I walked into the Little Havana
café. Josh’s radiant smile told me this wasn’t about Time Leapers: The Complete Series. I smiled too, elated by the
sight of his gawky handsome face.
“Here it is!” I placed the DVD box
set on the table. Josh had lent it to me a year ago, while we were both at
Warren University. He mentioned liking it. I expressed my curiosity about it.
Before I knew it, he was leading me to his house, offering to let me borrow the
DVDs for the summer. If I were able to change the past like the protagonists of
Time Leapers, I wouldn’t have hurried
away after a quick “thanks.”
“It was good,” I said. I had seen
every episode. After receiving Josh’s email sent to my Warren account, I
rewatched several to refresh my memory. “That was nice of you,” I added. He kept
smiling and staring at me, not once glancing at the DVDs.
“Hungry?” he asked. A leftover
onion slice and a glob of dressing sat on his already finished plate.
“No,” I said. I immediately
regretted it. I always automatically turned down food. An eating disorder was
one consequence of what Hector, my stepfather, did to me as a child. Thanks to
him, I had a whole collection of disorders. Unfortunately, I wanted nothing
more in the world than to sit here with Josh for as long as possible. “But I’m
thirsty,” I said.
I ordered a Diet Coke from the
woman behind the counter and tried to think of something to talk about. I
planned on discussing Time Leapers
until Josh showed no interest in it. TV was how he first got me to speak when I
was a freshman and he was a grad student. As a young man, I withdrew into
myself. Starting college, my social skills were almost nonexistent.
I wouldn’t look anyone in the eyes.
I hardly spoke.
Josh befriended me. He divulged he
used to be as shy as I was, said he overcame it when he realized how dumb
everyone was. There was no reason to be intimidated by them. He said them in a
way that emphasized they were not the
same as us.
At first I resented his efforts to
help me. I fumbled with words and felt pathetic. Luckily, he figured out how to
be put me at ease. He mentioned Crown of
Dragons. He correctly guessed that I was obsessed with it. My shyness
evaporated as we debated who would ultimately rule the kingdom.
I returned with my Diet Coke. It
struck me I should talk about real life. That the answer wasn’t immediately
obvious was a remnant of my former social incompetence.
“What’ve you been up to?” I asked.
His email had been brief:
In Miami ‘til
Sunday. Remembered you lived there. I never got Time Leapers back. Want
to meet up?”
There was nothing about why he
dropped out of Warren before completing his doctorate.
I’m working in
San Fran at Mojo, a software developer. I interned there for the summer.
They offered me
a job and I took it. I was sick of Warren. I’d been there for seven years.
The charm of a
rich kid hipster haven had worn off.”
I wanted to shout, “What about me?”
Of course, it was my own fault for not being his reason to stay. At first, I
was closeted. Although socially clueless, I was boyishly handsome, and girls
sometimes pursued me aggressively. One day, a dormmate asked me out on a date.
I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but knew deceiving her was worse. “I’m
gay,” I said tearfully, as if I were afflicted with a fatal disease.
She said “okay” and shrugged.
Once I realized that being gay
wasn’t a big deal, I grew more confident. Speaking to others and meeting their
gaze became easier. Still, I wasn’t attracted to Josh, whom I hardly even
considered a friend.
He owed me nothing, I told myself
now. Yet, my heart felt otherwise.
“It was spur of the moment.” He
must have seen the hurt on my face.
“You don’t feel like you wasted
three years, dropping out before you got your doctorate?” I asked. It came out
harsher than I intended.
“I feel like I wasted three years
instead of four.” He stiffened defensively. “And what’ve you been doing?”
“Working. Saving money. I start
film school at Manhattan U in September,” I said.
“Going into the film industry? That
takes courage, unless you’re a long-lost Coppola.” He scoffed.
“Nah, my only family connections
are in the maintenance industry,” I said.
He laughed, breaking the tension.
“We’ll be paying off loans ‘til
we’re dead, won’t we?” He sighed.
We chuckled. While we both clearly
harbored pent-up resentment, we had to let go of the past. Our pasts were
certainly worth forgetting.
In May of my junior year, it
finally dawned on me why Josh was so fixated on me. I gazed outside my dorm
window. By chance, I noticed him crossing the field. He stood alone. I realized
there wasn’t one time I didn’t see him alone. His posture was bent like an old
man’s, as if he had endured a lifetime’s worth of suffering. The heat was sweltering.
Nonetheless, he wore jeans and a
long-sleeve shirt. It suddenly registered how deeply he was scarred. Only one
thing could have caused it. What else would make him need to cover the skin on
his arms and legs? What else would make him so afraid to be touched?
By then, I understood that I would
never recover completely. I would always be ill at ease around others. I would
have issues with food. I would cringe when an image, sound, or smell stirred a
horrible childhood memory. I would never be like them, and Josh seemed like the only person I could relate to.
Almost as soon as I had this epiphany, that I loved Josh, he was gone. If only
I told him, instead of prattling on about how good Time Leapers was supposed to be.
Today in Miami it was close to a
hundred degrees, and neither one of us wore short sleeves or shorts. The past
mattered and it didn’t, because who else would love someone so damaged?
“How was Warren that last year?
Snobby as ever? Even the name’s basically slang for ‘rich kid,’” he said.
“Okay, I guess,” I said
untruthfully. It was almost unbearable. The hope that I would see him again was
all that kept me going. “Everyone there was pretty nice.”
“It’s called ‘patronizing,’” he
He was right. Both professors and
classmates would speak to me slowly, as if unsure of my proficiency in English.
My shyness didn’t help.
“You weren’t patronizing,” I said.
To the contrary, he expected
behavior that seemed beyond me. As soon as I mastered “nice to meet you,” he
was bringing up the weather, asking about my classes.
“Only to stuck-up brats, but they
didn’t talk to me anyway. They thought I was a weirdo,” he said.
“I never thought that,” I said.
“You’re one too.” He smirked.
“Thanks.” I wasn’t offended. I was flattered. Calling us “weirdos”
was the same as saying unlike them; I
didn’t want to be like them anyway. I
was perfectly content being like Josh.
“See what I mean?” he laughed.
“Ahhh!” he yelped. He jumped in his seat, accidentally banging our knees. It
was his cell phone ringing in his pocket. Like me, he had an exaggerated
startle response. The term was “hypervigilance,” a symptom of PTSD.
He glanced down at his phone. It
displayed a photo of a woman, “Rachel.”
If it were a man, I would have been
jealous. I assumed it was his sister. They both had black, wavy hair. He muted
his phone, ignoring her call.
Beneath the table, our legs
touched. His left knee grazed my knee. His right calf leaned against my calf.
Neither he nor I moved. Warmth emanated from the contact between us, spreading
through me. It astounded me how good it felt. I couldn’t recall the last time a
touch didn’t unsettle me, but his face was contorted with sorrow.
In me, he seemed to see his own
pitiful past. I sensed how badly he longed to heal me. Love could heal us both;
I was sure of it, just from the feel of his legs against mine, stirring me in
ways nothing ever had before.
I jumped as someone tapped the
window behind me.
It was the girl, Rachel.
Josh sat up, pulling his legs away.
With one hand she held a cigarette, with the other she waved him outside.
“I have to go,” he said. He looked
perturbed. I was flustered, too, by all the emotion that touch had evoked. “It
was great seeing you,” he said, gazing at me tenderly. He stood and headed out.
“What about Time Leapers?” I grabbed it from the table and held it out to him.
“Keep it.” He held up his hand.
“It’s on Netflix anyway.”
Before I could say “thanks,” he was
out the door. I gazed out the window behind me at him and Rachel waiting for
the light. They weren’t siblings, I decided. She was too short. Their facial
features weren’t similar. His sister, if he had one, must have looked like the
actress Daphne Shields.
Daphne Shields had Josh’s same
smile. Like Josh, her sunken cheeks became suddenly full, her eyes dipped down
bashfully, then raised disarmingly. Both Daphne Shields and Josh were
frightfully thin. They shared the same pasty complexion, blue in certain lights.
Each had huge, melancholy eyes, though Daphne Shields’s were dark brown and
Josh’s were hazel.
