We didn’t have to go in the first place.
There is a surprising market for odd faces in show business. This has been proven time and time and time again.
I had done all of my prerequisite skill-building things for this sort of job. I started in event-planning, I advertised for event-planning… I ‘accidentally’ bumped into the iridescent director Lorene Scafaria’s intern (Jenifer, she’s really nice) outside of an Einstein Bros. Bagels, gave her my number and bought her a few coffees over the next few weeks as an ‘apology...’ I wormed my way into the inner circle of some discreet directors I’d studied for my film classes in college, and I slowly befriended them in the least sleazy ways I could find (through coffee and wine). I laid the foundation for my career as a doormat to the stars, my dream.
I was incredibly lucky – they were kind. Lorene started inviting me to mixers as her plus two (myself and her intern, peas in a pod), just as I’d hoped. We’d sit in the corner and observe, peering over our drinks. I always admired how imposing Lorene could look. I think I picked up a thing or two from her.
I had a front row seat to the rest of my life. I had a copy of my resume downloaded into my phone, ready to go. I just had to spot one of the odd faces. The unique ones are usually kind, they’re forgiving of their assistants when they fall asleep and miss a call, and if they aren’t? Well, I’m always willing to take a little abuse for money. You take what you get. Show business, baby.
One night, Lorene held a party at her house. She let me plan, of course, so I got to put my name on the invite. My name, right under Lorene’s, right beside her address in the Hills – best self-advertising you can manage. I wanted to snatch one to frame on my wall but I didn’t want to be too clingy. Jenifer and I mailed the invites by hand because Lorene’s always been a stickler for authenticity. I even bought some of those color-changing lights just so that I could make the night that much more dramatic, a real movie scene with pulsing music and unnatural hues.
I walked around all night searching for the person I’d sign my soul away to. The shoes Jenifer had bought me for my birthday were beautiful but weren’t made for moving around in, so around midnight I escaped out the back to hide on the balcony and rest my bones. I sunk onto one of the abstract lounge chairs looking out over the city, carefully took the steel monstrosities off and placed them beside me. I almost wanted to fall asleep. But Jenifer’s always said you can’t trust your unconscious self around these people, especially not these days.
It was cold and blue outside, so different from the warm purple I’d crafted inside. Lorene’s glass sliding door was so clean you could almost mistake it for an open space had it not been for the distant music playing, the bass shaking the panel nearly off its railing. After a few months of constant movement, being consistently wedged between Lorene and Jenifer (and their many sponsors), I had forgotten how heavy it felt to be alone. It was a moment straight out of a movie, just not the kind of moment I was hoping for.
The music became loud, and then muffled again. I heard the sliding door click back into place and a long sigh behind me. I didn’t want to risk eye contact, for fear of upsetting one of the high-class don’t-look-at-me guests.
“Oh, sorry, am I interrupting something?”
The voice didn’t sound as invading as I’d expected, deep but soft, so I took a chance. I shifted ever so slightly, placing him in my field of vision.
He looked familiar. I couldn’t tell if I’d seen him in anything recently, though every part of me screamed that I’d recognize that face if I had seen it before.
“I thought… I didn’t see you, you’re all hidden in that… uh, chair,” he rubbed the back of his neck. Humbleness was hard to come by. Still is. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I remember saying. I pivoted the rest of the way and tried on a smile. “Do you need some alone time? We can trade spots.” I couldn’t tell what his deal was, yet. Maybe he needed a smoke. Maybe he needed to shoot up. I couldn’t be sure. What was the catch? So far, he was a slice of heaven.
“No, I just… uh, I needed a break,” he said quietly.
“From the people?”
“From these shoes.” As soon as he said the words, he looked down and saw my own shoes discarded. He smiled, and I melted. (Don’t tell him I said that.) “Ah.”
“Yeah, beauty is pain.” I gestured to the chair beside me. “Take a seat.”
He took his time meandering over in my direction. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he seemed shy. But he’d started this conversation, so that couldn’t be the case. He was just cautious. Fascinating. He was so tall up close, a skyscraper of a man, but I regained my breath when he sat down next to me.
“What’s your name?” I didn’t expect him to ask first, but he did. (Of course he did.) I was planning to lose him forever at this rate, but he asked my name and I felt secure. He was looking at me with those kind eyes, unlacing his pointy-toed shoes without taking his attention off of me.
“I’m… uh, Ryan,” I didn’t hold a hand out to shake. I’d gotten tackled by a few agents over that.
“Nice to meet you, Ryan,” he said. He held his hand out – he held his hand out – to shake. I did, probably more eagerly than I should have. “I’m Shane.”
“Shane…?” No last name? No agency? Either he was new to acting or he was an intern. I was hoping (praying) he’d be an actor – if he was this pleasant to be around, I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
“Oh. Oh, Madej. Shane Madej.” He nearly held his hand out again, I saw it twitch in his lap. “I’ve never been to one of these before.”
“Intern?” I asked, trying my hardest to keep a poker face.
“What? No, I… I guess I’m an actor.” Shane cringed at the words, unsure if he was allowed to say them, but I could feel my face stretch into a smile. He was a dream come true, quite literally.
“Yeah? What are you in?” I propped my head on my hand, ready to listen to whatever bombshell list he had to offer.
“Just a war movie, so far. Few commercials. I’m pretty new to this.” (His ‘just a war movie’ comment was a great understatement. He was the lead in the Best Picture for that year, Five Months Lost, the only war movie I’ve ever cried to. As soon as I got home that night, I made sure to watch it. He was incredible.)
“Clearly.” His eyebrows shot up but I held a hand out. “You’re nice, I mean. You don’t have to be nice, you know.”
“Why wouldn’t people be nice?”
“Why be nice when you’re rich?”
Shane scrunched his face and looked over the balcony. He cleared his throat, “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine.” I touched his shoulder. In for a penny, in for a pound. “Really. You’re a gem, Shane.”
“Thanks,” he grinned at that, bringing his shoulders up to his ears and dropping them. “You seem nice. Are you a… do you act?”
“Ha! No, I’m not cut out for that sort of thing. I’m just an assistant.” This was the first time I called myself that. It felt nice. Particularly after Shane’s eyes lit up.
“Wow! For who?”
“No one, yet. That’s why I go to these,” I threw a gesture vaguely in the direction of the party. “Trying to find someone to, I guess, assist. I, uh, planned this one.”
“You planned this one.” Shane repeated, nodding slightly. He blinked. “Oh! Oh, Ryan Bergara. Yeah, I saw your name on the card.” He reached into his inside blazer pocket and pulled it out. Everything he did amazed me. “I can’t believe you know Lorene. She’s one of my favorite directors.”
Finally. The moment I’ve been waiting for. “You wouldn’t want to… meet her, would you?”
He looked at me for a long while. It left a gap in the conversation, not too wide to hop over but just wide enough to make me rethink my decision. He shrugged, “Maybe another time.”
I hadn’t expected that. Against my own wishes, my stomach sunk. “Okay.”
“Not like… I fucked that up,” he rubbed his eyes. “I meant… I would love to meet her sometime, but I’m having a spectacular time talking with you.”
I met his agent that night. He was slightly less nice, but Shane talked about me to him as if we’d known each other for years. Shane didn’t even ask for an interview. He didn’t ask for my resume. He didn’t ask anything of me. Except for my name.
As soon as I saw Shane, it’s almost as if I realized how different my life was about to become. I didn’t know details, how could I have, but it was that rumble in my chest as I watched him slide into the back seat of the car that told me I’d better buckle up.
He waved as he pulled away.