156. Money

Part 5 of the 'Vertigo' series. (Starts here.)

PEOPLE WERE ALWAYS ASKING Alice what she did, which was an annoyance, because she did nothing. And that was the way she liked it. That was the way it was supposed to be. She still had money in the bank, lots of money, more money than she knew what to do with. It was her parents’ money and she was spending it wisely, or at least she was trying to. She had a lawyer who advised her to do various things with her money. Five million dollars, Alice, he’d told her, sounds like a lot of money when you’re eighteen. It sounds like a lot of money at any age. But it isn’t. And being an orphan, he added, it was all that was keeping her from destitution. Use it wisely, Alice, dear, he’d said. While he talked she observed his thinning hair, trying to imagine what it would be like to lose her hair. It would, frankly, be a disaster. She was proud of her hair. It was thick, shiny and wavy, dyed the same blonde as Kim Novak’s in Vertigo. Henry’s hair, on the other hand, was thinning on top, and in patches. It was hard to imagine that he’d ever been a young man. The words young man then got her thinking about Kid Congo. Whenever she thought of Kid Congo, she shivered with pleasure. Are you paying attention, Alice?, Henry asked. She nodded, and Henry resumed talking about investments and rates of return and taxes and inflation, writing it all down on a sheet of paper. She had no idea what any of it meant. She would, frankly, rather think of Kid Congo. When he was done he wrote a number on a piece of paper and turned the paper to her and showed her the number, and told her this was the amount of money she could spend every year. He then divided it by 52 and came up with a figure she was allowed to spend every week. It was rather less than she had hoped. If you spend less than this amount of money every year, said Henry, you will never have any financial difficulties. Alice had tried very hard to stick to the figure on the piece of paper, and for a while she succeeded. For a whole summer, in fact. It was hard to spend money at the swimming pool. But soon summer waned and she could no longer spend most of the day by the pool, smoking and reading, and she realised she couldn’t spend most of the rest of her life by the pool. The realisation came as a shock. Alice was overtaken by a funk – a funk chiefly induced by people constantly asking her what she did. The only job Alice was remotely interested in wasn’t even a real job. She wanted to make films – Alfred Hitchcock films, actually. Of course, as Alfred Hitchcock was dead this wasn’t possible. No one was hiring, so to speak. Still, when people asked her the dreaded question, she began to tell them that she was a filmmaker. Technically, this was a lie, but Alice wasn’t one to get caught out by technicalities, particularly to such objectionable questions. All people really wanted to know, she would think, is how you fit in the pecking order, and Alice didn’t fit in the pecking order, and moreover she didn’t want to fit in the pecking order. So, with this mind, she considered her reply both a truth and a lie. She was not a filmmaker, not yet, not in the real world, actually, but she would be one day, without a shadow of a doubt, which meant that, in a certain sense, she already was a filmmaker. It was such an inevitability that it seemed logical, at least to her, to cut to the chase and say it as if it was already a fact. The filmmaker of the future was already within her. It was only a matter of time – and of course figuring out how to go about it. But there was no point explaining that to anyone. She had tried it once with Kid Congo and she had ended up in an argument with him – and she hated arguing with him. So now she simply told people she was a filmmaker and sometimes they would ask, pleasantly, without a hint of malice or wanting to show her up for the liar she was, What films have you made? And she would reply that she was just starting off but she had several projects in the pipeline. Which was very true, she did have several projects in the pipeline, if the pipeline in question was her head. And in a sense, her head was a pipeline, bursting with ideas. What kind of ideas?, she’d imagine someone asking her. Well, she’d reply, I want to do a remake of Vertigo. In fact, if she could she would make a remake of every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever made. She thought there would be no finer thing to do with her life than that. Not that she liked them all, of course. Some of them were no good, especially the late ones, like Frenzy. But she liked the idea, the idea of having a list of films to remake. There was no point doing one without doing them all. She held this dream within her secretly for a couple of weeks and then mentioned it to Kid Congo, who said he thought it was a dumb idea, and instantly she realised how foolish she was. He said she should go to film school, and she realised he was, once again, right. She rang the film school and the woman at the other end of the phone told her that classes were beginning the following week. Her heart lifted. Then the woman said that the deadline for applications had closed months ago, and she should consider applying for the following year. Alice’s heart sank. The thought of waiting a whole year depressed her. Then Kid Congo said, Why don’t you just go anyway? It’s not like they’re going to check your ID. Just go, learn what the others learn, and make your own films. The most important thing is money, and you’ve got plenty of that. Her heart lifted again. For the next few days she was happier than she had been since before her parents had died. She was so happy she often found herself involuntarily humming. Had she been able, she would even have allowed herself to sing. But alas, she could not carry a tune.