Drink and ThrivePart of: Cameron Diaz , Hollywood , LA , Literati
Breakfast: a poached egg on a crabcake
by Tiffany Stone
This is from a larger body of fiction I wrote in the past. I previously posted another part here. It still needs to be edited.
Mark, Jordan and Jessica decided to go out for the night. Jessica figured that she was on a role of masochistic behavior, so this would fit right in. The bar they picked was one of the last cool dive bars on the Westside. There were rumors that a new owner was going to buy it and make it glossy and Hollywood. There were enough of those places in Hollywood. If people wanted that, they could live in town. Homogenization was running rampant. One day, she was going to wake up and find that LA was soulless.
For their first round of drinks, Jessica just sat and listened to them, but unfortunately didn’t pay much attention. She couldn’t stop listening to the two men beside her. They were pseudo philosophizing about Twentieth Century art. Jessica had a fascination with pretentious people--they were like shiny marbles. She couldn’t keep her eyes away. The one guy with his fake artsy glasses was saying how some artist had an exhibit at MOMA even though all the critics agreed that he was a horrible artist. They went on to analyze whether artists were really breaking boundaries in this century. Jessica finally forced herself to pay attention to Mark and Jordan.
They in sharp contrast were discussing horseback riding in Topanga. mark and Jordan had both grown up with horses, but Mark had been a serious rider. Jordan just rode bareback on the beach on her ancient Appaloosa. Mark had various Thoroughbreds and Arabians. Now Mark only rode Western on trails in the mountains. Jessica would never have guessed that Mark was the horsy type. She quite liked horses and went with Jordan on the beach occasionally.
Jessica noticed how their conversation naturally flowed and traversed many subjects. She wasn’t feeling particularly social. Luckily, Jessica was with Jordan and Mark. Jordan took the opportunity to put her on the spot.
“What’s up with you?” Mark patted her hand in a fatherly sort of way. Now she felt pressured to contribute to the conversation.
“A man said to me the other day there are three types of men: gay, gross, and girlish.”
Jordan started laughing so hard that she spit out some of her drink. “That is fabulous. Mark is definitely girly.”
“Well, I am not gross or gay.”
Jessica still wasn’t convinced that he wasn’t gay. She was already out of the conversation thinking about how she would have to change the name of her male character in her new script. Jessica hated when this happened. She would come up with the perfect name and then start dating a man with the same name, shortly after that. This had to be some weird karmic curse. Jessica certainly didn’t want any of her exes thinking that she would write about them. Some of them had big enough egos to think that.
Jessica could picture Mark using her name in conversations with annoying actors. He was so into whom he knew, even if it was five years ago. “Oh, I knew Jess right before she wrote The Comedy. I told her she had to get Cameron Diaz to do it.” Can you believe that Jess used to housesit for me?” Jessica cringed imagining this scenario.
Mark placed a double vodka soda in front of her and flashed his movie star smile. For a minute, she got really paranoid that he was reading her mind. Jessica started drinking her drink really fast, so that she wouldn’t have to say anything. Jordan plopped three cherries in her drink to annoy her. Jessica ignored Jordan and watched the bartender: sinewy long arms moving fast flipping open bottles. Her arms were perfect for pouring drinks and she always wore sleeveless shirts, like she knew. Even in the dead of winter. Jessica softened her eyes until the arm blurred, so it all blended together. When she was 5, she used to do this and stare at the carpet and spin in circles, pretending that she was in the middle of a giant record. Jessica would do this until she was out of breath and so dizzy that she would fall down.
The bartender twirls her long brown hair into a pile on top of her head and points at her. Jessica nods her head, no. Mark overrides her no and soon she is drinking a Cape Cod.
“Jess looked really cute when she had her hair cut like Meg Ryan’s.” Jessica could feel her face turning red. Jordan plunges forward. “She likes to hide behind her long hair. Notice how it’s not highlighted or anything? My anti-LA friend.”
Jessica says in a small voice,” I am from New York.”
But Mark isn’t paying attention. He’s squinting his eyes and looking outside. “Do you see someone you know?” Jessica asks.
“My best friend’s girlfriend. I didn’t know that she was in town. Camille.” Mark says all this like a run-on-sentence.
“Why don’t you go say hi?” Mark teeters on his barstool and she notices that his forehead is sweaty.
“No, Eric is having a party this weekend. I’ll see her there.” Mark gets up and goes to the bathroom. She asks Jordan if Mark is okay. She explains that he does that sometimes; it’s just a mild panic attack. He has drugs he takes for it. Mark isn’t the only one.
Jessica looks over at a guy across the bar drinking water. He’s wearing rectangular copper sunglasses and is all in gray, too styled but cute. Then he lifts his head and she thinks that it is Dan. She smiles and waves at him. It is Dan. The last few times she had seen Dan his mantra had been, “I really need a drink.” She thinks to herself that she should invent a toy like Elmo, but instead of giggling you would push its stomach and it would say, “I really want a drink, I really want to do a line, and I really want to shoot up.”
Dan had started going to the AA meeting in Hollywood because all the industry people went there and Dan needed to network. Eventually, he decided that he really did have a drinking problem. Jessica was inclined to answer, “Well then you should just have one instead of talking about it.” Jessica always nodded her head sympathetically and sipped more of her own drink. They all did.
