Monica Drake Longreads October 14 minutes 3, words A hot Hollywood beauty optioned the film rights to my first novel, Clown Girl , then, months later, invited me out for dinner.
Specifically, her people emailed my people — me. I was home alone when I got the message, and beyond interested. I was instantly dizzy, maybe sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated. I grabbed the back of a chair, knocking over a paper cup of cold coffee on our cluttered dining table. I teach English Composition at a small, private art school and I write. This Miss Hollywood, of course, is a movie star. When opportunity knocks, right? Coffee dripped to our worn floorboards.
We closed in on a date. Then I actually did glance, past birthday party invites and coupons pinned to a corkboard, at the old Nature Conservancy calendar tacked up in our kitchen.
I wrote back to Hollywood, to L. I mean, why not? The reps emailed back, suggesting another day. So we did that! Of course we did. It was much more reasonable, to pick another date. We settled on the single remaining option, a small window several weeks out. Mine was a happy, nervous song. Nervous, because I had a lot riding on it. People like to be recognized for their success, not embarrassed by a toady.
I had definite desires. Specifically, I wanted Hollywood to follow through and adapt my novel, Clown Girl, to film. That part was important to me. Now Clown Girl was drawing Hollywood to me, in a lovely turn of events. This had the potential to be the hottest date of my life. Then came an email suggesting I choose the restaurant. Taking responsibility for the restaurant made the whole future more real.
I started thinking about girth. On one of my few trips there, an agent bought me breakfast. I ordered eggs Benedict, instead of the standard fruit cup. I imagined this Hollywood beauty sitting next to herself — two of her, side by side. That might equal one of me. The more successful women are, the smaller they seem to be.
This Hollywood actress — a thin slip, hugely famous — would be no exception. She reaches down over the city, substantial and eager. That would be me.
I asked if this lovely actress, my guest, my date, would need a ride. What had I done? I looked around my Subaru. The seats were scattered with goldfish crackers and the outer wrappers of Botan rice candy. It was too late to be body conscious. My job was to find a restaurant. When I was younger, I went over a year. These days though, I know myself. Thank you for being there, irrational comfort food! Grant me some time to change my ways, and maybe I can aspire to be the sexiest octogenarian vegetarian.
I asked friends who spend good money on pretty drinks. He knew a spot, a place Ed Begley visited. I looked it up. Reviews gave me the sense it would be uptight and precise. Portions would be small. The plates would be big. I made our reservation. On an impulse, I contacted the reps and asked if this lovely actress, my guest, my date, would need a ride.
More often we bike, bus, skateboard, or drive. Her people wrote back. The seats were scattered with goldfish crackers and the wrappers of Botan rice candy. An ink pen had leaked against the fabric into a dark blue pool. I was going as the guy. I wanted to buy the actress flowers. Would that be weird?
I wanted to honor her. Three teenage boys scrubbed the car, inside and out. They put plastic over the wet seats and tried to hand my keys back to me. I planned my arrival at her hotel to be exact. And the young men did it. They leaned over with their loud hoses and vacuums, and sucked water from the seats while blasting heat against the cloth.
Sign up I was so in charge. I demanded this extra effort, for important business. I read all of our local daily, the Oregonian. The sun inched past noon, then began its route down toward the city skyline. Dear Miss Hollywood, bearer of my high hopes, would not get a damp stain on the back of her clothes from riding in my car.
We could throw that wrap away! My car was perfect. All I had left to do was get dressed, pick up my daughter at school and drop her off again at the neighbors, and abdicate all parenting obligations for the night.
I could do it. My closet is a museum. I bought it once upon a time, when that skirt was new. I put on tights, a black skirt, and twenty-five year old Frye boots. When people read Clown Girl, they expect me to show up with multi-colored hair and tattoos.
They want me to embody Portland, clown work, and anarchy. A writer can show up neutral as a blank page, until the material is made manifest. People share things with a blank page. An actress from Hollywood wants to talk about Clown Girl. Clown Girl was like an invisible sister, who sometimes needed more attention. Then I got in the car. This actress and I had both gone to the University of Arizona.
Did she know that? I could bring it up as small talk. I planned my arrival at her hotel to be exact — not early, not late. I saw the number on the screen: There was nowhere to pull over. I tapped the brakes, the phone slid and landed on the floor. I pulled up fast onto a cement median. It was the only place to pull over — a small concrete island where two arterial streets reached toward the freeway entrance.
The actress leaned in and said the kindest, most generous things about Clown Girl. I called the number back. He was swift with the message: