Losing the Lizard Girl
… and the amygdala wanted to make sense, so it tried. Bopitty bop boom. A persistent assertion was being made. Sha boom bam. The woman chord displayed its flamboyant finery, being major and minor at the same time, morphing into G minor and along the way, belting out a doubly diminished ninth cluster. The bedazzled thing that resided there wanted what it wanted and wanted it pronto. So it got its own way, soaking in a deluge of serotonin, before jubilating in the medulla. Euphoria raged, roared, seared and soared within my skull. And then, just as suddenly as it started, subsided into a lolling tranquility. Exhausted, I slid off her, falling onto the oriental carpet beneath the bed where I quickly blended into the swirly patterns. It was lots of fun being an arabesque, but this kind of happiness could be lethal. Many times with her, I found myself wondering if I had successfully dodged death. Obviously, the girl was a grandiose drug. She was that good. I swear she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I was so happy. She made me happy all the time. I mean, she was young enough to have been my grown-up daughter for cryin’ out loud. I’d met her at a club at one of my gigs with the thrash metal band I’d been working with. After our blistering set where we practically burned the walls down and blew the doors off the place, the crowd was going absolutely bonkers. The people out there had been seriously transfigured, and I was glad to have been a part of it. In the aftermath of the ecstasy, she approached me. Coolly and calmly, like some sort of exotic lizard girl dancer, she sidled over and chatted up a storm as I was packing up my gear. That was the start. In the early going, she had a hard time attaining the big fireworks, but not long after we began our auspicious heart-to-heart, she tripped over a thick volume of de Sade’s collected works which one of her lunatic neighbors had discarded in the hallway of her apartment building, and in the wake of this momentous discovery, she buried herself under the covers and dove into that devilish book. I asked her if she was alright. She replied, “Don’t bother me right now. Can’t you see I’m busy?” and didn’t come out for a good three and a half hours. Later, she wiggled coquettishly within the confines of the quilted duvet, and everything was smooth sailing for her. In the days thereafter, she was writing me obscene postcards telling me how much she missed me. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I could be a grandiose drug too. Nonetheless, I was righteously worried. Stumbling across that vast tome which was chock-a-block full of dubious ribaldry and poor judgment on an epic scale had unleashed something dark and demonic in her young reptilian soul because subsequently there was just a hint of cruelty in her play time --- that and handcuffs. Suddenly, cold steel restraining devices loomed large in the calculating spectrum of her thoughts. She said that life itself was comprised of strict rules and regulations that had to be constantly enforced or else someone somewhere was bound to pull a fast one, and by default --- to say nothing about rampant egotism --- she might as well be the self-appointed diva to do the enforcement. Also, she kept saying that I wasn’t becoming a rock star fast enough for her lickety-split pace. The Lizard Girl was forever talking about Hollywood and how she wanted to go and live there to try her hand at becoming an international household name. I put her off, telling her that I really wasn’t into that movie star bullshit. But I could see that might be the hairline fracture in the relationship which would have the potential to destroy our blissful coziness. Although she was certainly radiant in her near perfect girlfriend mode, I surmised that was her one fault --- she truly swallowed the whole celebrity thing hook, line, and sinker. I sighed pensively, and hoped she might be convinced otherwise, thinking that, under the pall of this small complication, the only thing I could do was to try harder to become a rock star. But I didn’t get too worked up about it because I understood that people have their shortcomings, and shortcomings have to be tolerated. How else can we be human? How else could the Lizard Girl become human? She certainly wasn’t that. Perhaps a transfiguration was in order.
However, events took a strange turn when I got a call from an old friend. The voice on the phone had an air of desperation. It vacillated back and forth between notes of pessimism and optimism before it finally calmed down and settled on actual good cheer. Then, having opted to hang out in that happy frame of mind, it decided to be the bearer of good news.
“Look, Albert. I’m finally about to get my movie project off the ground. It won’t be long now. The whole thing is on the verge of sprouting into the world. The enthusiasm feels like a headwater that’s rushing down from the mountain top, and I’m on the raft knowing that the river will take me to magical places. I’m telling you, it’s such an exhilarating feeling to have.”
“So let’s give it up for exhilaration, my man! Lemme hear a big round of applause. Go out there and make some magic, Bill. I’m so happy for you. It’s good to see things going forward. You’re so lucky.”
“Yep, I’m lucky. Tell me again how I’m so lucky. I like to hear it, so it can be an inspiration. It’s part of the magic.”
“Ah the magic of film --- it’s expensive enough that professionals will do their gig and cooperate. You can thank the gods of cinema for making it expensive. People will be forced to be serious. That’ll make ’em sober up, so things’ll get done. Not like in low echelon rock bands where people argue most of the time, and after a solid round of hissy fits, they might deign to get around to making some semblance of organized sounds. Hell, if they can behave themselves for ten minutes, they could get a gig or two. Songs might come to fruition, and real people might get to hear them. They might get the hell out of the damned basement and hit the road instead of playing for an audience of furnace regulators, thermostats, and storage units.”
“Gee Albert. Tone it down. You’re being too harsh and cynical. The creative process is not exactly a casual walk in the park. Try to be more positive about life. Negativity can be very toxic. I know that sooner or later, your ship will come in. Chin up and jolly good show, I always say!”
“Yeah, maybe. But it sure seems to take a long time. Sometimes, I wonder if I should just give up and do something more rewarding.”
“Maybe something like telemarketing or data entry?” I could hear him laughing on the other end of the phone: “For sure, data entry. Think of it --- all that mind-numbing repetition. Isn’t that what you drummers do? Aren’t you in the business of mind-numbing repetition?”
At that remark, I gave him a stiff laugh, the stiffest, most wooden one I could muster. “Oh ha, ha, ha! C’mon, Bill. Don’t rub it in. Remember --- I’m giving you each and every bit of moral support I have, so your ship will come in.”
“Hey man. Just kiddin’. You know I wasn’t serious.”
“I know. Of course you weren’t serious. But you sure as hell are serious about most things. Like making independent movies. On that, you are as real as cancer.”
“Which brings me to something I wanted to talk to you about, Albert.”
I ticked up the volume on my cell, so I could hear him better because now his voice was back to that nagging note of desperation, and he was beginning to mumble. Being that I was a musician and was sensitive to these things, my ear honed in to the vibrato that was oscillating between cautious optimism and fretful uncertainty.
He paused for a few seconds before saying, “Do you suppose you could write me a little script? You know, for the movie?”
“But I thought your project was all good to go and that you’ll be shooting the scenes in another week or two.”
“Yes, that’s true. I will be doing the principal photography very soon.”
“And you don’t have a script?”
“Not to worry, Albert. That would be where you come in. Do you think you could write me a bit of dialogue? Just a little something to get me started?”
“I love it when people say ‘just to get me started.’ It’s a secret code for ‘write me the whole freakin’ thing and write it right now.’”
“Aw c’mon. You know I don’t mean that. But I do wonder if you could get it to me by next week. Is that possible?”
“Well, I suppose I could cobble together something. But bear in mind, I’m a drummer, not a screenwriter.”
Then he desperately said, “No problem. I’ll steer you through it. Remember, I am the director.”
“Yes, you are the director. I almost forgot. Thank you for reminding me.”
And so, that was the humble start of my movie career. In the next few days, I conjured up a potboiler of a scenario about a prodigal son who’d been banished from his family. It was pretty baroque stuff, bordering on the rococo, but I didn’t have much emotional investment in the damned thing because I was far more interested in getting back to my real project which was the rigorous business of becoming a famous rock drummer. I mean, after all, how else could I keep the almost perfect girl from packing up and leaving me to hightail it to Hollywood? While writing the film treatment, I was mindful to put in lots of ridiculous melodrama because I’ve never been one to believe in the old maxim that less is more. When I was finished, I met up with my filmmaker friend at a Barnes and Noble coffee shop where I gave him the words. However, the words he said to me in return still carried that pesky note of desperation. No problem, I thought. He would be certain to get over it. Hell, he was a professional. It was his job to get over it. Then I didn’t give it much more thought because my peripatetic life was caught up in a whirlwind round of cattle call auditions for rock bands. One of them seemed as though it might actually pan out, and I was excited about my prospects. The bandleader said, “Well, well, well. You get around on the drums pretty good. You handled that last song rather splendidly. That much was immediately obvious. And I’ll have you know that you were the eighty-eighth drummer we auditioned this week, and you were the only one who got that complicated section right. No doubt about it --- those parts are pretty darned difficult to play. That chart is definitely a bitch. Lots of black dots on the page with more than a few gruppettos and odd meters to contend with. Indeed, adornments are extraordinary. But you aced it. Trouble is --- you missed the easy song, so I’m gonna hafta say no. You can’t be in the band. Maybe next time, if there is a next time, you should try a little bit harder. Sorry. Bye bye. Oh yeah, and one more thing --- please put the drum key back on the floor tom-tom on your way out.”
I left the premises muttering “What a freakin’ dick!” as I descended the echoing staircase. Then I slammed the street side door with a resounding crash that reverberated out to the far reaches of the sidewalk where I walked over to address my concerns to a red hydrant. After such a depressing afternoon, I went back to the Lizard Girl’s apartment and conked out for three hours, nestling into a mysterious dream. In the dream, a magnified zoom sequence played a moonlight sonata blues progression, causing the scenery to bubble up into being. I was walking down a long road, having trouble getting from Point A to Point B because I kept getting lost. However, there was a deep and sonorous distorted voice that persistently droned, “I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to try a bit harder.” Periodically, the voice throbbed on a wobbly adagio cadenza, which kinda sorta gave me the creeps. I guess you could say this was a nightmare, but the dream couldn’t seem to make up its mind. If it couldn’t do that, then how could I make up my own? Not knowing what to do, I ran down the road as fast as I could, only I was unable to make my getaway. The voice kept following me, curving into a saturnine apogiatura. Then I saw the entity that went with the voice --- it was the Lizard Girl, looking even more lizard-like than ever before. This time she had grown spectacular scales, and I suddenly found myself transfixed by those scales since they seemed like nothing I’d been attracted to before. I stood back in wonderment at the sight of her slippery and glistening body --- she wore an iguana amulet that gave her brow an otherworldly aura, and a tiara was propped at a rakish angle from the top of her light green sagittal crest. A spectacular spiked sail fin was erupting from out of her back as she slithered towards me. She gathered me in her short camouflaged arms, licking me with her forked tongue. Before I could say anything, she swallowed me in one huge gulp, and the earth shook, and I thought I might be experiencing an earthquake. Only then I remembered that this was supposed to be a dream, so I knew the shaky ground wasn’t true …
I was awakened by the Lizard Girl. She shook my shoulders, and I came to. Then the girl leaned over me and cooed, “How’s that program of yours going?”
I played dumb, as dumb as I could be. “What program?” I asked.
“Don’t lie to me. I hate when you lie to me. You know very well the program I mean. It’s the one about becoming a rock star.”
“Well Jennifer, I’ve had a minor setback. I didn’t pass the audition. The man told me he liked my work, but apparently he didn’t like it enough because I didn’t get the gig.”
“Darn, that’s too bad. I was right there wishing and a hoping that everything would go well.”
“Maybe next time, the gods of music will be on my side. But my hindsight tells me it would never have worked out with that bandleader because I’m in the business of fun, and he was in the business of disappointment.” I looked off to the side only to see that dog-eared volume of de Sade’s collected works. Picking it up, I asked, “By the way, how’s that reading of yours going? Have you been studying up?”
She ignored my question and gave me a distressed look. “Albert, we have to talk. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
“Uh oh, I don’t know if I like the sound of that.”
“Well, I can’t sugarcoat it. So I’ll come right out and say it. The truth is … I’ve met someone.”
“Oh yeah? Really? Who is this dude?”
“He’s a director. You know, a movie director. I want him to be the leading man in my movie.”
