Stuart and His Mannequin

Written by Robert Hyers

Through the long horizontal mirror hanging on the opposite wall, Stuart observes the gaggle of Manhattan club queens sitting alongside him on the long leather couch, all waving their moisturized hands in self-absorbed conversations as if the world is contained in their every fingertip and syllable. The empty seat next to Stuart is normally occupied by Manny, the mannequin that Stuart stole from work, started coming to life nightly two months ago, and now takes Stuart clubbing. Manny claimed he had to use the restroom, located beyond this chillout room, across the dance floor, past the bar, and adjacent to a small alcove with a few couches. Stuart knows Manny will get caught up on his way to and back across the dance floor by club acquaintances, making small talk and landing light kisses on cheeks kept blemish free with individual regimens of overpriced night creams, in a maze of lasers and strobe lights and sweating bodies. Manny’s only been gone five minutes, so perhaps Stuart is being paranoid. But Stuart can’t help fearing Manny will never return because Stuart realizes that Manny now remembers a mere sixteen hours ago when, as the eight o’clock Saturday morning sun filtered in rainbows through the polluted haze of Manhattan’s mythic skyline and into Stuart’s tiny bedroom in Jersey, Stuart dismembered Manny.

Manny and this bitch named Sheila who Manny met a few weeks ago and claims to be Lady Gaga’s cousin appear at the doorway, dressed in outfits inspired by the masses of gigabytes of videos Manny possesses of Lady Gaga, particularly Gaga’s Telephone video featuring Beyonce. The two look ridiculous: Manny is Gaga, in a cowboy hat and layers of purple chiffon that fall down around him, as if he’s dressed for a queer funeral. Sheila is Beyonce and dressed the same, but using black chiffon. They’re both idiots; the costumes look restrictive and the two must be sweating beneath the chiffon; this club is always packed with bodies and therefore hot as hell. But Stuart has come to expect this kind of thing from Manny; Manny’s never had much common sense.

Stuart admits Sheila may be telling the truth about her famous relation: Sheila’s got a long protruding nose like Gaga along with those big doe eyes and full lips, but Sheila’s painfully overweight, shown in the rolls of her stomach and bags of fat hanging from her biceps that layers of slimming black chiffon can squeeze but can’t ultimately hide. Her obesity pleases him because he hates her, ever since Manny first introduced her almost two weeks ago in this room. At that moment, Stuart felt the instant triangulation. He knew that, unlike Manny’s other club friends, she’d be stiff competition for Manny’s attention. And as time progressed he was proven right as Manny’s new bestie became present even when absent, most notably in the darkness of Stuart’s bedroom when Manny ignores Stuart and, using Stuart’s cell phone, constantly texts back and forth with Sheila.

Manny and Sheila enter the room and clumsily sit down next to Stuart. Stuart suspects they’ve both just snorted ketamine but says nothing for fear of upsetting Manny. Stuart says hello. The two ignore him and look at Stuart’s and their own reflections.

“You know, bestie,” Sheila says, “trust is like a mirror. You can fix it if it’s broke…”

“But you can still see the crack,” Manny finishes, “in that motherfucker’s reflection.”
Stuart’s eyes drop to the floor. What Manny and Shelia recited is part of the dialogue between Beyonce and Gaga in the official, extended, explicit version of Gaga’s Telephone video, something Stuart wouldn’t know if Manny hadn’t exposed Stuart to all of Lady Gaga’s videos in endless replay on YouTube. And although Stuart finds the exchange laughable, its intent is not lost on him. One way or another, and soon, Manny will make Stuart pay for the dismemberment.

When Manny sees Stuart’s eyes lower in shame towards his crotch after the mirror comment, Manny realizes that Stuart realizes that Manny remembers the dismemberment. Manny finds it hard to concentrate on this because he snorted some of Sheila’s ketamine a few moments ago and it has shattered his consciousness, the reason he likes the drug so much. He sits stonefaced, trying to keep it from Stuart since Manny knows Stuart doesn’t approve of alcohol or drug use.

Manny remembered the dismemberment in pieces: Stuart detaching an arm in one, a leg in another, a hand in another. Of course, in order for Manny to be seated right now between Sheila, his new bestie who’s also Lady Gaga’s cousin, and Stuart, Stuart must’ve reassembled Manny at some point, most likely because Stuart realized he couldn’t face his pathetic life alone, a life littered with unrealized ambitions like dropping out of college after only a semester because he claims the professors didn’t challenge him or unfinished first drafts of short stories he claims to intend to complete but never seems to find the time to pick up again, the papers scattered on his tiny bedroom floor among the mildew smell of piles of dirty laundry and the bleach smell of used cum rags, the rags being the end result of a more than daily exercise Stuart had performed by his lonesome until Manny came along.

From the first night Manny remembers being alive, the need to be seen and dance and socialize drove him to immediately order Stuart to drive the two into Manhattan. Manny easily accessed any club he pleased due to his classical proportions, smooth peach skin, baby blue eyes, and innate sense of style. He understands how one should act when one knows he’s being watched, with exaggerated smiles and sweeping gestures as if something interesting is going on even when it’s not.

Poor Stuart didn’t possess any of these senses. Manny took Stuart clothes shopping before the clubs, trading Stuart’s solid button down shirts tucked into stonewashed jeans for vertical striped shirts and black pants that hid his pudgy form. Unfortunately, there was no way Manny could help Stuart’s lack of social skills; he never made eye contact and hardly said hello and never pecked cheeks even with the regulars. Many of them asked Manny why he stuck with Stuart. “You wouldn’t understand,” Manny would respond.

Stuart’s reflection still stares with affection at Manny, even after that Telephone Gaga routine. At first Manny found Stuart’s constant attention gratifying, even endearing at moments. But slowly the feelings of gratification have splintered and lost their potency, being replaced with an intense annoyance, because Manny realized that Stuart’s affection comes with a heavy price, something Manny began to notice after Stuart had figured out Manny’s blackouts.

Manny’s first blackout happened the morning following their first night clubbing. Manny regained consciousness the next night, shrugged off the event, went clubbing again, and blacked out again. On Manny’s third night of consciousness, Stuart said he’d figured it out.

Before the explanation Stuart instructed Manny to sit on the floor, and Stuart sat on his unmade bed, most likely so that he could look down at Manny while laying out a theory that Stuart believed only he could’ve been smart enough to figure out.

“It seems that around eleven at night you come to life. And it’s very quick. One moment you’re stiff and your skin is plastic and shiny, and your guts are a metal rod. I turn to start editing one of my short stories. When I turn back you’re fully alive, soft pliable skin, full range of motion, a core of human emotions. And it seems,” Stuart continued, one of his fat little hands positioned right below his jaw, as if he was pretending to be a professor, “you turn back into a mannequin as soon as we leave the club and you’re exposed to sunlight.”

At this point in the relationship Manny still idealized his maker, musing on Stuart’s every word as if each was an extension of divinity. But here was Manny’s first taste of Stuart’s compulsive need to feel superior, and therefore in control, of those around him. If Stuart tried to speak to Manny like this now, as if Manny were his child, Manny would stop Stuart’s diatribe dead at the first sentence and reprimand him.

For the next two months Manny got whatever he wanted. Stuart erected a series of full length mirrors around the bedroom, despite the fact that Stuart hated his own reflection, so that Manny could constantly monitor his image and study himself in new outfits to ensure he’d always fashionably outdo his club peers. Any new clothing Manny wanted Manny got: no matter the cost. If Stuart couldn’t afford it, he’d steal it. Stuart lifted pieces from the trendy clothing store he worked for named Hot, giving them to Manny when Manny woke up, a broad childlike grin cutting up Stuart’s chubby face, revealing yellowed teeth neglected by parents spending most of his childhood more concerned with forwarding their careers as scientists than Stuart’s hygiene habits. Stuart easily spent a few hundred dollars a night on taxis to drive him and Manny all over the island; if one club bored Manny, before he could finish the complaint Stuart was on the curb of the club’s front door flagging down a taxi to cart the two to another club. And another. And another.

Manny quickly realized he got this treatment no matter how he treated Stuart. But as the gifts and favors increased, so did the price: Manny belonged exclusively to Stuart. Manny had to be accountable for every moment they were apart; if Manny disappeared for any length of time he was expected to return with a detailed explanation of what had happened during the separation. Which is why Manny kissed that random boy on the dance floor last night. The pressure was just too much. Something had to give.

Every morning between 4 and 8, depending on when the club’s bouncers kick them out, Stuart carefully carries Manny’s stiff and cumbersome body down the flight of cement piss-soaked steps onto the subway en route to the 42nd Street Port Authority. He hauls Manny up to the escalator to the second floor, through two hallways littered with crumpled trash and huddled bums, and onto to the bus that will return them to Stuart’s parents’ house. Stuart uses mass transit to save a few dollars because he’s growing increasingly alarmed about the cost of keeping Manny happy; the money for taxis and cover to enter multiple clubs and outfits and supplies for outfits that can’t be lifted from Hot have quickly added up; his credit cards are reaching their limits and Stuart’s ignoring the fact that soon he’ll be unable to afford even the required minimum monthly payments. He knows if Manny knew he was manhandled on public transportation he’d throw a fit; the one and only time Stuart suggested taking a subway Manny exploded back with: “I refuse to ride on anything that funnels trash underground.” If Manny asked how they got home Stuart always lied, saying by taxi. And although Stuart could never admit it, deep inside there was a certain pleasure in rebelling against Manny, a certain release from the normally unending pressure of Manny’s demands. Without this release Stuart fears the pressure will easily destroy him, the force easily breaking him into a million powerless pieces, useless in helping Manny.

Getting home yesterday morning was problematic: Manny wore a combination of the first two outfits Gaga wears in her Alejandro video, composed of an excessive amount of head-to-toe purple chiffon rising up over a crown affixed with two tubes snaking past either temple, then squaring off at his eye sockets and ending in two adjustable spectacles. Both the subway and bus were unusually crowded, and the trip couldn’t end fast enough. Stuart found managing Manny’s clunky body and the endless amount of chiffon and crown contraption almost impossible as he was shoved and poked inside a thick mass of bodies. He also found himself feeling a growing amount of resentment as the outfit returned him to Manny’s comments when Manny forced Stuart to watch the video, right before Manny pieced the outfit together.

The start of the video features a soldier, presumably Alejandro, a highly muscled and symmetrical model. Manny turned to Stuart.

“You know I could have him, right? You know he would take me in a second.”

Stuart didn’t respond. These questions had no right answer.

“I assume you’re agreeing in silence,” Manny concluded, a smug look filling up his face.

Stuart did agree that a man that gorgeous would take Manny in a second. “But he would never keep you. Only I would keep you,” Stuart wanted to say, but didn’t for fear of upsetting Manny. “No matter what, you’ll always be my mannequin, Manny.” Stuart thought but dare didn’t say.

Although Manny has had enough of Stuart’s threats veiled as altruism, Manny felt trapped. The threats, which were true and had begun early and intensified
after Manny met Sheila, usually went like this: “You know I’m the only one who’ll take care of you, right?” Stuart would say. “Who else would carry you home in the morning? Make sure you’re safe until you wake up again? A lot of bad things could happen to you while you’re asleep.” Stuart was right. Who would take care of Manny? No one understood him, understood his plight. But then he met Sheila and after a week of talking and texting, and one night of too many cocktails drunk behind Stuart’s back, Manny admitted to being a mannequin. He thought this would be the end of their friendship. Sheila would think he was insane. But she leaned in, the cheap leather of the couch squeaking as her chunks of fat settled, and she replied: “I totally get you. You wanna know why? You wanna know a secret?”

“Of course,” Manny replied.

“Gaga’s a mannequin too.”

“Seriously?” Manny said, intrigued.

“Swear to God.”

Manny was skeptical. “But what about, you know, Gaga’s features?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, she has an amazing body. But that face.”

“What’s wrong with her face?”

“Well, she’s beautiful—absolutely beautiful—but you know, her nose, those eyes; it’s not really…proportionate….or…you know…symmetrical.”

“Well, yes, Gaga’s face isn’t perfect. She was one of a batch of mannequins designed to look like ‘real women;’ the marketing theory being that female customers would more readily identify with a mannequin with irregular facial features. However, that theory never panned out and her line was discontinued.”

Although excited at this plausible explanation, Manny was still skeptical. “What about the sunlight? How does Gaga handle that? I mean, I’ve seen her walking around during the day. How does she do it?”

“She’s that way now but she used to be just like you. I had to take care of her as kids, make sure she was safe during the day. Then she found some Hollywood doctor who fixed her.”

“Seriously? I can be fixed?”

“You can be fixed. Gaga did it. So can you.”

Manny realized he finally had a way out from under Stuart’s greasy thumb. All Manny had to do was get the doctor’s name from Sheila. Manny would have the operation. He didn’t care how much it cost. Perhaps Gaga would even take pity on him once she knew his situation and pay for the operation; she was always doing charity work for GLBT causes; Manny knew his plight would be a cause that would hit Gaga personally.

For the past week Manny has wavered on the idea of leaving Stuart. But the dismemberment was the final nail in the coffin. And now as Manny watches through the mirror as Stuart still gazes lovingly at Manny, Manny knows what he has to do. Tonight will be the night Manny leaves Stuart.

Stuart fondly remembers a little over two months ago when he first smuggled Manny out, plastic limb by plastic limb, from Hot. The store is filled with tight pleather pants and shirts that read “Boys Suck,” bought by wiry queens who scream to be noticed. Awkward inside his five foot six, pudgy body, and balding by the age of 25, Stuart doesn’t possess the finessed and confident look Hot wants in its sales staff. Therefore, Stuart was exiled to the back stock room, damned to unload boxes beneath tubes of crackling neon lights. Piles of limbs sat in the cold corners while waiting to be assembled and dressed and placed on the sales floor. In handling these limbs, Chapter Ten of Metamorphoses, the book Stuart was reading at the time, inspired Stuart’s theft. In that chapter, a sculptor creates a statue of the perfect woman. The sculptor prays to Venus to give the statue life, so she sends down Cupid to do just that.

When Stuart got all the pieces home, he swept his room’s debris with his feet to create an empty space of brown carpet at least as old as he was, and he went to work. He stood and spaced the mannequin’s feet. He set up the metal rods and inserted the legs. His stubby, sweaty hands slid along the smooth plastic. He inserted the other three metal rods then twisted and locked the torso and arms into place. Finally, Stuart placed the head over the remaining silver rod poking out from the neck, and locked it into place.

Every night when Stuart went to bed he’d lay the cumbersome mannequin next to him. He wasn’t religious because he’d never learned to be; his parents were atheist scientists who’d rather spend time with test tubes and microscopes in labs than with Stuart and cracked communion hosts in church, but Stuart prayed every night anyway for the mannequin to come to life. Then he would trace the mannequin’s plastic contours: the symmetrical eyes, the button nose, the almost non-existent lips. He’d move along the chest and past the flat stomach with the just the trace of a six-pack. He’d stop for a moment at the flat, smooth crotch, imagining what the genitals might feel like, and then followed the inside of the plastic legs down, until his fingers would fall off the mannequin and onto the mattress space between them. This went on every night for about a week until, beneath the twisted covers of a bed Stuart never made, Stuart realized he was no longer feeling plastic but flesh.

