So…here I am. In Pasadena. California. In a few hours, I’ll head over to Bob Gosse’s house to watch a rough cut of RUNAWAY. My first view. Ikes!
Headed over here early because I had a few hours to kill between my Gosse meeting and the meeting I had this morning…a producer of note, who had not much in the way of work, but a bucket load of good advice. …Most of which I really didn’t want to hear, of course.
So, it is interesting that, in this state of mind, the fates have led me to the land of Wheaton–the perennially frustrated artist, always on the verge of re-breaking through. And here, I find myself wandering–both mind and body, not quite able to settle in anywhere in this town, in this day. And as I walk, I puzzle over why there’s a knot in my gut. What it means.
It takes over an hour to understand the what. Somewhere between the Gordon Bierch Brewery and the Second Cup Café it hits me. The feeling is fear.
The why is more complicated. It takes a lot more walking. More walking, in fact, that I have time for, because I need to be at Bob’s house in a little over an hour. So I walk more, and I struggle.
I thumb through my cell phone for numbers. I call home, but no one answers. On one hand, I am relieved, because home is also complicated today—Sydney sick, Lynn tired, emotions running hot. But it’s home. It’s my lifeline. So on the other hand, I’m disappointed when I hear the truncated fifth ring—the bastard ring, the mocking ring. And then the artificial bell sound—“bling! blong!” which in bell means, “No one wants to talk to you here, asshole. Hang up.”
My lifeline is unspooled for the afternoon.
I think to call Debi, but I know she’s in meetings. I think maybe I’ll call Action Jackson. Hell, I even think about calling my mom and dad. Bleep!bleep!bleep! I sift through every name on my phone. No. No. No. Hell, no. No. No. And so on.
Then, of course, a small insight sneaks in. I recognize this insight. I don’t even try to hide the disdain on my face. I hate this bastard. But I can’t make it go away. Actually, I know I need it to stay, but I’m not going to admit it to the little fucker.
It’s part of the why, it tells me. Not all of it, but an element that makes up the why.
“I know,” I say.
No one’s gotta tell me that. I feel it, like a chill in my bones. That’s not the way I say it to the insight, though. To him, I speak in haughty tones. Like I’m better than it. Even though today I’m not so sure.
“Do you know who I am?” It asks me, really expecting me to answer. If it had a body, I am certain it would be tapping it’s little foot. The way it is, I don’t care. I want to take a freakin’ machete to my own vision of its tapping foot and chop the thing off.
I walk some more, silent. I cross Colorado Boulevard. I keep my eyes pealed. Maybe, just maybe, I will see the Wil, himself.
“Hey, man! I love the web site. ‘Just a Geek’ rocked!” Yada yada yada…
Though we’ve never met, we’d be instant friends. Two guys on the verge in the entertainment industry. And husbands. And fathers. And geeks. And we’d marvel…
“We’ve got, like, everything in common!”
“Except, you were on ‘Star Trek’.”
“Well, yeah. There’s that. And I was a child star.”
But we decide that stuff ain’t important. What matters is we’re the same NOW. So we become lightning fast friends, and the time between now and the time I need to show up at Bob’s would pass like nothing.
That is, until, Wil notices. You know…that little shit following me around.
Wil leans over. He peers over my shoulder. The thing waves. I can’t see it wave, but I know it’s doing it. And I can feel it smiling. No…grinning. A shit-eating one at that.
“Who’s that?” Wil asks.
I don’t want to tell him. What I want to do is pretend the thing isn’t back there. That it doesn’t exist. Alas, I know it does so exist. I know, in fact, that it’s more real than Wil Wheaton standing in front of me. Because he’s not really standing in front of me—that’s a figment of my imagination. The thing following me is real.
I decide to level with Wil, even though he’s a fantasy figure. He still deserves an explanation, I suppose.
“It’s name is Yougottaworkthisoneoutyourself.”
Wil chuckles: a knowing one. An “I shoulda known” one.
I get it. He’s had one of these little pricks follow him around in the past, too. I mean, hell, I read “Just a Geek.” I know.
So I make Wil go away. He vanishes, though his presence still hangs in the air. And that’s comforting, because I know it’s the real Wil’s energy. Not the energy from some lame hallucination I created out of my sick little head.
And then I turn to Yougottaworkthisoneoutforyourself.
“We need to talk,” I tell it. “I want to know what your game it. I want to know who your working with or working for or what the hell you’re doing here this week, of all weeks!”
I doesn’t say a goddamned word. Smug little jerk.
“What do you guys want?” I ask. “Do you want me to fail? Do you understand that this week…this is the week I need to be up beat, on my game. Do you get that?”
“Of course,” is all it’ll give up.
“Of course. Thanks. That really helps.”
Then it looks at me like I’m some real dumbass.
“You know who else is here.”
I squint my eyes a little. Cock my head to one side. I want to look condescending. Like it’s not making a lick of sense.
Suddenly, I stand up straight. I look around—spin around, more like it. Shit!
Yougottaworkthisoutyourself smiles. He nods.
“No!” I scream.
The cute and well-put together Asian lady walking past shoots me a look somewhere between “poor guy” and “stay the hell away from me”.
“Not Imnotgoodwenough! Not Icantreallydoit! Not Imabigfatloser!”
He nods again.
My shoulders slump.
“What are those guys doing here?!?”
“How should I know,” Yougottaworkitouryourself says. “You’re the one who invited them.”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Of course, you did. Remember? When you were walking out of the producer’s office? What did you say to yourself? What was going on inside that head of yours?”
And then I realized he was right. I walked out of that posh Beverly Hills office, and I might as well have been screaming.
Certainly, I felt like I was drowning. At the very least, like I was suddenly over my head. At the deep end of the pool, when all I could do was dog paddle.
I sighed. How? Why would I call those guys? Why..?
I look up. Yougottaworkitoutforyouself’s eye. What do I see in it? A tear, perhaps? With a snidge of understanding? I dash of compassion? His face is soft. And then I realize something.
He’s not the enemy. He’s here to help.
I start to say something, but he holds up his hand.
“Don’t worry about it. Just…”
He points toward the Starbucks across the street.
“See that place? You’ve been to one of those before.”
I shoot one of those “don’t be a smartass” looks. He knows damned well… And he said it like he was describing some sort of brothel. Then again, maybe he was.
“You’ve been carrying around that laptop all day. Go put it to some use.”
And then he was gone. Not completely so, as, like Wil, I can feel his presence here. But it’s a comforting one.
And so, I cross the street. I parked my butt in this chair. It’s far from perfect here, but I can get over that. The words…I inhabit the words. And in them, there is quiet, serenity. Calm.
And I write this. And I know that it’s not the end. Rather, it’s just the start.