“What movie? I didn’t know you were making a movie.”
“Why don’t be silly, darling. It’s the movie of my life.”
I looked over again at the volume of de Sade. “Uh huh,” I said. “You’ve definitely been studying up. Are you doing your homework with him? Or better yet, would it be fair to say that he is now under your strict tutelage? Have you put the cuffs on him yet and booked him at the station?”
“Yes,” she said with a tremulous voice. “Law and order must be upheld at all costs.” To underscore this point, the Lizard Girl’s big gray sullen eyes melted into a little-miss-schoolgirl look. Then her lashes batted that familiar demonic expression again, and I knew she would soon be taking a high swan dive that would be burrowing deeply into byzantine show business thoughts.
So, one thing led to another, and that was that. The not-so-sweet young lady kicked me to the curb, all the while sternly lecturing me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t becoming a rock star quite fast enough for her taste. The almost perfect girl said I was insufficiently rapid. In retrospect, I kicked myself because I should have told her I could have easily played her a twenty-five minute drum solo to show her how rapid I was, but I didn’t have the chance to say it since I got distracted when she said that “movie directors have so much more cachet than lunk-headed skin bashers.” I would never forget the look on her pretty face when she added with breathtaking cruelty: “And besides, you’re simply not hubby material, so how will you ever manage to become daddy material? And one more thing, Albert. I wanted so much for you to be on my leash, but you didn’t seem to want to heel and sit when I told you to.”
“No thank you, Jen. I think I’ll pass.”
Later, I had to grudgingly admit to myself that the way the Lizard Girl’s sneering lips formulated those heartless words was actually rather alluring.
No matter. There were plenty more where she came from. But the feeling of omnipotence didn’t last, and I soon knew I was only kidding myself.
The ring tone on my phone was rowdy and raucous --- in fact, it was the opening sequence of a very famous rock concert. Upon answering it, I could hear Bill’s voice. He was much cheerier now. All hint of desperation had vanished.
“Hey man, good news! That thing you wrote was spot-on perfect. Now I‘ve gotten some actors to commit to the project. We have two rehearsals and will be shooting right on schedule. Many thanks to you. You’ve definitely made this happen.”
“That’s wonderful, Bill. Happy to have been of assistance. I’m so glad that it’s coming together.”
“I’ll call you in a week and give you a rundown.”
And so in six days, I got another call from my filmmaker friend. This time the voice had again retreated to desperation.
“Bad news, Albert.”
“Why’s that? I thought everything was going well. Aren’t you going to start shooting the movie real soon?”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“What’s the big deal? That’s good. Isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but the problem is my leading man bailed on me. He came to the rehearsals, and everything seemed great. He seemed to be so enthused about the project. But then suddenly last night I got a call from him, and he said he didn’t want to do it. And before I could say anything to him, he hung up on me.”
“Oh, I’m so sad to hear that. But I’m sure you can get another actor. I mean, this is New York City for god’s sake. People get dumped all the time. He’s not the only fish in the sea. There’s plenty more where he came from.”
“True. Only trouble is --- I’ve rented a lot of equipment. As you said, making movies is expensive. Which is all the more reason why actors should cooperate. But this rat bastard just up and flew the coop. So much for cooperation.”
The voice suddenly got cheerier. He cleared his throat and said, “So Albert, you know what all of this means, don’t you?”
“No Bill, tell me what it means.”
“It means that you have to be my leading man in my movie.”
“But Bill, just as I’m not a real screenwriter, I’m also not a real actor.”
“No problem. Don’t let it stop you. None of them is real either. That’s why they’re actors. Don’t you worry. I’ll steer you through the whole thing. I’ll be right there with you every step of the way. Like I always say, I am the director.”
“Yes,” I said. “You are the director.”
