“They want to see me broken and twisted. It’s not the right ending unless it’s gone all to ruin.” A short story where the Ideas of two famous woman grapple with an identity crisis…
by: Sinclair Adams
Somewhere above our heads drifts the Idea of Diana Spencer, former Princess of Wales. She is ageless, blonde, beautiful, wearing a thin black dress that exposes her slender shoulders. Every step she takes, she leaves behind a footprint of light.
Sometimes, clothing would erupt from her skin, shedding one layer after another like a snake. The Idea of Diana would leave behind trails of bulky pastels, fitted jeans, stylish caps, and Dior handbags in the thousands. Sunglasses would pour from her eyes like tears, arching in a rainbow from her face.
One day, like many other days, The Idea of Diana suddenly cried, because her life was very sad. But she didn’t remember why. What Idea of Diana was she today? Was she the one who died in a preventable car accident, or was she the one who was strategically killed off by the royal family? Was she the biggest tragedy of her time? Or was she just a privileged woman who couldn’t handle what life threw at her?
Whatever the truth about her life was, the Idea of Diana was inconsolable and gorgeous.
Wanting to have some help sorting things out, she went to speak to her friend, the Idea of Eva Perón. They had a lot in common, both being dead blonde women, made famous by their politician husbands, and both were fairly certain their lives were tragic. Except the Idea of Eva Perón — who insisted on simply being called “Evita” — had a very unique way of expressing her sorrow.
Evita was singing, as she almost always was. She stood on a mountain of dresses and jewelry, belting it out to anyone who would listen.
The Idea of Diana frowned at the pile where Evita stood. She didn’t want to use such fine objects as footholds, it seemed such a waste. The Idea of Diana already seemed to be responsible for producing so many articles of clothing. But though it often felt real to her, none of it really was. So, she climbed up the mountain of luxury items, scaling the Idea of Wealth.
“Hello, Evita,” the Idea of Diana said, when she reached the top.
Evita wore a sparkling white gown, her lips painted a screaming ruby red color. She gave her friend a crisp, “Hello,” and continued to sing about how she wished for the people of her South American home country to not shed tears on her behalf. The Idea of Diana noticed that some days Evita had a sharp Argentine accent. Today, it sounded oddly North American. The Idea of Diana also noticed that tupon this encounter, the blue-and-white sash that Evita’s husband normally wore was now draped across her chest. The Idea of Diana thought it looked nice for a change, Evita donning the signifier of a president, a more masculine role. But the Idea of Diana doubted that the real Eva Perón considered such a thing.
Evita stopped singing again, turned to her friend and said, “You know, you should really think of a shorter name for what you are.”
“What I am?” the Idea of Diana echoed. “I am the Idea of Diana Spencer, former Princess of Wales. What else could I be called?”
“I know, but can’t you have a shorter name? Something snappier, like, Evita for instance.” Evita flourished her arms and went on, “I can’t go around introducing myself as, ‘The Idea of Eva Duarte de Perón, First Lady of Argentina.’ I am simply Evita. That is how people know me best.”
“Oh, I see your point.” The Idea of Diana politely nodded. “But I don’t know about just calling myself ‘Diana.’ There’s plenty more ‘Dianas’ out there.”
Evita scoffed. “Name one.”
The Idea of Diana peered down into the walkway of other ideas in the land below Evita’s mountain.
“Look, there’s the Idea of Diana Ross,” she said, pointing to a glamorous young woman with dark hair that seemed to be sculpted by the wind. The Idea of Diana Spencer waved hello to her. The Idea of Diana Ross waved up at them, and cracked a joke about how there indeed was no mountain high enough.
In a blink of an eye, the Idea of Diana Ross changed outfits into something more modest, suddenly aged thirty years, then hurried on her way as if she never stopped.
The Idea of Diana Spencer sighed. It was so hard talking with Ideas of people that were still alive. At any moment, they could make extreme changes. They could grow old. The only thing that ever seemed to change about the Idea of Diana was her outfits.
The Idea of Diana looked back to Evita, brushing a strand of blonde hair from her crystal blue eyes. “Well, she’s more popular with the Americans, but she is still a famous Diana.”
Evita scoffed and flicked her wrist. “That’s just one example!”
“Okay…what about the Idea of the other Princess Diana?” the Idea of Diana asked. She pointed to the sky, where an Amazonian woman in bright red armor flew overhead, looking stoic and heroic.
“Get real, Spencer, everyone knows her better as ‘Wonder Woman,’” Evita said. “Besides, she’s not even a real person, she’s a character.”
