It felt weird, partying over there. The place had a false sense of a good time. Kinda like how old western film sets look real, yet the buildings are just painted plywood and cardboard.
Christian was a Hollywood actor, who’d been in a couple big films, experienced about a year of stardom, real stardom not that 15 minute news brief stardom, and when he began to lose roles to more capable, more agreeable actors, he reserved to do cheap and horrible films with titles like Drug Lordz, Blood Bounty, and Night Eagle.
Nobody knew why he came back. Why he left glitzy, sunny L.A. for his old college town. Some people said he had a girlfriend, a real knockout, that he was trying to get into movies. Others said he wanted to finish work on his degree. And others said he needed to be rooted, that he wanted the Midwestern comfort and the quiet; yet, if they had gone to his three story townhouse on any given night they’d have to think otherwise.
I, on the other hand, believed that he wanted to live like a king. In L.A. he was merely a wash up, someone you’d vaguely recognize. “Hey isn’t that the guy who was in that film?” Here he was Mr. Hollywood. So Cool Christian. At the bars people would clamor to get a picture taken with him; offer to buy him a drink and talk movies. Girls threw themselves at him, (of course not without his line “So do you know who I am?”) I couldn’t help but pity him. His ego had been deflated in L.A.; here it was pumped regularly. He could get laid and be admired. It was sad to see him put on a display, they way he walked into a bar and greeted everyone like they were his people. Like they all came to see him. As pathetic as it was, I still couldn’t blame him. Twelve years removed from college, seven years removed from fame, going back to your old stomping grounds to try to stir up some college girls and a good time, sure sounds a lot better than being a loser in Hollywood.
I got to know him I guess, because my girlfriend at the time was overly friendly with people when she got drunk, met him at a bar and talked him up. Soon after he began to invite her and all her sorority friends over to his place. I often found myself there after a night out. We’d sit around and listen to him ruminate on life and the movies. It bored me, most times. Although to his credit he was very gregarious and paid attention to everyone’s comfort level. If they needed more to drink, something to eat, a light. It was all well and good to me, yet it felt like he was just a little too afraid of everyone leaving and not wanting to hang out with him. I suppose he was lonely.
He had some Hollywood friends come in and out of there. I say ‘Hollywood’ loosely. I don’t suppose any of his friends had much to do with actual ‘Hollywood’ business; save for serving the drinks at some kickoff, premiere, after-party, gala, ball thing; maybe even supplying a little of the snort to an upcoming, soon to be crashing, teen actor. Either way, his friends came, partied, and after a few hours of bullshitting some girl into thinking he was some sort of producer/agent/actor went to bed with her, then left. Back to L.A.
On this one particular Saturday night he told us to invite anyone we wanted, he was having a party. My girlfriend, Susan, brought along about a dozen girls from her sorority and I brought no one. His place had become fairly infamous on campus. Girls loved to go there to be seen. Walking to and from class, they loved to talk about what went on there, even if they had never been. Guys hated the place for that, yet would go anyways. Everyone got to know the name of his mutt dog, Pepper, what he drove--mid-70s Porsche 911, green--and that the only time his door remained locked was when he was out of town or fucking. He left his door unlocked, he told me one night, because he really didn’t mind people coming in and out, even if he didn’t know them. He said most college students were trustworthy enough and when stumbling in drunk or stoned, quite an improvement to the atmosphere of the place. Especially if it was a girl. Yeah.
After about an hour or so at the party I felt pretty drunk and wanted to go bar hopping. Susan didn’t want to leave, we got into an argument, so I stepped outside for a smoke. He was out there sharing a joint with a couple of hippie looking dudes and talking about ‘what college was like in his day.’ He gave me a nod and a finger point saying, ‘my man,’ in a typical playing-cool greeting. I sat down with them, listened to him bullshit some story about some sexual escapade he had in college, really buttering it up for the two duncical hippies. “Whoa” and “Awesome” were there only responses. Christian finished, “Yes, my friends. Yes.”
I had never thought Christian to be particularly smart or wise or anything and had pretty much disdained him from the day Susan told me they had made friends. He was, to me and most other guys, a creepy, weird old guy, (he was 34 or so), that sucked at acting, yet women for some reason still adored.
That night he confided in me like I was his best old friend since the second grade. Maybe it was the coke. The weed. Alcohol. Maybe, as I said before, he was just lonely.
“I’m so glad I moved back here,” he said to me after a moment of silence.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s just…it’s like the fountain of youth. All you young guys around here having a good time, makes me feel young. It’s like I am 21 again, buying a 12 pack of beer and a bottle of vodka and inviting some friends over.”
“Except it’s not,” I said quickly.
“Except it’s not.”
“Ha. Yeah.” He stood in front of the sliding door, and watched the party. “The girls sure haven’t changed.”
“You think?” I said pulling a hit from my cigarette
“Nah, just what they’re wearing.”
“How they compare to the girls in L.A.?” I asked unsure of why I was making conversation.
“Not much difference. There’s more of those, you know, fake looking girls. Girls with breast implants and injections, done up to look like the object of your desire. I don’t know. I’m not much into those girls. They get an air about themselves like they are invincible, but in ten years they look like trash. No man, these girls, college girls, that’s where it’s at. Especially being out here, they’re not as pretentious. Kinda wholesome. Sweet.”
I took my last hit and flipped the cigarette onto his neighbor’s patio.
“That why you’re here?” I asked.
Christian gave me a serious look and after a few moments said a casual, “No.”
I knew he was lying.
“I’m here for the inspiration, man. When I was here in college, it just was all profound and lively at the same time. LA, man, it’s just like a big block of concrete. Heavy, dull, you don’t get a sense of reality out there. You just don’t get a sense of life, you know? People here don’t care about the same things. No fighting and scrounging to become somebody. No fame. I love it.”
“Yeah. Here I bet it’s a lot easier to get laid.”
He shot me a look, smiled and walked into the house.
I entered back into the party and his dog Pepper came up to me and barked stupidly. Pepper loved company. Always barking and waging his tail with his tongue hanging sloppily out if his mouth. I’m sure Christian bought him from some God-forsaken pound and now he was just so thrilled to be alive, he could hardly contain himself.
To describe the interior of Christian’s place, (at least the first floor), I would say, white. Everything, white. The walls were that drywall paint finish, untouched since completion. The carpet was a sort of light grayish, his large L-shaped leather couch, the kitchen countertops, dining room furniture, the doors, stairway railings, all white. I don’t know if he liked it that way or he was either too poor or lazy to paint anything.
After the cigarette we went to his room upstairs. Ironically enough it was decorated in black. He said it symbolized something about harmony and if I went into the bedroom across the hall, I would find it to be haphazardly painted and furnished. He said it represented the inevitable obstacle to harmony. ‘The hidden piece of sausage on your veggie pizza,” he said.
We sat down on his bed while he took out a small black leather case from the nightstand. The case contained a hand mirror, razor blades and a couple grams. He cut the coke on the mirror. I rolled a dollar bill and we split a gram. I hadn’t found anything tender about the moment at that time or even now, but he seemed to have. He put his arm around me and said “Thank you man, you’re a stand up guy and I love you. You can be my stunt double any time.”
I thought that weird because I was pretty sure he wasn’t famous enough to require a stunt double and the fact that he would want me as his stunt double would qualify me as the one that was willing to put my body in harm’s way to protect his. Which I wasn’t willing to do and the mere offer to be his stunt double signified he thought he was more important. Which he wasn’t.
He pinched in his nostrils and snorted. “The blows not bad here.”
After another hour I had skipped around the party. I talked to Susan’s friends about the importance of experience over education, making friends over GPA. They all nodded and talked; randomly overlapping in parts and not real concerned with meaningful conversation. Sara, Susan’s best friend and a girl whom I had slept with my freshman year, said to me, “Susan is pissed.”
“No shit,” I said, “She can stay that way.”
“You’re a jerk” she said and walked away.
In the basement I found Susan sitting close to Christian as he talked with his hands and continually made her laugh. I stood behind them at the foot of the stairs, she looked at me, and I left.
I wandered down the sidewalk toward the bars, angry at Susan for being so chummy with him. I really considered her, at that time in my life, to be the one. To be the ‘girl I met in college’ from which a serious relationship could be fostered and henceforth marriage, possibly children. I could picture ten years down the road having a drink and a chat with old friends about our wild days in college. She was a fun girl and whenever we got together we laughed all the time, even at the littlest things. We had decent sex, routine at times, yet it was never without passion. When we first met at a tailgate sophomore year, her thin body exploited an old football jersey, pulled up and tied just under her breasts. Later the only bit of stomach she showed, was the little bit hanging over her waistline. I thought I could love her, but I wasn’t sure if I did. For her to be sitting practically on Christian’s lap really angered me that night. I could be quite jealous then, too.
