by Justin Maurer
Mel and I drove down Sunset Boulevard to meet an actress friend of hers on Friday afternoon. It was pleasant out, traffic wasn’t so bad. Mel finally passed her driving test at the D.M.V. in Glendale, so she was driving.
“Is there a liquor store on the way?” Mel asked. “I want to get some wine.”
“Yeah, there’s one coming up on the left, right as we hit Echo Park.”
“How am I supposed to get there?”
“Follow that red car in front of you; see how he’s turning left? Good. Now take another left into the parking lot.”
I waited in the car as Mel went into the dingy corner shop to buy a couple bottles of wine. Outside the liquor store was a tattooed young woman who picked up a feral cat off the sidewalk. She cradled the feisty little beast in her arms as it attempted to escape. As she pivoted towards me, her red polk-a-dot dress billowing in the wind, I noticed that the furry mongrel was quite cute. A Mexican family pushing a stroller stopped to coo, and one of the young girls made a high pitched noise that sounded like, “Awwwwww.”
With Mel back in the driver’s seat, we took a left on Sunset and kept going.
“Do you remember where Allie’s house is?”
“Yeah, it’s just in between Echo Park and Silverlake, up the hill a little bit to the right. Don’t you remember that cliff where that mud boulder almost fell on you when it was raining?”
“Oh yeah,” Mel said.
We took a right turn and another right up the steep hill off Sunset. Mel parked behind an old pickup truck and pulled up the emergency brake. We walked up the sidewalk with the wine bottles clanging in a plastic grocery bag. A few houses down a big grey tomcat ran across the road and gave us a roar, “Merrrrwwwww,” the cat said. “It looks like he’s starving to death,” Mel said.
The cat followed us up Allie the actress’ impossibly long staircase up the side of the hill. At the top of the stairs was a great view. We could see all the way to theHollywood sign and Griffith Observatory. The brown hills seemed to glimmer in the distance. We knocked on the door and the tiny young actress came to the door greeting us with a hug and a kiss. She led us into the kitchen where we opened the bottles of wine, and then we went back out the front door and sat on some wicker chairs. The girls lit cigarettes and began gossiping.
Mel said to Allie, “So, how is that new movie you’re in?”
“Well, it’s going great…oh my God; I just shot my first sex scene!”
“Really? What was it like?”
“Well, they oiled me up with this slippery stuff so that I would look sweaty on camera. The actor is just a kid; I can’t tell if he’s scared or just aloof. We haven’t had a conversation longer than three words and now we’re shooting a sex scene. I mean, I feel bad for him, he has to wear a cock sock.”
“A cock sock?”
“It’s a sock in front and a thong in the back.”
“Oh my God.”
“I know, the director was like, you have a good ass Jeremy, so we want you to show it. Allie has to show her tits and ass so we might as well show your ass too.”
“Is the director respectful at least?”
“Oh yeah, he’s totally respectful. It’s a closed set when we’re shooting the sex scene, so there are only three people in the room besides the director and the actors. When we’re done shooting the scene, I still have my tits hanging out the bottom of my t-shirt, right? So one of the gay guys working on the set is like, ‘Allie, I can’t talk to you with your tits hanging out, please pull your shirt down.’ Ridiculous, huh?”
“Oh my God, completely ridiculous.”
“I know, they’ve already seen everything anyway. I mean, I have to wear a flesh colored thong, and I’m all slippery. Literally as Jeremy is thrusting and dry humping me, I’m sliding up the wall and they have to yell cut! You’re out of the shot!”
“Sounds intense,” Mel lights another cigarette and I fill up her wine glass.
“It is, and so after shooting this scene for like two hours, finally we’re done and I can go. I came home and just started crying, I felt so dirty.”
“You poor thing.”
“But I guess they are pretty respectful, they gave me this code gesture, so if I’m ever uncomfortable and I want them to stop, I just brush my nose like this, and they yell cut. I did it once just to see if it would work, and the director came in and took me aside asking me if I was okay. I told him I was just testing to see if it would really work. He just gave me this confused look, patted me on the head and walked away.”
The feral cat that had followed us up the stairs mewed again, “Reearrrrwwww,” the cat said. Breathing out a purple tuft of cigarette smoke, Mel said, “Honey, will you please go to the shop and buy it a can of tuna? Look, its ribs are sticking out; he looks like he’s going to die any minute now.” I asked Allie where the nearest grocery store was and drove down the hill. There it was on the corner, El Tomatillo. Inside, I found an inexpensive can of tuna. The can had a dent in it, but I didn’t think botulism mattered, it being a feral cat and all. Stray cats don’t have to worry about anaerobic bacteria. Clostridium botulinum, I say to myself. The cheap white wine Mel bought was pretty God awful, so I bought a tall can of beer to tide me over while the girls chattered away. Modelo Especial, I say, talking to myself again as I clutch the ice cold 24 ounce can.
I found the same parking spot, behind that old pickup truck on the hill, and meandered up the sidewalk. It was starting to get chilly out as the sun was setting, and I wished I had brought my jacket in from the car. “Fuck it,” I muttered to myself. An old Asian man wearing a sun visor cap was watering his front garden. We nodded at each other in the way that men sometimes do.
Back up at the house, I gave the big grey tomcat his can of tuna and cracked my beer open. The cat mewed in appreciation and began delicately nibbling at the tuna, licking its lips in between bites. A hummingbird hovered over the front porch, quickly took a drink of nectar out of a large purple flower and buzzed away. Doves on a telephone wire above Sunset Boulevard cooed and groomed each other’s grey feathers. The sun appeared a neon orange and it slowly sank into the distance, off into the Pacific Oceanby Malibu. The girls were still talking but I wasn’t listening anymore. The cat finished its meal and jumped onto my lap. I wondered if it had fleas, but thought, “Fuck it,” and began to stroke the nape of the purring cat’s neck. The cold beer flowed down my throat and into my stomach. God it was good.