Like a Buyer
The color of the whiskey swirling in my glass matched the sunrise.
It’s a crappy label, one of those impulse buys after spending long nights scrolling through Amazon’s deals list. My wife would have an issue with me doing this, but she’s spending Zs at her own place.
The patio chair felt chilly for the first half-hour. The LA sun shines fierce, like a starlet on her first red carpet. They both used to fill me with hope and joy, but that magic has long passed and our relationship's sunk into platonic.
The sun peeked over the horizon, and my phone started buzzing. I could feel it on my wrist. It’s probably him again. I drag my hand over to my other wrist to press the button embedded on my skin.
“Hey Mr. Whittaker, Mark here. Can you hear me?”
It's my agent. He's one of a few who would know I was up right now.
“Yes, I can hear you. What can I do for you this time?”
Mark clears his throat- as insufferable as you could imagine.
“Well, you know that Civil War flick you were interested in-”
My nose flares up. “That’s not what I said, Mark-”
“Well, Mr. Whittaker," he interrupts, "That flick just switched directors. I think if you want to headline that flick, now’s the time to reach out to Tommy and Dick.”
“Mark, those producers were the ones who disliked me," I retort back.
"They were the ones who called me out, you moron. It wasn’t the director.”
“Oh…Okay," Mark stammers, "But what if I told you they were willing to sign you anyway?”
I got up from my chair. I can’t sit while hearing bad news.
“What do you mean?!”
“I mean, and bare with me here, I think you might change your mind.”
“What are you talking about?!” I put my drink down and let my robe drag behind me.
“ Mr. Whittaker," Mark surrendered, "Let’s not get crazy here-”
“CRAZY?! Who's the one trying to convince whom to take on a role ruled by corporate shills, you dumb naive son of a bitch!”
“Okay," you want to hear the news-”
A slight pause filled the room. We didn’t hear each other clear our throats. I ran out of the will to brace for bad news a long time ago.
“I pitched you for the gig...and they said yes.”
“GOD. DAMN IT!”
“What’s wrong? What’s the big deal with getting this part?”
“What’s wrong?! WHAT’S WRONG?! Those producers are the bane of my existence. They’re the smarmy Hollywood that I’ve grown to hate! They hate me, yet they think I'd be willing to work for them for their bottom line?! Mark, there used to be chemistry between everyone involved in the flick because it was a passion. It was an art form, not a factory. I remember when it didn’t even matter who won an Oscar-”
“Sir," Mark defiantly interrupted my early morning tirade, "Would you like to continue the rant or do you want me to start crunching numbers? We’ll meet today for lunch. Sound good? Great."
I sat back down and stewed in my own boiling juices as he concluded the meeting. "See you in six hours, Mr. Whittaker."
He got cocky when he asked, "May I call you Michael?”
I leaned back in my chair, finished my whiskey and walked back inside.
I used to love hearing casting news. Hell, back in the day I’d call up Thomas, Kenny, Johnny, Patricia, and Niall and we’d celebrate with a night of partying so hard that I’d wear sunglasses at the script readings.
It used to be fun until the marketing teams got a seat at the boardroom meetings. Now I just want to find some young blood with a twinkle in their eye, star in their small movie as the headliner, make that poor kid some money and sign some contract that I will invest in his ventures as an EP if he never touches a cinematic universe. Or a war flick- that is unless you want to film about both sides.
Yet I still call Maddalyn. She’s been there through the hangovers, the cheap drugs and expensive mattresses, the one-room studio that grew into a mansion overlooking the hills. I at least owe it to her. She gave the expected response.
“AGAIN?! Jesus Christ, Michael. What were you thinking?!”
“I wasn’t,” I cracked out as my voice gave way. I few coughs brought it back.
“My agent did.”
Her anger bloomed like a wild rose in the desert.
“The young sonovabitch, I’ll lace it into him. The last time you were in a war movie you almost died!-”
“Not true,” I yielded, the words rushing out.
“Yes, it is! You fell off stupid-ass scaffolding, cracked your ribs and collarbone, and now this prick wants to sign you for ANOTHER ONE?! He must be out of his fucking mind.”
“He wasn’t there for that one. That was on my old agent, and it got him fired. No one had mentioned that I would have to do my own stunts.”
(I have to admit, that wasn’t the smartest idea, but the separation left me depressed and sick with cabin fever and in need of doing SOMETHING, so technically it was her fault, but I digress.)
“I don’t care. Don’t show up at the meeting, Michael. You’re too old for these sort of things.”
“Maddy, it’s the civil war, not another fucking Point Break remake. Jesus, you’re making me feel like I’m too old to sit at a damn desk playing a Captain of some sort. I certainly wouldn’t be an infantryman or a fighter of any kind, you know.”
I felt her breath on the receiver.
“When you show up for lunch, eat like a buyer.”
“Yeah, yeah. You tell me that every time.”
An awkward pause, delicate and unnerving. For a second, we went through our entire marriage; worry, heartbreak, yearning.
“Have a nice day, Mikey.”
“You too, Maddy.”
She hung up first.