Caroline Tisdale

When I walked into the meeting room, I knew right away which one of the five people sitting around the table was her. We’d never met before, but I had been told by our mutual friend — the reason for my being in that glass-walled room all flustered and awkward as usual — that she was a lot to handle, and could usually only be taken in small doses. And those words of caution were coming from a man who always terrified my parents during his visits by making sure to shout FUCK and SHIT and DICKS at random intervals whenever my little brother happened to be in the same room. So, my expectations for this woman I was about to meet were pretty high. She just about met them by wearing large black sunglasses indoors, barely turning her head in my direction when I walked into the room. Her colleague presented me, announcing, “Miranda, this is your intern.”

Miranda acknowledged me only after the meeting, and she asked me a lot of questions without waiting for answers. After all, there was business to take care of — the business of breaking me down until I was reduced to a hyperventilating wreck at a tube station platform, talking with my mother on a phone that was a hundred dollars deep in roaming charges.

One time, Miranda was standing over me as I sat by a computer, researching some errands she needed to be carried out, and I coughed. She jumped back and eyed me through a lock of hair that probably took two hours and three bodies to perfect. Her: You’re not sick, are you? Me: Oh, no, I’ve just had this little cough for a few months — Her: Well I’d better stay away then I really can’t get sick I’ve got lots of important people to see and things to do …

Miranda was a photographer who sometimes made appearances on TV shows. She was asked to direct short films and commercials for her work, which featured lookalikes of the British royal family and other celebrities. I guess she liked to think that, in her case, art and life do imitate each other. She carried herself, sunglasses indoors and all, like the fetishes of popular culture around which she focused her work.

I worked for Miranda sporadically over the summer, whenever she needed me. I always had to refresh my inbox in case a frantic email came in from her personal assistant, asking if I could meet them at a shoot location later that same day. She sent me on missions spanning the city of London within impossible time constraints, made clear the importance of phoning in any updates (then refused to answer her calls), sent me to retrieve photographic prints that hadn’t yet been paid for, et cetera, et cetera. I wondered how people like her ever came to be. Miranda wore her inflated sense of self-importance like she wore those large black sunglasses — in all settings, companies and weather forecasts.

One day during my employment with her, we were driving out to the countryside near Oxford to shoot a commercial, and we were alone, and she kept asking me questions, and I was terrified. She asked me if I’d ever been to Boujis (yes, as in “bougie”), a high-end club near the South Kensington tube station where Prince Harry has been known to party. I said no, unsure if she had been spending time with the same human being I know to be myself, or if she really, to confirm my suspicions, barely noticed my existence. She told me: It’s really great fun, I should come out with her sometime and, oh, Prince Harry’s not that much older than you, now! Wink.

I looked at her sitting next to me in the driver’s seat and tried to imagine how her face, which she kept together with more eyeliner than I’ve ever dared to lay upon mine, would look under dim lights, bobbing up and down to some flashy club remix, casting her eyes across the room, trawling for faces that are usually only seen on glossy magazine covers. How would she look when she broke away from the writhing mass of bodies to go to the bathroom, look herself in the fingerprint-streaked mirror under shitty fluorescent lights? Would she sneak her reflection a cheeky grin, or would she lean in close, uncover herself, slowly bring her hands to her face and just stare at the flesh across her skull? Like the way I see my reflection when I’m drunk, and everything I know about my face seems distorted and illuminated and raw. I wondered if she would wear the sunglasses then.