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Alas I cannot swim

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Andrew finds out later that Jesse doesn’t tell people things without not telling them other things at the exact same time.

But that is later.

 

 

The script for The Social Network is sharp, intelligent and out of Andrew’s league. Way out of his league, as in he shouldn’t even think about it. He begs and cajoles and manages to trick the casting agent into letting him read for it anyway. He manages to trick a lot of people because somehow he ends up sitting in a diner with Sorkin, Fincher and apparently getting the role. Maybe. If it goes well (Andrew isn’t sure what has to go well, but something has to).

He holds the news inside him like it is fragile. He bites his lip the whole way home, but once there, the words bounce and bubble out of him and he finds himself calling everyone he knows even though it isn’t a sure thing. He tells himself he can’t help it. He tells himself that and hopes, hopes so very much that no one changes their mind about him.

“No one will,” Matt Smith says, and where Andrew didn’t completely believe his mother, he believes Matt because Matt would know.

More than anyone Matt knows about roles that come along once in a lifetime and the chance you have it and the chance you might not. So Andrew takes a deep breath and Matt does too and then Matt lets Andrew talk about the film and the part and how Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher know his name and how he had lunch with them and how cool it had been to sit at a table with them.

“I think people looked at me,” he tells Matt, because Andrew is almost certain a few people had.

“Ah. Yes. Well, they would have, wouldn’t they,” Matt replies. “All of them wanting to know who is that random guy sitting with the greatest director and greatest writer of out generation?”

It is a joke at Andrew’s expense but he does not care. Not even a little.

 

 

Jesse Eisenberg is angular and pale and even though the film – the whole production – is centered around him, he looks out of place, as if he should be elsewhere. From across the table Andrew looks at him and tries to imagine someone harder and softer and different. Andrew looks and sees Jesse, remembers him as other people and tries to see him as Mark.

Maybe this is why Andrew fumbles his first line.

 

 

Jesse actually tells him early on.

“I figured you should know, since we’re going to live together” he says, distantly. Or distractedly. Andrew can’t tell. Yet.

Jesse nods to himself, as if that settled the matter.

(It doesn’t. Not really. Or not at all.)

Andrew blinks and tries not to sound coarse when he asks Jesse to explain. “I think I might have misheard you.”

“Oh,” Jesse blinks and repeats himself.

‘Oh,’ Andrew thinks. So he did hear Jesse correctly the first time around.

 

 

It doesn’t actually mean that much.

For the longest time to Andrew it is one of Jesse’s quirks or one of his sly jokes. Most probably the latter. Sometimes he tells them and Andrew doesn’t pick up on them until hours later. But months pass and there is no punch line or late realization of one that delivered long ago. Either Jesse is playing a very long game or he’s telling the truth. Andrew can’t decide. He changes him mind over and over again, maybe a dozen times within the same hour.

“The old myths are just that; myths,” Jesse tells Andrew. “At least, for the most part they are.”

Jesse’s family washed up out of the sea many, many years and generations ago. They had a different name then. Through time and marriage Jesse received his. It wasn’t anything like the name in the books and tales. It was his though. Andrew shortens it into Jess after the first few days on set.

Where they were strangers at the table read, they become friends during the first initial weeks of filming. Where Jesse held himself back, Andrew draws him forward. Pulls him until it’s them and the cast and crew, and if the production once was built on Jesse’s shoulders, Andrew takes what he can on his own.

Andrew feels and falls too easily for people. He clamors into Jesse’s space, into his privacy until there is hardly any left. Where once there was just Jesse and maybe his arms crossed over his chest, Andrew makes room by Jesse’s side and affix’s Jesse against Andrew’s own because it feels like that is the sort of thing that will make sense. It does.

This isn’t to say Andrew doesn’t get curious every now and then.

Jesse puts up with it in his way.

“I don’t feel a pull,” he says, when Andrew catches him looking at the pool during breaks in shooting.

“You don’t?”

Jesse shrugs. “I don’t think so, no.”

“You look at water a lot.”

“Justin threatened to throw me in after we wrap.”

If it’s an answer, it isn’t a bad one.

 

 

After they finish filming for the day and go home, Jesse is quiet for a long time. Standing barefoot in the kitchen Andrew cooks and watches Jesse out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps Andrew isn’t patience by nature, but he waits and eventually Jesse exhales slowly and tells Andrew about living in NYC in a high rise apartment, as far away from the water as he can manage without moving far, far inland (which he never wants to do – it took him long enough to settle after moving out of Jersey, moving across the country permanently is out of the question for him).

“Sometimes, I think I do miss it.”

Cautiously, Andrew makes an interested sound and Jesse continues.

“At night I sometimes dream about floating on water, and the sound of the ocean roaring.”

There is something about the tone of Jesse’s voice that makes Andrew wonder if maybe Jesse is afraid. There is longing yes, but there is something else in his voice. The ocean is very different from a clear blue swimming pool in a rented house. It’s very different from everything in Jesse’s life.

Andrew worries.

Jesse catches him at it, but not before Andrew has thought too much.

“We lost them,” Jesse tells Andrew. “No one remembers where or when, but we lost them.”

“So you can never go back?” Andrew asks, because he knows the story.

Jesse shakes his head and smiles a smile that isn’t a smile, not really. Not all.

 

 

There are all kinds of things in the darkness. Andrew isn’t from the Old World. Not like Jesse is. But Andrew did grow up in a country that still had traces of it coloring the ivy and embedded in the stonework. Andrew knows there are more things in the world than can be seen with the naked eye.

 

 

When they fall together – for and into and everything for each other – for the first time, it is late and Andrew is half asleep and Jesse is wrecked and all nerves for shooting the same scene over and over and over again.

It’s nothing big or special, except it is.

It’s Jesse touching Andrew’s jaw, and his mouth lazy and hot against Andrew’s and it is Andrew’s heart jumping and skipping and his hands clinging to Jesse’s stolen hoody and not letting go even when Jesse breaks away from Andrew’s mouth to catch his breath.

It’s everything.

 

 

Filming ends as it was going to all along. In a while the promotion aspect of their jobs will commence in earnest, but in the lull between the end of shooting and the beginning of the studio’s planned media blitz, they all scatter. Jesse goes back in NYC, Armie goes somewhere with his wife, Max stays in LA with Josh and Joe, Justin is somewhere presumably fashionable (and being fashionable while there) and Andrew is in London visiting his parents. He actually spends the first day sleeping and by the time he wakes they’re at work so he finds himself badgering Matt who is one of the few of Andrew’s friends who has not relocated to America. Matt, of course, is working, though that minor detail doesn’t stop Andrew from inviting himself down onto the set.

Over the phone they make vague plans to have lunch together or for Andrew to bring lunch for the two of them and for Karen and Arthur. Andrew can’t remember which, but that won’t matter with Matt.

On the way there, Andrew kills time browsing through random shops. It’s in a random vintage store he finds it. He doesn’t know why he knows exactly what it is, but he does. Touching the smooth, tawny brown fur Andrew just knows.

“Seal lined with silk,” the sales assistant tells Andrew. “1920s or 30s.”

Andrew – he hand it to her and gets her to ring it up.

 

 

He should call Jesse. But it’s easy to convince himself not to. Just in case Andrew’s wrong, just in case he made a mistake. Just in case.

 

 

Wrapped in fragile pale pink tissue paper, the fur becomes a constant companion. Sitting in the bottom of his case, Andrew takes it from country to country, hotel room to hotel room.

The plan was to show it to Jesse when they meet up in LA for the first leg of the promotion tour.

It’s been more than a month since then. Andrew doesn’t know what his plan is now.

 

 

At night, curled around Jesse, Andrew wonders if he has become like the men in those myths Jesse says aren’t real.

Andrew thinks of the fur in the bottom of his suitcase and how Jesse had stood on the shore line in Cancun. His feet dug into the sand, pant cuffs rolled up around his calves. Andrew thinks of that and how pale Jesse’s skin looked when the water washed over his feet, and how blue his eyes were caught between the ocean and the sky.

Andrew remembers how at the party the studio had announced he got the role. He was the next Spiderman. He had turned to Jesse and Jesse had smiled at him as if he already knew, as if it made sense. They had toasted to it, them and everyone else there with them. Justin had slapped Andrew on the back and Elizabeth had kissed his cheeks and Andrew had turned to Jesse and Jesse had smiled at him.

Those men, Andrew thinks, they took it.

Those men, he thinks, took it. Giving it back wasn’t their choice. Their choice was whether or not to take.

It isn’t Andrew’s though.

 

 

Jesse finds it of course.

“I was just looking for that book you told me about,” he says when Andrew enters the room and stops.

Tissue paper carefully unfolded, the fur sitting on Jesse’s lap. Jesse’s hands hovering above it. Not quite touching it. Hovering a millimeter or two above it.

Andrew opens his mouth to – not explain – he doesn’t know.

But Jesse shakes his head suddenly. “No. That’s a lie. I wasn’t looking for that book.”

As if frozen in the doorway, Andrew watches Jesse look at the fur.

Jesse doesn’t look at Andrew.

 

 

“It’s yours,” Andrew says, when he finds it back in his suitcase, neatly rewrapped.

Jesse nods. “It is.”

 

 

Is this love? Andrew doesn’t know.