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JOY part 50

Before you think I hadn’t learned anything from all the glaring honesty Kristin and Nancy, and even Paul, had shed upon my confused little brain. It’s not true. I had listened to all of them very carefully. Weighed what each had to say. I’m not sure I liked what they were telling me. Not at all. Having everything of any note you’ve ever accomplished in your life…every meaningful relationship you’ve ever had…all reduced to “you like challenges,” somehow seemed to totally trivialize everything. Such an incredibly trite answer, even if there was truth to it. And there was truth to it, without a doubt. However, it was also not quite accurate. I knew that, now. I mean, I guess I always had. But Kristen had put the final piece into place for me. The full truth was more complicated. The full truth was even more sad and pathetic.

You don’t know how badly I wish I could end this tale, right here, and tell you that meeting Kristin that night saved my life. That fate had somehow served someone up from my past to shake me out of my self-absorbed little world. Someone to make me realize how every bit of life I had really was too precious to ever throw away. That would suit you, wouldn’t it? A cheery, uplifting, life-affirming message in the most literal of ways. Sorry, you lose.

I loved seeing Kristen that night. Hell, I loved seeing Kristen just because I loved looking at her. The fact that she sat out there even though she was freezing, had to piss, and really wanted to be home, should prove to you that my praise for her is about more than just being so truly-fuckable it makes me ache. But, if anything, seeing her and listening to her insights about me, and why I did things, just confirmed what I already knew. I couldn’t back out of this. I needed the ending. It was part of things. Part of everything I had ever done and ever would do.

All those things Kristen had said, and Nancy before her, about me creating challenges for myself was 100% true. However, their understanding of the reasoning behind it wasn’t nearly the full picture. You see, I created challenges because they created conflict. And conflict creates drama. That’s right, I’m telling you I am a drama queen. So sad. And a drama queen in the biggest of ways. I construct situations that I have a good chance of not coming out well for one simple reason. It makes me feel. No, I didn’t forget to finish that sentence. I’ll say it again. I do things that create drama because it makes me feel, period. Sick, isn’t it?

Bring on the misery. Bring on the longing and yearning and obsession. Bring on the joy and elation when I’ve fought the hard fought battle and won. Just let me feel with all the intensity and energy one can feel. Give me women I’ll never have. Give me career dreams I’ll never accomplish. Just let me feel all the pain and glory of it all. Just let me fucking feel.

It’s not this book that I want turned into a movie. It’s my life. A Major Motion Picture that makes you laugh and makes you cry. All the boring, mundane bits edited out. A swelling progressive rock soundtrack to heighten the emotions. Everything BIG. Bigger than the lame little lives that others are content to lead. Bigger than the life I could ever have if I didn’t give it an ending of appropriate intensity and drama.

Which is why we’re here now, you and I. On this road high above Los Angeles. A road named Mulholland with a sharp curve and a serious drop if you go off of it. A drop almost guaranteed to result in your death.

Cue music! “Muse” in all it’s prog. rock grandeur! Perfect. Perfect. Now, we rev the engine. The Mini waiting to play its part in the final scene. And finally, the tense close-ups. ME. My face, serious and determined. My hands clenched tightly against the wheel. My eyes. Hold on the eyes. That’s it. And now, as the music swells, I gun it. Head straight toward the edge of the road. One last shot of my face as the car is airborne. A long shot of the Mini hurtling off of the road and into the sky. It dances against the night sky. A ballet of death and destruction as it lands. Disintegrates upon impact. Flames. Flames everywhere. A fiery death. There is no way anyone could survive. It is done. We hold on the flames as we remember the man we have gotten to know so well. Remember a life that ended as it was lived. Cut to end titles.