It occurred to me that Daphne
Shields was hurt in the same way as Josh and I. Her skittish demeanor helped
make her a horror film icon. Few actresses conveyed fear as convincingly.
When not a scream queen she often
played a grieving widow or the mother of a sick child. There was a sorrowful
air about her. Still, she had great comedic chops. One of her most memorable
roles was as a stand-up comic with cerebral palsy, using humor to mask her
Daphne Shields was like us: it was
an intriguing thought, not that it had any bearing on my life. No one even knew
where she was. She vanished from the public eye a decade ago.
As Josh continued up the avenue, I lost
sight of him. I reassured myself that our separation was temporary. We both
knew how the other felt. All we needed now was to find a way to be together.
Until then, I would have to make do with Time
Leapers, my keepsake to remind me that Josh loved me.
Later, I realized I didn’t have
Josh’s cell phone number. I didn’t own a cell phone and he didn’t have my home
number. Nevertheless, I wasn’t worried. We could reach each other by email.
Since he was older, it felt natural
that he should take the lead. I resolved to wait patiently for his message.
New York was exactly what I had
been primed to expect from movies and TV: imposing skyscrapers, crowded
streets, a multitude of ethnicities and cultures. Although the city had
fascinated many a filmmaker, I rarely ventured beyond Tribeca, where Manhattan
University was located. Without Josh, everywhere I went ─ no matter how impressive, felt desolate.
Classes kept me busy. I studied film theory, learned the basics of
cinematography, editing and production design. For Screenwriting 101, a
complete spec script was due by the end of the term. Still, nothing took my
mind off Josh, or the fact that he hadn’t written.
I checked my Warren email account
daily. Other than the occasional junk mail, there was nothing. I tried to
rationalize it. Josh wanted me to settle in first, or he didn’t want to seem
desperate. Thanksgiving finally forced my hand. Surely, he thought about us
After an hour in front of my
computer, agonizing over each word, I sent him a “casual” email:
Hi Josh, what’re
you up to?
coming up. I got the whole week off! Hope to see you soon. Thanks
again for Time Leapers!
Days passed. He didn’t write back.
I moved onto plan B. Thealternative, life without Josh, was too bleak to consider.
By Googling his name and “Mojo,” I found his work number. My heart pounded and
my stomach swirled with butterflies as I called him in the afternoon, morning
“Hello?” he answered.
“H-hi, it’s, it’s Pablo,” I
He didn’t say anything.
“From Warren,” I added.
“Hi. Hello. Yes, Pablo.” He sounded
flustered. It heartened me. Seemingly, he was nervous for the same reason I
was, because he was in love.
“I, um, thank you again for the
DVDs.” It was all I could think of to say. I didn’t want to bring up my
unanswered email. I didn’t want him to think I was angry.
“We didn’t have room in our
luggage. My girlfriend went a little crazy shopping.” His tone changed. He
sounded cool, calculating. It took a moment to register what he said. Rachel
wasn’t his friend, the “Grace” to his “Will.” She was his girlfriend. He was
straight. At least that was what he was saying.
“Oh,” I said.
I heard him take a deep breath,
perhaps in trepidation, fearing I would lash out. Still, he didn’t hang up. I
reflected on our time at Warren. Josh had reached out to me incessantly, not
relenting until I spoke to him. As my social skills improved, he encouraged me.
But why was he so determined to
Why email me out of the blue after
He wasn’t spurred by desire, as I
had believed, but by compassion. I wasn’t his unrequited love. I was his pet
about our legs? I thought. If he didn’t yearn for my
touch, why let his leg linger there? Why did it feel so wondrous?
I had sensed what he wanted, what
we both wanted, under that table. I knew what I saw in his eyes, not only in
the café, but always: love.
“That’s nice. I mean, for her, glad
she found so much stuff. Thanks anyway,” I said.
He took heavy, rapid breaths.
“You’re welcome,” he finally
croaked. “Is that it? I mean, is there something else?” Confusion and distress
clung to the line.
“That’s it.” For both our sakes, I
hung up. I stared at the phone on my desk. Despite myself, I ached for it to
ring, and to hear Josh’s voice. Of course, there was only silence. He made it
perfectly clear that he wanted nothing to do with me.
I had always thought of Josh as so
far ahead of me. He was once as shy as I was and he overcame it, but terms of
facing his sexuality he trailed behind. Not only was he a coward, he was a
hypocrite. He told me not to care what others thought, because they were all idiots. Obviously, he
cared more about what they thought
than he did about me.
I grabbed Time Leapers from its spot on my shelf.I hurled it against the wall, smashing the case, causing shattered
discs to fall out. I threw myself on my bed. I screamed into my pillow. I
I cut my tantrum short upon
noticing the time. Screenwriting was in ten minutes. Fending off my despair, I
got up, slung my backpack over my shoulder and left.
Today’s lesson was on dialogue.
Conversation had once seemed so daunting. I finally got the hang of it, but to
I was still friendless, unloved and
alone. It seemed all too apparent that I was irrevocably broken. I spent the
class ruing having ever met Josh, having ever been filled with the false hope
for a life that wasn’t a tragedy.
Professor Ansel stopped early to
hand back the class’s scripts. The first half of the script had been due last
week; the second half was due at the end of the term. Before this afternoon, I
was eager for his feedback. Professor Ansel was an Oscar nominated
screenwriter. He had worked in Hollywood since before I was born. Now, just the
thought of my script made me cringe.
Touch was the thinly veiled story of Josh and I. I was
Victor, an undergrad student; Josh was Daphne, an adjunct film professor.
Writing it, I had envisioned Daphne played by a young Daphne Shields, thus the
name. The star-crossed protagonists were supposed to run off to New York to
embark on a new life together. Daphne’s spineless betrayal of Victor wasn’t the
ending I had been building towards.
“Can you stay behind for a minute?”
Professor Ansel asked as I retrieved my script.
I glanced down at the script. There
was no grade. While the class filtered out, I sat up front in an empty seat.
Professor Ansel organized the
papers on his desk. Once we were alone, he raised his gaze. He had a wry look,
as if he knew I knew exactly what I had done.
“I like the part where Daphne films
Victor,” he spoke slowly, seemingly under the impression that English was my
“She doesn’t. He won’t let her.” I
could tell he was testing me. He must have suspected I plagiarized the script.
“That’s right. The flashbacks to
his childhood were quite powerful. Who abused him again, his uncle?” Grinning
smugly, he seemed not to consider the possibility that I was the author.
“His stepfather,” I said.
“It was her stepfather too, wasn’t
it?” he asked.
“It’s not stated. He just knows it
was somebody. She shows all the signs,” I said wistfully.
He waved me closer with his hand.
As I approached his desk, he looked
up and down my body in a way that made me shudder.
“You always hide in the back, but
don’t think I haven’t noticed you.” Still leering, he grabbed his red marker.
He scribbled an “A.” He winked, as if he and I were sharing a dirty secret. I
took back my script.
Walking away, I felt his eyes
“Acting is more lucrative than
screenwriting, you know. A handsome face can go far with the right connections,”
he said. “Lucrative means pays more.”
He seemed to think I needed that clarification.
As it registered what he was
proposing, anguish overtook me. It was the opposite of the tender intimacy I
had imagined sharing with Josh. Apparently, though, Josh was only ever a
I made it to the door before I
stopped. Perhaps I had suffered one humiliation too many today, to be accused
of plagiary, to be propositioned like a prostitute, to learn the one I loved
refused to love me back.
“It’s my story,” I muttered.
“Excuse me?” he said. I turned to
“I said it’s my story. I wrote it!” I usually held everything in until I was
alone. Now I felt my self-control slipping like a façade unable to contain an
“I reviewed your undergraduate
transcript. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for affirmative action, but I doubt
you’re capable of…” His voice trailed off.
With all I was dealing with at
Warren, my grades were uneven. Nevertheless, I was positive it was the “Pablo
Rodriguez” in the byline, not my transcript, which convinced him it was
“It’s my story. I lived it. I was
sexually abused. My voice was stolen from me. Everyone else knew what to say.
It was automatic for them. The words
wouldn’t come to me. My brain couldn’t find them. I didn’t know what was wrong
with me.” I groaned despondently.
“Perhaps you should see the campus
therapist. Why don’t you go make an appointment right now?” he suggested
I ignored him. I thought of
something that made me smile.
