Monday, September 7, 2009

And then he kissed me (thanks Phil Spector)

For any of you who have followed my sad tale from the beginning, you’ll agree with me—it was a complete impossibility that I would ever find myself canoodling with Brian in front of all of our friends on a beautifully sunny end-of-summer afternoon. Maybe because I’m prone to using words like “canoodling”…

As Mark promised, he gave me the entire day off to help Chlo get ready. Who knew turning 28 took such preparations. I arrived at 11am, and by 2pm we had strung floral garland around the backyard’s fence, adorned dozens of cups with paper umbrellas, and frosted a pineapple and walnut cake. The guy with the pig arrived, and initiated what would be a lingering smell of bacon in the neighborhood for days to come. By the time the musicians arrived, at 4pm, we were on our second batch of punch, and eagerly awaiting the guests.

“You’re going to wimp out,” Chlo said, as we lounged in the backyard listening to the musicians warm up.

“Yeah, usually I’d agree with you, but Brian actually seems interested. He texts me almost every day. He puts his arm around me whenever we hang out. It’s not that I’m suddenly so self-confident, it’s just that I’m usually pretty good at detecting it when someone doesn’t like me.”

“Yeah, but what’s his problem then? It’s great that he’s put his arm around you, but what’s stopping him from making his move?”

“I don’t know. If you’re such a genius when it comes to guys, you tell me.”

“Hardly. Maybe you haven’t noticed, as you’ve been a little wrapped up in yourself, but lately I haven’t exactly been striking it rich when it comes to guys.”

The b-day fest was turning into a bitch fest. I had been totally self-involved lately, and Chlo hadn’t complained once. And here I was making it all about myself, again, on her birthday.

“Well, look out for a guy named Eric. He’s not a musician, an actor, or a lawyer, so that’s a good start.”

Mark and Joan walked into the backyard, and the musicians started playing. After that, it was a steady stream of arrivals.

Eric helped me track down the perfect present for Chlo—an original sketch from the first season of The Simpsons, signed by Matt Groening, a good friend of Eric’s. I asked him to bring it with him, giving me the perfect opportunity to introduce them. And, as predicted, Chlo kept Eric at her side the rest of the night, being funny, and inclusive, introducing him to everyone, making him feel like an instant part of the group—showing the warmth that makes it impossible not to love her.

I was happy watching my matchmaking in action, but starting to worry about Brian. It was three hours since the party had started and there was no sign of him. I texted him, “um, hello? M.I.A…”

He wrote right back, “sorry. on my way. will explain.”

Oh no…explain what? I quickly found Mark and Joan and showed the text to them. I was wondering, in the world of rational people, what does this mean?

“You need to stop idealizing Brian, and just talk to him. You’ve liked him since forever, so get it over what. You have nothing to lose,” Mark said.

Joan continued, “It seems like you’re torturing yourself, hanging out with him, but nothing ever happening. Now he’s late to your best friend’s birthday. It seems like you need to see if you can take things to the next level, or just move on.”

Funny how I had to start a blog to have you all tell me the exact same thing my brother and his girlfriend have been thinking all along.

By the time Brian finally arrived, the roasted pig was nothing but a spit turning over embers. He headed for Chlo, waiving at me from across the room, and handed her a present.

I headed to the cooler for another drink, and as I turned around Brian startled me.

“Cece, I’m really sorry I’m late. But there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

Brian spent the next half hour telling me about his ex-girlfriend. They’d been together for three years and then, seemingly out of nowhere, she picked up and moved across the country. She wanted to stay together, doing the long distance thing, but Brian was so put off by her impetuous departure that he officially ended things over the phone. Well, she moved back and wanted to start things up again. Brian had been spending time with her over the last few months, seeing if it was possible to pick things up where they left off. Of course, this was the same period of time in which he’d been spending time with me, cuddling, but never making a move.

“And the points of all this?” I asked, feeling like we were playing out Pretty in Pink gender reversals, me playing Duckie to his Andie.

“So, it took me a little longer than I thought. But I wanted to officially end things with her before I saw you again.”

And then he kissed me. With the sound of Mariachi and the smell of bacon permeating the yard, the boy I’d longest and most admired, kissed me. And it was better than I ever could have thought. We spent the rest of the night dancing, laughing, and, yes, canoodling.