Jessica went to middle school with Dan. He was the first person she had ever kissed and gotten stoned with. They had ditched sixth period and had walked to the beach. They walked for a while in silence and then Dan had plopped down and taken his shoes off. Jessica lied down and closed her eyes wondering if she should go home and watch Oprah or go horseback riding or play tennis with her mom. She heard Dan rustling around and then smelled pot. Dan tapped her leg. Jessica blinked her eyes open and couldn’t see for a minute because of the sun. Dan handed her the joint and she took it like it was no big deal and pinched it and sucked hard and held her breath in, like she had seen others do. After a minute she blew out smoke and started coughing. Dan laughed and said you got more stoned when you coughed.
Jessica did this a few more times and then started feeling like she was very far away. That was when Dan leaned over and shoved his tongue down her throat. She remembered thinking: Kissing sucks. He had stuck his tongue down too far and was swallowing her. After a minute she had pulled away and lied back down. For the next year she didn’t kiss anyone because she thought it was overrated.
She had liked everything about Dan: His spiky light brown hair and nondescript wardrobe of jeans and plain shirts. He wasn’t too slacker, artsy or beachy. Dan had also spent his early childhood in New York City. He always had a serious look on his face, too.
Dan was James Dean reincarnated. Whenever they passed in the halls or she saw him across the lawn, she would get goose pimples and her breathing would get shallow. And she could sense Dan’s presence. She had caught him looking at her at her locker one day. He had held her gaze for a few minutes. Jessica didn’t understand him. She thought that he had been watching her at her locker, but hadn’t been sure. She had made herself give up on the idea. Why would he go through the motions of watching her if he could have had her? He obviously didn’t like her. She shouldn’t get her hopes up. Then she had started getting those letters. She vacillated between anger and joy. She wanted to get up the nerve to confront him, but she never could. Each day she told herself she would do it. She couldn’t go on being tortured like this. It was inhumane.
Some nights Jessica would go home and take out her yearbook and look at Dan’s picture. She started writing fantasies with her best friend, Alexa. They would write romance stories with themselves starring in them. Alexa would write them about Jessica and she would write them about her.
Dan is a famous director and you are a writer. You are in all the magazines looking amazing. You have a really hot boyfriend. John Taylor is your boyfriend and he sings to you all the time and you always get to sit backstage at all his concerts.. Then you go with John to Dan’s film premier and don’t realize that Dan is the director. The movie is great and then you and John go to the after party at some fabulous Beverly Hills mansion and you are standing around waiting for John to come back with a drink, when Dan comes up to you.
“You look great.”
“I know.” You say coldly.
Then Dan grabs you and kisses you passionately. He begs you to give him a chance. He always loved you and can’t get you out of his mind. No one could be compared to you. All of those young, beautiful actresses and models he’s been linked with meant nothing. For a minute you consider going out with him, but then John comes back.
“What are you doing with my fiancé?”
Dan looks at you crestfallen and unbelievably. “You are going to get married?”
“Yes. Look, Dan, you had your chance and missed it.”
Then John Taylor starts kissing you and Dan walks always.
“Poor Dan,” Jessica had said out loud after reading the story. Alexa had given her a murderous look, even though no one had noticed. Alexa frantically wrote her, “And what about Mary Park?”
She did have a point. John Taylor, Jessica could handle being married to, but she really wanted Dan. This was the sad fact of the matter. This happened every time after one of Alexa’s stories. She always thought she would triumph in getting Jessica to forget about Dan with her future men. After this last time, she quit.
“John Taylor was the perfect one to get you over Dan, but not even him. You still felt sorry for Dan. I quit. No more stories, only plain old notes for now on.”
Jessica suddenly craves Swedish fish and realizes that she doesn’t know where to find them in L.A. Dan asks her if he can buy her a drink.
“Yes, a vodka cranberry please. “ Jessica can’t refuse it when a guy buys her a drink. She looks at Dan and realizes that she wants to kiss him again. Go to the beach and make out with him for hours. Mark catches her eye and winks.
“So, what are your working on nowadays?” Dan asks her.
“A romantic comedy.”
“That’s cool.” Dan tilts his head back and laughs. Jessica notices that Dan’s nostrils are all fucked up. The inside of one is purplish-red and the other one has thin red veins.
“I know, I know. What about you?” Dan is carrying a screenplay. She has been trying to read the title, but Dan keeps on covering it with his hand. Someone had told her that he was directing the new Andrew Kevin Walker film. Dan plays with his glasses. She can’t imagine how he is going to deal with fame. She can’t stop staring at his nostrils.
“I’ve read the script. It’s really good. Is that it?” Dan nods, dropping it on the floor. He picks it up awkwardly.
“Is something wrong?”
“No. I mean yes. I don’t know. Look I have to go.”
“Well, give me a call. I am listed.” She leans over and gives Dan a hug. “Take care of yourself.” Dan kisses her so quickly, Jessica isn’t sure it is real. A wave of heat tingles through her body. It is still there. Dan walks in long strides that make Jessica sad. Her eyes well up. Jessica takes deep breaths.
Jessica looks down at her napkin that she has crumpled. It’s an ad for some kind of beer. It says in red letters: DRINK AND THRIVE. She thinks about Dan and wants to run after him, but doesn’t.