“It wasn’t complete hell. I had
movies and TV.” When I reflected back on my childhood, mercifully, what I
remembered most was what I had watched on a movie or TV screen, my
consciousness escaping into the lives of fictional others.
“Saved by Saved by the Bell.” He ridiculed me again. He thought I was too
crazy to realize it.
“No one cares! No one wants to hear
it! I make them uncomfortable!” I snapped.
“Wonder how that could be.” He
“You wanted to screw me.” I
sneered. With my self-control gone, I spouted whatever came to me.
His mouth dropped open. He looked
horrified, no doubt less by the accusation than by whom I might repeat it to.
“I’ve never been with anyone, not
since…” my voice cracked. “I was in love with this guy, the real, Daphne. He says he’s straight.”
“It happens,” he said
sympathetically. Bringing up his sexual advances had caused a change in his
“He was the only thing that kept me
going. I don’t want to live if we can’t be together. I wish I died as a child.
It would’ve been more humane,” I said bitterly.
His brow furrowed. “I’m sorry for
the misunderstanding, and I’m sorry for all you’ve suffered.” Compassion flowed
from his eyes. Clearly, he had picked up a few acting pointers during his time
“It’s my story,” I declared once
more. It was my own wretched life I had put into that script. I at least
deserved the credit for having lived it. Before I left, I crumpled the script
in my hands and tossed it in the trash. It felt briefly cathartic, as if it
were my life I had casually disposed of.
Upon returning to my dorm, I
resumed where I had left off, crying, screaming and throwing things around.
Eventually, my roommate, Greg, arrived.
“Whoa, it’s a mess in here,” Greg
said. Despite the marijuana odor continually wafting from him and his
belongings, I was lucky to have him as a roommate. He spent most of his time at
his girlfriend’s, and allowed me liberal use of his fifty-inch TV.
“I was looking for something,” I
“All right,” he chuckled, incurious
as usual. He only stopped by for a roach. He took off as soon as he set down
his pliers, but in the interim I regained my composure.
Still, if my anger seemed
pointless, so did life without Josh. I curled up under my blanket. I felt as if
I could lie there forever. My carrot on a stick was gone.
I received a call on my campus
phone. I let it go to voicemail. I couldn’t refrain from checking it longer
than a minute.
Even after everything, I hoped it
was Josh calling to see how I was.
It was Professor Thorne, head of
the film department. She wished to see me in her office to discuss my
“threatening outburst.” I had to admire Professor Ansel’s cunning. He had gone
on the offensive, painting me as violent and unstable, thereby discrediting any
accusations I might make.
Roused from my bed, I stumbled over
to Greg’s television. It was instinctive. TV provided solace during the most
abysmal times. I flipped through the channels, landing on a rerun of Lost Island. I was a huge fan of the
series. It gave me comfort to spend time with the familiar characters. Not even
the commercials bothered me. I enjoyed placing the actors’ faces, figuring out
how I knew them.
Suddenly, a face I recognized
It was Daphne Shields. Those were
her eyes, large, dark, beautiful. That was her long, thin nose, which added
drama to her every facial expression. Those were her small, but shapely lips,
her oversized teeth poking through them like a rabbit’s. The rest of her was
monstrous. A double chin subsumed her neck. Swollen purple bags drooped under
her eyes. Her gray hair was stringy and unkempt. Her blotchy, rubbery skin
resembled a latex mask. She had been transformed into a Halloween witch.
“They’re out to murder me, like
they did the president. The one they got there in the White House is a decoy. I
did this film in ’96, The Ballot.
That’s what put me on their radar,” Daphne stated matter-of-factly. Suddenly,
she gripped the arms of her chair. “They think I can’t tell they’re poisoning
me!” she seethed.
“Watch Doc Murray’s heartbreaking
interview with actress Daphne Shields as she emerges from years of seclusion,”
a voice directed over the ominous notes of a keyboard.
“Do you ever think about returning
to acting?” Doc Murray asked.
She leaned back, letting out a
wistful sigh. “All the time.”
“Why don’t you?” His faint smile
held a hint of mockery.
She grimaced. “The faeries appear
to me, chirping I can make your dreams come true. You’ll be a star again! But
underworld goblins devour them. I did nothing wrong. Still, they follow me:
shadows. I trapped one in my cupboard this morning.”
She clapped her hands together
forcefully, demonstrating the action. As Doc Murray flinched back, she laughed
“The world is wondering, what have
you been up to? Your last onscreen appearance was eleven years ago.” Doc Murray
assumed an interested face, as if he couldn’t guess the answer from one look at
“Nothing, I’m completely alone. You
think anyone wants to see this?” She opened her arms wide, displaying her obese
frame. “I should’ve died! I should’ve died thin and pretty!”
“Will Doc Murray get Daphne the help
she desperately needs?” a voice pondered.
“Why don’t you [bleep] off! You think I don’t know who you really work for!” Daphne raged at the camera, standing outside a
parked car. “You work for them!” she
The screen cut tantalizingly to a
still of Doc Murray’s face.
“Find out tonight on a special Doc Murray, nine o’clock eastern
standard time, eight o’clock central.”
I felt nauseous.
What had become of the beautiful,
talented Daphne Shields? How had she turned into this madwoman?
It made me fearful for Josh. Being
closeted had to put a strain on his sanity. Even if I was angry at him, I
couldn’t bear the thought of him sharing Daphne Shields’s fate. I was
susceptible to that too. We were all survivors, facing similar struggles,
carrying similar scars.
Compelled by a need to understand
how this happened, I watched the full hour of Doc Murray. Daphne Shields couldn’t provide any answers. She seemed
vaguely aware that she wasn’t well. On several instances, she begged for help,
though when she tried to articulate from what, all that came from her mouth was
Doc Murray failed to shed any light
on Daphne’s state. His sole aim was to titillate the viewer. He brought up her
costars, her famous former lovers. He encouraged her to elaborate on her more
I could only conclude that
something or someone led her to forsake the world, retreat into isolation,
where her sanity steadily deteriorated. Perhaps a lover hurt her. She had
several well-publicized, tumultuous relationships. Perhaps she grew embittered
as her career floundered. By her mid-thirties, she was consigned to “mom” roles
in forgettable fluff. Perhaps she was degraded by too many Hollywood creeps.
Having encountered one myself, I
could certainly empathize.
For days, I couldn’t shake the
horror of that interview. It was what convinced me to stop by Professor
Thorne’s office before class. Daphne Shields showed me that running away would
only make my problems worse.
Per Professor Ansel’s version of
events, the crumpled screenplay I had dropped in the waste bin had been hurled
square at his head. Forced to appease the acclaimed screenwriter, Professor
Thorne stated I would no longer be allowed in the class.
“However, I did personally run a
search using our plagiarism checking software,” she said. Reaching into her
desk, she pulled out the alleged assault weapon, flattened back into its former
“I’m satisfied this work is yours.”
She handed me back the script. “It shows promise,” she remarked, giving me an
“You’ll be reimbursed the course
cost. Your GPA won’t be affected. I suggest you take an extra class next term
to complete your MFA requirement on time,” she said.
I stood up to leave.
“Professor Ansel will be on
sabbatical next term. I encourage you to take the class then,” she said.
“Thanks.” Even if I had been
unjustly ousted from Professor Ansel’s class, I walked out of Professor
Thorne’s office relieved, and gratified that she recognized my talent.
While I didn’t get the Thanksgiving
break I had hoped for, I got out of returning to Miami, where there were too
many reminders of the past. I persuaded my mother it was a waste of money;
after all, I had that student loan debt hanging over my head. During my week
without classes, I avoided Greg’s TV. There was danger in retreating too far
from reality. I spent hours each day roaming the city, down to Battery Park, up
along the Hudson River piers, making stops at several Chelsea galleries,
through Central Park, all the way up to Grant’s Tomb. In Hell’s Kitchen, I
exchanged smiles with a cute blond smoking outside “Fierce.” I promised myself
I would order a drink there before the semester was over.