By the morning of the dismemberment, Stuart was fed up. First, there were Sheila’s remarks about a week after she and Manny met. She and Stuart were sitting without Manny on the couch he’s sitting on now. She turned to him, her head titled upward with smugness. “You know, Manny likes me better, right? You’re dull and ugly, Stuart, while I’m exciting and beautiful. It’s a no-brainer, really.” Infuriated, Stuart wanted to retaliate, to tell her he didn’t give a shit what a drug addict fuckup like her thought of him, but he didn’t reply. He was afraid that if he upset Sheila it would get back to Manny and upset him. And though Stuart tried to minimize it by rationalizing that Manny needed his space, he had noticed Manny becoming more distant and defiant. Manny texted Sheila more often on Stuart’s phone, spent more time with her in the clubs, and threatened to leave Stuart. And since Stuart only had Manny’s best interests at heart, Stuart surmised that Manny’s threats must have been Sheila’s doing. That bitch. In response, Stuart increased his altruism, figuring this would show Manny the truth, that Manny couldn’t survive without Stuart. Stuart stole more clothes from Hot. He compared Manny to the Roman gods and goddesses from Metamorphoses. He offered more compliments on Manny’s natural symmetry and flawless skin and classical proportions.

But all this altruism was for not because two nights ago, Stuart realized he had much bigger worries than Shelia when he caught Manny kissing some lanky stranger in a black see-through top and skin-tight pants made of tiny mirrors that shot broken bursts of light as his crotch rubbed up against Manny’s. After extended internal debate Stuart resolved that this was the last transgression he would tolerate. That morning, in a sustained rush of adrenaline and sobbing every step of the way, Stuart dismembered Manny.
The first song Manny heard by Lady Gaga was the extended vocal house remix of Telephone, on the dance floor outside this chillout room. He immediately identified with its lyrics, one of a woman so moved by the spell of the music and the movement of the dance inside a club she isn’t taking any cell phone calls. Manny knows this feeling; when he’s on the dance floor, sweat soaking and calling attention to the flesh he’s unaware of during the day, amongst the different colored lights and moving shadows and half naked sculpted bodies; he wants no one and nothing to break that spell. The house music’s thick bass hammers down on him and the other dancers and breaks them apart, their pieces moving across the darkened floor, until they’re so scattered that each dancer can’t stand on his or her own; every broken piece only has meaning as part of the larger whole. At first Manny thought this draw was simply because he always found himself pulled towards socializing, but he quickly realized it was more complicated than that. Stuart didn’t like to dance. Therefore, inside this dark space of lasers and anonymous bodies, Manny is free of Stuart, free of his control masquerading as altruism. And because of that masquerade, Manny doesn’t feel guilty for that kiss, one of many. Stuart forced this behavior from Manny; dancing with and kissing strangers are the only ways Manny can experience any freedom outside of Stuart.

As for Gaga, Manny was immediately enamored by her sense of style, by the fact that her dress and make-up has no intention of accomplishing what women are traditionally pre-occupied with, attracting men, but instead is designed for spectacle. Every stitch, every fabric, every heavy swipe of eye shadow or bold lipstick color, every long dramatic step or wave of the hand, every kick of the head, is designed to be consumed. It makes total sense that Gaga was once a mannequin; she understands the artistic possibilities of the simultaneous pain and pleasure that comes from being constantly watched. He studied all of her videos: her duet with Elton John where the two roll out smudged with ash and dirt from a large and imposing “fame” machine, her Video Music Award performance ending with her soaked in fake blood, her performance for the Queen of England where Gaga sings in a blood red dress that resembles Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts while suspended thirty feet in the air, the blood red train of her dress spiraling to the stage floor. Only a woman whose plastic arms were bent by foreign human hands, whose plastic hands were staged on plastic hips without permission, whose plastic body was constantly clothed and stripped with the latest and most outrageous fashions, could imagine and realize the level of spectacle Lady Gaga pulls together.

Manny’s favorite Gaga video is Telephone, where, after Beyonce bails out Gaga from jail, the two conspire to poison Beyonce’s abusive boyfriend. Manny’s convinced a death is about to happen here tonight. Not a literal death of course, Manny could never do that, but the death of Manny’s life with Stuart. Manny knows Stuart has never understood the significance of Gaga in Manny’s life. Stuart has made fun of Manny on several occasions for emulating her superficiality. Manny knows Stuart doesn’t understand—can’t understand—Manny and Gaga’s genius. Having their genius misunderstood and ridiculed is a burden both he and Gaga has to bear for the rest of their lives.

