ALL THAT GLITTERS
They are young and they are powerful and their assistants order their drinks precisely as so, down to the spritz of lime in their soda; down to the three shots of gin. Here, there are no real conversations and no one knows anyone’s name. But there is sushi and an open bar and this is New York City. There is glamour all around.
We sit cross-legged on the carpet and watch Mike in the mirror. The back pockets of his jeans, his assistant insists, are too long, too baggy. His stylist pokes and prods at the red tie around his neck. You look great, we tell him, and his reflection follows back.
At some point there are seven or eight of us, plus a tailor, sitting and standing in this small hotel room. There is a window that spans from one whole wall in the room, with a built in seat that overlooks the lower east side. Thickly patterned curtains cascade down from the ceiling; two misplaced magenta oversized chairs pop out from the corner, a complimentary bottle of champagne chills in the refrigerator. There is an opened but untouched bottle of wine near the television, with six glasses sans fingerprints. At our wish there is anything, whatever one may need. It is such wishes which are questionable, this desire for more. We don’t do anything, really, except wait around for Mike.
Outside of this room –this hotel—there are issues. Real issues, issues which need to be tended to. War, for instance, poverty. I have my own issues with love and passion, between distance, and the written word. There are problems that run so deep, that at one point in the night, when the conversation turns to politics, Mike suggests we stray far
from where we are. At this point, everyone but me leaves to smoke a cigarette. Save for the possibility that the bartender may charge us for our drinks, or the pressures of appropriate attire for a New York City movie premiere, this hotel room offers solace. In my mind there are one thousand thoughts racing. The others in the room have perfected the skill of ignoring such stuff. I have excelled in the exact opposite.
Sarah is filming in Yonkers just spending the night, and Harper has some small role in an Indie here in town. I never really catch what Jake does, or is doing here but he sits in the corner and eyes Sarah, whispering to her whenever he so feels the need to speak. Max just flew in, but is already in the shower. Nick and I are visitors, family. We sit, as we always sit, with our hands touching skin touching shoulders and sometimes lips, we sit like long lost lovers in the evening after drinks, always, even over coffee in the morning.
Max comes out of the shower, speaks over Anthony. Anthony speaks over Max. Max speaks louder. Mike calls the front desk for an iron, Karoline presses his shirt. Someone mentions something about dinner. Mike will eat with the producers while we watch the movie. The studio has arranged free popcorn.
Spending time with young Hollywood can make one dizzy. There are no plans, no such thing as time. We could order room service for the night courtesy of the production company, or we could eat across the street if anyone wanted air. We could eat later, drink first. Someone could always join us, someone could always leave. Whatever happens, happens. In any case someone always knows a place, a person, has a favor owed. In any case no one ever knows what they are doing until they do it, and even then, I believe I did not know much at all.
The entire time there are around us beautiful women, pale skin, rouged lips. There are trust fund friends and famous writers, Nick only wants to stay with me. I am re-wearing a thirty dollar dress and my heels are still scuffed from college. Still, he stops me in the street in the middle of traffic and motions for the cars to stay put. He holds our camera so that it solely focuses on my smile. Tells me to say cheese, kisses me before lights turn green and holds me steady in my heels. Sometimes I believe he is the only thing that is real.
I recall a conversation I had once with a renowned celebrity photographer, Patrick. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he told me. “It’s all just flashes and takes.”
It was a scorching hot day in the Hamptons, and I was working an event for American Express Publishing, an assistant essentially sent from the company to tend to Patrick’s needs. In recollection, I can still see the evanescent fog of the morning sky; know that it was August because upon memory the arid tartness of the vacant Hampton’s airport still lingers on my tongue. If I think hard enough, I can feel the fire on my back from the overgrown sun.
I remember Patrick walked around the perimeter of the airport, planning his first photo. I remember I was underdressed, dressed for work, while all the other attendants wore chiffon skirts or silk summer strapless trappings. There was a woman Patrick was scheduled to photograph whose closet was entirely comprised of Louis Vuitton. We shot her on the steps of a Bombardier private jet, her pint-sized poodle in her brown checkered purse. I remember Patrick asked if he could photograph me sitting on the leather recliners in the back of the plane. Those legs, he said, let’s see how long we can make them look.
Throughout the day we approached strangers, attempting to capture them in their most intimate moments. We asked permission to rearrange hands or move strands of hair in order to make the frame complete. Patrick and I sipped a few glasses of champagne, sampled little bites from every vendor. Everyone had something to offer, a bag already prepared with free supplies to hand over to him at first sight. For lunch, I sat with him at the furthest, most deserted end of the venue as he scarffed down mini cucumber sandwiches and tuna rolls. All the while he spoke of his son, his family, his son’s friends. He had room in the company if I was looking; the job was mine if I wanted it.
At that time I was difficult to impress. One knows how youth is wasted. There was a key under a big pot of hyacinths on the porch at his home in another part of the Hamptons if I wanted it. He gave me what others gave him: Ten Cane Rum, Brooks Brother’s gift certificates, travel bags. In a few hours he had to go to Billy’s. Billy Joel’s. Some party it seemed that he dread. The key was under the pot on the porch if I wanted it.
I remember thanking him, but insisted I go back to college for my senior year and graduate. Your graciousness was more than appreciated, I wrote to him in a card that I mailed to his office a few days later, and I thank you for being so warm in an industry filled with insincerity. A few months later, I phoned his office inquiring about a position. His secretary was pervasive, disinterested: he will call you at a later time.
Of course, he never did.
In retrospect I understand this day as the epitome of everything the industry represents: disconnected moments of takes and flashes, long legs and assistants,
promises made to pass the time.
After the movie Nick and I sip martinis in the corner with the lights dim and the music soft and slow. Spielberg is reserved next to us; we still act as if there is no one else around. When we finish our drinks we walk to the balcony, pass Sarah and Max and Mike’s assistant, see Mike on the other end of the bar. Outside Nick smokes cigarettes and I hold tightly onto his waist. Who knows how many hours have passed, how many cigarettes have been lit. We kiss between pulls, speak in between sips. It is a Monday evening, way past seven. There is no need to worry. There are people here hired to tell us where we are going, what we are doing, when the hour has come indeed for us to leave.
At one point a twenty something woman with thick bangs and long eyelashes asks Nick for a light. Somehow she and I get to talking about poetry. Lesbianism, she says, eroticism. She asks me to quote Nin and I must think about it for a minute. There have been martinis, many martinis, and for a moment the words escape me. It is as if I have lost a large portion of my soul, like I have forgotten why it is exactly that I exist. In my mind I can see myself from above, aerially, out of body; the poet at the New York premiere who cannot remember her lines. Then I remember. “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” The woman leaves before we get the chance to exchange names.
Inside the bar we find Sarah and Harper and make small talk about the paté . I think for a moment about the strangeness of the situation, how these actors are so young, so powerful, how their assistants think for them; I wonder if this is an issue of too great of a mind or too little.
Hotel Room Service Bill (night before the premiere)
Chocolate Candy Bar- $18.00
Pizza with Wild Mushrooms and Candied Onions- $22.00
Sweet Potato Soup- $15.00
(2) Hummus, Eggplant, and Guacamole Plates-$45.00
(2) Fettuccini Bolognese- $50.00
(3) French Fries- $38.00
(2) Green Teas- $10.00
(4) Smart Waters- $25.00
(2)Cucumber Lime Martini- $30.00
Bridgeview Merlot, 2001- $90.00
All expenses covered by Twentieth Century Fox.
The night before there are six of us in the hotel room sitting in a circle, smoking, telling jokes. We relax in the room, gathering in a hopeful symbiosis to ease Mike’s tensions. A few laughs, some cold beer. Sarah and I lay on the bed, Nick on the chair next to me with his hands always on my thighs, knees, anywhere.
Six of us spent seven hours in the hotel room that night, yet all I remember is how we sat swapping “your momma” and “little johnny’s”, giggling like children over a Puerto Rican, a Jew, and a Priest who walked into a bar, over accepted stereotypes almost too crude to be considered humorous. Seven hours together and all I can remember is how the night was made for musing over scenarios that could never, would never even exist.
It is five, six o’clock in the morning and we are driving out of the Holland Tunnel. The sky is a quiet pink. The sun is not yet warm. We put Thunder Road on the radio and Nick sings softly along. At some point in the past few hours I may or may not have been conversing with a millionaire producer from Fox, make up stylist for one of those so called stars, a noteworthy director’s daughter. I certainly, for a fact, stood overlooking Canal Street and discussed Anais Nin with an advertising executive from a small, Brooklyn based hipster magazine. In any case, there was free popcorn.
In any case it is late in the evening and early in the morning all at once. Tonight time has frozen and raced, has paused or been delayed. We drive into the sunrise holding each other’s hands. In any case it has been a wonderful day.
Abriana Jette’s work is forthcoming or has appeared in the American Literary Review, dirtCakes, Empirical Magazine, the Manila Envelope, and many other journals.