Still, my legs could take only so much
wandering. I needed something else to occupy my time. I recalled how impressed
Professor Thorne was with my script. Professor Ansel thought it was so good
that I couldn’t possibly have written it. It struck me that I might have found
I felt torn between starting a new
script and returning to Inappropriate
Touch. After Josh turned his back on me, I couldn’t end it as I had
intended, with Daphne and Victor together. Yet, I couldn’t just abandon it. I
kept thinking of Daphne Shields, hauled into a psych ward, forcing her release
a day later, fleeing with her coat over her gown, Doc Murray’s production crew in tow.
It seemed so unfair. Although I
couldn’t help her, I could write for her, for Josh, for myself, a different
INT/EXT. TRIBECA MOVIE THEATER –
A film premiere in Tribeca: through
the large windowed lobby of an old-fashioned theater, elegantly dressed guests
drink champagne, eat hors d’oeuvres. A slender figure in a long coat walks by.
It’s Daphne. Her hair has some strands of gray. She’s aged a decade or so. She
stops to look up at the marquee. It reads, “Inappropriate Touch: A Victor
Sanchez film.” She gasps and clutches her heart. She peers inside.
After a moment’s hesitation, she
enters. She slips past a security guard immersed in his phone. She weaves
through the crowd towards a figure swarmed by guests. It’s Victor. Seeing her,
his expression turns to longing. She waves at him. There’s a wedding ring on
her finger. He excuses himself. He approaches her.
Victor: Thanks. It’s been ages. How
Daphne: (Shyly, as if suddenly
remembering how long it’s been) Good, I’m a professor at Manhattan U.
Victor: (Glancing down at her ring,
a note of bitterness in his voice) And married…he must be special.
Daphne: He doesn’t have every film
critic calling him the next big thing. He’s a contractor. He falls asleep
during any movie without an explosion. He thinks Speed & Fury 7 is the epitome of good filmmaking.
Victor: (Laughing) I hope he
appreciates your sense of humor.
Daphne: He does. And you? I bet you
have your pick now, any girl your heart desires.
Victor: (His face turns serious) Not
Daphne: (Muttering almost to
herself) I never wanted, I never meant to…
Victor: Hey, I’m like an Arabian
prince. All I have to do is point, my guards bring her to me.
Daphne: That’s racist. And sexist.
Watch out, you’re in the public eye now.
Victor: (With a chuckle) I’m hardly
Daphne: Didn’t you get a Silver
Indy nod for Dreamless?You were robbed, in my opinion.
Victor: That you liked it means
more to me than any award.
Daphne: Well, I’m sure you have to
get back to selling yourself. Don’t snub a potential distributer for little ol’
me. (She lifts her hand up before he can give her another compliment.) I just
wanted to congratulate you on all your success.
Victor: (Sounding hopeful) Well,
thanks, maybe we’ll…
Daphne: (Sounding unsure) Maybe.
Victor: (He abruptly grabs her
hand)I’m here for you.
They share a warm smile. Slowly,
Daphne withdraws her hand. Victor follows her with his sight as she slips out
the exit. His eyes linger at the door after she’s gone. A middle-aged woman calls
his name, stirring him from his reverie.
Victor’s Agent: (Gesturing to an
older man in a suit) I’d like you to meet Rob, from Majestic Pictures.
Victor: (Shakes his hand) Nice to
That “nice to meet you,” of course,
would have been impossible without Daphne’s guidance. Others left him to
suffer. Not her: she made it her mission to save him. It was the perfect ending
to Inappropriate Touch. Yet, it could
also occur somewhere in the middle. They might run into each other on the
street. Victor could track down Daphne’s address, send her an invitation to his
I didn’t know for certain where
this scene belonged. Regardless, it comforted me merely that it existed. No one
was there for Daphne Shields, but Victor was there for Daphne. I hoped Josh
realized I was there for him too.
I forgave him.
I loved him. I had no choice.
We needed each other, someone to be “us” with in a world full of them. With that affirmed, I set our story aside to write a new one.
Scott Bassis is a young
writer eager to establish himself as a serious talent. He has had short stories
published in Poydras Review, The Acentos Review, The
Writing Disorder, The Furious Gazelle, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Image
Outwrite, Quail Bell Magazine, The Missing Slate, Jumbelbook, Furtive
Dalliance, Fiction on the Web and Rainbow Curve.