“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” -Marilyn Monroe
What is that noise? I think to myself. I decide it sounds like a car alarm and then realize I’m still asleep. I awaken to discover that it is in fact a car alarm. Pulling my comforter all the way over my head, I roll over. And up. There’s an incline on my bed. I’ve piled clothes and bags and pillows on the empty half. A few nights ago, I discovered a little trick based on the supposition that it’s harder to be lonely when there’s no empty space. It worked for the first few nights, but as many Grindr users know, tricks are fleeting.
Rubbing my eyes, I reach over and dislodge my computer from the small mountain of junk beside me. I’ve received precisely three emails from The Writer and zero calls or texts since the premiere party. I secretly hoped that he might show up out of stubbornness as some valiant apologetic gesture. But wishes like that are stupid, and wanting someone to be who they are not is doubly so. Checking my email, I see I’ve received a fourth message. His emails are slightly desperate pleas of forgiveness disguised as attention: “These outline notes are great.” “We should get lunch some time.” “I started reading your script.” The one I wrote on my birthday. Truthfully, I’m dying to know what he thinks. It’s the first completed piece of mine he’s read. This morning, I decide to cut him (and myself) a break. Besides, a free meal sounds pretty nice to this unemployed homo.
We decide on a restaurant in Hollywood, down the street from his place. It’s a poorly kept secret, but it has a cozy ambiance, the food is good, and it’s kind of our special place. When I pull up, I can’t find a place to park. Annoyed, I circle the block twice before giving up and settling on a spot several blocks away. I’m running late, and normally, this would cause me to hustle. Not today. I stroll up, watching The Writer fidget with his jacket. I walk slowly, observing him. It looks like he’s examining a pocket zipper, like he’s trying to fix it. Or maybe he’s telling himself that he’s discovered some new philosophical law of zipper physics. Probably the latter.
“You haven’t done laundry in a while, huh?” I say as I approach. I can tell by the way his eyes shift that he thinks it’s an insult about the outfit. In a way, it is. “I don’t look that bad, do I?” “Let’s just say you make more interesting choices with your attire when you haven’t.” I wish I didn’t know him like this.
He gives me a shy hug, and he offers me one of the paper menus from the box outside. “I’m getting my usual,” I tell him, disregarding the menu. “K,” he musters. The way he looks at me is different.
The line to order is fairly short, but it seems like an eternity as we wait. Few words are exchanged, and a queue of every song you would never want to hear around someone you feel the way that I feel about him, comes on in succession: “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Breathe Me” by Sia, “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. By the time the cashier finally asks me for my order, I can do little more than stare at him. I wonder for a moment if someone is playing a prank. “Do you need a second?” The cashier asks uncomfortably. “Oh, uh…no. I’ll have the house panini.” The Writer pays, and we find a table.
I watch him squeeze a couple limes into his water with great precision. He waits for the last drops of juice to drip from the tip of each one. He likes bitter fruits. I don’t know why.
My eyes wander. My throat is dry. I forget about the glass of water directly in front of me. Different parts of my right leg are twitching. I break the silence: “So did you hear back about our script outline?” He takes a sip. “Yeah,” he says, and my anxiousness rises. “The guys I sent it to are in New York for two weeks, and they said they’ll look at it when they get back. “Oh,” I answer with a tinge of disappointment, “cool.” After a pause, he tells me with some deal of sincerity, “I’m really excited about this project. I think it’ll be fun to work with you.” Is this some kind of consolation? He can’t give me what I want, so here, have this with me. I question why he asked me to work on this project with him. Not his motives per se, but I am undeniably curious as to what quality he saw in me. He looks at me, and I respond with a closed-mouth smile.
“Did you find out if you’re gonna get hired on that TV show?” I ask. “Basically, he told me I would, but the network wants me to write a sample script. I’m going to wait to make sure they get another season before I star, but I’m like, ‘can’t you just read one of the movie scripts I sold?'” They’re two completely different things, but I don’t want to argue. Instead I offer my help. “Thanks, yeah, I’ll probably need some assistance.” Condescending.
“So…do you want me to give you my notes on your script?” He asks, pulling out a notebook. A server approaches with our tray, and I clear off the table. “Let’s wait until after we eat,” I suggest. We masticate in silence for a few moments. “How’s Dalton?” I ask. “He’s fine. He’s still hanging around.” “Oh, does his roommate friend still have company?” The Writer puts down his fork. “I called that guy and asked him the same thing. And you know what he said?” “What?” I ask. “He never had company in town, and he never told Dalton that he could live there with him.” What a worm. “Did you ask Dalton about it?” I take a large bite off my panini. “No. Every time I bring something up like this, we just end up fight. It’s not worth it.” What a doormat. “So what are you gonna do about it?” I ask with some food still in my mouth. He shrugs.
He’s eaten most of the chicken off his Caesar salad and summons his notebook once more. He opens his mouth to speak, but I stop him. “Before you say anything, did you think any part of the script was outright confusing?” “No,” he says assuredly. “I really liked the stakes and the momentum. The characters were fun.” He continues with increasingly generic compliments. Some of them are true but none seem honest. I’m disappointed to learn, he doesn’t have a single serious constructive criticism. Not because my script was flawless, because I know parts of it don’t work. I’d always rather know what someone doesn’t like rather than hearing what works well. His inability to be sincere with me agitates me. It surfaces in my demeanor. “And the angry chick character, she seemed to just fall off the map,” he says. “What do you mean?” I ask. “She doesn’t really do anything in the final act.” “She’s revealed as a traitor at the end,” I remind him. “I guess it wasn’t clear,” he says. Didn’t he know how important this was to me? This is all I have right now. “No, it was pretty spelled out. That was the very last scene. Big twist. Can’t really miss that. She’s the traitor, that’s how it concludes.” “I, uh, I guess I misunderstood. I was tired when I was reading toward the end.” Disrespectful.
“But what did you think overall?” I ask, waiting to get his deeper insight. “It was good,” he says. He doesn’t say it, but I can tell. He doesn’t like it. I know him. Not to say he dislikes it, but I’m devastated. I don’t know what I thought I would accomplish or resolve at this lunch. I don’t know why I thought he would take my work seriously. I guess somewhere in my imagination, I envisioned him reading my script, seeing the real me, and falling in love. Stupid.
When we go outside, he asks me what I’m doing. “Not sure,” I answer. “I think I’m going to go take a nap. I worked the past sixteen consecutive days. I need a vacation,” he tells me. I want to slap him, but I don’t care enough. I don’t know what to say next, so I just say this: “It was nice seeing you.” He doesn’t try to hug me. He just says: “You, too,” before heading to his car. I watch him walk away.
That night, I move from my cluttered bed to the couch. There’s no harsh reality on a couch; there’s no place to roll over.