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Authors: Maya Brooks

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BOOK: The Actor
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Chapter Four

 

 

Laura stuck the
key in the front door and exhaled as she stepped in.

No place like
home.

She left the
bags in the hallway, kicked her shoes off as she walked, and dropped her purse
on the floor. The sofa was as tempting as an oasis in the desert, and not until
she sunk down and relaxed did she realize how exhausted she was. It had been a
few intense days with little sleep.

She put her feet
up on the table and no longer felt the need to hold her tummy in.

“Aaah, being a
blob is good.”

Unpacking could
wait. She glanced towards the hall and could just see the suitcase. It reminded
her of
him
.

With any luck at
all, the clothes in it would still smell of him. Maybe she could open it just a
little, smell it, and re-live the enchanted weekend.

Sitting in her
own living room, surrounded by her own things, the adventure seemed like a
dream.

Her
going
to a celebrity party, ending up at a police station, and being with
him
couldn’t be real.

If the phone
is still there, it wasn’t my imagination.

The phone was
much more than a bunch of electronic circuits in a nice shell. It was a symbol,
and proof of her experiences being real.

Does he buy
phones for all girls? No, I’m probably the only one primitive enough not to
have one.

It made a sound
just as she picked it up, and the noise startled her so much she dropped it on
her lap.

Good thing it
didn’t hit the floor.

She didn’t
expect to hear from him again; she assumed he’d forget all about her the moment
she disappeared out of sight.

The display said,
“One new text message. Marc.”

It seemed too
valuable to open.

“Don’t be such a
silly goose.”

Her own voice
rang much too loud in the silent apartment. She should turn on the TV or
something.

Marc sent a
photo that made her laugh out loud. He held a cigar in his mouth and made a
goofy face. It looked like a party, and for a second she wished she was there.

Ooh, it has
text too.

“Wish you were
here. Wanna hear two short jokes and a long one?”

She wrote back,
“I miss you too. And, yes, LOL.”

“Joke. Joke. Joooookeeeee!”

That was
unexpected and made her laugh out loud for real.

The phone beeped
again.

“Gtg. Call you
l8er.”

I guess I was
wrong. This won’t be over just like that.

The thought made
unexpected warmth spread through her chest.

Marc kept his
word and called later.

At three in the
morning.

What’s that
noise? Is there a fire?

Once she
realized it had to be the phone, she fumbled with it, and when she finally
managed to answer she heard him talk to someone on the side. He sounded very
drunk.

“No, she’s cool.
No, not a model, dumbass, a real person. Yes, real… she has opinions… and
stuff…”

Oh God, this was
going to be a long night.

“Hey, what’s
up?”

“Heeey, Babe!”

She didn’t have
time to answer; he talked to someone on the side again.

“What the fuck,
leave me alone. Yes, but I’m on the fucking
phone
!”

Laura closed her
eyes and rested her head back on the pillows.

Can I hang up
and go back to sleep? No, he’ll just call again.

Marc’s voice
returned to her.

“Hang on.”

There were
voices and strange sounds, and then she heard him sit down.

“How are you
doing, Marc?”

“I’m fine.
Fine…”

She heard him
drink something and wave someone off with a “go away” before returning his
attention to the phone.

“How’re you?”

The question
sounded honest and made her smile.

“I’m good.”

“I’m at a
fucking party. It sucks.”

They talked for
a long time, until he mumbled, “I’m tired babe. Imma rest my eyes for a few.”

She glanced at
the clock on the nightstand. It was past four in the morning, and tired was exactly
what she would be when she had to get up in less than two hours. It didn’t
matter. He called, and it was worth losing some sleep. The cell phone might
give her brain cancer if she were to marathon use it like this, but she was too
sleepy to worry much.

“I don’t know
where you are, but try to get some sleep lover. And when you wake up, I think
you should go home.”

He whispered,
“But my family’s home.”

That had to be
the most heartbreaking comment she ever heard.

Oh God, what
am I going to do with him?

When he hung up,
she stared into the darkness for a long time before closing her eyes.

The phone rang
again just after nine in the morning.

Marc said, “Hey
Babe, wha’cha doing?”

Shouldn’t you
be passed out, sleeping last night off?

“I’m at work.
How about you?”

“I’m at work
too. I’m going to be a brain surgeon today. Do you think it would look more
convincing with or without glasses?”

 

*****

 

During the first
week or so Laura worried about using the phone for other things.

She really liked
it, and didn’t want to lose it by giving him a huge bill, or using up all his
minutes, or however it might work.

As days passed,
she realized he wouldn’t notice if she called Australia for a day or so.

Marc called her
drunk and sober, texted her from meetings and sets, and sometimes held a
whispering conversation confessing his wife was in the next room. As eager as
she was for his calls, he exhausted her too.

How can any
one person have this much energy? It’s not normal.

It wasn’t normal,
and it made a knot of worry churn in her stomach.

There’s
nothing you can do about it so just let it go.

Swallowing the
concern didn’t work well. Somewhere along the way idol worship turned into
caring, and she couldn’t turn it off.

Some afternoons
they played board games online. Other times, he called to ask the name of the
largest river in Russia, or the derivative of e
x
. It was tempting to
tease him and tell him to use Google himself, but she never did. She humored
him, found any answers she didn’t already know, and pretended she really was
that smart.

Why does he
covet my attention? Shouldn’t he get enough admiration from fans and media?

One night when
he seemed drunk enough not to get mad, she asked. Marc laughed.

“Attention, yes,
I could drown in it. Intelligent answers, no.”

It made sense,
sort of. Many of the girls she met on the convention were more than willing to
take their clothes off or agree to the world being flat if a celebrity wanted
them to. She was her own person, not just a mirror of him.

It didn’t matter
either way. She was happy to talk to him, and preferred not to analyze the
reasons
she
let it go on.

One evening he
called with his usual, “Hey babe, wha’cha doin’?”

“I’m watching
TV, hoping you’d call.”

He laughed, “I
hope you’re not watching anything I’m in.”

Of course
not. Perish the thought.

“It seems pretty
quiet around you today.”

“Yeah, it is.
It’s just you, me, and a bottle of scotch tonight.”

She pulled her
legs up in the sofa and teased, “What, not even a girl?”

“Not tonight, I
can’t take the drama.”

The previous
night she hadn’t known whether to laugh or cry. He called from a hotel room
somewhere, and it took her about half a minute to figure out he just rolled off
some woman and left her in bed.

A female voice
whined, “What are you
doing?
” and she heard Marc’s answer even though he
covered the microphone, “Hey, I’m on the phone.”

“What, with
another girl? Don’t tell me you’re calling your wife?”

Marc taunted
her, “Naah, I’m calling my girlfriend.”

Laura grimaced
as she heard the woman slap him.

“Your
girlfriend
?
So why don’t you bang her? How could you possibly think you’re man enough for
three women?”

He sounded quite
amiable when he replied, “I don’t. I don’t think either of you are happy.”

She heard the
woman slap him again and yell something unintelligible, and he grumbled, “Oh
for Christ’s sake.”

It took only a
little imagination to see him carry the angry woman over his shoulder into the
corridor, dumping her outside the door with a pile of clothes.

Of course he had
other women, probably at least one new every night, but as long as she didn’t
have to
hear
it, she could at least pretend he was hers.

He called me
girlfriend.

The word warmed
her heart in the midst of all misery.

His voice shook
her out of the memories.

“Where did you
go, sweetheart?”

“I’m here. I was
just thinking about something…”

“Wanna play
chess?”

As much as she
tried to sound merry and cute, she couldn’t hide an edge to the words.

“I don’t know.
Last time you cheated and moved your pieces backwards.”

He seemed to
find that very funny.

“Well, I was
probably losing.”

They played a
few moves, but she couldn’t keep her mind on the game.

“So, where are
you tonight?”

She could almost
hear him shrug.

“Hotel room.
Boston. You should come up here.”

I wish I
could. That would be so awesome.

The thought of
seeing his face and feeling his touch made her giddy.

“That would be
great, but I have to work.”

“I don’t.
They’re writing me out of the show.”

There wasn’t
much emotion in his voice, but she exclaimed a heartfelt, “Oh no.”

“It’s probably
for the best.”

He fell silent,
and when he spoke again, he sounded unusually serious. “I don’t know who I am
anymore. There are all these people I’ve played, hundreds of people I’ve
played, and sometimes I think there’s nothing left of
me
.”

What could one
possibly answer to a thing like that?

“Lover…”

She trailed off.
Her words were insufficient.

She saw him move
his piece on the computer screen.

“Aren’t you
gonna tell me I’m crazy?”

Laura shook her
head and realized he couldn’t see it.

“I don’t think
you’re crazy. If you really feel that way maybe you should talk to someone
about it, but it doesn’t make you crazy.”

“I
am
talking to someone about it, I’m talking to you.”

He didn’t sound
irritated. Maybe it was okay to push the subject just a little further.

“Well, yes, but
I don’t have anything clever to say about it. I mean, some people are
professional… problem… solvers…”

Marc laughed.

“Babe, I have a
drug problem, I have a drinking problem, and I have a family problem, meaning
they hate me. I don’t think a psychiatrist can solve either. Hey, your queen is
toast.”

 

*****

 

What would it be
like to feel one’s personality slip away in layers of imaginary people?

The glimpses of
real Marc were few. Whenever there were other people around, he put up an
artificially merry façade, but now she saw the cracks in it.

It would be so
much easier if they could meet, but she couldn’t afford to be away from work.

Don’t meddle
in other people’s lives. He’s married, and sorting this out isn’t your place.

Was that just an
excuse?

Should she try
to interfere?

Maybe she was
the only one who
could
help him?

Her thoughts spun
around and around, keeping sleep efficiently locked away. She needed to stop
worrying, but couldn’t.

Real life is
slipping away for me too. I guess it wasn’t all that important anyway.

Marc called late
one night.

“You know what
Jim Morrison said?”

There were
sounds of a party in the background. Trying to figure out the origin of the
question was futile.

“The road of
excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

Marc laughed,
but didn’t sound particularly happy.

“See, that’s one
of the things I like about you. You know… stuff… I think he might have been
wrong though.”

Someone yelled
for him in the background.

“Marc, what the
fuck are you doing with that phone? Get over here.”

“I’m talking to
a girl!”

“There are lots
of girls
here
. Come on.”

She couldn’t
help but smile, even though it wasn’t all that funny. He sounded tired when he
said, “Yeah, yeah,” and muttered, “Crazy bastards.”

“Marc…”

“I gotta go.”

“Marc, you know
Jim Morrison died, right?”

It was too late.
The line was dead and no one listened. She got out of bed and paced the little
apartment. A cup of tea did nothing to soothe her. During the past few months
this distant and unpredictable man had turned into her best friend, and he was
the only person she knew who never blamed her for being herself.

A DVD cover with
his face lay on the sofa table, and she crossed her arms and frowned.

“I love you.
That’s not a good thing.”

Dammed up
frustration made her grab a vase and hurl it against the wall, and she spent
the rest of the night cleaning up tiny green shards that seemed eerily
symbolic.

 

*****

 

Many miles away,
Marc scared himself too.

One afternoon
not long after the Morrison discussion, he opened his eyes and looked up at an
unknown ceiling. It didn’t want to come into focus and he blinked and squinted.

BOOK: The Actor
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