By The Time You Read This
November 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
He says what they all say, “either you’re the greatest actress or…” Or this is who you are, this is real, how I feel with you is real. Though you’d think it would mean something different coming from him.
“I can’t work with an actress unless I’m attracted to her,” he said, and I lost some respect for him. I think I was limiting his attraction to physical and predictable, like all the times he’s called me beautiful when my breasts look too heavy and my face is smeared with something strange, mean nothing. He told me thought he’d only do “this” once or twice, to “get it out” of his system.
“I didn’t expect to like you so much,” he said, and we grinned goofily across the table at one another. He’s my favorite. I don’t know what else to say. Once I came upstairs and he’d put on Radiohead, and it blindsided me. I tried to explain why it’s intense for me to listen to their music because I couldn’t act normally enough to not have to explain, about following them on tour and crying when I accidentally brushed against Thom on my way to use the bathroom in a vegetarian restaurant in Dublin. I cried because I worried it upset him.
“Well, I’d better put on something else,” he said, of the music.
He started in about writing a screenplay again and I couldn’t hear it. “What’s the point?” I demanded. He said something about challenging misconceptions and showing people what it’s actually like and I said that people don’t want to know, there’s plenty attesting to that already but they’re happier with their ignorant meanness and small, nasty fantasies. That one movie wouldn’t change anything, that people would say I was a fluke and a freak and glamorizing it. That I didn’t know how to make a good movie about this topic, how it’d never been done, how impossible it would be to avoid sermonizing if I were doing it for the message. He said there were devices to avoid that and I knew he was right but it seemed hopeless, and every piece of media and art seemed trivial and useless to me then. I kept pressing him on the point.
“Because it’s fun,” he said, most convincingly yet. “Making a movie is fun.”
I stayed quiet because I was becoming strongly angry, teenage angry, even, like I’d been personally slighted. It was almost out of my control when I blurted, “It doesn’t interest me.”
“What doesn’t?” He said, and that made me angry too, because I thought he should have been there with me, thinking like I was thinking.
“Rehashing my life. Telling ‘my story.’ I would have to talk about how I got started and…. It doesn’t interest me at all. I can’t think of anything more boring.” I could barely speak for all the anger gathering. Sick of the suggestion that I should purposefully spread out my tired history, which I know so well, for palatable consumption and probably sick too of knowing it all the time, the way everyone knows their own history in every waking moment, like a scent you think you’ve gotten used to just before you catch a whiff of it again.
I wanted to be an actress once, when I was in college. I am an actress now.
A week later, in an email, I admitted I had one story that I thought would make a good screenplay but I wouldn’t be able to deliver an ending because I didn’t have enough distance. I didn’t say I would give the story to him but he replied that he was looking forward to hearing it, and he will. He told me something his wife had done that changed how he felt about her, and now hearing it has changed me and how I feel about everyone. I haven’t repeated it to anyone, though it’s not for lack of wanting. After dinner he started a fire and I lay against him.
“You made a fire,” I said. “That’s so manly. And you cook. You play the piano.”
“I’m good at husband stuff,” he said. “Except for this.”
I assume one day he’ll read what I’ve written here and that sometime before or shortly after we’ll be entirely out of each other’s lives.
On a plane I sat next to a woman who told me her mother had just died. She apologized for ruining my flight and got drunk while she asked if I were religious, and made me take a black rosary her mother brought back from Italy. We laughed not infrequently. I fed her my chocolate. She asked at least 5 times how her hair looked, if she should wear it up or down. She clutched me in grief, sobbing into my shoulder after I took hold of her hand. “You’re so beautiful,” she told me when she pulled away. “You’re special, I can tell. Oh, look at your teeth.” In a way, it took a lot for me to take her hand and yet in another way there is nothing more natural in the world for me than to physically comfort a stranger.
You are a deck of cards. Someone pulls a card. Someone else pulls another. “Oh you’re the jack of spades,” he says. “Oh you’re the five of diamonds.” Pull and show: the three of hearts, the ten of clubs, the joker. Yes. Yes I am the five of diamonds, I am the ace of clubs, I am the queen of hearts, I am, I am, I am.