Los Angeles

March 10, 2018

THE CAFE is on the other side of the hill, not even a far walk. The tables are wood slabs bonded in a blue steel frame. The tile is blue and white and contemplating the floor while drinking coffee I realize there is no wrong way to lay the pattern; turn them any direction and they’ll match, one after another. Any way you want.

I moved here because I thought I was someone else. I wrote a script about an action hero that wants to retire. I made short movies about a taxi driver. I went to meetings and asked people for jobs. Someone suggested I could be a checker at Costco. 

I asked a friend over email if she thought it was too late for me to get into advertising.

“I think I’d be good at it,” I said.

“Yes,” she replied. “You’re probably too old.”

I’m 46.

“How is the movie business?” she asked.

“With or without me,” I replied. 

We didn’t have much in common anyway.

I like to think of a television show called Television Show. It opens with a surgeon operating on a person in a round room with stadium style seating. The patient is in real trouble. The surgeon is a good, capable man. But he’s perhaps wrong about something. There are a lot of close-ups on people’s eyes. 

We cut outside the operating room and there are students watching the procedure on a video feed.

Her hand snakes up his leg and he pretends not to notice. Years ago it would have been the boy pressing his palm inside the girl’s thigh but those days are over. Maybe that’s good. Anyway, as the Polish say, “Not my circus, not my monkey.”

I don’t know if the patient lives or dies. It’s a real cliffhanger.

Yesterday I saw Gizelle and we went to a vegan restaurant for dinner. We ordered soup and spicy eggplant. I recommended lentil quesadillas and she recommended I get a therapist.

“Therapy is expensive,” I told her.

“Depends what you can afford,” she said.

We drove through all the neighborhoods north of downtown. We took three highways and lots of side streets. I ran out of things to say so she put on music.

“How are you doing,” she asked.

She played Flight of the Conchords and we sang along as we drove south on I-5 facing the skyscrapers, the insurance buildings, and the Ritz Carlton.

That was the end of the night. Before that, over dinner, she’d told me about voices, connections she could make, when to listen and when to turn a deaf ear. I told her I regretted everything. She asked what I meant. I said that this moment was on the horizon my entire life. I was going to regret my choices no matter what they were.

“Unpack it for me,” she said. 

I told her I wished I had stayed in one place. But instead I jumped, as if from a burning building. My past was always right behind me. And it was unbearable.

“And that’s how I ended up here,” I said.

“That’s not how I see you,” she replied.

Stephen Elliott is the writer/director of the web series Driven. He is the the author of eight books including the novel Happy Baby, and the memoir The Adderall Diaries which was adapted into a feature film starring James Franco. His article Silicon Is Just Sand is being developed for a series at A&E. His first movie, About Cherry, premiered at the Berlinale and was released by IFC in 2012. His newest movie, After Adderall, was the closing night film for the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival.