by Jon Reiss
The beginning of my senior year of high school was a really great time. I was getting a lot of acting work and kids who I didn’t even know would come up to me in the hallways at school telling me they saw me on TV. People wanted to be my friend, I had more money than I understood and girls were fond of me. Every month I got a haircut and every day seemed to have a reason for happening.
One of the best things about auditioning was getting to leave school early to get on a train for Manhattan. The ladies who worked in the attendance office at my high school loved seeing me. They gave me no problems in the afternoon when I left school early or in the mornings when I showed up late. They always pretended not to notice.
“Are you going to remember us when you get your Oscar?” they’d ask.
“Of course,” I’d say, “How could I not.”
This one audition that I went on, right before things spun out of control, I left school at about noon and caught a train to the city. I got off the train in Manhattan and walked toward the address my agent had left on my voicemail until I was in front of a an office building in the thirties on Park Ave. I walked inside and looked for the casting company’s name on the building directory. Inside the elevator I pressed four, concentrating the whole ride on my breathing, and making sure I had a pleasant song stuck in my head.
When I emerged from the elevator on the fourth floor I was struck by the other thing I loved about auditioning. I came in contact with beautiful girls all the time, the type of girls I would never meet otherwise. From cute girl-next-door tomboy types who you’d expect to narrate some coming of age My Girl type movie to freak of nature scalding hot Amazon types, I saw them all and because I was auditioning too, they actually talked to me. This particular audition was full of a mixed bag, it called for a bleached blond skater guy and classically pretty, popular, cheerleader type girls. The casting agency’s waiting room was full of girls so pretty guys probably never talked to them. I moseyed into the room utterly confident and sat down next to the prettiest girl in the room. She was a brunette with Sun-In streaks, olive suntanned skin and mannequin like features.
I initiated conversation. At first we talked shop and then about school. I tried to make funny observations about the waiting room, the people around us, the water fountain, anything so long as I didn’t stop talking, but soon I was out of things to say. Besides nodding and smiling, she didn’t seem to have much to contribute and soon silence was sitting between us like a really awkward chubby kid with freckles.
Once things got awkward between the girl and me, the corners of my mouth began to twitch from smiling too hard and my palms started to sweat. So, I excused myself, got up and headed for the bathroom.
When the bathroom door was closed, I checked under the stalls for feet to make sure no one else was inside. When I knew I was alone, I took a little bag of coke from my pocket. I snapped my carabiner off the belt loop of my jeans, which at that point had only the key to my new car, and a rabbit’s foot attached, and dipped the key into the bag shoveling up a bump for each nostril. When I walked back into the waiting room and sat back down next to the girl, I launched into conversation like a late night host, talking about popular Manhattan nightclubs that I heard about on the radio.
“Club Exit? Club Exit is fucking great, that place is one of the best in the city, really. I bet you can fucking dance, I can tell. I’m not so good, but I do what I can, you know. Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle? I always liked Leonardo, I don’t know why really. I guess it’s because he’s the leader.” I filled the space in between sentences by chomping on my Mintaburst gum like a horse.
Double doors opened and a girl PA with headphones on her neck popped out into the waiting room. She looked in our direction.
“You two,” she said.
We stood up together and walked through the door. The room looked like a college classroom and three people in expensive looking suits and sunglasses were sitting at a large table in the front of the room. Beside the table there was a cushy brown couch, and across from it a video camera, manned by the PA girl. A man sitting at the table in a suit told us to sit on the couch.
The girl and I sat on the opposite sides of the couch.
“Get closer,” said the producer. “Silly kids.”
He asked us about school and then about our hobbies and again the nervousness started sinking in, I resumed twitching. The guy in the suit had a way of emanating his wealth like sonar it made me feel like I had to answer his questions as fast as possible so as not to waste his valuable time, which just made me sound like I was game show contestant. Before long I was stuttering and sweating.
These auditions were so contingent on feelings, states. If you looked wound up, or nervous, you were done. In two minutes they had to recognize you as the kind of person they wanted to work with again. The only way to book an audition was to be as relaxed and happy as possible, which was so hard to control. As I thought about this, I began to crawl out of my skin.