Except for one thing. I didn’t do it. I’m still here (Duh. Who else do you think is writing this?). I chickened out. Actually, it was even worse than that. I was sitting there on Mulholland, trying to push myself that one final step I needed to, when a cop came. Nothing like the LAPD to fuck up a good suicide. The cop was actually this really burly looking, super-ugly chick that told me I couldn’t park there. She seemed to assume I was just looking at the view. Not even an “everything OK?” Just basically “get the fuck out or I’ll arrest you.” So, I left.

It’s hard to describe the emotions one goes through when one thought they were going to already be dead by their own hand. At least this one. All I can say is it leaves you relieved in a way, but even more than that, it just leaves you really, really tired. Fucking exhausted, actually. So, I did what any self-respecting-failed-suicide-attempter would do. I stopped by an In & Out Burger and got some really tasty fast food. Then I went back to the hotel and slept. I could always try to kill myself again, tomorrow.

And I did. This is it. The final scene. The final act of a sad and pathetic and pretty much wasted life. The real deal. The thing you’ve all been waiting for.

Once again, I found myself in bed, naked and alone. Only this time there was an empty pill bottle on the table beside me. A bottle I had procured a few days ago from an old film acquaintance of mine. A bottle now empty, as I had ingested its entire contents. It was better this way. No waiting for the Freaky Man Killer Gene to strike. A final act of control. Of creating the drama I craved so much.

Picture it, we start on a close up as my eyes begin to grow weary. The music starts soft and grows louder as we slowly start to track away. We gracefully pull back and see my sculpted, Adonis-like body sprawled naked atop the bed. My gigantic, horse-like member on display for women everywhere to worship and adore. And then…And then…Who am I kidding? This is the end. The real me. In all my pathetic glory. The naked truth, so to speak. I owe you that much. And by the way, thank you. Thank you for sticking with me. For being there through all this. Thank you.

So, back to our show. There’s no music. Only the sound of two Mexican maids out in the hall arguing. And, if a camera were really here, it would see the short, pale, out-of-shape, mushy body of a man who didn’t exercise enough, ate too many cold cheese burgers and farted a lot. And as far as his horse-like member, it would be a tiny little stub out there for the world to laugh at and ridicule. Something I’m sure will happen after somebody finds me here. When someone finds my body. After I’m dead.

But, no matter what, you have to give me credit for following through. All that talk about killing myself and ending it all wasn’t just bullshit. Even when I found myself having last minute doubts, I knew I had no choice but to follow through. If not for my sake, for yours. After all I’ve put you through. After all the crap I’ve made you listen to. It’s the least I could do, really. Besides, rules are rules.

I start to get sleepy. I feel the drugs course through my blood. And I find myself thinking of Nancy. I imagine her walking into the room and finding me like this. I imagine her looking over my naked body with a look of amusement on her face. Knowing that she had caught me. Enjoying my sense of embarrassment and excitement. I imagine a look of mischief in her eyes as she just keeps looking at me without saying a word. And finally taking mercy upon me and bending down close to me. And kissing me. Kissing me so perfectly I never want it to end.

And then I imagine her smiling as she undresses herself in front of me. Finally, letting me see the body I had pictured in my mind, so many times. Letting me see every wrinkle and flaw that only makes her that much more beautiful to me. That only makes me want her that much more.

And I imagine us making love. Of feeling so connected to her. Of it all feeling so incredible. So wonderful. So right.

And, most of all, I imagine the look in her eyes. A look which tells me how much she loves me. And always will. And how the phone rings.

The phone is ringing. A terrible, loud, shattering noise that pulls me down from heaven and back into a messy hotel room in Santa Monica. I don’t even know if it’s real or I’m still imagining things.

And I see myself pick up the phone. I’m not really there. I have no control. I just standby and watch as I say “hello.”

PHONE TRANSCRIPT, SANTA MONICA – DAY

MY MOM
Happy Birthday!

ME
What?

MY MOM
Are you OK? You sound funny.

ME
What? Why?

MY MOM
You didn’t drink too much or do
anything stupid, did you?

ME
It’s not stupid, Mom. It’s better
this way. I don’t want to die the
way Dad did. I want control. I want
to write the final scene.

MY MOM
What are you talking about?

ME
I’m sorry, Mom. I know this is hard
for you. I just don’t want to die of
the curse.

MY MOM
What curse? What are you talking about?

ME
The curse. The Freaky Man Killer Gene.
It would get me, anyway.

MY MOM
What gene? Oh, My God. You didn’t…?

ME
It’s better this way.

MY MOM
Listen to me. There is no curse.

ME
No, the Freaky Man Killer Gene. Dad.
The others.

MY MOM
Your father was a manic depressive. He
killed himself.

ME
What? No. The others. The death gene.

MY MOM
Alcohol or drugs.

ME
But you always told me…

MY MOM
I thought it would be easier for you to accept.
You were just a child. There is no curse.

ME
No, the Freaky Man Killer Gene.

MY MOM
You haven’t done anything stupid, have
you? Oh, God. Please, talk to me. Tell
me you’re going to be alright. Please…

I see my face as I still process all the information through my barely still functioning brain. I watch and wait like a silent witness. Just another passenger along for the ride.

ME
I’ll be fine.

And then I see myself put down the phone. And I see my squishy, out-of-shape body jiggling with tortured laughter. This ending is just too perfect.

FADE TO BLACK

CUE MUSIC: MUSE/”FEELING GOOD”

ROLL CREDITS:

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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!

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JOY part 48

The next few days, I spend playing tourist in Los Angeles. I go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, downtown. Which is two really great buildings containing not so great art. There was an Andy Warhol show in town, on loan from the Tate Modern. It was a pretty comprehensive show. I find myself really intrigued by the ones he did of accident scenes. Pretty pictures of death by car wreck.

It was fun for a while, but I had trouble really relaxing and enjoying myself. Shocker, that, isn’t it? I just really wasn’t getting into any of it. My birthday was in 23 days. Part of me wanted to wait until then, as the plan had dictated. It was just neater that way. Not to mention, more symbolic and highly literary. Which couldn’t hurt in such a rambling, immature, misguided tome like this one. But part of me just kept asking “what the hell are you waiting for?” Maybe I was just frightened. I mean, wouldn’t you be if you really thought you might be dead soon? I kept trying to tell myself I really didn’t have to go through with it. Maybe, the Freaky Man Killer Gene wouldn’t strike, after all. Then again, maybe it would. Probably, it would. As much as I supposedly liked to go against heavy odds, this was too much. A total no-win situation. Which put me right back at square one.

Oddly enough, L.A. is a perfect town for contemplating suicide. As much as I thought the idea of bright and cheery sunlight would just irritate me when I was feeling so shitty, it actually kind of seemed like a great setting for all this. Don’t get me wrong, it was still way too damn hot in this overgrown suburb. But, much to my surprise, the constant sunlight kind of added a modern wasteland kind of appeal to the place. All that concrete, fake tits, lips, traffic, pollution…It all worked. A dead city of soulless people surrounding the man that would soon be dead himself. Or something. You get the idea. Alright, I’ll stop trying to be writerly and get on with it. Kind of cliched, too, setting my final days in L.A. Fuck. I was blowing it. Maybe in the movie version they can change it to London. That would be cool. Then again, if cliches are cliches for a reason, L.A. would do just fine. Whatever.

And then, something else truly tragic happened. I found myself bored. Deathly bored, so to speak. I had already done anything remotely interesting that there was to do here. I saw Paul when I could, but the guy had a job he had to go to (which I vaguely remembered doing myself ever-so-long-ago). So, we met once or twice for dinner and/or to get drunk over the course of the next week. All of which was great, but somehow never as great as it should have been. None of it was quite as fun as that first night at the King’s Head. I mean, these really were my final days, right? Shouldn’t every minute feel precious? Shouldn’t I feel even more alive? I thought that’s what race car drivers and all those people facing death always said. It made you feel more alive. I mean, that was the single biggest part of formulating the Grand Plan, right? The paradox that to be truly alive you had to be dead. Or, at least, well on your way to being dead. That’s the genius that is ME. And it was pretty insightful, you must admit. Yet, I was bored. Bored silly.

I thought about moving up my timetable and just ending things sooner rather than later. But somehow killing yourself just because you were bored didn’t seem right. Nope, I would have to find some way to get myself through another two weeks, or so, before me and the Mini said goodbye to this world, forever.

You don’t think I’m going to go through with it, do you? For all this talk and rambling on and on about killing myself, you think it’s just that. Talk. Well, I could sit here and tell you over and over again that you’re wrong until my little fingers can’t type anymore. But what would be the point? I’m either going to do it or not. The fact of the matter is that neither one of us really knows. Not until that moment comes where I pull the trigger. Or hit the gas, in this case. That’s the moment of truth. The rest is only words, thoughts, and ponderings. Only then, when the action taken will be irreversible, will either of us really know for sure.

Not that this matters to you. Especially after what I just told you about how not knowing for sure. But I had scoped out Mulholland Drive several times since I had gotten to Los Angeles. I found the perfect cliff for my swan song. A sharp drop from a really high perch. Survival was highly unlikely. At least I hoped so. Don’t make me repeat myself about how I, like you, fear some things a lot more than death. Being a vegetable or suffering a slow, agonizing, excruciatingly painful death being up there.

Ah, what’s the matter? I’m bringing you down, again? Still harshin’ your buzz? Yeah, selfish me. How could I talk about something so trivial like dying soon when we have your good mood to worry about? But I can’t afford to lose you. You know that. I know you know that. As they say in Hollywood, you have hand.

Moving on…Let’s talk about Nancy. I was losing interest. Actually, it wasn’t so much about losing interest in her as in just losing interest in thinking about it over and over and over again. I did talk to her on the phone once or twice. The first time was really annoying because Josh decided to get on the line with us and we couldn’t really talk about anything. The second time wasn’t all that much better. Most of it was total small talk about Los Angeles and where I was staying and so on and so forth. The only remotely important part of the conversation was this:

PHONE TRANSCRIPT – NANCY AND ME, A FEW DAYS AGO.

ME
How are you?

NANCY
Good.

ME
Really?

NANCY
Yeah. Really.

And that was that. How could she say that? How could she say that she was good? After all that had been said? After all that had happened? I wanted to ask her but didn’t. And then, even more painfully, she asked how I was. I gave her exactly what she gave. I told her I was fine. Yup, that’s me. I’m just “fine.” Not that I expected to hear her break down and weep about how much she missed me and how badly this whole situation just sucked, but…OK, maybe I did want that. What’s your point? That doesn’t mean I expected it to actually happen. But at the very least, I wanted some ever-so-small acknowledgement that this was difficult for her and she was effected by it the way I was. But no. That’s not what I got. I got “Good.” She’s “good” and I’m “fine.” Perfect. Fucking perfect.

It was becoming more and more difficult to ever leave the hotel room. Part of it was that I had pretty much done anything remotely worth doing in L.A., which wasn’t a whole helluva lot (obviously). Part of it was that it just didn’t seem worth the tremendous effort it took to do anything. I guess it was lucky for me I had room service and restaurant delivery or I might have died of starvation. Not that I was really hungry very much. Not at all really. Funny how that works.

However, I couldn’t have been too far down that black pit of depression and hopelessness because, once again, I found myself getting bored of just lying there. It took a while but it happened eventually, just like it always had. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get out of the damn hotel. I was filled with this incredible burst of energy and just kept walking for miles and miles along the beach. And sometimes I would just stop and listen. Listen to that sound of the waves which brought me so much comfort. Well, at least until I realized how hungry I was and went to get some really good and cheap Mexican food.

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