Manny asked Sheila to dress with him in these outfits—which while restricting movement and retaining heat look absolutely amazing—because through his and Sheila’s hours of non-stop texting, she had convinced him that leaving Stuart was the right thing to do. “The 2 of u r toxic 2 each other” read one. Ever since that text two weeks ago, Manny has seriously considered escape and now wants Sheila to be part of what will soon be the funeral for his life with Stuart.

Manny will announce his departure to Stuart in no uncertain terms. Then Manny will move in with Sheila. It’ll be difficult because space is tight; she sleeps on a futon in the living room of the one bedroom she shares with a couple in Washington Heights. But Manny knows he can do it; surviving our most painful times makes us stronger. He’ll acquire the name of Gaga’s Hollywood doctor and do whatever necessary to get the surgery done. And in the meantime Sheila will take care of him the same way she took care of Gaga, making sure he’s safely stored during the daylight hours.

After the dismemberment Stuart scanned his bedroom, catching glimpses of his pudgy form sobbing with guilt through the mirrors. He hated those mirrors. He fantasized pulling those mirrors one by one off the walls and smashing them, listening the cacophony of smashing glass and watching his reflections break into millions of unrecognizable pieces, perhaps even taking one of the jagged pieces and pressing it gently into his wrists, feeling the metal burn through his skin and snap his veins. But he couldn’t bring himself to do any of it. Then he considered actions less violent, such as covering the mirrors in sheets to block his reflection. He found that he couldn’t bring himself to even do that. Perhaps it was because, in tampering with the mirrors, it would make the end of his relationship with Manny official. So instead he did as he always had done while Manny was still assembled; Stuart simply kept his head down and eyes averted as not to catch any stray image of himself.

Almost immediately Stuart pined for Manny. Stuart realized that even when Manny ignored him, usually while studying himself in one of the mirrors, or creating a new Gaga-inspired outfit, or texting Sheila, just being in Manny’s presence was enough. The return to this loneliness, to this incompleteness, was a pain Stuart couldn’t manage, and if avoiding this pain meant learning to love Manny’s outrageous demands and his trysts, then so be it. With Manny, Stuart felt complete; they were two halves of the same being; each couldn’t survive without the other, no matter what fantasies of independence Manny might conjure up. No matter what Manny said or did, Stuart knew with the same conviction he knew the sun rose and set that Manny would always be Stuart’s mannequin.

After almost six hours of severe depression, Stuart reassembled Manny.

Manny surmises this is as good a time as any to end it. “Stuart,” Manny says, still looking at the mirror.

“Yes,” Stuart says. He turns and stares directly at Manny.

“I’m leaving you.”

Stuart’s reflection looks more pathetic than usual; his eyes harden with shock then soften with sadness; his face tenses in bewilderment and what might be a
touch of anger. “What do you mean you’re leaving me?”

“I mean exactly what I said, Stuart,” Manny says, his head poised in confidence. “We’re over.”

“After everything I’ve done for you? How could you be so selfish?” Stuart says, his tone tightening; his syllables focusing with anger.

“Don’t get all high and mighty with me, Stuart. Your kindness came with a price. And I’m not willing to pay it anymore.”

“You’re a liar! Nothing had a price! Everything I did was for you! Since the first night you came alive! And this is how you repay me? You’re a spoiled little brat.”

“And you spoiled me Stuart,” Manny replies, now facing Stuart. He peers into Stuart’s eyes bulging with anger. “Don’t forget that. Don’t think that this moment doesn’t have your chunky guilt-ridden fingers all over it.”

“You can’t survive without me.”

“Why do you say that? Because you compulsively help me? I don’t do for myself because you do for me, not because I can’t do it. Did it ever occur to you even once in that cocky head of yours that I am actually capable? That I’m just using you? You waste so much time thinking you’re so goddamn smart that you don’t realize you’re a fucking idiot, Stuart. You need to get over yourself.”

“Look me in the face and tell me you’re leaving me,” Stuart says.

“Goodbye forever, Stuart.” Manny rises and leaves the room without looking back. He imagines Stuart’s eyes following Manny’s every dramatic footstep as he moves through the exit and disappears into the dancing shadows.