I met some friends at Kilroy’s Bar, a small but popular place that when full made one feel a bit like herded sheep—drunken, herded sheep—and we drank, as we should, an exceeding amount. It was some girl’s 21st birthday, ripe with pictures for every shot and one of those little journal books where you write your name and a short little message; a little memory book she could look back on to try to recall the night, which upon doing so undoubtedly wouldn’t remember much. I wrote “Say goodbye to Hollywood Gracie, she’s a bitch.” I didn’t know the girl’s name.
On my way out of the bar, Susan called me. She talked hysterically about something she did with Christian. I couldn’t make out anything she said, so I hung up and walked to his place.
The front door was locked so I climbed the wooden-plank privacy fence in the back and let myself in through the patio door. A girl was passed out on his couch, her head hung off the edge toward a small trash can, a smattering of vomit along its edges. I stopped at the little bit of floor in between the dining room and the living room and pissed on his carpet. I stumbled toward the couch and threw a half empty glass handle of vodka at his wall. It left a small hole and didn’t shatter. “Unh” I said to myself and walked down to Christian’s room. I started to kick at the locked door, until he opened it and I punched him in the eye.
I woke up in a downstairs bathroom, I had sat down against the wall and slept. A cigarette butt in between my fingers had burned a little black hole in the white rug. I stood up and went straight for the front door.
I broke up with Susan that day. She told me all her and Christian did was kiss and do a couple lines of coke. I guess she had never blown before and it really wigged her out. She was afraid what her family would think, what she had become. I told her coke was just a more intense form of the Aderol she took to help her study.
“No, it isn’t,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” I said.
“No,” she said, “it’s terrible. I’m never doing any drugs again.”
I told her well you might as well not hang out with Christian then.
She then said, “Well he’s taking me out to dinner. But just as friends.”
I said, “Fuck you then, we’re through,” and hung up.
It sucked to see her after, because it was often. She’d give me these “I’ve been gettin’ it good” eyes. Like she wanted me to know that she had been doing just fine without me. I never talked to her. Never said hi or smiled. Sara told me she was seeing somebody new, that it wasn’t Christian, yet coincidentally was Christian’s houseguest; and that she was being more consistent with her drug usage.
“Unh,” I said. “Should’ve guessed.”
“Yeah,” Sara said, “apparently this guy says he can get her into modeling.”
“Modeling?” I said. “She’s kinda fat to be modeling.”
“You’re such a jerk.”
That summer, I hung around and sat on my ass while I worked at a music store. On a sunny afternoon I walked past Christian’s place. A moving truck sat outside. I took a peek inside. The carpet had turned a mix of dirty yellow and dusty gray. Someone drew a red circle around the hole I had made, drawn an arrow and wrote the words, “Who did this?” Followed in black by “Me.” His couch was beaten, cracked and the leather worn. The corner of the glass coffee table had been shattered and touched up with ductape. A tall chair to the kitchen countertop leaned against another chair, a leg missing. Pepper’s dumbass was still happy, barking at the movers coming in and out of the house. I always swore that if someone stuck a pole to the mutt he could be used as a mop.
As I left, Christian came out of the house, a suit draped over his shoulder. It was awkward, but he smiled and said “The guy who gave me a black eye. How’s it hangin?”
I apologized profusely, stupidly, and confessed that I was really fucked up that night.
“I know. It’s ok. I too have a problem with indulgence.”
“I never said I had a problem.”
“What the fuck do you mean?”
He dropped his sunglasses down on his nose, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s been a ball, brother. Come out to LA sometime. Maybe I can get you a job.” Yeah right.
“Keep it real,” he trailed off as he walked to the Porsche.
“Keep it real?” I thought.
Pepper ran by me and I kicked him into the street. He let out a yelp and Christian quickly turned around. I put my hands in my pockets, turned, and walked away.
Aaron Mitchell is from Indiana. He attends Indiana University. He has a drinking problem. He is in love with a woman that does too many drugs. He can't get her out of his mind. She is crazy. His father is a truck driver. His mother just works. His brother spent four years in the Navy and since (4 years ago) can't find a career or a job that pays. His life is nothing spectacular. He doesn't have a picture. Sorry.
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