The producer was questioning the girl in a way that was flirtatious, yet aggressive, an attack almost. When he focused his attention back to me asking what type of music I liked, I did something unprecedented.
“I got to go to the bathroom,” I said, nearly shouting, and got up without waiting for an answer.
The producer looked at me like I was nuts, he even lifted his shades from his eyes. But eventually he grinned and told me to go ahead although I was already on my way.
In the bathroom I opened the bag and took a huge toot into my left nostril, then another in the left because the right nostril was clogged. When I felt it hit my throat, I put my pinky in my mouth, and sucked it, then I dipped my wet finger in the bag again and back into my mouth. Then I did it again, rubbing my pinky all over my gums and tongue.
I walked back into the audition a new man, ready to answer any question the guy could throw at me. I plopped down on the couch next to the girl and smiled at her. Then I addressed the big guy.
“Thanks for that, you’re a gent! So, what’s next?” I asked. The producer grinned wildly.
“Okay. So now, I’d like you to make out with each other,” he said.
“Huh?” we both said at the same time.
“Make out with each other. You know, kisss!” he said hissing the “sound.”
There was a long silence. I was not prepared. Finally the girl beside me spoke, relieving me.
“With tongue?” she asked.
“Whatever feels natural to you. But you know, really do it.” he said nodding.
Again we sat silently, close, still. The producer interrupted our silence.
“Come on, you guys are young! I’d kill for hormones like yours, put them to use!”
It was then that I realized that I’d made a big mistake. I shouldn’t have gone to the bathroom. I shouldn’t have done the coke. It’s not that I’d done too much coke, but I’d rubbed way too much on my gums, lips and tongue.
I looked into the girl’s eyes and flashed a nervous smile. She looked back at me her faced soaked in dread.
“If you guys aren’t comfortable, then you absolutely do not have to do it,” the producer said. “You’ll just have to hurry and go so we can move on.”
I was stuck in a trance, but the girl spoke up again.
“No, no I want this job. Let’s do it.”
As our mouths came together, the fear grew inside me. When we finally connected my lower lip was on her chin, my tongue rubbing the inside of her slight cleft. We separated and tried again, this time connecting at the lips, only I had to open my eyes to be sure because I couldn’t feel a thing. The coke had numbed my lips so much it was as if my mouth didn’t exist. Our lips moved but completely out of sync, when she moved down, I moved up, when she pushed forward, I pushed back. Trying to evoke some passion, my face slid upward leaving me sucking on her nose tasting salt. I sucked on her cheek for a moment, making something of farting noise and when we tried to start again, she clanged her tooth into mine, almost chipping it. Her cold tongue flicked into my mouth, and I broke away, finished, leaving her tongue hanging out in the open flopping around like a fish. She opened her eyes and looked at me like one, or both of us had just shit our pants.
“Thank you very much,” the producer said.
Neither of us said a word to each other on the elevator ride and as we got out to the street there were no goodbyes. I walked back toward the train trying to brush it off, to blame it on any outside force that I could think of. The way mom thrashed around the house looking for her coat that morning, or my algebra teacher making me wake up when I was sleeping on my desk. Something had fucked me up. All I wanted was to control my the way that I felt, and so it never really occurred to me to blame it on the coke.
Watching TV at a friend’s house a few months later I saw the commercial. Two teenagers are sitting on a couch, parents out of town, all alone. Sexy music is playing on the stereo and they look deep into each other’s eyes for a second. Then they go at it, making out passionately for a good while, slurping and sucking. In the middle, they stop and look at each other conspiratorially. After a long pause the boy grabs a bottle of chocolate syrup from the table beside him, and takes a swig. The girl grabs a carton of milk from the table beside her and takes a swig. With both of their mouths still full the two go back to making out. It was a chocolate milk commercial and I didn’t get the part.
Jon Reiss is the author of the forthcoming novel, Getting Off, from which this story is taken. His non fiction has has appeared in SPIN Magazine, Venus Magazine, Punknews.org, Brooklynbased and more. He writes regularly for NY Press and is the arts and culture editor of Jewcy. One time, he got beat up by a cop on an episode of Oz.
Illustration by Margarita Korol.