Oh glee, perfection, and peace of mind—how shallow you are. It was a mere seven hours until I woke to a pit of dread in my stomach. Ex-girlfriend? Who was she? I was dying to know.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Work Makes the Head Go Duh

Firstly, I’d like to start by apologizing for my silence. It was not my intention to keep away from the blog for so long, but for those of you who have ever started a new job, fallen in love, or been abducted by aliens—you’ll know how sometimes time slips by so fast you can’t remember whether something happened yesterday or weeks before. Honestly, this is the first time in memory I was so busy that I forgot to eat a meal.

Mark and I have been working tirelessly; well, actually, very tired. So, let’s just say, for uncountable hours. The first few days were terrifying as I tried to learn writer lingo and pitch protocol as a complete novice in a room full of experts. I gained some confidence toward the end of the first week when one of the writers, Eric (he wrote for the Simpsons, Seinfeld, and How I Met Your Mother—intimidating!) pulled me aside for a little pep talk. He told me that I had something in the room that nobody else had—a connection to Mark, and that made me the perfect person to write a show based on his life. He also told me that’s how a lot of the most successful writers got their shot. They got lucky through their friends and then they earned their keep, and I could do that too.

I’ve never been one for entitlement. I can’t even bring myself to take my car to the car wash. I find it mortifying to sit around reading a magazine while someone buffs my tires. Hence the “don’t judge me” scribbled into the three-year-old dust.

So, the new gig, that’s the main reason I’ve been out of contact, or as Chlo prefers to call it, “uselessly busy.” Reason number two is that I’ve been spending my limited free time with Brian. About twice a week, once I am done at the studio, I’ll text him and he’ll meet me at my place. We usually get takeout, watch a movie, and snuggle on the couch. It’s pretty much just this side of heaven. Only thing is, he hasn’t made a move. When he leaves, usually around 2am, I get a big hug and kiss on the cheek. Honestly, I’ve been too tired to do anything but enjoy it, and it’s only now that I’m writing it down that I think, hmm, maybe he should have kissed me by now. But, I think I’d really just rather enjoy things.

Chlo’s birthday is this coming Saturday. I’ve already told Mark that I’m taking the entire day off to help her with the party. It will be my first full day off in four weeks. We are going to host a luau in Chlo’s backyard. She knows a guy who knows how to set up a pig roast (of course she does), so we’ll play a little Don Ho, make some fruity drinks, and enjoy what’s left of the summer. Mark is going to come with Joan. They seem to be doing really well, considering they don’t see each other too often. Brian is coming with me. Anthony will be there. And I think we’ll even invite some of the writers from the show. I thought it would be fun to have Eric there. Maybe he and Chlo will hit it off… as if she needs my help.

Sorry so short, but Mark just called, and I’m being summoned back to work. Anyone who ever thought “living the dream” was fun was clearly not living a very good dream. But before I go, should I try to make a move on Brian at the party?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Officially a Writer

I often find myself sympathizing with Marie Antoinette, finding my people have turned against me, forcing me to make decisions I would never otherwise make. However, this week I feel more like Princess Grace, embraced and adored by a conspiring audience who understands and agrees with my meddling ways. Winning by a large margin was the option to “arrange for Mark and Joan to hang out again.” A medley of meddlers; I salute you.

But, before I get back to Mark and Joan, you’re probably wondering what happened with Peter and Brian. I mean, just because you told me to forget about them doesn’t mean they totally vanished. Well, Peter kind of vanished, back into his indie rock black hole. Chlo has run into him a couple of times and says he will nod hello, but always finds an excuse to avoid talking to her. It’s actually for the best since it lets me avoid any confrontation. Brian has been another story. He’s called a few times. I didn’t pick up, and he didn’t leave messages. He’s texted too, but always open-ended “how r u doing?” I’ve responded, a day or so later, as non-committal as possible, like, “ok. really busy.” I found myself asking, “What would a guy do in this situation?” I felt like a fraud. I really wanted to hang out with Brian. I’ve moved beyond my teenage obsession, and beyond my adult obsession, and now I feel like maybe there is something deeper between us, or that there could be. I’m doing as my blog-conscious requires and “forgetting him,” but for now, in practice only.

As for Mark and Joan, I was starting to think that this would be a piece of cake. Mark turned in his script to NBC, the revised version that he and I had stayed up rewriting based on Joan’s comments. Their initial response was, “This is really not what we expected.” Mark told me he thought he was going to fall dead on the floor. The execs told him they’d been expecting something much closer to his stand-up act, and had already starting preliminary casting. This new direction was not what they’d pitched the network executives, and not what the casting directors were scouting for. Of course, in our naiveté, we hadn’t thought this through. However, once Mark recovered from the shock, he took the producer through the reason for the changes, the opportunity for character growth and to make this series something different from other “bro comedies.” I guess this is the reason Mark has made it this far—he doesn’t give up. By the end of his meeting, the producer had already called the casting director to give her new direction, and had his assistant set up a meeting with the network executives.

