Adjunto el trabajo de ficción que publicó Esquire luego de su muerte recreando sus últimos días.
The Last Days of Heath Ledger
To write a conceivable chronicle of Heath Ledger’s final days, writer Lisa Taddeo did exhaustive research, then filled in the rest with her imagination.
It becomes theatrically important, after you die, what your last few days are like.
For me, it was just like any other weekend in my life. I didn’t eat a last meal, I didn’t jerk off any more or any less, I didn’t climb a mountain or end up swinging from a noose with Mozart’s Requiem in the background. But suddenly it’s important exactly what I did, because they are the last few days, and what you do in the last few days, down to your last lunch, becomes a fairy tale.
If you force me to make my last weekend a microcosm of my existence, and what my existence means to you, then I’ll tell you how it went and who I played. But first things first: It was an accident. I’m not some fucked-up star who couldn’t deal. I could deal; I just couldn’t sleep.
You don’t say no to Jack.
It’s the last Saturday night of my life. I’m in London and we’ve just finished a shoot on my last movie, Parnassus. It’s a movie you will likely never see. I got to play a charlatan who fools this theater troupe and steals all their costumes. Every day I was in a different costume, every day a different person.
So we’re done. It’s late, I’m tired, and it’s fucking cold here in this sneezing bitch of a city. I want to drink something warm. I want to lie down, maybe take a bath. But Jack’s beckoned.
Msg: joker1 to joker2. you’re in london, i’m in london. meet me at pasha for a late night tagine. 30 min. you’re buying.
So it’s back out into the pissing rain. Race to the Tube, through Palace Gate, pass the janky-toothed, flat-faced Brit chicks at the bar. Goose-step down the stairs into the subterranean Moroccan den.
He’s sitting there with a purple scarf wrapped around his neck, holding his decapitated head in place atop his clavicle, and he’s got a bottle of wine going plus two tumblers of vodka.
You’re five minutes late, he says. That Marlboro-fucked voice and that unsmiling smile. They’re even scarier in real life.
He shoves both tumblers in front of me. Jack likes to get sauced quick, or get you sauced, and then show you he’s a bigger man by walking you out of the place. It’s how he stays young.
They have these belly dancers, Jack says. There’s one I’m in love with. Her name is Sueño. She says we were lovers in another life. Her name means “dream.” I believe her.
You believe in reincarnation?
Fuck no. I meant about her name. I think I’ll let her take me home tonight.
I look around, making eye contact with one of the belly girls and giving her the soul-eye business. Which one is she? I say. I’m taunting Jack. He’s got his art, his lavish fucking career he likes to lord over me to prove something. But I’ve got this face. I’ve got an unlined neck.
The waiter arrives and Jack’s pulley eyebrows order for the both of us — some vegetarian nonsense for me, the lamb tagine for him. If I’d known it was the last Saturday of my life, I wouldn’t have let this cadaverous lunatic order for me. Funny, you don’t regret the big things but rather the picayune bullshit. Lamb over carrots. For fuck’s sake.
Jack starts telling me about the girl he picked up yesterday at Piccadilly. He says she barked like a puppy while he did her, I’m feigning young-boy adulation, like, Wow, Jack the Wolfman. Then he says, Listen kid, I asked you out here for a reason.
Yeah, what’s that?
The food’s come and Jack’s sucking on a lamb bone like it’s pussy meat — because Jack is always proving something, like, You played a gay cowboy, hooray, but I’m J.J. Gittes, I’m Jimmy Hoffa, I’m the devil. I’m the motherfuckin’ Joker. I want to warn you about some shit.
The caesuras in his speech are maddening, like he’s about to deliver the Newest Testament and he’s waiting for you to carve every last one of his words into stone. I nod at him like, Keep talking.
Your art, kid.
What about it?
I think you’re letting it lead you by the balls.
Don’t get all bent outta shape. I’m just sayin’, you’re at a crucial point now.
How’s that? I ask.
See, that’s the thing about Jack, you don’t want to fucking listen, you’re annoyed by the way he delivers his agonizingly self-masturbatory Chekhov-in-Jerry-Garcia-suspenders diatribe, but when Jack gets to the point, the point is brave.
And here’s the point: I heard you kept that gay little journal for the Joker, and in this latest one you finished shooting, Gilliam told me you were talking all the usual overanxious peripatetic bullshit, like, I wanna direct, I wanna make art, not just be art. Blah, blah, blah. Forget it, kid. Jack flicks his paw in the air like he’s dismissing the world.
