The Message from Ruben

The Message from Ruben

A stranger accidentally text-messaged me. Usually I’d press delete before reading any of the content. I’m quick that way, unless it’s a familiar name. I don’t have time for bullshit. But then, I read the beginning:

Hey sexy,

Bet you think you never here from me again?

Sexy? That wasn’t a word I’d use to describe me. And what about the bad spelling and grammar? Still I scrolled down to see if a name was included:

Ruben.

Did I know a Ruben? It’s not like Bob or Tom. I stared out the window of the café, watched the leaves catapulting from their trees. I tried to recall him, scanned through the file of various men. It wasn’t a vast one, believe me. And then it registered. Ruben was a trainer I’d met at the Wisconsin Athletic Club. He’d spent two years in Nicaragua working for Habitat for Humanity. Before he left, we’d had a drink at Hi- Hat. The place was dark, hazy with smoke. He sat at a table with high bar stools. I sat opposite him, his grin lit up the entire room. My legs dangled in mid-air. “I feel like a doll on these seats.  Or a zoo animal. I’m too short to reach the ground.” “I like you. You’re funny,” Ruben said. He sipped his cosmopolitan. He’d ordered Chardonnay for me. I wondered how he knew white wine was my preference. “Thanks for the wine,” I said. “Cheers.” We clinked glasses. I wasn’t sure he could understand me, but I didn’t care. “Really? You think I’m funny? I think I’m depressing,” I said, thinking we should have gone to my place. I wanted to tell him I was engaged to the wrong guy. Wanted to mention there was a strong possibility I was pregnant. But I didn’t. Just stared at his perfect eyebrows. Now, married with two kids, and barreling toward divorce, I sighed. The wind had picked up outside, swirling the leaves up toward their former branches. I glanced back at his text, bit the inside of my lip. Should I delete it?]]>

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

He apparently is more forgiving of the men who shot him than the son who worked side-by-side with him from a young age. He knew it wasn’t normal, but it was his son who’d caused the accident. His son who’d disappeared the night it happened. His son who never visited him the entire six months while he lay in a bed at Cedars- Sinai.

“You’re lucky to be alive,” his medical team repeated. Shot fourteen times. Fourteen.  “A miracle,” his wife whispered. He’d had his suspicions about her involvement. But his investigation ruled her out. Lucky her. Not so for his son.

His son. He sighed, couldn’t even bring himself to say his name.

“What? What is it?” His wife, Bernice, sat next to him on the banquette. “You’re not thinking about him again are you? Dominick, crissakes, it’s our 30th anniversary.”

He nodded, took a long pull of Taittenger’s. Poured a fresh glass.

“I’ve hired someone,” he finally said. Tinkered with his mustache.

“You what?” she almost shrieked.

The patrons at adjacent tables stopped eating. Stared.

“Keep your voice down,” he warned.

Bernice collapsed against the banquette. Her Dolce and Gabbana decollete trembled. “Why are you doing this, Dominick?” She stared down at her lap, unable to look at him.

“Why? You know perfectly well why. It’s time.”

She covered her face with shaking hands. “He’s my son,” she mumbled.

“He’s no son,” he growled, jaw clenched. “He hired those fuckers.”

“Isn’t there any other way?” she pleaded. Used her napkin to dab a tear.

He shook his head, signaled for the check. Glanced at his Rolex. “It’s done.”

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Triple P Party

Triple P Party

“You’ll never guess who I saw yesterday.”

She was chewing gum so loudly that I had a hard time understanding. This was nothing new; no one spoke more rapidly than my best friend, Audrey. Often I had to ask her to repeat herself, which she would, but only after a huge sigh. “Who?” I moved the phone back to my right ear. “You have to guess. You’re gonna flip out.” Ugh. These games were only fun when she caught me during my shift at Café Rouge. On weekend nights, I was the first bartender on schedule. By 9:00, Jacques and Mimi, the owners, were downing their second or third bottle of Bordeaux. When Neena, the closing bartender would arrive, I’d normally be on my second or third phone call from Audrey. Neena called her “the wife.” But, tonight was my only free night. I was home alone. “I don’t want to play.” “Why not, Mr. Cranky. You’re gonna shit when you guess who it is.” I thought about who would be the last person I’d want to see if I died crossing 2nd Avenue to pick up dinner at The Cauldron. “Um, Sylvester?” “No. Omigod, what made you think of him?” “I have no idea.” He was our drug connection in college. You could get almost anything from him: ludes, speed, joints.  Or through him. Or however those people work. I’d left a tab with him, and only on rare occasions had a pang of guilt about it. “Nope, last I heard, Sylvester was still behind bars. You know, Nancy Reagan’s crackdown.” “Just say no.” I thought about lighting up a joint. “What a crock.” “Would’ve loved to be her, just for one day.” Audrey sighed. “Oh, give me a break. She was an addict, too.” I lit up, took a huge hit, then held my breath. It was great tasting weed from Hawaii. Maui Wowee. “I know, I know- you’ve said it a million times. Anti-depressants. I’d be on them too if I was married to that goon. Don’t try to change the subject. You’re not guessing.” I blew out the smoke, and had the same endless thought: where did it all go? “Boy or girl?” “Boy.” At least that made the game more exciting. “Give me another clue.” Without a second’s thought, “Lives in Jersey.” She was dexterous at games. “That rules everyone out. The only person I know from Jersey is Debbie Lewis, and she joined the Peace Corps in 89.” I took another toke, felt the immediate flood… of what? Relief? Nah. Incapacitation? Maybe. I sunk further into my sofa. “Really? What country?” Exhaled a thin stream. “Liberia.” “Huh. Okay, here’s another clue: double initials.” Now she was eating some noodle dish, I heard the slurping sounds and my stomach growled. Sammy’s Noodles. Mmm. I closed my eyes and tried to remember anyone I knew with double initials, but only celebrities came to mind. Tina Turner. Matthew Modine. Then, as I took another drag, one of my favorite authors popped into my head. Audrey and I had met him at a 92nd Street Y book signing. “Was it Shel Silverstein?” She giggled, then burped. “Sorry. No, silly; not even close.” “Is he hot?” There was a pause. “Very. Least we used to think so.” I crushed out the joint and sat up. A deeper level of interest. “We, as in, you and me? Or the public at large?” “C’mon, think. Okay, here’s a really huge clue. Worked with me at the radio station, same Saturday shift. Favorite band was Haircut One Hundred.” The light clicked on. “No way.” I sat up. “Peter Pavia?” “The one and only. Can you fucking believe it?” My heart was pounding. Suddenly, I needed water. “Where? How?” “I was at the Cloisters- ” “Park or Café?” “Slow down, mister, you’ll give yourself a heart attack. You need to be careful; your genes aren’t so great in that department.” “Yeah, thanks for reminding me.” It was probably true. Dad dropped dead on the job, massive coronary. No signs, so the family story goes. He was 47. Now that 30 was approaching, I felt that number haunting my own future and could only wonder. “Just looking out for you. So, I was at Cloisters cafe, having tea with Lenore, you know, ‘luscious Lenore,’ dances with the City Ballet. She pointed out some guy at the corner table on the patio. That gorgeous patio with the vines criss-crossing overhead, and that immense fish tank, and the creaky stone flooring.” My impatience grew. “Audrey- get to the Peter part.” “I’m there. It was him, in the corner, sitting alone. He was reading.” “What. Reading what?” It was inconsequential, but it suddenly seemed important. “An issue of The Paris Review.” “Oh god.” I had dry mouth, chugged a huge glass of water. “What?” “Well, it’s not Kitty Kelley, is it?” Another double initial celebrity. And Reagan biographer. “What was he wearing?” “Black leather bomber jacket. Like the ones that hang above the registers at Cheapie Eddie’s. Only nicer.” “Uh huh.” I was already conjuring images of Tom Cruise: Top Gun. I’d be his Goose, his second in command, his… “-recognized me right away.” “What? Sorry, could you please repeat that?” “He recognized me, and looked past where I was standing. He probably expected I’d be there with you.” I jumped off the sofa, smiling. “What makes you say that?” I held the phone away so that Audrey wouldn’t hear me breathing harder, began pacing. “Just an inkling.” “Did you get his address?” Marriage proposals. Honeymoons. “A number?” “Better, my dear. This Friday, we’re attending Peter Pavia’s party.” The Triple P Party! “Omigod! What will I wear?”]]>

Landslide

Landslide

They were making out when he stopped. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Nothing.” He pulled away, noticed the sunset was dazzling. He wondered if it could break your heart to watch the sun. “Why did you stop then?” He shrugged. “Not sure.” “Is it me? Is it my breath?” She cupped a hand in front of her mouth to check. “No, Ellen. It’s not a big deal.  Can’t you just give it a rest?” She looked on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, Ned. It’s just- well, every time we make out it seems like there’s so much going on. I mean, at least for me there is.” He nodded, took her hand. “Let’s walk back to my dorm. C’mon.” He put his arm around her.” “ No- wait.” She moved a step away. “I want to finish.” He crossed his arms. “Okay, go ahead.” “Every time we kiss, you stop. It’s like I can feel you shut down. A wall goes up.” As the remaining traces of sun glowed through her hair, he remembered the moment he first saw her. She was playing acoustic guitar on the lawn of the campus library. Her voice, as she sang “Landslide” rang with confidence, her long wavy hair cascaded over the guitar’s frets. She’d gathered a crowd and halfway through the song, she glanced up and saw him. He took her hand, traced the lines of her palm. “Remember that day we met?” “Yeah.” “What happened to her? Where’d she go? The woman who sang that song?” “I’m right here.” “No, Ellie, you’re not. All this worrying, these doubts. That’s not the girl I met.” “Oh, how perfect.” Her mouth twitched.  “So, this is about me? Your inability to get aroused-” He dropped her hand. “Inability to get…?” The freshly cut grass made him miss home. She nodded. “Isn’t that what you call it?” “How about two people who thought there was more here than what actually is.” Her eyes narrowed. “So, that’s it?” She tucked her hair behind one ear. He wasn’t sure what to say so he said nothing. The sun slipped below the horizon.]]>

Idea for a Short Film

My short film

I’d always wanted to make films. I had this idea once to shoot a short movie about the different ways that people die. Well, choose to die. Because someone dying in their sleep would be too Andy Warhol-ish. No, what I’d be more interested in is suicidal tendencies. Maybe find people who have been through a close brush with their imminent death, but for some reason they’re still here. I don’t really want any dialogue as soundtrack. Perhaps a different piece of music for each segment. Art of Noise,  Penguin Café Orchestra. Any vacuous, mindless, wordless music would suffice. I see these acts against a solid color backdrop. Maybe primary colors, or black, white, grays. Then, to string each segment together, I think the transitional segments could be the opposite of ‘endings.’ So maybe film births. Or the birthing of different species, but shot really closely. They call it a tight shot or angle. I’d want to be right up in there, showing the brutality of birth, the surprised new arrival, the ecstasy. The film would premiere at Sundance in January. Then be picked up by the Disney Channel on cable TV. Possible narration, only if completely insisted upon by network executives, provided by James Earl Jones. Maybe loops of William Carlos Williams’ poems. * Garners a Golden Globe nomination for Angelina Jolie’s scene: birthing an Indonesian child. For real. * No animals were harmed while envisioning or filming this movie.]]>