Manny finds Sheila finishing a bump of k in the alcove of couches at the far side of the dance floor. “I left Stuart,” Manny announces. Her doe eyes roll into the back of her head and her chunky contour fall back into the waves of chiffon.

“Congrats honey!” she responds, sniffling. “You want some?” she says, offering the glass jar of ketamine.

“No, I’m good,” Manny replies. He doesn’t want to break himself apart and lose himself right now; he wants to focus on this moment with all his faculties in order to fully enjoy it.

“Sit,” Sheila says, her plump fingers attached to black press on nails delicately patting the empty seat next to her. Manny sits. “That is fantastic news,” she says smiling and sliding her arm behind Manny’s head. “So I assume you’ve figured out some place to stay?”

“Of course.”

“Where?”

“With you.”

Sheila’s arm retracts and she loses her smile. “What do you mean, with me?”

“I’ll stay with you.”

“Manny, dear. You know I love you, but there is absolutely no room for you.”

“It won’t be for long. Just until you get the name of Gaga’s Hollywood doctor. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Her doctor?”

“Yes.”

“Manny, I haven’t spoken to Gaga in like fifteen years. I wouldn’t know how to reach her now if I wanted to.”

“Oh,” Manny responded, surprised.

“We never talked about this, Manny. Why did you think I’d do these things for you?”

“I don’t know.” Manny’s lying, of course. He assumed Sheila should want to do these things because she’d be supporting an artistic genius. He thought Sheila was different than Manny but he realizes now she’s just the same; she misunderstands, and therefore can’t appreciate, Manny’s genius. He wonders if Gaga had these same problems with Sheila fifteen years ago.

As Stuart sits on the couch alone and watches his reflection, anger burns beneath his skin. The noise of the queens chatter and the muted house beat outside this chillout room nauseate him. He spent two months doing whatever Manny wanted, meeting all of Manny’s ridiculous demands, and now Stuart has nothing to show for it. But he reasons that Manny will come crawling back; Stuart can’t say when but he knows it will happen; his conviction that Manny can not survive without Stuart’s help stands unbroken. He quickly realizes Manny won’t be able to realize this on his own. Stuart knows Manny’s sights are most likely set on Sheila and knowing that bitch she’s snorting ketamine in her favorite alcove across the dance floor. So Stuart leaves this chillout room to find Manny. Stuart navigates a foreign dance floor of lasers, littered with dancing silhouettes resembling moving statues, all covered in the idiotic stench of endorphins and sweat.

When Stuart arrives at the alcove, he observes that Manny is clearly traumatized, most likely by something that bitch, Sheila, has said. Stuart always knew Sheila was no good; if only he’d said something to Manny early on then perhaps the pain now stretched across Manny’s face might’ve been avoided.
Manny throws himself in Stuart’s arms and sobs into Stuart’s chest.

Sheila slowly emerges from the background. She stops next to Manny and Stuart. Her eyes roll into the back of her head and she sighs deeply.
“Stuart,” she begins, “I am gracefully bowing out.” She tries to curtsy, but the restrictive chiffon won’t let her. “I was wrong when I told Manny you two were toxic. You two are so fucked up, you’re perfect for each other.” She adjusts her chiffon, readying herself to leave. “And Manny, your fashion designs are almost as fucked up as this shitshow you think is a relationship.”

“Go fuck yourself, you fucking k-whore trash,” Stuart replies as Sheila disappears into the darkness and colored lights. He can’t be sure if she hears him. The reply surprises Stuart; perhaps his confidence has been bolstered by Manny’s sobs and arms wrapped tightly around Stuart’s torso.

“I’m so sorry,” Manny lets out between sniffles. The sobbing becomes so intense that he begins to hiccup.

“Don’t worry about it,” Stuart says. He rests his head on Manny’s shoulder. His head vibrates from Manny’s sobbing. Stuart’s face, which Manny can’t see, fills up with smugness. “Whether you like it or not, you’ll always be my mannequin,” Stuart thinks, but dares not say.