A waiter in Moroccan garb jumps back like he’s been slapped.
Jack puts down his glass, drops a clean lamb bone onto his plate. Tink. Jack cleans his plate.Always proving it. All night.
What I mean is, live your goddamn life. Fall in love again. Hell, fall in love five more times and fuck a coliseum of college chicks in between. Don’t be so goddamn concerned with how you’re gonna be remembered. All work and no play and all that garbage.
At that, he grabs the wine bottle like a king. I swear, there was something of royalty to him, his purple scarf, his leaning back in that velvet Moroccan settee and spreading his legs like he’s got seven cocks that need room to breathe. The bottle might be mead, and here is King Arthur, laying down for me the riches of his experience. He empties the bottle and belches like a pirate. The smell of lusty lamb rushes back at me in a colorful wave.
Just then, like magic, the music gets louder, the sitar in the speakers clangs like a thousand BB pellets against hammered copper, and a six-foot Indian-haired goddess emerges from the kitchen. She has a terra-cotta stomach sunstroked with henna. She’s wearing a bustier with tassels springing from its nipples like tit whiskers. She gyrates over to the table. She holds her hand out and beckons Jack with her long witchy finger. Jack the king. Jack the Joker. Jack with lamb grease wetting the regal belly of his shirt. She grabs him by the scarf and pulls him like a mutt toward the kitchen.
He turns back to me with that demented smile that was never an act. Kid, he says, forget what the world wants from you. Go live out your own fucking sueño.
Even My Mask Gets Laid
Let me tell you something: It gets old.
This night is the apotheosis.
I get back to Manhattan in the afternoon, on an early flight from London. I want to go out. Find some of the sueño Jack was talking about. I put on my True Religion jeans that I hate myself for owning (my stylist says they make my ass look great), a hooded sweatshirt, and a ski mask.
That’s right, a ski mask. That’s one of the details the Daily News will agonize over in a few days. Think of it what you will, but know this: That’s the kind of shit you can get away with when you’re a celebrity. You can go out there in a fucking ski mask and you can still get laid. They will know your eyes from a mile off. They will smell your fame no matter how much you try to scrub it off.
The Beatrice is full of the usual: the rows of skinny girls with their knobby knees and their black-hole eyes, their whale handbags and their vole hearts. I can have any one of them I want. I can pick out the sexiest and most well-dressed one here. A thirty-something second wife dripping in diamonds like a $20,000 waterfall. Or I can pluck a young college girl in jeans and cowboy boots who says she wants to make love to my accent. I can fill some space, forget about my girls for a night.
Across the bar, sitting all alone, this one stands out. She’s Thai or Malaysian or something; she’s got skin like the crayon color burnt sienna. She’s wearing an actual fur sweater, some kind of snow leopard. I’ll find out later that her father skinned the beast for her in the Himalayas. This is a lie, but then everything about this scene is. The only real crime is pretending you’re above it once you’re there.
When you’re a celebrity, when you’re a young, good-looking celebrity with a sweet, puckish smile and an accent that makes women’s knees buckle like they’ve been gassed, this is how you pick up a girl at a bar:
Hi, I say.
Hi, she says, smiling. Looking into the holes in my mask.
I saw you from across the room, and I kinda thought I might be in love with you tonight.
Just tonight? she says.
I have a very stringent callback policy.
Oh yeah? She swivels on her barstool to face me. She has no idea what stringent means. She’s wearing a short black skirt. She uncrosses her legs, leaves them parted just an inch and a half. Like Goldilocks, she knows precisely the distance, what is too much, what is not enough, what is just right.
Oh yeah, I say. I hold my hand out to her. I smile behind the fabric. Let me buy you a drink back at my place.
She takes my hand, says she’d love one. Listener, you have to understand this: I am wearing a ski mask.
My apartment on Broome Street is a big box, an empty theater — $23,000 a month for high ceilings, blond dance-studio floors, and large white walls. No furniture, just some skateboards and a piano. An unsheeted mattress on my bedroom floor.
I don’t have any wine, so I pour us sangria, the cheap kind that was around in the seventies. Two (warm) glasses and one faucet leak of a conversation later, H. is seated at my piano bench, naked but for green heels, her hair up, her eyes closed. She plays me “Für Elise” because I tell her it is one of my mother’s favorites, though this, too, is a lie. I stand with my third glass, watching her, and she is playing with such gusto that her chin and neck are slamming ferociously downward against the air with each hard note, and I can see behind her smoky lids that she is forcing this scene. She is more interested in drawing up the story she will tell later than she is in living in this moment with me.
