JOY part 49

And then something really strange happened. I ran into her. No, not Nancy. You would never believe that. It would feel forced, contrived and truly fictitious as opposed to the seemingly random, yet carefully constructed, pieces of brilliant writing you’re currently enjoying.

Anyway, as I was saying. I’m walking along the Santa Monica Pier by myself, pretty late at night. I guess it wasn’t real late. Probably somewhere around eleven. Whatever. I’m watching the white lights of the cars in Malibu and starting to think about all the time I used to spend here with my ever-so-hot-when-naked LA-X. This used to be one of our favorite spots together. And I’m remembering the conversations we had here. Thinking about how life felt so different back then. About how she used to look. All the details of her face. Her long, gorgeous hair. And then I actually saw her appear in front of me. For a second I really thought I was imagining it. Just totally off the deep end. But no, it was really her. Kristen, here, with me, on the Santa Monica Pier.

She still looked good. Not as good as she used to, mind you. She was older (don’t even bother getting into it again) and she had cut her hair really short. I don’t know what evil instinct it was in women in their late twenties that makes them all chop their hair off and try to look like their mothers. I mean, they all seemed to do it. It was really weird.

Something about them deciding they were really adults now or something? Beats me. Anyway, the point is that Kristen, my LA-X, was suddenly standing there in front of me.

I went over and talked to her and went through all the shocked reactions and small talk crap you say when you run into someone. I told her how I had been trying to get in touch with her, but had failed. And how odd it was to just run into her like this. Which it was, but not as much as you might think. L.A. is actually a really small town in some ways. Frighteningly so. L.A. is so scary in so many ways. It’s amazing I ever survived five years out here. I guess Kristen was a big part of that. Kristen who was with me again. Right here. Right now.

And then we sat down on the pier just the way we used to. She was married now. His name was Bill. He was in his forties, and he was a music video and commercial director (how perfect for her, which you would know if you knew her the way I did). She had been married to him for about a year and they owned a house together in this very hip (and expensive) part of L.A. (I would expect nothing less). And on and on. All of which I was genuinely quite interested in. The long and short of it was that she was doing very well and really happy with her life. All of which made me feel really good.

And then she asked me what I was up to. I told her in the most general, broad strokes I could about what I had been doing with my life. I reduced the entire Grand Plan to just a road trip I took because I was out of a job and restless (which I guess was kind of true) and left out all the details. She listened carefully, but didn’t press for anything I didn’t feel like getting into. It was all really nice. And then she said she had to go. And I realized I was about to let one of life’s little gifts disappear before my eyes. Fate or just the fact that Santa Monica was really popular, something had brought us to this place together, right now. Something special. And I was about to squander it.

Oh, you Dirty Devil, You. You think I’m talking about trying to get her in the sack, don’t you? Well, in all honesty, I wouldn’t mind that at all. She still was the most objectively gorgeous woman I had ever been with. Would ever be with. She was amazingly sexy, even now that she was old (she was hitting 27). And with short hair (such a shame). But that’s not what I meant. Although it would be a nice side benefit, indeed. Would you just look at that sweet ass? Yum. Man, it would feel good to fuck her again.

Anyway, as I was trying to say before you perverts got me all distracted, this was special. I told her I really needed to talk to her about something and asked her to stay. We had already sat out there for over an hour catching up. I’m sure she just really wanted to get back to her husband. But, Kristen always was so much more than just the most jerk-off-fantasy-inducing woman I had ever met. She really was a great person through and through. And after a brief look into my eyes, told me she would be happy to keep talking. After she found a bathroom, though, because she really had to go.

So, post-rest-room-visit later. Kristen and I sit on a bench looking at the string of white lights along the Malibu shore as I tell her all about Nancy. I tell her everything about everything except for the Freaky Man Killer Gene and my final, final plan. And then I ask her about what Nancy said to me that day in the park.

EXT. SANTA MONICA PIER – NIGHT

Tom and Julia, actually more of a Gwyneth type, but actually more beautiful than either, sit on the pier engaged in an intense discussion.

GWYNETH
It’s true. You do do that.

ME
Really? You agree with her?

GWYNETH
Yes.

ME
I seek out women who are unavailable?

GWYNETH
Absolutely.

ME
You weren’t with anybody when I went
after you.

GWYNETH
Right. But let me ask you something. When
you first saw me did you really think
I would ever agree to go out with you?

ME
That’s not a fair question. I’m always
amazed when anybody goes out with me.

GWYNETH
That’s Bullshit. But answer the question.

(I stop for a second and think about it.)

GWYNETH
Well? Did you?

ME
No, probably not. I thought you were out
of my league.

GWYNETH
But you pursued me, anyway. Why? And
don’t say because you liked me so much.

ME
But I did.

GWYNETH
That’s not the point. You put up with all
sorts of rejection from me for a long
time. Which is actually kind of funny
because I always really liked you.

ME
Then why were you such a pain in
the ass?

GWYNETH
Because I also knew that being with me
would be some sort of prize to you.

ME
Like a trophy wife? That’s not true.

GWYNETH
I was still a prize for you. You wanted
someone as your girlfriend you didn’t
think you were supposed to get. You did
the same thing with your screenwriting.

ME
Huh? You totally lost me on that one.

GWYNETH
There were so many times all you had to
do was be a little nice to people. Make
a few compromises and you would have
had these huge deals.

ME
Sometimes those little compromises made
the work pure crap.

GWYNETH
Right, so you kept holding out and holding
out until you had everything exactly the
way you wanted it. You had to make the
odds even more stacked against you than
they already were.

ME
Isn’t that what kept me from being
a hack?

GWYNETH
You write advertising, now!

(OUCH)

GWYNETH
Or at least you were, before you messed
that up, doing the same things all over
again. You need things to be difficult
or you get bored.

ME
Oh.

And there it was. The truth spelled out for me in painful clarity. And of course, my as-ever-eloquent reply, “Oh.” All of this leads us well into the night. The poor girl was obviously freezing that amazing ass of hers off and worried about getting home to her husband. But she stayed. She stayed to help me try to make sense of the messy, confusing thing that had been my life. And I would be eternally grateful to her for that night and told her as much. I thanked her as sincerely as I could for that night and all the others when we had been together, way back when.

As I watched her drive off in her BMW, my head was still processing all that had been said. As you know, these things take me a while. In any case, I had achieved one more thing on the list. I had thanked her. It was really a shame I wasn’t going to get to cross off that other item about sleeping with her again. It still shocked me that she ever did let me touch and kiss and fondle that gorgeous body of hers. GO ME!

MORE JOY AT www.first100books.com

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