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BTW: The photo art and prose included in any given post are separate creations having nothing to do with each other. Duality and such …
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A Big Star
He took his time remembering where he was as he drifted awake, drifting slowly first to recognize he was indeed actually awake, drifted from a deliberate effort to fall back asleep to deliberately cracking open his eyes. Once accomplished he entertained a notion he was in jail, waking on a tiny cot, in a tiny room with a tiny window high on the wall at his feet. He fantasized what crimes he might be accused of; his dodging the authorities and the great chase which ultimately captured him. But the door collapsed the fantasy. A flimsy, pressed wood door with a cheap doorknob that may or may not hold an equally cheap lock. With the collapse of that last dreamy illusion, ‘reality’ was the only option. So he remembered the long drive towards Hollywood, stumbling exhausted into the diner with the strangely familiar people outside the little town in the middle of nowhere, then being gratefully led to the tiny cot in this tiny room for the opportunity to just close his eyes and sleep. Just for a tiny bit.
He remembered the free grilled cheese sandwich.
When he emerged from the little room and stepped sheepishly from the hall and looked through the diner to the big windows he remembered the darkness that drove him there in the first place. And it was still dark. That, or it was dark again. The short order cook stood and looked at him, spatula in hand. He wasn’t the same guy that had been there before and had made him the grilled cheese sandwich, but he looked, well, sort of the same, cut from the same cloth, and again, so familiar. The waitress turned from the older guy in one of the booths by the window and smiled, said, “Well, hey there, sleepyhead!” She also was different from the waitress who had met him earlier, gave him coffee and helped him to the tiny cot, in the tiny room. She was younger, blonde where the older woman was ginger, and holy crap she was gorgeous. She didn’t seem familiar but did strike him as a particular ‘type’. “I was starting to wonder,” she said.
“It’s still night?” he asked.
She looked over the shoulder at the windows, back to him, shrugged. “Want some coffee? Something to eat?”
He looked around the diner. Only a few customers at the tables. Seemed to him the older guy in the booth the waitress had been serving coffee was the same older guy in the same booth as when he got there, and he seemed to be watching, calculating. “Oh,” he hemmed, hawed, “I need to be getting back on the road.”
Waitress said, “Can’t travel on an empty stomach.”
He began moving, unsteady, towards the door, balance still waking up. “I’ve troubled you enough. I’ll be fine.”
“That’s right,” she said, “You’re off to California.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Going to be a big star,” she teased.
He smiled, “Just checking it out.”
“Safe travels,” she said, “If you get lost, just try to make your way back here.”
He nodded, smiled some more, pushed through the door. Found his car. He looked up and down the road and recalled that he’d come from that way, so he turned the vehicle the other way, up the street. He couldn’t shake the feeling it wasn’t the right road, that somehow the darkness had sucked him down a direction that wasn’t what he’d intended. And it was still the same dark engulfing his car as he drove slowly, further into town. Not dark as in ‘night’, but more like a dark closet filled with coats that he couldn’t see through. He could vaguely sense houses and buildings along sides of the street, but the streetlights were so low to the ground, barely above the hood of his old car, as if to illuminate the pavement itself but not the world around it. Sometimes a window would be brightly lit, no shades, people inside their homes, moving about, talking, living. Then in only a mile or two he seemed to be coming to what looked like the town square; bright windows in storefronts surrounding a courthouse. People inside conversing, gesturing, stuff going on, people mulling about outside, sometimes watching. Even the courthouse had big, unshaded windows with scenes unfolding behind each one. The street seemed only to move in right angles around the square and offered no way out other than the way he’d come. He drove around, slowly, twice, then, since no vehicles were following him, he stopped in the street and looked around. Every face in every window had a familiarity; maybe not something he recognized but something … maybe typecast. He noticed that the windows were of all different sizes, some huge, some just big, some small enough that a person had to stand right in front to see anything. But all of them, well, almost all, were of the same ratio. They were all roughly one by two.
Then something clicked in his head.
Back up the dark street. He went as fast as he dared given the darkness, the low hung streetlights illuminating only the pavement. He thought now how they resembled the tiny lights in the aisles of movie theaters. That’s when he realized the darkness was less a visual sensation than a feeling of claustrophobia, a lack of depth. He whipped into the diner’s parking lot, its windows exactly the same one by two ratio as those around the town square. The cook and the waitress were both leaning against the counter as he burst through the door, the older guy in his booth, watching. As though they’d expected him.
“I know who you are!” he half shrieked to the cook. “You’re that guy. You and that other cook too were both in that movie, ‘Chalkboard Scratches’! You were those two cop guys always there at the crime scenes! You were always cutting up with each other, and stuff; it was funny.”
The cook said, “Detectives. We were detectives, young man.”
“We only had a handful of lines, played against the lead. Not funny, just some humor as otherwise it was a very tense movie.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said excitedly. “What are you doing here? I have so many questions!” The waitress nodded towards a stool and pushed a cup of coffee in front of it. He sat.
The waitress smiled, said, “I thought you were only going to check it out?”
“Yeah, where should I go? Who can I talk to?”
The cook leaned forward. “Son, did you ever see either of us in anything else?”
He thought about it. “No.”
“Yeah, no, that’s because there wasn’t any, or not much anyway. If we’d have made it, we’d be somewhere else right now. We all would be. But as our dreams of stardom died, we found ourselves here. Here in Hollywood. This Hollywood.”
The waitress lightly touched his arm, took him in her eyes. “And my dreams,” she said, “Made the same trip you are. Or were.”
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.