I think about the show she is putting on, and I get so worked up that when we finally get to bed, I can’t get it up.
That’s okay, she coos in my ear. That’s okay. We have our whole future for that. Just hold me.
This girl in my bed, her body is dynamite, a buttermilk ass that would win an award and a back that arches sweetly against my waist and a torso like a rocking horse. It is a body meant to be fucked, but she doesn’t even care that I can’t, and wouldn’t at this point even if I could. She is not in bed with my soul, she is not even in bed with my body.
She’s in bed with my ski mask.
I wake up early. I get maybe two hours of sleep, at best. I detentacle H.’s long, thin arm — slung possessively across my shoulders — and get out of bed in this naked body, and I am aware of the very physicalness of myself. I look in the mirror, and this is one of those lucky times when I don’t see the movie-screen face or the love-scene body, just the grease on my face, my not-great hair, a body that is in good form, a body for sex and for running, but just as much for one as for the other.
I’m out the door before she can wake up, because there’s nothing worse than seeing the splatter tattoo of mascara on the dirty-looking face of an overnight stranger. I leave a note: Lock the door on your way out. Leave your number inside the web of the dream catcher over the toilet.
There is no dream catcher over the toilet.
I walk to Mulberry. I get the steak and eggs and a coffee for breakfast at the only place in Little Italy that’s open early enough for me. I’m catching up on my e-mails. There’s one from Michelle, with an attachment. It’s Matilda in a little Swedish milkmaid outfit. I sit there for a while trying to think of the right thing to respond.
On Prince there is a beetle-faced Asian woman half my length with a little stand of children’s T-shirts. There is a white one, Matilda-sized, that reads, “Somebody in New York Loves Me.” I think, This is appropriate, because after all she isn’t in New York, she’s in Sweden with her mother, and wouldn’t it be cool if I FedEx’ed it over? (Ignoble intentions: It wouldn’t be for Matilda but for her mother.)
Just as I’m handing over a twenty, Mary-Kate calls. Her voice is a whine, and in my head I can see her big googly eyes on that drawn child-star face. She’s asking about some party, will I be there, in Los Angeles. She’s saying I have to be there. It’ll be the party of the season. Like we are in period costumes, I am Casanova again, and she is my fetal companion.
Like all of us, I’ve gone through phases. I’ve been a young itch, I’ve suffocated on snatch just to see how much I could get. Then Brokeback, I fell into Michelle. I saw morning coffee in her eyes, this stable Formica future with sweet-hot sex and great lighting. And it was wonderful for a while. I used to say it was like we melted into each other’s skin, like she was pouring her body inside of mine and I would hold her inside of me, so that when we wanted to make love all I had to do was wiggle my waist.
But the itch came back — I guess it always does. And Mary-Kate is not what you think. She comes off like a straw, something hollow that things pass through. But it’s more an inner strength than a vapid soul. She once told me, Growing up as one half of something made me feel I had to overcompensate to be worth a whole. Then I realized it was the greatest foil. I have a built-in hiding place everywhere I go.
She’s the only person in the last month who has seen me cry. She’s kindred, in that she’s got these issues she won’t talk about that make her so damn sexy. And shenever cries. Really. I’ve seen real fucked-up shit happen to her, and she just regards the situation like it’s a cold stone and no blood should come from it. Nothing visibly flickers in those planet-sized eyes, but later she’ll go home, mix herself a vicious Bloody Mary and construct this freaked-out Hockney-cum-Glatman pop art. A quad ofHannah Montana, scared and swollen-eyed, her helpless hands dahlia-red and tied up in a cat’s cradle.
I tell her, You’re talented. Let them see your real face.
I tell her now, on the phone, I’m sorry, I just can’t make it.
My official last meal is a banana-nut muffin. It’s not even a particularly fresh one. Some advice: Look at your next muffin. Really fucking look at it. Imagine that muffin is the last bit of food you will ever stick in your mouth. If I could do it over again, I’d make sure everything I ate was an endangered animal’s heart on toast with foie-gras crumbles and black-truffle shavings. I mean,fuck. A goddamn muffin.
I’m sitting here at the Mirö Cafe, and I’ve got a pen in hand and the New York Times Monday crossword. I’ve heard guys with Woody Allen glasses say that Monday’s crossword is cake. Bullshit. Maybe it’s because I’m not American, or maybe I’m not smart enough, but Monday is fucking impossible. I hate Mondays.
So I sit there with the pen, it’s a Universal Studios pen, and instead of the right answers I just write each letter of my daughter’s name in every box. Here it’s a Matil. There a MatildaMat. Then just a tilda.
Soon the whole box is consumed with the letters of her name, and it’s an artwork unto itself. I stare at it for a long while, until finally I see I’ve got all the right answers after all.
Rain Man Cometh
I wake up to noises in my speakers. I have Nick Drake in my CD player; he must have been in there on a loop from last night.
But something happens on the way to eternal sleep. It’s not Drake’s music but his dead-man voice that comes out at me from the floor. Disembodied. Eerie, sure, but I am half asleep, and after all, I am the Joker. I’m the gay cowboy. The knight in shining armor. The high school outcast who gets the girl. I’m fucking Bob Dylan.
Drake says: I am a mourning man, too.
I’m confused by this, but I am also somewhat comforted. Because in Nick’s music, I always heard the words and the melody of a fellow sleepless soul. Did you know I made a short film about his suicide? (Pills.) I’m sure E! will beat you over the head with it. The symbolism. The parallels. The DNA string of our matching pain, lyric by movie by lyric.
Listen up, he whispers. It’s a dark, low whisper. It fills the room to overstuffed:
After I died, people dissected me. They put words in my mouth: This is how he felt when he wrote this, this is what he thought of me, this is why he did it. Fuck them. But also bless them. They made me famous. Immortal. Suddenly, my songs, which once were strange and ill-conceived, now were fat with meaning. When you die, you become a Virgin Mary, an untouchable exalted thing with a golden breast and a mink brow. You lose yourself, and they win you. You have no voice, and so a million people breathe and talk for you. Your art is their art. Your casket is their temple, your last words are their next ten commandments.
Remember this, he continues: When you get here, say you are Old Man River; tell them it was the River Man who sent you.
I smile. “River Man” is the title of one of my favorite songs. “Old Man River” are the words that Michelle wrote on my arm a few years back, which I later tattooed in place. They are the last words I will hear.
And that’s it, it goes back to his music, haunting as a dark forest.
And I understand it. Just like that, I get it.
The Final Curtain
So here it is, my last act. I’m taking it back. I’m writing it so you won’t.
For those of you who will try to define part of my life by my death: Don’t. I wasn’t exactly fucked-up. I made movies, child ones, real ones. But I was playing. I was good at my job. I was not a knight. I was not a supervillain. I was not a harlequin. I was not the greatest lover in the world. I was a confused celebrity with a nice smile, a few good roles in my pocket, and no fucking clue what to do next.
And for those of you who will concoct stories about me: The waiter who served me breakfast on Friday, when, fuck, I was in London. The girl who tongue-kissed me by the light of Marquee on Monday, when I was alone in my room clipping my beastly toenails. Did you own me already? People saw me in places I wasn’t, heard me say things I didn’t.
You see, you never really saw me. You saw me in the dark, flickering onto a screen, you saw me while you stuffed your grease-licked mouth with popcorn, while you paused the DVD player to go have a piss, while your sexless wife asked you to turn that fucking thing off, while your busted lawn sprinkler of a husband told you, If Heath Ledger is so fucking great, why don’t you go fuck him and ask him to pay the tuition for our moron son at Penn State.
Me, Nick, Mary-Kate, Jack. We’re all ghosts. We begged you to love us, we just didn’t expect it would go this far. We didn’t expect you to sell a drop of our sweat on eBay or build a shrine to our testicles in what was once your child’s playroom. Like all of us, we misjudged the weight of our desire. We undermined the consequences.
What I’d ask of you, out of respect, not for me — I’m deaf and blind to it now — but for the living I left, is to leave it alone. Don’t investigate my last few days, because these could be your last few days. Play your own part.
And don’t tell me what I did. I didn’t play the piano or fuck Lindsay Lohan or fill my goody bag to the brim at the Venice Film Festival. In fact, I’m not really sure I did too much that you personally should remember, beyond make a beautiful little girl, the one thing every guy wants to be able to say he did.
So that’s it, my final unedited shot: Matilda. She is what lives on. The rest is just bullshit.
Suddenly there’s a scratching, like we’re listening to a record, and the music drops off. It’s just like that. I don’t know how it will be for you, but for me, you wake up one more time and everything is really bright, like a flashbulb. Everything is clear as vodka. And then you go back to sleep again. One last punch-drunk opening of the eyes is what you get, and guess what — it’s enough.
So hey, buddy, why so serious? Chin up. It’s all part of the plan.