“I’d rather be a novelist than a filmmaker.”
“The novel’s dead.”
“Well then I’d rather be dead.” The man said.
“Do you mean that?” asked the woman.
The woman stared blankly. She didn’t want to, but she cringed a bit, and then the man’s face softened up a bit.
“Well, but I suppose I can’t be dead right now, so I’ll just have to be a filmmaker, right?”
The woman smiled.
“Right.” And then she served herself another drink. As she sat back onto the couch, she turned her body so that it faced the man again, and brought her legs up so they rested comfortably beside her waistline. “So tell me, Mr. Famous Director, what’s your next movie going to be about?”
The man finished his whiskey. A dead novelist, he thought. “I don’t know yet.” He said out loud.
In the morning, the man woke up, and the woman was already awake, cooking them both eggs for breakfast. She was also doing work, and had her instrument strapped to her back. The man stood up and walked over.
“Don’t make mine scrambled.” He said. “I hate scrambled eggs.”
The woman turned.
“I’ll make another batch.” She offered.
“Never mind, scrambled will do.”
The woman stopped and thought for a second, and then she swung her guitar back to the front of her body and played a few chords on it. She hummed a tune, and the man ate his eggs, and when she was done humming, she ran to her room and scribbled something onto a small notebook.
“Watch the stove for me.” She warned the man, and he stood up and moved the pan a bit. He turned the gas down and opened the fridge, and took a swig from a carton of orange juice he saw, but there wasn’t much juice left in it, so he finished the carton and threw it out. That night, he would want something to drink besides water, and he would regret that decision, but at the moment, as he saw it, it was the right decision to make.
“When is your next show?” The man asked.
“That’s the night of the premiere.”
The woman stopped her playing and scribbling, and she came over and sat down.
“Oh my god. I forgot.”
“Never mind, I don’t have to go.”
The woman giggled, and got up again.
“That’s silly, of course you’ll go. And I’ll go with you. Besides, I’ll just be at a little coffee shop, and you’ll be at a world premiere! I’ve never been to a world premiere for a film before.”
“You’ve been for something else?”
“No. But I’ve always wanted to go to a premiere.” The woman stopped. The man looked at her, and then picked up the paper, which was on the table, and turned to the sports section. The Knicks had lost again, but the Yankees were on a roll.
“I’ll call to cancel my show now.” The paper came down.
“Don’t do that yet.”
“Trust me.” The man said. “I might rather go see you.”
The woman smiled because she thought that meant he loved her.
In the afternoon the man went to the bookstore, and he bought himself two novels, a book of poems, and some coffee. After, he walked around Union Square for a while, and looked at all the people on their way to and from work. There was a musician by the statue of George Washington that played guitar and sang like Jimi Hendrix, and he sat down and listened to him for a while. He’d seen him before, and he liked how he played, but since he was shy, he never spoke to the musician, who he called Moonman in his mind (because of a big pair of boots the musician wore, and also because of the way his eyes were – one always facing the earth, and one always facing the sky). The man dropped some money in Moonman’s guitar case, and he walked back to his home on the lower West side of Manhattan. He took the scenic route, because it took longer, and he took his time, because he wanted to.
“It’s going to be big!” raved Ned, the man’s friend and producer. “Real big, man, probably the biggest premiere that we’ve had yet, if you’ll buy it!”
“I buy it. Why not.” The man responded.
“Do you realize what you are doing here?”
“You’re blowing up, man!” Ned was ecstatic. “We’ll be rich! Maybe win awards! Who knows man, aren’t you excited?”
The man looked around at the room he was in. He was excited, it was true, but this excitement was buried under a blanket of other emotions. He was morose, he was nervous, and he was overwhelmed, most of all, with a feeling of nothingness. So he had finished a movie, so it was premiering on Thursday, so it was getting good reviews, so he might make some extra money—so what? He thought. Time to move on now, isn’t it?
“Sure.” The man responded. “I’m excited.”
“Well of course you are!” Ned answered. “So are you bringing that chick to the premiere? The brunette, the one that sings?”
“Maybe. She has a show to play that day.”
“Well, so what, tell her to come anyway. She can postpone, can’t she?”
“Good. Unless you’d rather bring somebody else?”
The man stared.
“No, I like her.”
The woman came to visit again, around noon the next day. She brought her instrument, like she always did, and brought some food in a bag also.
“I knew you wouldn’t have eaten.” She said, and she proceeded to take all of the food out, and she was right, thought the man, so he got plates out and had lunch with her. They watched TV and he explained all of the shows to her, because she didn’t have a set herself, and so she didn’t know the plotlines, and after some few hours of watching, the woman played some of her new songs for him. They were beautiful, but more importantly, the man could tell she cared about them. The woman stopped after one song, and she turned the page in her booklet.
“What’s wrong?” The man asked.
“Nothing.” She said. “I just feel weird.”
“Weird about what?”
“Nothing. I don’t know.”
“Is it a song?” asked the man.
“Yeah. Sort of.”
“Well can I hear it?”
“Sure, why not.”
The woman played for the man then, and she played beautifully, and though she never said it, and he never asked, the man was taken by a feeling that the song was really about him. He turned red when he heard it, but he was quiet and never took his gaze off of the woman. She sang timidly, and the man wanted to hug her, but she was protective with her voice, so he sat and listened only. When she was done, she turned away, so that her hair kept him from looking at her eyes, but he reached out, and he brushed it away, and then he kissed her, and didn’t say anything. They went into his room, and they made love, and they came out, and when the man sat down and turned the TV back on, the woman was not offended, but instead sat next to him, and dug her head into the soft patch that stretched between his shoulder and the middle of his rib cage.
“You should play that song at the premiere.” The man suggested.
“I have my show.” The woman retorted. Then, “You told me not to cancel it.”
“Well then.” The man lit a cigarette. “I guess it’s too late now.”
“Do you want me to try?”
“No. It’s okay.”
“Lend me a cigarette?”
The man lent a cigarette to the woman, and lit it for her, and they stopped speaking for a while, until it was time for the man to explain the TV shows again, and he did, even when the woman fell asleep and wasn’t listening anymore.
On the morning of the premiere, the man realized that he had to go, and that he didn’t want to go unless the woman came with him. So he called her up and asked her to cancel her show, and when she told him that she couldn’t, he asked to go over to her place. He found her sitting on her bed, playing guitar and eating carrots. He begged her to go with him, but in the way that people who know each other well beg, which doesn’t look like begging at all, but more like reaffirming things that both parties already know to be true, as if their truth can change and become a new truth through this process.
“So it’s too late, huh? You can’t come with me?”
“I asked you so many times! Now it’s the morning of!”
“You’re right. It’s too late, then, I guess.”
The man was good.
“Don’t do this.”
“What?” the man asked. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be selfish.”
“But you are, and you know that it’s working.”
“Never mind. I’m sorry. If it’s too late then it’s too late.”
The woman laughed now, and she dropped her head, so that he hair covered her face up and made a tent, where she was safe from him. She brushed a strand back and looked through the space this created, and then she let the strand of hair fall back and seal her up once more. The man lay down.
“I really can’t.” said the woman.
“I’m sorry.” Sighed the man. She kissed him, and he let her, but then he pulled back and closed his eyes. “I don’t really want to go.” He said.
The woman leaned over the man, and this time decided to include him in her tent. She pressed her forehead against his, and when he tried to move, she held him.
“Why are you like this?” She asked him, but he had no answer.
“What do you mean?”
“Why do you hate yourself so much?”
The man pushed the woman’s shoulders back, and released himself from her tent. He wanted to respond, and bite back, but instead he laughed. He started laughing hard, so that he could barely control himself, and after a while, the woman began laughing too. She didn’t know what was going on, but she laughed freely, and when he started to kiss her, she let him, and when he moved to take her clothes off, she only stopped him in the beginning, to make him feel like he had to try. He kissed her all over her body and he looked at her with a look that was mostly grateful, as if she had given him some compliment, but while they made love, and he held her ****, they never spoke even a single word. Afterwards, the man held her, and they both fell asleep on top of the covers.
When he awoke, the man was sweating. It was six o’clock, and he knew he had forgotten to call Ned, but instead of calling, he lay there a bit longer, staring at the ceiling and pretending to still be asleep. The woman woke up too, and she reminded him of the things he had allowed himself to forget, and as she got ready for her show, he put his pants on and made some phone calls.
He called Ned, and set up how he would get to the premiere, and he called his mother to make sure that she and dad had their tickets. He called his sister across the country, and he chatted freely about everything with her, and then he called his best friend Matt to brag about the things that he was doing. Finally, the man got dressed, and left the woman’s place, and when he did, he called Francesca, a girl he’d met a few weeks earlier, and a girl that he was hoping would be able to go to the premiere with him.
Of course, Francesca was, and though she had “nothing to wear”, the man picked her up at nine, and she looked stunning in her dress, though the man barely let her know it. They drove to the premiere, and when they got there, the man was very distant.
“Lighten up, you look miserable.” Commented Ned off to the side. Then, “Where’s the other girl, I thought you liked her.”