While we hadn’t broached the subject in a while, my deal with Mark (his terms) had always been, if I helped him write the script and it sold, I would be a staff writer. I didn’t bring this up with Mark when he called to tell me because I still couldn’t believe this would actually happen. Even if Mark wanted me to work on his show, what NBC Showrunner would allow a textbook editor to write for primetime?

I told Mark we should meet at our favorite Mexican restaurant to celebrate. He said, “You should invite Joan.” My hope soared; he was hooked. Then Mark added, “You’re going to have to quit this week, so you’d better get her liquored up.” Gulp, fall, crash, blackout.


“A deal’s a deal. You’re in. Mark and Cece go national.”

I called Chlo and Anthony and told them to bring whomever they wanted, and hurry; drinks on us. I called Joan and told her about Mark’s meeting and how her suggestions had been a huge hit. She seemed hesitant to join, but I talked her into it. Mark invited his theater friends, and before 8pm we’d completely overwhelmed our little local restaurant. Joan was the last to arrive. I’d texted her a couple times and she hadn’t responded. She finally showed up after 9pm. I drunkenly accosted her when she arrived. “Where have you been? They’re practically out of salt and things!”

“Sorry,” she replied. “I wanted to come, but felt really bad about the last time I hung out with you guys. I feel like I got too pushy about my ideas with Mark.”

“You’re crazy!” I shouted. I never said Margaritas made me a better person, but they sure do make me happy. “Mark! Come here!” I told Mark about Joan’s guilty conscious, and to my surprise, my brother threw his arms around Joan and sped her off to meet his friends. I slouched down into a booth with Chlo and Anthony where I could hear Mark saying, “Lloyd Dobbler,” “NBC,” and “Joan” at the top of his voice.

Anthony thought Joan looked happy. Chlo thought Mark looked ridiculous. It could have been the cheap sombrero somebody put on his head, but I think it was a mixture of joy, pride, and possibly the very beginning of love. Here’s hoping.

It was one of those warm times when the world seems perfect, and everybody who matters is all in one place. But just when you have those kinds of thoughts, they end. Brian walked through the door, and suddenly I was hot, nervous, and feeling the ill effects of my third Margarita. “What’s he doing here?” I whispered.

“I guess one of Mark’s friends invited him,” Chlo said, scooting closer to me, resting her shoulder against mine.

Mark hugged Brian with no apparent malice and shouted over to me, “Look who’s here!” Brian waved, and Chlo, Anthony, and I all half-heartedly waved back. Had Mark invited him?
By Midnight, most of our second- and third-tier friends had left. Mark and a couple of his friends were in a booth with Joan and Brian. And Anthony, Chlo, and I slunk lower into the warm rust-colored vinyl booth.

“Just talk to him,” Chlo said.

“I can’t. The people have spoken.”

And as I was drowning into my own misery, I saw my brother pull the smoothest move, and in one easy motion he sat down next to Joan, moved closer to her and put his arm around her shoulder. And that’s how normal people function. What was my problem? God, where to start?
“I’ve got to tell Joan I quit,” I said. Anthony and Chlo tried to pull me back.

“Just tell her on Monday,” Anthony said.

I pulled away with drunken bravado and headed over to my brother’s booth and pulled Joan out from under his arm. “Need to talk to you,” I said. Mark scowled and Joan laughed.

“Look, Cece, I know I should have talked to you about this, but I didn’t know how Mark felt. I was completely awed by your brother when we last hung out. That’s why I acted like such a freak. But now things seem, I dunno… possible. I wanted to say something to you.”
“That’s great!” I blurted. “I have to quit.”

“Because I like your brother?”

This is why drunken conversations, especially about work, are not a great idea. “No, I’m going to work on the show!”

Joan hugged me, and then we did a little dance for all the writers in the world, and the realization that sometimes good things happen.

Then Brian got up from the booth and put his arm around me. “So you’ve made it, huh? You’ve officially made it.”

“More like Mark pulled me up from the gutter and cleaned me up.”

“Well, it’s a good look for you. I’m heading out, can I give you a ride?”

I’d driven myself, but realized that I was not in the best shape to get myself home. Mark jumped in telling Brian, “yes, yes, get her drunk ass home.”

I said farewell to Joan, Anthony, and Chlo and headed off with Brian, my heart visibly thumping through my shirt, or so I thought.

The drive was quiet, aside from The Pixies Surfer Rosa on the stereo. And when we pulled up to the curb, just as Brian was starting to say something, I pushed the door open, yelling from the curb, “Thanks! See you later!”

I felt like a moron, but what else could I do? I couldn’t really explain that a bunch of strangers would prefer he and I not hang out. Now what?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lloyd Dobbler, The Sequel

You were practically tied when it came to me going out with Brian. Half of you thought I should go out with him and see if he decided to mention Peter and Jane. Others thought I should go out with Brian, but leave Peter and Jane out of it. But the winning vote went to those of you who thought I should just forget it and not go out with Brian at all. Okay, so the popular vote says I should forfeit my social life. I could have done that without any help, and it feels strangely liberating to elect not to have a life.

And so, in lieu of my own life, I decided to set about giving one back to my brother Mark. One afternoon at work, when Joan and I went out to grab a coffee, an activity that had become a nearly daily occurrence, I did a little background work.

“So, have you talked to your ex since you moved out?” I asked.

“No. We had been on the verge of breaking up for more than a year. So, when I left, I was totally done; there was nothing left to say” Joan said.

“Would you say, you’re ready to date again, you know, if the right guy came along,” I continued.
“I’d really rather make friends right now,” Joan said, pausing to look at me. “I haven’t had much fun lately. As you know, I’ve spent all my time here, just focusing on work, not really going out. It’s actually been great to hang out with you. You’re the first person I’ve wanted to talk to since Malcolm, my ex.”

I had found an in. “Oh good, I’m glad to hear you say that because I could really use your help with something tonight. My brother Mark is this sort of actor-comedian guy, and he and I have been writing a pilot for NBC. He has to turn it in soon, and we thought it would be a good idea to have people actually read the script the script out loud. We could be seriously kidding ourselves if the dialogue falls flat once the actors get their hands on it.”

After convincing Joan that she didn’t need to be a legitimate actress, she said she was in. Chlo had been M.I.A. after an unexpected second bout with Pierre, which had recently ended, again, after he surprised her by taking her on a romantic trip to Paris followed by a quick stop at Pierre’s parents’ house to see his daughter. His…5-year-old daughter! Turns out the kid—who Chlo said was “A gorgeous little Lou Doillon lookalike, but, you know, a child”—splits her time between Pierre’s ex-girlfriend’s house and his parents’ house. For all Chlo’s love of drama, even she knew when things had been pushed a little too far. She agreed to help out Mark too, and would pick Anthony up on her way.

Chlo and Anthony could play out the parts of my parents, and Mark’s adult-life friends. I would play the sister, past and present. And Joan could play the love interest—perfect.
I ordered pizza and was two beers in by the time Chlo and Anthony got there. Mark had pulled out folding chairs and set them in a circle around the living room—theater class style. Chlo picked up a script and started reading bits of dialogue aloud in a Royal Shakespearean tone, taunting Mark to try to grab the script away from her. So when I answered the door to let Joan in, Mark had pinned Chlo down on the carpet causing her to scream with mock panic. Joan looked like she wanted to scream with real panic.

We read through the pilot four times, and Mark and I found great spots for improvement each time. Anthony mooned over Chlo, clearly enjoying playing the part of her husband. Joan had been quiet, reading her part, but not really contributing to the group, not seeming to enjoy herself. I don’t know what I’d hoped for, but it was for more than that. And as we were cleaning up, she came up to me looking a little worried.

“Joan, I’m sorry if you didn’t enjoy yourself. I guess I underestimated how overwhelming our little group can be,” I said.

“No, it’s not that. I thought everyone was hilarious. It’s just that…about the script. I think it’s great, but…” she stopped. I motioned for her to continue. “It’s really funny, but it’s a little... I mean, the guy is controlled by his family, not so lucky in love, and has two kind of dopey friends. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I was thinking about something to set it apart.”
Mark was watching us with the start of a wounded pout on his face, the look he gets when he knows someone is being disapproving. I waved him over. “It’s okay, Joan. This pilot is a really big deal and Mark is going to be criticized left and right after he turns this in. If you have an opinion, please share it.”

“Well, I was just thinking, what if instead of Mark’s character having these two dopey friends to always agree with him and keep him slightly off course when it comes to women, what if the two friends were women. And what if they, in trying to help Mark do the right thing to land a girlfriend, actually sabotage him. Then the show becomes more about how sometimes chemistry is about things not making sense and not always doing the right thing. And it can also help Mark’s character grow in terms of his confidence and independence, from his friends and his family.” Joan stopped and looked back and forth between me and Mark. “I dunno…”

I was a little afraid Mark was going to hit her. He looked stunned, like someone had just hit him. Joan’s idea annihilated the entire concept of Mark’s one man show, and everything that got him noticed in the first place.

“It’s brilliant,” he said, calmly, nodding his head. “It’s freaking brilliant, yes! It’s like Lloyd Dobbler and his friends, but instead of ignoring them and being his own person, following his heart, he actually listens to these girls. And they lead him astray. He does exactly what the girls think he should do, and it turns out that it’s exactly what the girls he’s interested in do not want him to do. This is it. Cece, we’ve got to re-write this. Joan, can you stay and help?”

Joan didn’t stay. I think she felt she’d contributed enough and barely escaped with her head. Mark and I stayed up until 3am rewriting, and I must say—it was brilliant. But when I went to leave I checked my phone. There was one text message from Joan: “i had fun. what a talented family...” I knew it; she was hooked.

And so it began. And now for the action, or lack thereof. Guidance, please.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Piloting the Situation

It was a tie. Some of you thought I should say, “Thanks, but no thanks” to Pierre and put my brother Mark in a strangle-hold until he finally gave up his problem with Peter and Brian. Others thought, “Why not? Employ Pierre on the frontlines.”

Well, for those who voted to leaving Pierre out of it—good call. When I left him and Chlo at the gig I told him I’d think about his offer. Turns out there was nothing to think about. Chlo called me two days later to tell me she had spotted Pierre with his arm around a nineteen-year-old model, the subject of his newest ad campaign for Vans. When I asked her if she was bummed, she simply said, “Nah, he’s French.” If only they came and went so easily for me.

Surprisingly, work had turned a corner. Despite the last-minute mania at the printer, the book went to press and came out perfectly. Even Joan was happy. This was the first major project on her watch and we had made her look good. That’s what all her panic had really come down to, and I wished I’d been able to see that before. I would have made a much smaller voodoo doll. Now I not only felt empathetic, I felt a little guilty. So, I decided to make friends with Joan by asking her out to lunch to celebrate.

Anthony tagged along, and the three of us went out for fish and chips, just like I had wanted to the week before. Joan was really chatty and surprisingly open about her life. She had moved in with her grandparents in high school after her parents divorced, and got used to doing most things by herself. She had played sports and been in student government at her old school, but her new school was small and rural with cheerleading and band as the only extra circular opportunities for girls. That’s when she began writing a lot.

She had moved back to the city after college and moved in with her boyfriend shortly thereafter. They had just broken up before she took his job. “A fresh start,” she said. “I like the idea of working by the beach. Too bad I never see daylight.”

I had hated Joan so much I’d been unable to see how pretty she was, not in an obvious way, but the kind of beauty that can grow or recede with your mood. She had a light covering of freckles over her nose that seemed to emerge only in sunlight. Her mousy brown hair revealed flex of gold and red. She took off her shoes and buried her feet in the sand, slouched back in her chair and said, “God, we should do this more often.” At that moment I realized, Joan would be perfect for Mark.

Later that day I filled Anthony in on my plan. “Just make sure your brother doesn’t dump your boss,” Anthony responded. I wasn’t worried about that, yet. I had a brilliant plan.

I was supposed to see Mark that night to start working on the pilot. I’d fulfilled my part of the bargain by appearing in his show. We were behind schedule, what with him trying to avoid speaking to me and all… but he was getting edgy now. His script was due to NBC in two weeks, and he didn’t have anything written. This night would be a great “three-fer.” I could potentially advance my writing career by working on the script, try to get the bottom of what Mark had against Peter and Brian, and start planting the seed about Joan.

We ordered pizza and sat down on his couch to layout the fundamentals of the pilot. Mark had decided that he wanted to start the show with a flashback to childhood, showing an early version of our family and Mark’s childhood plays and then cutting to his live “A Marked Man” one-man-show structure—not dissimilar from the live show that I appeared in. I thought the show should include parallel worlds where you might have a bit of Mark’s live show, plus the fundamentals of his life (agent, love interest, friends, etc.), intercut with Mark’s childhood plays and scenes of family life. We spared back and forth, trying to convince each other of one’s own idea. Our final idea met somewhere in the middle—the show would revolve around Mark’s life, with his act as a backdrop (think Seinfeld meets Curb Your Enthusiasm). The flashbacks to childhood would be a comedic device used whenever one of the family members appeared in the show, as a way to humble Mark’s character. Mark’s character was emerging as a hapless egotist. His unsubstantiated confidence often rubbed people the wrong way, but those close to him overlooked it because he was also naively sweet and sentimental. That first night we nailed the tone, and over the next few days we crafted a 22-minute pilot.

“I can’t believe it. I love this script and we still have a week before it’s due,” Mark said one night as I was getting ready to leave.

This is where my plan came into action. “Oh yeah, I was thinking about it,” I said. “I was thinking we should have some people over to read through the script and see how it flows. We’ve been the only ones to read it out loud. It would be good to see how other people interpret the dialogue.”

“That’s a great idea; I’m so glad you’re working with me on this,” he said. “Who should we bring?”

And that’s when I told him about Joan. As I expected, he was hooked. He hadn’t dated anyone seriously in more than a year, Jane. And I had introduced him to her. He knew I knew his type, and he couldn’t resist.

“Just one catch,” I said. “You’ve got to tell me what your problem is with Peter and Brian.” And without even flinching, he did. I put my things down, and a bottle of wine later, the story was out. Peter had slept with Jane and that was why they broke up. Mark hadn’t met Peter before the night of the show, but he knew who he was. And when things were going wrong with Jane and Mark was trying to figure out what was going on, he’d confided in Brian to ask for his advice. Brian had been a good friend, listened, and suggested Mark break things off with Jane.

It wasn’t until Mark saw Peter and Brian together that he realized Brian must have known about Peter and Jane the whole time. That night when Chlo and I had waited for them at the diner, Mark confronted Brian and Brian said that he’d only found out about it after Mark and Jane had broken up, and he hadn’t wanted to stir up bad feelings for Mark. Mark didn’t know whether to believe him, but hated Brian anyway for being friends with Peter.

Mark had really loved Jane, and I was hoping Joan might be a great new distraction or possibly even a real contender. Too bad about the alliteration, but you can’t have it all.

In my mind, this puts Peter completely out of the picture. Even if he hadn’t known about Mark at the time he was seeing Jane; it would simply crush my brother if I went out with him. But I wasn’t so sure what to think about Brian.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faux French

Not a fan of this open-ended comment situation. Conflicting advice—what am I supposed to do with that?

Well, first I tried to get to the bottom of things with Mark. In the days following I called him no less than 25 times, leaving at least 10 messages, and never got a response. I got so desperate I even called our parents to see if they had heard from him. Apparently Mark had called them on Sunday to report in on the show, but nothing since then. Finally, in a last ditch effort, I drove to his house before work, saw his car in the carport, and knocked loudly on his front door at 6am. A minute later Mark’s head appeared between the parted curtains of his front window followed by a grunt of displeasure.

“Hey Mark, what’s up? What’s new?” I asked, enjoying Mark’s annoyance.

“Cece, I swear to God…” Mark began. But I quickly shut him up.

“You know what, Mark? You suck. You rope me into your little play. I dress up in freaking footie pajamas. And the one time a guy likes me…and even two guys like me, you go and screw it up. So you’d better explain what your problem is or you and I are going to have a serious problem.”

“Have you talked to them?” Mark asked.

“Um, have I talked to Peter or Brian, the two totally nice guys who have left me messages and sent me texts? No, idiot. I’ve been waiting to see what your problem is because you’ve got me too freaked out to do anything!”

“Oh, good. Well, don’t talk to them. Look, C., I’m tired. Can we talk about this later?”

I know you don’t know me that well, and Mark even less. But this was really unlike us. We weren’t best friends or anything, but whenever anything did come up, it was always us against the world—the parents, school, any friend that pissed us off. Mark was my protector, and I was his biggest fan. And his sudden closed-off approach was making me mental. “Mark, I’m going to kill you! What is going on?”

“Cece, just please don’t talk to those guys. I would tell you the full story if I could, but I can’t. Just trust me as someone who has always had your best interest. I will tell you everything soon, I promise. And in the meantime, just trust me.”

Chlo was no help either. In pure Chlo fashion, while shopping at a flea market, she had been “discovered,” again… and was now shooting a campaign for Urban Outfitters. She called me after day one, already in the middle of a love affair with the photographer. Of course. It was a three-day shoot and we agreed to meet up on Friday to “celebrate.” I didn’t want to go to our usual spot and risk seeing Brian and Peter, so we decided to head downtown to this new music venue that had just sprung up from an old storage locker.

If I had ever needed a drink, it was Friday. In short, Friday sucked. The text book I had been editing was at the printer, so it was supposed to be an easy day. I had even made plans to have lunch at the beach with Anthony, the one person at work I actually liked. We were going to have fish and chips with our feet buried in the sand. Instead, I had chips from the vending machine. Can you think of a reason? Yeah, Joan.

So, like I said, the book was at the printer when Joan had “the most brilliant idea about the cover,” which involved changing the title from “Explorations in Science” to “Exploring the World of Science.” I’m not even kidding. And she was adamant. So my day involved stopping the presses, having the cover redesigned, and getting a new production cost to get the books that had already been completed reprinted. $25,000. Finally, at 7pm, we decided to restart the presses with everything as it had been. Then I found myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no time to change before going out to meet Chlo. If I hadn’t been so desperately in need of a drink and a companion to vent to, I would have blown the whole thing off.

The venue was fantastic, or fantastically hideous—exactly what an underground music venue should be. Dripping walls, exposed pipes, a bathroom that neither locked nor held toilet paper. It may sound strange, but I was in heaven. All types of kids were there—the early adapters from each scene: athletic socks pulled up past the knees on the little skaters, fanny packs and prairie dresses on the Canyon types, Karen O. mop tops, crested blazers with ripped denim shorts and every other hodgepodge fashion the Sartorialist will capture in designer form soon enough.

I found Chlo inside, draped around a preposterously thin man whom I presumed to be the photographer. His name was Pierre, although he was blue blood American, a combination I found instantly annoying. But when he wandered off and returned, unprompted, with a drink my attitude—and opinion—improved.

“C., check it out,” Chlo said. “Pierre is in a band…with Peter!”

How did this place always manage to be one of the largest cities, and one of the smallest towns?

“Chlo told me you’re having some kind of trouble with Peter?” Pierre questioned. “I don’t get it; the guy’s a star.”

“Thanks Chlo. Not really public information,” I grumbled.

“No really, tell me what’s up,” Pierre continued. “I haven’t known him all that long, but I’d like to help if I can.”

So while I was looking forward to venting to Chlo, I ended up retelling the story from the very beginning to this lanky stranger, concluding by saying, “and it probably doesn’t matter anyway because I haven’t talked to either one of them in nearly two weeks and they have probably lost interest anyway.”
Pierre was sure I hadn’t totally blown it, agreeing with Chlo’s intuition that a disinterested girl will hold a guy’s attention almost indefinitely. He offered to do some digging with Peter to see if he could dig up what might have happened that night with Mark.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Curtain Call

9 voted I go out with Peter, and 5 voted for Brian. Someone also commented, “Why not both?”

Well, I admit, it didn’t occur to me at the time I wrote last week that I would probably have to make some kind of contact with Peter and Brian before the voting results were in. I guess this goes to show—you can have people control your life; it just may not be as fast as you want it to be.

So, in lieu of a quick vote, I waited until the following morning and called Chlo; a pretty dependable oracle, at least when it comes to guys.

“Wait a minute. I get wasted, but you hook up? That’s not supposed to happen,” she said.

“Yeah, tell me about it. So now what do I do? I don’t want to be dishonest by going out with both of them and not giving them the full picture.”

“Oh God, this is so easy,” Chlo said while rolling her eyes. “You call each of them back and tell them you want to hang out. Make it casual—breakfast, drinks, whatever. What you may ‘forget’ to tell them is that it’s not exactly one-on-one. You invite them both, invite me, and then see what happens.”

“Wait a minute…how does this help me? I tell them both to meet me at the same place—with you—then I look like an idiot!”

“No, then you look awesome because you’re not so eager. They’ll be wondering why you’re not into either one of them, and it’ll drive them crazy.”

I only had a week to prepare for my public humiliation with Mark, and while it was totally unlike me, the last thing I wanted to do was obsess about this situation. I decided to follow Chlo’s advice, sort of. I texted Brian and Peter—“yes lets hang out. after marks show on sat? meet outside club at 10…cece”

Brian texted back, “squeeze you then.” And Peter responded, “can’t wait!”

The rest of the week was a disaster. My job (yes, I have one) reached new lows. Not to get too Office Space, but I was seriously starting to feel possessive of my stapler! I had a new boss who was my age (28), and was now running my entire department. I mean, it’s a department of three, but still… So now, not only do I get to worry about editing a new edition of science books for the 7th and 8th grades, now I have this loud-mouthed, crass girl (why would she ever get into text book editing?) telling me we need to “rethink” the design of the page featuring the Periodic table. Uh, hello! What’s to rethink?

So while I used to think it was bad telling people that I’m a textbook editor, now I’m barely that. Now Joan has to review all of my pages. I mean, Joan? Who names their kid that? Gee, what a cute baby. I think I’ll name her Joan…

Joan was adamant that no one would leave early, even though I was always in the office a full hour before anyone else. I had to drive across town, through the back roads, avoiding the freeway, to finally arrive at the most breathtaking seafront you’ve ever seen…only to walk into a windowless storage building that housed our offices. The traffic on the main road was bumper to bumper, so you had to arrive by 7:30am to make decent time. And if you didn’t leave by 4:45pm I was screwed, looking at a full hour-and-a-half commute home.

I hated this job, and I hated Joan, but I couldn’t afford to lose it. So to make up for the time lost at night, I went out to the beach during my lunch break to practice my part. Fortunately, I was not the only lunatic dancing on the sandy beach, although I may have been the only one who was not severely medicated.

When Saturday arrived I was much calmer than I’d anticipated. After all, this was Mark’s gig, Mark’s future. If I was a disaster, who cares? I’m not the one with an itch for fame. By show time, however, my natural calm was replaced by nature’s remedy—two generous glasses of wine. And with the show looming I had absolutely no time to think about what would happen after the show…that I would have two guys waiting outside the club for me.

So, let’s just say the show went, well, it happened. And if the Trapdoor Theater actually has a trap door, I didn’t fall through it. The set somewhat malfunctioned as the “fire” took off from one cardboard continent to another. The lighting rig that was supposed to turn from yellow to orange to red sped up half-way through, creating more of a disco inferno than an Armageddon. But the crowd laughed at it, and it somehow played off as if it were intended, furthering Mark’s status as a comedic prodigy. I danced and twirled, employing a non-Method method of imagining I was all alone, bothered by nothing, and spinning from joy—not fear. This too seemed funny to the audience. I wasn’t trying for humor, but any noise that wasn’t a boo felt like applause. The finale came; no fruit was thrown. I survived.

Mark seemed happy, hopping around backstage from one industry guy to another, every so often sweeping me up in my PJs introducing me to an agent, a manager, a writer, a… insert a job that only exists in Hollywood. And I survived, at least that part of the night.

Chlo met me backstage, very excited to see how her plan would unfurl. I, on the other hand, was relieved, exhausted, and not excited or prepared for what was waiting for me outside. And just when I was about to suggest to Chlo that we sneak out the back, head to the diner, and call it a night, Peter walked over, with Brian following close behind. Brian handed me a bouquet of flowers (kind of cheesy, but at least they weren’t roses). Peter came in for a high-five, “Nice one Cece; you should join Mark’s act for good.” Brian quickly put his arm around me, “Yeah, you were awesome.” Was it just me or was Peter giving Brian some serious stink eye?

Mark came over and gave Brian and Peter that weird bro hug where they embraced without ever really touching. Peter seemed almost star struck by Mark, nervous and shy, and letting Brian do all the talking. Brian and Mark took over, reminiscing about high school, throwing inside jokes back and forth, and pretty much boring me to tears. “I’m starving,” I blurted out. “Can’t you guys continue your love fest at the diner?”

Mark said he’d drive Peter and Brian and meet us there. Chlo and I got to the diner and finagled a huge corner booth. We waited for 10 minutes before ordering. I texted Mark three different times, and all three times he responded variations of “go ahead, we’re almost there.”

I asked Chlo if I should text Brain and Peter too, and she said, “Only if you want to look desperate.” So I didn’t. But they never did show up. Chlo and I happily ate our sweet greasy food. The more time went by, the more relieved I was to be able to hang out with Chlo, stuff my face, and not worry about the guys. But it seemed seriously odd.

“I’m sure they got stuck at the club talking to some of Mark’s industry friends,” Chlo said. But Mark hadn’t said that; he hadn’t given me that excuse. He just kept saying that they would show up. When I got home I called Mark. “What happened to you? That was so rude!”

“Cut it, C. I’m not going into details. I’m just telling you that you don’t need to be hanging out with those guys.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? What’s wrong with them?”

“I said I’m not discussing it. So just drop it. You were great tonight, and I love you. And that’s the end of discussion.”

Had Mark turned into my Dad? “Seriously, Mark…”

“Goodnight, Cece. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Okay, this was odd. Now what? Mark doesn’t pull this kind of stuff with me. He’s never objected to anyone I’ve hung out with. Not Chlo, not the Goth kid I obsessed about in Jr. High, not even when I was crushing out on my math tutor. Never.

So what do I do? Seriously. Don’t vote…tell me! Open ended, please comment.