She looked at the number. It was Chad.
She walked up to the wall and turned on the system. A Frankie Ocean song, softly, cloudily fell over the room, wrapped her up in sound like cream and butter.
Got on my buttercream silk shirt and it’s Versace
Hand me my triple weight
So I can weigh the work I got on your girl
Too weird to live, too rare to die
She pulled off her heavy boots and slid across the ice-rink like floor in her socks. She let out a quiet giggle. Then she started dancing in the dim lights of her glinting house, the pool outside like an alien eye in the darkness.
And there he was the next morning. Chad. Sitting at the table, reading the Globe and Mail and eating cornflakes as if he had spent the night. He was even wearing pajama pants but Avril knew that he wore them on the plane when he traveled red-eye. He looked up and wiped his mouth and smiled. Got up. Opened his arms wide.
Who was this man?
Avril had no idea.
There was the man and there was she. And she had no idea who the man was. She knew he was the man she married but who was he? He was not that man. There were his pajama pants, his open arms, his face, the bright blue eyes. Was he here? Was she really here and was this her with this man who was her husband?
It felt as if she were high. She never smoked marijuana but she did once back in Napanee with Chaves. They sat in his mother’s unfinished basement insulated with pink clouds of fiberglass covered in thick plastic and her face went numb; the roof of her mouth felt as if it was lined with cloth. She looked around and wanted to say something but wasn’t sure to what end—what the beginning of that something was. Neither seemed to be there. In the middle there was an orphaned thought about connections. Connections what?
As time went on, her high seemed to deepen. She recognized she was an alien and she was in danger, stuck in the basement with a stranger amidst the cotton candy walls. Who was he? He looked at her and he smiled and she smiled back but she didn’t understand what this was. What was this for? Should she not talk? Should she talk so that he wouldn’t catch on how alien she was? He stretched out on the floor, head propped on a broken Playstation and closed his eyes.
She understood then for the first time how separate she was from everyone else, how everyone else was separate from each other. There was only her in the world. There was only them. Sometimes they and her came close, connected. Then they would break apart, eyes searching for familiarity, finding none. Aliens among aliens.
She brought this up with her therapist years later and the therapist suggested the cannabis (the therapist called it “cannabis”) simply induced paranoia in her. And the feeling of alienation and sense of uniqueness (“or alienness if you’d rather”)—that was just a human condition and when she said this, Avril had a sensation that the therapist was completely unfamiliar to her, someone she had never met before. The therapist’s mouth moved and Avril performed a few expected head nods. I am nodding my head I am nodding my head, she thought to herself.
Right now Avril walked up to Chad and let him envelope her in his strong, tanned arms and press him close against his chest so that she could smell him: rotten wood, green moss, pine and small mushrooms. One of the cats, Zeus, was sniffing his leg. Avril focused on the cat; she said to the cat, “I’m so glad you’re back.”
Chad said, “Me too. How was the recording?”
“Perfect. We’ve nailed it,” Avril said and thought this would be a good moment to bring up the divorce. She watched the cat slink away.
“You gonna ask me about the camping trip?”
“How was your camping trip?” Avril said. The moment passed.
“It was excellent. I slept under the sky last night. Everyone got drunk and passed out but I stayed up to watch the sky. It was amazing. I brought you a star,” Chad said and reached into his pajama pants’ pocket and lay a twoonie-sized silver star in Avril’s hand. She knew his assistant got it for him, probably had it ready for when Chad landed but it was still special. And romantic. Avril thought a normal woman would appreciate the gesture.
Later on that day, they had a fight. They often had fights when it was just the two of them. Sometimes Avril thought they just fought to shake themselves up—they had everything already and they didn’t do drugs.
Tonight she wanted to have a fight so that she’d be able to play Peaches’ “Talk to me,” and play it she did, singing along.
Why don’t you talk to me?
Why don’t you talk to me?
come say it to my face
so we can leave this place
Why don’t you talk to me?
“That’s stupid, I’m fucking talking to you,” Chad shouted.
“Fuck you,” Avril screamed back and slammed the door. She was in her bedroom now. She stared at a painting of herself—a nude with a white sheet draped over her legs and her eyes lined black in signature kohl, staring back at her. Who are you? She thought and went inside her head to find out. And then there she was, walking the streets of Paris with a little white bag with a Tabouli salad and Perrier water in it. She found a small green space punched out in the middle of a block filled with a stack of ornate houses, a valley with deep green bushes and a tiny waterfall. She sat on a white bench and ate her salad and drank her water and thought this was a perfect moment.
Now she was here in the house of metal and granite with the man she didn’t know. She lay down and fell asleep. As she slept, the cats, Zeus and Venus, slowly crept up onto the bed and tried to take turns curling up on her face. She woke up sweaty, with black fur stuck to her forehead, tufts of it in her mouth, her eyes clouding.
“Disco Divorce” arrived in her inbox. She put on her headphones and listened to it. The dance beat was a completely new direction for her. “I dig it,” she said out loud. “I totally dig it.” The song talked about losing her love; it talked about feeling like an actress hired to live out her own life. Her voice was clear and, as one critic would later describe it (and she, silently agreed with him), squeaky-mouse pitch perfect.
Avril looked around the office where she was. She kept it spare, white walls except for the picture of her turtle back in Napanee. There was a shelf with books coffee table books about Canada. An old wooden chair with white paint chipping off (on purpose).
A thought occurred to her: she wasn’t looking at herself looking around the room. She was really here.
After the song was over, Avril emailed her publicist, Tonya, telling her the news. There was going to be a divorce. There was a song about it already, she just listened to it, and she thought it’d be a sure hit, Avril wrote. The song stands on its own but divorce is worth as much as a wedding in terms of publicity so lets not bother discussing pros and cons. There were only pros. And she was going to go to Napanee first and then to Paris and they could spin some magazine stories about Avril Lavigne trying to find herself, reflecting (“Avril Lavigne breaks up, grows up,” “Finding a room of her own: Avril Lavigne,” “From heartbreak to Paris”). She could talk about what went wrong, if Tonya thought that’s a good idea, maybe Tonya could help her come up with some suggestions. Maybe Chad started drinking again? Maybe it was irreconcilable differences, like the fact that Avril was allergic to cats and he brought home two cats anyway? Maybe they needed something bigger than that. There was that ex-girlfriend that Chad left for her, the stripper, maybe they could talk to her, see what she says. If there’s an angle there.
Avril also asked Tonya to get in touch with Frankie Ocean’s people. She wanted to see if a meeting could be arranged when she’s done reflecting and finding herself. Make no mistake tho I’m really broken up a bout this. Lets get to work, Avril signed off and added a bunch of xoxoxoxs.
She hit Send. She put her headphones back on and listened to her song again. She thought about how she met Chad while recording a song together. She was hoping Frankie Ocean would be open to recording a song together. And then who knows.