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alone through silverlake

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and our silver-screen affair, it weighs less to me than air, it's a gas now

-

Not even Danny believes in you anymore; not even Jeanne is willing to look you in the eye when you're moaning about it. Not even Wendy will tell you to go back to Harriet. That has to mean something - that has to mean everything.

-

it's only been a week and already you're so lost, you're so restless, you're so fucking bored that you've got Suzanne in a lawn chair beside you reading out from the daily White House press briefings. She refuses to get you food, so you and Andy order a pizza delivered to the WGA picket line around Studio 60. when it's delivered, it's cold and Tom eats most of it. you want to cry.

Jordan shows up around 7, right when most of the pickets are being pulled down. She wrinkles her nose at the empty pizza box. "Seriously, Matt," she tells you, "the NBS dining room would deliver you food."

You're afraid you're getting a lawn-chair ass, sitting here refusing to hold up a goddamned picket sign. "Hey," you ask suddenly, "do you have any problem with crossing the picket line to go into the studio?"

Jordan studies you for a second with those crazy blue eyes. "I'm not a member of the union," she finally answers. "Why?"

you stand up, restless, frustrated, tired of watching stupid cars slow down to stare at the pathetic show outside the stupid studio. You hate the union and the network all at once, and that's special. "I went home to sleep for a few hours," you tell her, "and they put me on a picket line when I woke up." you pace two steps toward the building; pause, run a hand through your hair, pace back. "My computer, my whole life is in there. I really wasn't anticipating being locked out."

Jordan tilts her head. Her eyes are full of pity, which probably makes sense. She glances up at the building, where a pitiful few lights are on - cleaners, maybe, or who knew who. Danny might have snuck in, for all you know. Jordan starts to say, "Matt, really--" and then she shakes her head, and goes inside.

-

at one point last week you said to Danny, "Are we better or worse off than other couples? I can't even tell anymore!" and he looked at you without any sympathy, without even any pretense of putting up with hearing about it, and then he told you,

"seriously, man, this is just ridiculous," and you knew he wanted to say more, berate you, but you nodded at him because you knew, and he knew you knew, and really, that's just even worse, even more ridiculous so he just left instead.

-

Last week, Harriet came to find you at 11:46 PM on Thursday night to talk about the fight you had at lunch. She came in without knocking, and she marched up to your desk without a pause, but when you refused to look up from the screen as she entered, at least she didn't start speaking right away.

The sketch you were working on kind of sucked still, anyway, so when she interrupted the constant flow of tapping across your keyboard, you prevented yourself from snapping. But it was touch and go for a minute.

"Look," she started with, and then, "I know you can't now, but at some point this weekend we have to talk about this."

You remember your instant reaction: the urge to sigh. You toyed with replying a simple 'no'; toyed with ignoring her completely. Briefly contemplated refuting the claim that the two of you 'had' to do anything, but instead you accepted your fate, and agreed.

-

Tom is on the picket line bright and early every morning, and he finds you asleep behind the rest of the WGA staff from NBS, sprawled in a lawn recliner this time. Suzanne had flat-out refused to let you sleep in a folding chair last night before she left.

he hands you a cardboard cup of coffee, and pulls up a lawn chair too. Tom's probably just waiting for Lucy. "I mean," you tell him suddenly, "I could care less about internet royalties."

"Yeah?" he says.

You nod. "Yeah." the internet can go to hell, you think, and then say, "the internet is for pornography and downloading the latest Missy Elliott album for free." Tom looks at you. "I, really. I don't care. I need to work."

Tom looks at you for a long moment, but then he replies, "I'd think you'd be all about the internet," instead of whatever it was he was thinking about you and decided to just drop. You're pretty grateful he doesn't bring it up, since whatever it is he was planning to say you know and everything, and there's only so much you can stand people being sorry for you and not be able to write it into a sketch at the same time.

-

Danny finds your vodka bottle before he finds you, because it's three in the morning and you're pissing on the side of the building. You've managed to find a place, at least, that security has managed to cordon off from the people with the cameras.

you come back to your lawn chair - and fucking hell, it's three am and still seventy degrees out, what the fuck is even wrong with the planet, anyway? - and he's sitting in it. "Seriously, Matt," he says, "go home."

You want to tell him you are, you want to say you are home because you know this studio better than your house, you know its corridors and its squeaky floors and its sets and its echoing tones, but instead you say, "I think we should do an episode about global warming." Off his look, you add, "seriously, you know? there's serious comedy on both sides of the ridiculous" and then you stop, and then you say, "serious," and he shakes his head. "I am," you tell him, but you're not sure what you are, home or serious or just maybe pathetic. The vodka bottle is maybe empty.

Danny stands up, so you can sit down - which you do of course, because there's nowhere else for you to go except Wendy's, and her fiance won't like that very much. It's entirely possible that Harriet's at your house. Danny tells you, "where's Suzanne?"

you tell him, "I let her go home for a while," and then, "she's a good girl."

Danny pulls a stool beside you, because obviously at three in the morning fucking no one is marching the picket line, so all their paraphernalia and furniture has been abandoned outside the building. He sits down. "Matt--" he says, "go home."

-

You go to your house. Harriet's not there, not waiting in bed for you with an angry retort as to why you didn't call, not in bed ready to yell, and you - honestly, you have no idea whether you're pleased or not.

-

Jordan calls you. "What do you think about the title 'Many to One'?"

For a second you don't recognise her voice; plus, you're on the elliptical, so you're not sure you care once you do. "For what?" you ask.

Your phone is on speaker so she can probably hear the bass, the thumping ridiculousness of MTV in the background. "An alternative programming show about--" and as you're rolling your eyes, like really as you are, she stops and then says, "seriously, it's not as bad as most. We're talking PhD students, competing for research grants. it's a 6-parter, focused on science research. people might actually learn something at the same time."

You're considering tattooing 'ridiculousness' onto your forehead, just to warn everyone. In advance. you think it might save some time so you don't have to explain it later. On TV, someone is talking about hip-hop videos instead of actually showing them. "Harriet hasn't been over in like, a week," you tell Jordan, and then the elliptical nearly throws you off as you stop moving, as you're wondering why you told Jordan that of all people, who's probably auto-dial number 6 on Harriet's phone.

"Well," Jordan says, kindly, gently. Your phone is still on speaker, so her voice is a little static-y, vaguely tinny, and far away. Jordan is a completely unfathomable personage, and you like her but thank god, you think. "Do you want her to come over?" she asks you, finally.

You pick the phone up, put it to your ear so her voice isn't echoing through your home gym. "I honestly don't know," you say. You're saying 'honestly' and 'truthfully' and 'seriously' a lot, with the strike. You're seriously worried that your vocabulary is starting to stagnate, with no computer screen to spew, with no deadline, with no manic test of ego and creativity and nerves. The elliptical just doesn't cut it.

As you wander out to the kitchen for some water, Jordan says in your ear, "well," again, and something about needing to figure that out, and then she hangs up because the baby's crying and she doesn't care, really, about your opinion on 'Many to One'. For about eight seconds, you wish you'd slept with Jordan while you had a chance, before she'd fixated on Danny and his quiet determination, and vice versa. You're anything but determined; you're just waiting to get back onto a fucking picket line because you can't get into the building.

-

Harriet calls your cel phone while you're marching - they managed to convince you to even hold a sign - and you let it go to voicemail. For no reason, really, because you desperately want to talk to her, to hear her voice; there's nothing you ever want more than for her to console you, hold you in her world so you can have something comfortable that makes everything else in life, including Fridays, easy.

-

Harriet comes to the picket lines in the afternoon; the time of day with the most press coverage. She stands for a few shots, then pulls you by the elbow to one side. "Matthew," she says, "I've gotten four calls from people who are concerned. What is going on?"

As if she had the right to ask. As if she always has the right to ask. You're drunk at two pm, but you can't even say if it's because of Harriet or because the only place you've felt at home, the only place you've felt welcomed and home and comfortable - and not least because of Harriet - is now alien, unfamiliar, and hostile. Fucking WGA. Fucking union. Fucking network. Fucking Harriet.

You say, "I don't--" and then, "this conversation is going nowhere. It has been going nowhere for eight years."

you want to tell her something else, you want to be a movie star romance, you want to give her everything and nothing and you want to be the character in a story, but the truth of the matter is - seriously - that you're thirty years old and fucking tired of this shit. She stares at you as if you've slapped her. You say, "we can't keep doing this."

"But--"

you want to tell her that you love her desperately, and you do. you want to tell her that you can work it out, that love is enough and nothing will keep the two of you apart. But the two of you have done a fine job of keeping you apart; you don't need any outside help.

-

Danny calls twice, Jordan calls three times. The union is surprised by your sudden fervor for marching - but they don't question it, because you're famous, for a writer, and Studio 60 as a show is suffering from the strike more than most. something about the studio is suffering while you're holding a placard, anyway.

Harriet comes by twice, stands on the opposite curb, flash bulbs going as she tries not to cry. You watch her out of the corner of your eye, fighting herself to cross the street.

-

"I dunno, Matt," Danny finally says, because it's always Danny in the end. It's dark out, and the neon lights of Sunset are bathing him in weird, alien colours, like some 60s alien porn. He adds, "maybe you've really done it this time."

You want to think you have. You know that it's fucking ridiculous if you can't even force an end to this; you're desperately afraid you haven't. The next moment, of course, you're desperately afraid you have.