Midnight in Los Angeles, the press and paparazzi crush against the high fence outside the county women’s correctional facility. Word had gone out only an hour or so before, confirmation of rumors swirling the past day. Anticipation is high. A week’s incarceration, with little news, and now this, hushed, in the middle of the night — that was the plan. So much for the plan. The doors open, the usual chaos ensues. Everyone rushes forward. Flashbulbs bathe the scene.
She emerges slight, deer-like: short blonde hair, white jacket, pants, and sandals. Only the most basic makeup. She walks the gauntlet almost shy, almost embarrassed, amid the cameras flashing and the crowd calling out her name, just a few yards to the waiting SUV, into the arms of her mother and father, but still the distance seems insurmountable. And yet as she is about to step into the vehicle, only then does she gaze up — you’ve seen the image, the pure sight of her face almost frozen in time. And in that moment, you realize, for the first time, how pretty she is.
You remember this image. More than anything you’ll recall about the incidents that led to this moment, or the manipulatively surreal public persona, fiancés and lovers, commercials and red carpets, globe-hopping birthday parties, and constant tabloid stories. The television shows. The sex tape. Washed clean in an instant like the paint makeup she wore like a mask. Nothing will eclipse this image of her in your mind, the one time that she seemed to be real.
And like that it was over. For you, for the crowd, for the cameras, it all happened in an instant. For her, it was an eternity. But what you don’t recall, what you never knew, is what happened next: The black Escalade losing the press and paparazzi somewhere on the Hollywood Freeway, the quick, purposeful drive culminating alongside a private jet waiting on the tarmac of the Burbank Airport. For just a moment, her parents embrace her, then a large bodyguard guides her up the stairs of the plane. From a window, she sees her father handing an envelope to a thin man in a plain blue suit.
As the jet soars over the Pacific, she leans back in her seat and watches her America grow faint in the distance. Ever slowly, she drifts into a long, peaceful sleep.