There is no one quite like Helena Hann-Basquiat.
I feel lucky to count myself among her friends.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to play with her on Facebook, you no doubt have snort-laughed at her brilliant humor.
She knows everything there is to know about music.
She’s an incredible writer.
And…she’s a man.
Earlier this year, in a move that stunned the Internet, Helena revealed herself to be a man.
Guess what? Helena is still Helena. The man behind Helena, Ken, created and to this day, maintains, an enigmatic and unique character that I personally will never stop believing in. When I message Helena, I speak to Helena. THAT’S how brilliant of a storyteller she is. (He is.)
(Now I’m confusing myself. Whatever.)
Do yourself a favor. Read her book. I don’t pimp books often. I do this because I love her writing.
She’s provided us with an excerpt from her upcoming book, Memoirs of a Dilettante, Volume Two.
Give yourself a little gift today, and read it.
Then click the link, and support her campaign via Pubslush.
With my return to Arcadia interrupted by a speeding ticket that turned into a Kafka-esque fiasco (only, you know, with less metamorphosis)…
You know, Helena, Kafka wrote other stories. In fact, he wrote a novel called The Trial, which is perhaps what you were referring to?
Yes, yes, you’re very clever, darlings, but who’s telling this story? That’s right, I am.
And now you’ve interrupted my train of thought.
Speaking of trains, I remember taking the train to Arcadia to visit my sister and the wee Countess, who would have been about three at the time, and was a right terror. Things were not going well for Cheryl and Ted, not because he was beating her, or because she was sleeping around, but because Arcadia was sucking the life out of them. Ted had been working for a company in Toronto that had been bought up by some giant American company that, despite promises to preserve jobs, decided to shut down the Canadian operation altogether, leaving about 3500 people out of a job. Ted was lucky that his particular skill set was required, and when he got an offer to relocate to upstate New York; an offer that came with a large bonus, well, how could he refuse? The bonus would be enough to move them, and put a down payment on a house in Arcadia, the small community only a thirty-minute drive from the city where he’d be working. Ted and Cheryl thought they were making the smart decision to live in Arcadia rather than the city – they could afford twice as much. A house that went for $200,000 in the city was a mere $95,000 in Arcadia, and there were houses for almost half that for sale in the small, idyllic town that reminded Cheryl of turn of the century post cards.
So they moved down to Arcadia, and I went to England, where I later found out that Cheryl was pregnant, and that my parents had moved down to Arcadia to be close to Cheryl and Ted and the newly born Penelope.
But Cheryl was not made for small town living.
“We’ve made no friends,” she cried to me on the phone one night. “And Mum and Dad are here all the time! It’s like they never moved out!”
Our parents had moved down to Arcadia – I’ve told you that much – but what I didn’t tell you was that they moved down and in with my sister and her husband. It would be nearly eighteen months of hell for Cheryl and Ted. I finally had to go down, find them a place and make them move out. Cheryl was just too… nice to be confrontational.
“I can’t get a job – not anything that would make enough money to be worthwhile – I’d have to take Penny to daycare in the city, and then we’d need another car, and… and Ted’s gone all the time, and when he’s here, we fight all the time, and Penny just… fucking cries all the time.”
I gasped. Cheryl never swore. Not if her hair was on fire.
“Oh Helena,” she sobbed, “I hate it here. I want to come home. I want subways and cafes and pubs and traffic. I want noise and industry and people, no matter how rude. I want to see unfamiliar faces. You have no idea how quickly you run out of faces here! I see the same ten people every fucking day.”
“Hey,” I laughed, “easy, sailor! Don’t hurt yourself. You gotta pace yourself with that kind of language.”
Cheryl laughed back. “I miss you, Helena.”
“Oh, you’re just sayin’ that ‘cause you’re drunk,” I teased. Cheryl wasn’t one to get drunk. “If I were there you’d be sick to death of me. Remember when I came back from England? You couldn’t wait to be rid of me.”
“Come down for a visit, will you? Please?” Cheryl pleaded.
“You don’t have to beg, Cheryl,” I laughed. “Of course I will. You, Brooke and me will go out. We’ll leave Penny with Mum, and the three of us will go into the city, and…”
“What?” I asked. Cheryl wasn’t the type to interrupt you by talking over you, but if she wanted to stop you, she’d cough.
“Brooke won’t be allowed to go,” Cheryl said awkwardly.
“Allowed?” I asked. “What do you mean allowed?”
“That bastard she’s married to – it’s like he keeps her a prisoner. Ever since the last time you were here and we went out for drinks, I haven’t seen her. I mean, I’ve seen her, but not, you know, socially.”
“I remember that night,” I said. “That guy was in there shooting his mouth off about Home Depot and shit, right?”
“That was that girl’s dad, you know,” Cheryl said solemnly. “Amy LeFevre.”
Cheryl had called me the day they found the old man at the bottom of his basement stairs to tell me all about it. At first I hadn’t even remembered Amy at all – I’d only seen her around a few times, riding her bike around town in short cut off shorts and Doc Martens, bruises all up and down her legs like leopard spots.
“I think he hits her,” Cheryl said, breaking the silence that followed Amy LeFevre’s name.
I knew immediately what was going through Cheryl’s head, because it was going through mine as well. People saw Amy LeFevre every day, covered with bruises and angry all the time, and they did nothing about it. If Cheryl thought that Brooke was getting hit by her husband and did nothing about it, she couldn’t live with herself.
“Have you tried talking to her about it?” I asked.
“I tried,” Cheryl sighed. “But she made excuses, or she was busy, and then eventually she got mad at me and told me to mind my own business. I haven’t even talked to her in months. I see her around, but she usually tries to avoid me, or just smiles and nods, you know.”
I did know. I spent most of my high school years avoiding people’s gazes or smiling and nodding. I made my own share of excuses for bruises, and cried all the time. People thought that I was crazy, or that I was upset about some boy. I sat at the back of the bus, crying into my jacket, trying not to draw attention to myself, and even succeeding once in a while. Listening to Lou Reed’s Berlin and crying to the lyrics of Caroline Says II : Caroline says, as she gets up off the floor, ‘You can hit me all that you want to but I don’t love you anymore’.  It got to the point that Helena crying was no longer a matter of interest. I kept my secrets, not knowing that I shouldn’t have had to. I was angry all the time, and I scared my teachers with the horrible stories and poems that I wrote. And all the while, what I really wanted was for someone to save me. But no one did.
I should have said more to Amy. I should have done something. Now Cheryl needed me, and Brooke might be in trouble. I had to go. I had to save someone, even if it was only myself.
And so I ended up on a train bound for Arcadia.
 I wrote this chapter shortly after Lou Reed died, and it got me thinking about when I’d first fallen in love with his music. Was it Transformer, with its David Bowie glam production, or was it Berlin? I think I flirted with Lou Reed with The Velvet Underground and Transformer, but I really fell in love with him with Berlin.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE