They say everything comes in threes. I’ve had trouble believing that ever since I was old enough to accurately count my balls.
But, I digress. Yesterday, out of the many conversations I had, three stand out. And I don’t mean exceptionally. I’m talking more the ‘Why do people continually talk to me?’ manner.
The first conversation began innocently enough. A guy comes into work with a look that was a cross between fright and revulsion. It’s an expression I know well. I’ve been on the receiving end of it since I uttered my first words,
“Don’t tell me I’m related to you people?”
Yeah, I was a precocious little fifteen year old.
But this guys expression held a little more fear than revulsion. He was looking me over as if I were a piece of modern art not only incomprehensible (‘Is that a statement of dissociation between people and the solipsistic meaning of life?’ ‘No. That’s a plate of pasta. The art’s over there. I think.’) but smelly.
The weird part is this isn’t the first time he’s seen me. Maybe it’s the first time he’s seen me clearly. You can never be sure the way optometry is these days.
“Hi.” He says with a catch in his voice. I greet him in the manner I always have (pretend caring with a hint of garlic – I just had lunch). He steps back slightly while looking me over. I begin the transaction while he continues to watch me. Carefully. Very carefully. As if he’s just seen a ‘Capote/Brokeback Mountain’ double feature and he’s contemplating some type of new home on the literary range.
Just as I’m completing the transaction he tells me that, in his cab, there’s a picture a guy who’s been robbing cabs in the area.
“And he looks just like you.”
I slide his receipt towards him and look him in the eyes.
“Huh.” I say hoping that makes him feel more comfortable. Or leave. Yeah, I’m going to have to go with leave. But, he doesn’t. He keeps comparing me with the mug shot seared into his head.
“Ha ha,” he begins that nervous laugh of people who have to ask a dreaded question. “It’s, ah, not you, is it?”
I smile and laugh. “Not that I’m aware of.”
He smiles, a little more pinched than he’d hoped for, and laughs, a little louder and staccato than he’d planned.
“But I do walk in my sleep.”
He continues to laugh as he exits the building. I watch him hurry towards his car. He’s on the phone before getting there. I smile and walk back to the desk thinking that if there’s a reward he’d better split it with me.
A few minutes later the phone rang and, I know how hard it’ll be for you to believe, I actually helped a guy. In a helpful manner. With a crisp, informative tone. I guess I wanted someone to tell the news I seemed like a nice guy after the cops arrest me for the string of cab robberies.
After imparting all the information this man required, he seemed very happy with not only my service, but the price.
“That’s a very reasonable price.” He says pausing slightly. “There has to be a catch. What’s the catch?”
Damn, even when I’m as helpful as I’m ever going to be someone questions my motives. I’m going to go back to my normal mode of service: The Lord helps those who shop elsewhere.
“Well,” I begin to flip through all of the catches inherent in doing business with us. “You do have to deal with me.”
The gentleman laughed and said that didn’t seem like such a problem. And I guess he’s right. If he’s not a cabbie.
My last conversation of the day was with a man who fancies himself a producer. I’m not saying he isn’t a producer (in case he reads this) but I’m saying he fancies himself because of the fancy steps he took during our meeting. I’ve always called it the ‘You’re brilliant, I love it’ tango ending with ‘A monkey could write that’ salsa. Try the dip, it’s a killer.
We talk about some scripts and the pilot I’m sort of working on (I’m half way done with the second of three planned spec scripts. I’d have finished months ago but I’ve been busy. And by busy I mean no one’s offered to pay me to finish it so I keep going where the cash is). He likes the concept, knows people in TV, and says he’d like to see it. It’s not money but it’s as close as you can get and still be broke. At least it’s a little motivation.
And then the dipping begins. When he got in touch with me (after reading a bunch of my crap) he said he was interested in, mainly, my style of comedy writing. It’s a good thing I have one of those then, I tell him. But he’s too wrapped up in his own pitch to listen to my stylish bon mots.
Oh oh. He’s one of those producers. One with his own ideas. And, dip, two three.
It turns out his idea of comedy has a lot of drama in it. I’m not complaining. I often find humor in the most dramatic moments. But I did begin to wonder when it became clear his type of comedy filled drama had much less funny and much more grit.
Stovepipe up the poop shoot grit.
I’m listening to his vision. To say it sat at the bloodier end of the ‘Hostel Meets Saw’ lathe would be an understatement. But, again, work’s work and I’m sure as hell not cowered by a little gore. I’ve written scenes so creepy friends couldn’t talk to me for weeks. Which caused me to write more of them which allowed me a few peaceful months.
It was when the guy started going into these permeation’s of brutality, opprobrium, and sexual abuse that I, okay, laughed. I admit it. I laughed and boy, he didn’t like that. He’s staring at me as if he’s actually capable of his fantasies. I stare back until he realizes I am capable of putting his dreams into action. I think it’s the laugh that’s most off-putting. But that’s not why I was laughing. I thought the level of his beatings were clownish. And the sexual abuse was the kind of thing even the most hardened predator would find hard to swallow.
I thanked the man for his time but told him I could not do justice to the visions that bounced around his padded cellular membrane. I don’t know if he thought falling back into sucking up would change my mind but it didn’t. I stood and offered him my hand. I could tell he was searching for something, anything that would capture my attention about this project. While standing he grasps his last straw.
“Don’t you even want to know the title?”
Not really, I think. But I also know if I tell him I’m interested in nothing else while walking him to the door he won’t even hear the deadbolt slide shut.
“Sure,” I say as I get to the office door placing my hand gently, yet firmly, on his back. “What’s the name of this project? I’ll make sure to look for it.”
The guy turns. My hand slides off his back. He steps one foot out the door. I move my foot towards the one remaining in the building. With a gentle nudge both feet are now securely out of my office. He looks up at me and smiles the smile of someone who knows they have had a stroke of brilliance.
“Touched By An Uncle.”
To paraphrase from those war movies of yore, he didn’t even hear the deadbolt hit him.