I’VE GOT A BOTTLE of Mexican diet pills shaped like pink hearts gripped firmly in my right hand, quivering, like I was jerking off and…I guess I am really.
There must be a hundred of these little heart shaped pills picked up by my flaxen haired roommate from one of the most “reputable” pharmaceutical storefronts down Tijuana way. She told me I could take a pill or two whenever I wanted and since I’m always home many hours before she gets off swing shift at the Olive Garden, I don’t see anything wrong with several consecutive whenevers.
I swallow three; take a swig of Jolt cola…and decide another two is what’s needed to get things just right. Another Jolt chaser and I light a clove cigarette and lean back trying to look innocuous in the front seat of my innocuous Nissan Sentra from my innocuous parking stall, staring innocuously into the storefront of the Al Phillips Dry Cleaners, only all too conspicuous in my innocuousness.
Oh, that’s her for sure at the window. There’s no mistaking the freckles, the all-American girl next door pony tail. Kimberly Drummond, the sweet little silver spoon girl from the hit NBC sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”: convicted of robbing a Captain Video franchise with a BB gun six months ago. But I fell in love with her years before all that; endless masturbatory sessions in my poor unsuspecting grandmother’s outhouse shitter with the image of her bobbing red hair driving the whole sordid spectacle.
It’s not like I don’t have business on this side of town. My theatrical agent on a shoestring budget got me an audition down the street forty five minutes from now and I have uniforms that need to be pressed and creased. It’s not easy holding down a bohemian lifestyle while trying to pass as a government employee.
The tell tale heartbeat and adrenal flow begin their all too familiar buildup from my toenails all the way up until they hit the top of my teeth which then begin sliding across the surface of my bottom teeth with a grinding vigor known by a long standing tradition of Hell’s Angels and many a pathetic alienated man since the advent of the industrial age.
Am I proud?
I feel dirty
Would I rather be doing anything else?
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I’d found out she works at this particular Al Phillips Dry Cleaners when a co-worker told me that washed up druggie actress they busted for armed robbery a few months ago pressed his uniforms.
I hold my uniforms under my left arm, the clove in my right as I make my way through the front door.
How to break the ice? “Hey, I’m an actor too.”
Dana doesn’t work the counter though. I’m stuck with the frump woman who in turn looks longingly at the broken slot machines being serviced by a tech guy wearing a baseball cap on the far side of the waiting room.
So I place my order loudly. I want Dana to notice. Notice my pungent clove cigarette, which always pisses off the older Vegas service crowd ‘cause it always seems like it ought to be illegal but it’s not. She doesn’t see me though. She looks right through me. My hair is too short. My face is too clean. I get my suits pressed and creased. She wants a bad boy. She wants long hair. She wants weed. She wants blow. How do I tell her?
“Hey, I’ve got weed. Hey, I can score blow from Evil Knievel. Hey, I’m an actor too. Hey if you quit this job, join my newly founded theater company and move into my shared room apartment it’ll help out both of our careers and you can have the pleasure of knowing that I am your one true hero every time I crawl up on top of your squirming creaminess just so I can see that crease in your brow.”
Transaction ends. I’m headed back to the Sentra. I look back hoping to find her staring out the window after me. Too late; she’s at the counter talking to a guy with a pony tail. Is it…? Goddammit, yes, it’s the service tech guy. He’s got a pony tail.
Years later of course, I will read in the newspaper that what Dana really wants is something neither I nor the pony tail can provide her. Years later I discover she turned down the role of Regan in The Exorcist; turned down the role of Violet in Pretty Baby; years later when she accepts the role of suicide in the bathroom of her in-laws to be. I still like to think I could have been all those things I wanted to say to her back then, a way for opportunity to translate into, if not happiness, at least a manageable contentment; a warm body that makes you laugh and can be counted on to be there.
If only it were that damn easy.
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For now; with my eyes exploding and my skull a bubbling cauldron of primal gray matter, I head to the auditorium at the Summerlin Public Library for my audition with the most prestigious community theater organization in Las Vegas, the artistic status equivalent of the most prestigious pantomime troupe in Los Angeles; it sounds more glamorous at first than it should. In front of an audience of two dozen competitors, a girl younger and more beautiful than Dana, which is to say less experienced and thus, less attractive, melts down completely at the beginning of her improv assignment and scurries off the stage murmuring “I can’t I can’t I just can’t do this and I guess I’ll see you guys down at the mall or something.”
I nail my improv. I get the spot in the prestigious workshop. I know now what I’ll say to Dana. I come back the next night to pick up my uniforms from the Al Phillips Cleaners with my rap and my approach down pat.
But Dana’s not working that night. The frump says something about her having a hot date. Heading back to the Sentra it seems to me this particular dry-cleaning shop does an incredibly lousy job of pressing and creasing my uniforms and I swear I will never return to this place for my business again. I try to convince myself that I am somehow different, that I am somehow better than the meltdown girl at the audition sure to be hanging out at the mall I am now headed towards with a handful of Mexican diet pills shaped like pink hearts, gripped firmly in my right hand, quivering.
Previously appeared in “Shoots and Vines” and “Sparkle and Blink.”