The Idea of Diana wanted to tell Evita that she didn’t feel real or historical. Most days, the Idea of Diana felt fictional, as thin and subjective as a cubist painting. An adjustable mannequin with long bones, perfect for draping styles over.
Evita gave her friend a tough but loving slug in the arm. “Look, the earth is lousy with women named Diana, but you gave it the best run. Why don’t you just make it your own?”
The Idea of Diana rubbed her arm. “I suppose, but how can I make it my own, when so many people have different thoughts about me?”
Evita laughed so hard she snorted. “You don’t get to choose it, but you do get to live it. So why not embrace what the people remember you for?” Suddenly, a purse manifested at her side. The first Lady of Argentina cracked a brilliant smile, unpacked wads and wads of paper money and tossed it the air like confetti. She beamed with pride as she slid down the mountain of luxury items.
The Idea of Diana crawled her way down and caught up with her twirling friend.
“You always seem so…content,” the Idea of Diana noted.
“Oh, yes, I am content. Unless I get like…this!” In a heartbeat, Evita collapsed on the ground, eyes gushing with tears, drying them off with her paper money. She reached a quivering arm out to anyone nearby who happened to pass by. The Ideas of Sherlock Holmes stomped by in a stampede of gaunt British men in thick clothing, pulling deductions from everything they set their eyes on. The Idea of Karl Marx spat on the dirt before her. Then the Idea of Poverty happened to pass on by, this time taking the form of a thin white woman with shorn hair and mud smeared across her body. The two women began to sing two songs of completely different tempos and keys about how sad they were. The Idea of Poverty picked herself up and staggered away, falling into someone else’s arms, while Evita’s sobs jumped into laughter.
“Now, was I acting contented there?” Evita asked, returning to her friend.
“No, but you were content with acting,” the Idea of Diana pointed out. “I appreciate your confidence, Evita, but I don’t understand how you can take it all in stride as you do.”
Evita unleashed a series of bellowing laughter, until she suddenly snapped back into neutrality.
“I cannot help it, my dear,” Evita said. “That is how they remember me. Outrageous, selfish yet selfless, musical…and enjoying every moment of my own contradictions.” She hooked her arm around the Idea of Diana and began leading her away. “You’ve got to learn to embrace the role that history has given you. I don’t see why it’s so difficult for you. It’s easy for me, and we have so much in common.”
The two ideas walked past the large crowd that always gathered around the Idea of Stalin. The stone-faced man was tied to a pole while many Ideas threw rocks at him, while a smaller group of Ideas protected him by forming a shield with their own bodies.
“Yes, I suppose we do have a lot in common, considering how strange the other Ideas around here are,” the Idea of Diana said.
Evita nodded and counted off on her fingers. “We both died at age 36, we both commanded the attention of the world, we both love Dior, and we’re both blonde.”
The Idea of Diana giggled and whispered to her friend, “But how many people know that you weren’t actually blonde?”
“Not enough to ever change my signature look,” Evita said, grinning.
The two Ideas of Famous Women laughed all the way as they walked past more Ideas. They even walked past a man crowned with devil horns who summoned tongues of fire everywhere he moved.
“Hello, Idea of Jeff Bezos,” the two women said.
Then Evita suggested, “Why don’t we go talk to the Idea of Marilyn? She also has a lot in common with us. Maybe she can talk some sense into you.”
“Oh, I suppose. As long as we’re not bothering her.”
They found the Idea of Marilyn where they always did — at the Edge of Human Understanding, watching color-changing mist pour into a black abyss.
The Idea of Diana and Evita arrived just in time to watch someone they did not recognize — some scribe or scholar in ancient clothes — salute goodbye and glide off the edge.
“I like how they float,” the Idea of Marilyn spoke wistfully. She turned to her friends, revealing not one person, but four heads tinted in faded pastel colors. But when they spoke, all four Marilyn faces spoke as one, like refracted reflections in a prism. Today, it seemed, she was Warhol’s Marilyn.
She looked back at the abyss, then mused in a breathy voice, “When someone is forgotten, it’s not a sharp drop to the bottom. It’s a slow, lazy decline downwards. Nothing like you could ever dream of.”
The Idea of Diana meditated on those words, while Evita quickly nodded.
“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” Evita said. “So anyways, Ms. Monroe, I was talking with Diana—”
“The Idea of Diana,” the Idea of Diana clarified. “I can’t even hold a candle to the real thing.”
“Yeah, of course,” Evita said, turning back to the Marilyns. “My friend, the Idea of Diana Spencer, is having a bit of an identity crisis.”
The Idea of Marilyn let out a calm, understanding hum. “How troubling.”
“She insists on being called the Idea of Diana Spencer,” Evita said, “but how can she just be an idea when the world already knows her so well?”
The Idea of Marilyn turned to the Idea of Diana. “Do they know?”
“They do. Or…gosh, I don’t believe they do,” the Idea of Diana admitted. “That might be my problem. Every day, I wake up and become something new.”
As if being reeled back by a thread, the Idea of Diana stepped away from her friends. She lifted her arms up, forming a “t.”
In that same moment, the Idea of Sacrifice and the Idea of Glory came to her like the wind, two ghostly serpents that spun and spun around her.
Caught in the gust, Idea of Diana’s black dress tore away, revealing a frumpy brown outfit.
“Who was I? Was I a simple Kindergarten helper, who fell in love with a fairy tale?” she asked.
Then those clothes fell away, her nude skin illuminating with blinding gold light. Wings sprouted from her back, and she lifted from the misty ground.
“But they also said I was an angel, a gift to mankind!”
The glow exploded into glitter and she was thrown back onto the ground, in another beautiful gown, dodging the broken shards like flashes of camera lights.
“But that wasn’t enough,” she spoke through gritted teeth. “They wanted more. They said they loved me, yet they hunted me.”
Like a flash flood, the color red rained from above, splattering her from head to toe. Her limbs conjoined as hunks of a wrecked car tumbled by.
“How can they love me if they want me to die? They want to see me dead. They want to see me broken and twisted. It’s not the right ending unless it’s gone all to ruin.”
All throughout this moment of fruitless searching and erupting memories, the Idea of Marilyn and the Idea of Evita could do nothing.
The Ideas of Sacrifice and Glory galloped away, hungry for more candidates. In their wake, the gust finally passed the Idea of Diana by, returning her to her black dress.
She slowly lifted her head at her two friends, weeping in silence. As she did, a new line of sunglasses and purses hemorrhaged from her eyes and shoulders.
The Idea of Marilyn nodded all four of her heads. “Why do you think it you are always brought back?”
“I…I don’t know. All I wanted was to be left alone, with my boys,” the Idea of Diana sobbed. She stopped when she realized that, too, that desire to be alone, was also just another Idea of who she was. “Why does this happen?”
The Idea of Marilyn stepped forward and took her hands. She said nothing, but pointed to the trail of commodities. The purses and sunglasses, the dresses, the jeans. The relics of Diana’s memory that outlived her. The only part of her that people could still touch, hold, pay for.
The Idea of Diana looked away from it all. “Oh,” she said.
“It does get simpler. Just look at your friend Evita. Just look at me,” the Idea of Marilyn said. “Slowly, as people forget my films and my scandals, I’ve become simpler. These days, I only ever become evoked if someone wants to make a ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ joke, or sell a t-shirt with this face on it.”
All eight eyes blinked in multiple colors. The Idea of Marilyn reached out and patted the Idea of Diana’s head. “I’m sorry, dear. But the only answer is time.”
“Hey, I know it seems like forever, because people have a long memory,” Evita said, sitting closer to the other two women. “But we have forever, too.” The three of them held hands and hugged. Until Evita pulled away, her face screwed into an offended sneer. “Hold the phone. Did you just call me simple?”
And so, the three dead, beautiful, famous blonde ideas shared a laugh. They were Tragic Ideas, but they were also Ideas of Human Beings. Almost every human could take a joke every now and again.
The three Ideas sat at the edge of oblivion, trying to think of all the things that made them unique from another. How they came from different parts of the world, how much taller Diana was than the two of them, just how bad of an actor the real Evita actually was. The Idea of Diana could have stayed there forever, feeling less real than ever before. An idea of an idea at the edge of being forgotten.
Then, without her willing, the Idea of Diana’s vision went blind. Her eyes and mouth became only light, then she beamed into the heads of a thousand people.
They were going to love her and cry for her, or they would feel awoken to some desperate call about the human condition. Either way, the Idea of Diana would be sent to them, and everyone would be entertained.
Someone was telling the story again.
Sinclair Adams has an MFA in Creative Writing at Chapman University and is an editor for LIMELIGHT Review. Her writing has been published in warning lines literary and OFIC Magazine, and she is a frequent contributor of book reviews for The Soapberry Review.