Harriet stirred the spaghetti in the boiling water and turned to face Lucy, who was chopping some fresh tomatoes.
“I can’t believe you’re refusing to tell me which dress you’ve picked!”
Lucy looked at her friend from over her shoulder and smiled slily.
“I want it to be a surprise, so you can be amazed at how good I look in it!”
Harriet breathed out sharply, exasperated.
“What if it were your wedding dress? You’d keep that from me too?”
“Of course, not,” said Lucy as she put the chopped tomatoes in a pan.
“C’mon Lucy!” Shrilled Harriet.
Ben looked up from his Nintendo Switch.
“C’mon girls, it’s just a dress...” he said tiredly.
The two friends shot him a severe side gaze.
“It’s not just a dress,” pointed out Harriet, her hand on her hips.
“Yeah Ben, call my Oscars dress just a dress one more time and you’ll end up in the pan with the tomatoes”.
The man held his hands up in surrender and went back to his videogame.
“I hate you,” said Harriet playfully tugging at Lucy’s jumper.
Her friend reworded her with a loving smile.
“Let’s set the table, it’s almost ready,” she said.
Harriet busied herself with a tablecloth and some dished as Lucy finished stirring the sauce, reaching for her phone when it went off with the sound of a notification.
“Shit,” she said staring at her screen.
Harriet and Ben looked at her, curious.
“You know Pablo Ramirez?” Lucy asked
“The bloke with the mugshot?” Queried Ben, leaning against the kitchen table.
“The actor,” corrected Lucy with a pinch of sourness.
“Anyway, ” continued Lucy reading the article on her phone. “Shocking news came today as the Academy released this statement regarding Latin American actor Pablo Ramirez: It’s with deep regret that we have decided to revoke Mr Ramirez’s nomination for Best Leading Actor. We recognize his talent but in light of recent events we felt his nomination was not reflecting the morals of the Academy or those of our audience. We wish Mr Ramirez well in his career, regardless of this unpleasant episode“.
Lucy looked up from her phone, disbelief plastered all over her face.
“What the actual fuck?” She said.
Harriet shook her head.
“That’s not fair!”
“Jesus,” chimed in Ben. “They need to chill the fuck out, it’s not like he’s running for prime minister or something...”
Lucy paced up and down the kitchen, scratching her head.
“Ridiculous!” Then she looked at the couple.
“Sorry guys, I need to call James. He sent me the article and he’s been very sensitive about the whole thig...long story”.
“Of course sweetie,” said Harriet stroking her arm. “You can go in our room, we’ll save you some pasta for later”.
“Hey baby,” James greeted her answering his phone.
“Hey...am I disturbing you?” Lucy asked, tentatively.
“No, we’re on lunch break...did you read the article?”
“Yes,” Lucy breathed out. “This is a pile of bullshit. They can’t do this!”
“Unfortunately, they can. It’s happened before...”
“When?” asked Lucy, weirdly rancorous.
“Many times Lucy,” James said annoyed, then quickly softened his tone. “It’s just that it’s never happened for a reason so exclusively personal to the individual”.
Lucy was silent for a moment.
“Well, then why now?”
James pinched the bridge of his nose and pushed his salad bowl away, suddenly too upset to eat.
“I don’t know...but as a lucky guess I’d say media pressure. I don’t know if you’ve been following the story?”
“Not closely honestly,” she admitted.
James moved his phone to his other ear.
“It was a shitshow. So many self-righteous arseholes out there with their cancel culture. They even went as far as threatening to boycott the ceremony...”
“I don’t understand, all this for some minor crime he committed twenty years ago? What’s this, the inquisition?”
“Apparently they claimed he was part of a Latin gang, I don’t know and I don’t care, it shouldn’t matter to anyone. He’s obviously left that life behind long ago, this is just brutal. This way we’re sending the message that there’s no point in trying to improve yourself because your mistakes are going to haunt you forever.” He was heating up.
Lucy was silent for a while then slowly asked.
“James, do you see yourself in this situation?”
The man scratched the back of his head and breathed out sharply.
“I wish a could Lucy, but somehow I was treated differently...”
“Is that why you’re so angry?”
James locked his phone between his shoulder and ear and lit a cigarette.
“It’s all of that baby: the way the press acted, the general public reaction, the media process. I don’t understand why was I forgiven and he wasn’t? Why was I given a platform to talk about my mistakes and he wasn’t? He didn’t stand a chance...”
“Maybe because you never committed a crime?” Tried Lucy tentatively, although nothing of that story made sense to her either.
“Well, technically there is a mugshot of me somewhere too...And the fact that I have always been let off quite easily for my mistakes. It all just makes me think...”
“What are you implying?” Lucy asked.
James threw his cigarette on the pavement and extinguished it with his Adidas.
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “I just know that the more I think about it the more uncomfortable it makes me.”
“I thought overthinking was my prerogative,” Lucy said, trying to joke to lighten the mood.
“Well, I think this time overthinking is the right thing to do...” he was briefly silent.
“Listen, I’ve got to now. Will text you later, ok?”
“Ok. Please call me if you need me, I don’t care what time it is here...”
James smiled to himself.
“I’ll do baby, I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
When he closed the call with Lucy, James took a moment to think. This situation had really upset him in a completely different way, he was outraged and fed up. He couldn’t stop thinking about how unfairly the actor had been treated by a hypocritical, double standarded society that he had tried to please for so long. He suddenly felt a strange feeling of shame that made him want to punch a wall. Then he remembered the words of his therapist: Can you do anything about it?
He unclenched his fist and took a deep breath, before selecting a contact from his phone, waiting impatiently for a reply.
“Hey Ian, How are you? Listen, we need to talk.”