Blue Angel Motel, 1980
by Amy Pence
When you pass it, the Blue Angel is ethereal, chimeral. Some instance of fate or a botched magic. The blonde angel might become real, might levitate like some Disney trope to bestow all her lost anima on a city of thieves, but she never would, and you never did see how high the stakes were even though that’s what your mother, Joyelle Cash, groomed you for. The stakes are high, honey, she said and Beauty is hard to come by. The best: Pretty hurts, rolled from her already-enhanced lips that week of the butt lift, when she had to lie on her stomach and you fed her smoothies through a straw.
The Blue Angel Motel became your icon, or maybe just your inside joke. You posed Lara on the sidewalk in front of the crumbling stucco wall: Lara with her golden permed hair—a glossy, Egyptian blonde, a boy-girl. Her eyes decorated with a heavy kohl, scimitar-like, dressed in your mother’s vintage evening gown.
Sure, have at it, O Joy said when she discovered you, Jiggy, and Lara rifling through her vast closets. She wore a kerchief wrapped so tight the already pulled eyes were slit-thin. Holding a gown out, waving a showgirl flourish under her own breasts, she said: Lara doesn’t have the boobs for this one. Your mother’s underhanded jab had never landed so squarely elsewhere, even though she was the one who had rescued Lara from her 7th grade unibrow, had plopped her down in front of the three-sided cruelly-magnified vanity, dabbed on the wet wax, and pulled the strips off before Lara had time to speak. You’re a beauty, Lara, she’d said. Words she’d never said to you, and it was true, after all; it was Lara, never you, that couldn’t keep the boys out of her pants, just as O Joy predicted. A dilemma for Lara now, since she’d gone for God.
The Blue Angel hovered in the heat of a Las Vegas dusk. The Blue Angel was the sweeter mother of your dreams. The Blue Angel had a theology all her own, maybe it was just your theology, the one that healed you. What you didn’t know until that photo shoot summer was what had become of the Blue Angel Motel: Its flimsy midnight blue doors were buckled with the marks of many feet. Stucco had fallen from the exterior in a thick crumbling dust, patches of wire showed through. Gang tags rose from the walls like manic neon flowers. A woman in tight thigh-grabbing Glamskins came out, made a show of locking the paper-thin door. Aww, baby, don’t hide it, Jiggy yelled, cause you could see the dimpled cellulite on her legs; the tights were that tight. Her breasts hung low under a buckskin halter top.
Ya know, she said, approaching, I’m gonna give you the bump for that even though you is such a homo! Jiggy edged back before her large iridescent rear end could touch his. Pardon me, skank, he seethed. But don’t think you can name me. It was understood that Jiggy was the stylist and Julio did crowd control, but it appeared even they couldn’t tame a crack whore and this one had just offended Jiggy. You were waiting for her to unholster a gun from her cleavage and pistol-whip him, when Lara stepped forward in combat boots and the gold lame gown your mother loaned her, a pillbox hat cocked on her head.
You know, darlin’, she said in her best southern drawl, we’re doing a photo-shoot for Wet Magazine, and don’t you pay my stylist no nevermind. Her eyes were all-enlarged innocence. But my photographer and my director here, she gestured, and Julio ran to her with his fluttery hand-kissing, would love to feature you in this shoot too. Desdemona loved it, every bit of it, and thank the Blue Heavens that Jiggy stepped aside and you got the photos of Desdemona spread like fresh beefcake under the naked feet of our-newly southern, and God-fearing Lara.
The Blue Angel, vertiginous over what had become of the place, doesn’t show when you look at the photos now, when you try to fathom how the future became what it came to be: Jiggy dead, O Joy dead, Lara and Julio lost to an effeminate Jesus. Everyone pale in the hand-held eye of the camera: scanning the Vegas, devouring ghosts.