“She couldn’t come.” Replied the man.
As the night progressed, the man started to look progressively more miserable. He went from talking only rarely to hardly communicating with anyone at all, and at the end of the screening he got up and left before all the applause had ended. At the after party, he was worse, and though Francesca tried to coax him out to the dance floor for a tune with her, he glumly sat alone at his reserved seat, and drank more.
It didn’t take long for the man to get drunk that way. After his fifth scotch and soda he began to realize how he was acting, but by that time it was too late, and even when he tried to cheer up, it didn’t work. Francesca sat on his lap and made him kiss her and he did, and when she suggested that the two of them go back to the car, he complied; but even then he felt that sting in his stomach that he had been feeling all night. The man said his goodbyes and he went back to the car, and for Francesca’s sake he kissed her, and when they were done, he said he wanted to go home. She offered to come home with him, but he told her that he would rather sleep alone that night. Francesca was upset, but she said she understood.
When the man dropped her off at her house that night, Francesca tried to kiss him one more time. She wanted him to come inside with her, but though he kissed her back for a moment, he pulled away quickly, and asked her to leave. How strange, Francesca thought as she walked back to her house, but for some reason, she was attracted to this peculiarity, and before she went to bed that night she thought how much she would like to figure out that man.
The coffee shop was closed when the man showed up, and though he had the woman’s number, he decided not to call it, and instead go have another drink. He stepped into a bar by Union Square, but decided not to drink there because it was too bright and he could see all of the furniture’s imperfections far too clearly. Instead, he decided, he would buy a bottle by his apartment, and drink at home, where nobody could bother him.
The man asked the car to go back to the premiere, and to drop him off where he was, because he wanted to walk. He stopped at a grocery store to buy some cigarettes, and he smoked his Luckies one after the other, and when he was halfway to the Village, he decided to take a subway the rest of the way, even if it would be only two stops.
In the subway station, the man put out his cigarette, and as he sat down he realized that there was a man playing music next to him. It was Moonman, and he was happy to see him, and when he put some money in Moonman’s guitar case, the man was greeted by a “Thank you.” Which he took as an obvious conversational invitation.
“Are you happy?” The man asked, to Moonman’s surprise.
“How do you mean that?”
“You know. Are you happy?” he asked again.
The Moonman put his guitar down and sat next to it. His eyes still floated independently of each other, but the man could feel that they were looking at him.
“No, but how do you mean that?” asked Moonman once more. “Happy is relative, and it’s judged differently by different people.”
“I want to know how you judge it.” Replied the man.
“Well then, I guess so.” Moonman shot back. Then, “Why do you ask, man? Why do you care if I’m happy?”
The man thought about it for a second.
“I want to know how you do it.”
Moonman stared at him, as if he were waiting for him to say more, as if this answer had not been enough for him, and then he sighed.
“Man, you must be crazy.” He laughed. “What are you asking me for?”
The man was silent.
“Look at me man, I’m playing music in the subway. I’m wearing boots I don’t know who wore before me, and I’ve got an eye problem. What would a guy like you possibly want to know from a guy like me? Ain’t you happy on your own?”
The man shook his head.
“Well there’s the problem then. What do you do man?”
“I’m a filmmaker.”
“And you’re not happy?”
Moonman grabbed his guitar and started playing.
“Well, then I guess you better do something else.” He said and smiled. The man turned to look at him. “Hey man, listen. I got my problems just like you do. But I’ve got something here most people don’t have. I do what I want, and what I do is make people happy. It works for me. May not work for you, but it works for me.”
“I wish I could do that.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Me. That’s the problem.”
The two were silent for a bit. The Moonman laughed. The man looked at him, but then he started laughing too. They laughed until the man’s face hurt, and until his eyes started to tear. Moonman was crying when the subway came, and when the man got up so did he, still crying. The man stood as the train rushed to a stop, and he looked over at Moonman and stuck his hand out to be shaken.
“Man, you do you, ok? You’ll be alright.” Moonman said loudly, and both men shook hands and the man got on the train and he left for his apartment.
When he got home, the man realized that he’d forgotten to buy himself that bottle, so he stopped by Barrow’s Pub to have another drink before he slept. When he walked in, the bar was empty, and there was music from the jukebox playing some country western ballad. He sat down at the bar and ordered a beer, and he asked for a napkin that he could write on while he drank. On the napkin he wrote his thoughts, and was surprised to find how very few of them there were. He only knew that he had them, but he had great trouble articulating them, even on paper, which had always been his specialty.
An original short story by Andoni Elias Nava 2010