And that was how I got corralled. I showed up on the set. Actually, the set was my friend’s apartment. When I entered, I could see that the place was crammed with camera equipment, and at every turn, there was some sort of complicated lighting arrangement and circular screen I had to be wary of. Quite tentatively, I tiptoed around these gaudy gizmos because everything seemed to be a lot more complicated than I had imagined it. As I looked at this tricked out set-up, I couldn’t help thinking that it was a great big complicated nothing, but what did I know? I reassured myself that I was completely ignorant about the intricacies of cinema. After that, I met the actress that Bill had hired, and we hurriedly went over our lines. Since I wasn’t a real actor, I soon discovered that I had trouble memorizing them. I struggled with this problem for a while until, quite by accident, I recalled that I was the person who had actually written those lines. Having arrived at this revelation, I realized this was one of the keys to improve my bad memory. The other thing that helped me along was to have a glass of wine or two or three. My character, whom my friend the director had renamed Ulysses, arrived at the apartment of his brother Tim and knocked on the door. His sister Jill opened it up and let him in, saying, “Why this is such a momentous occasion. Ulysses, I’m so glad to see you have returned to your hometown after all these years.”
Well, that was about as good as they got on the cordiality scale because it was all downhill from there on in. Soon they were practically at each other’s throats.
“Why did you bother coming back from India? You should have stayed there to keep studying hippy-dippy new age music for Christ’s sake.”
“I only returned because you wanted me to. Believe me, I’d much rather be going up a Himalayan trail, pausing only to sip from brackish streams, than I would coming back to this boring place.”
My character yawned --- at least that was what the script called for. But when I did that, I forgot what the next line was supposed to be. I hemmed and hawed and eventually recalled what I was supposed to say. I accomplished this by associating the words with the actions that accompanied them. After that, remembering my lines was a total snap. The camera rolled onward catching everything. But the character was so problematic to get into. You see, Ulysses was definitely the black sheep. He’d never gotten along with his brother and sister, so he’d left town and gone on the vast and winding road of life. In fact, he’d travelled to India where he’d studied Hindustani music under the supervision of renowned pundits. Then one day, he’d gotten a call from his sister. It seemed she and her brother had become involved in a cockamamie scheme to lure sweet little old ladies to New York from a Far Eastern country under the guise of becoming nannies. His sister Jill was flipping out and going into a full-fledged panic attack. She said Tim had just landed himself in Rikers because he’d taken out advertisements in the Help Wanted Sections of Japanese newspapers that said, “Come to America and Make Fabulous Money as a Nanny.” Well, good old Tim had gotten a lot of silly old ladies to fall for this preposterous boondoggle. Not only that, after they had arrived from the Far Eastern country, he’d confiscated their passports and money and sent them to various locations in Queens and Brooklyn to go on protracted begging missions. To make matters worse, if the old ladies didn’t come back with enough money, he would beat them before sending them out the next day to do the same thing. So one thing led to another, and not long after that, the cops got wind of this sleazy operation, and they arrested his sorry ass and tossed him in the clink. The thought crossed my mind that the movie character Tim must have been studying from the same book as my ex-girlfriend, the Lizard Girl. Later, having completed the day’s filming, Bill decided that now was an opportune time for both of us to view the day’s rushes. I stared at the screen and couldn’t believe what I saw --- I looked absolutely creepy.
I found myself saying over and over again, “Bill, am I that creepy in real life? I mean, the only actor I can think of who’s as ghoulish as this would be the guy who played Count Dracula’s helper back in 1931. I look at the screen and scratch my head in astonished bewilderment because I half-expect to see myself hunched over and demanding flies for breakfast. For my entire life, I thought I was a natural person, someone who was average and did natural things and did kind stuff to deserving people and sometimes to undeserving people, but that guy on the screen is nothing like me. He looks and acts like some sort of unctuous troglodyte from another planet. Just glimpsing at him for ten seconds gives me the heebie-jeebies.”
At that moment, I thought of the Lizard Girl --- was I transfiguring her, or was she transfiguring me? But I quickly banished this thought from my mind when Bill continued his train of thought, saying: “He’s not supposed to be like you because he isn’t you. But there’s another way of looking at it, which is that the camera doesn’t lie.”
“Are you bullshitting me? It lies all the time. Come to think of it, while the cops in the movie were at it, they should’ve arrested the lyin’ ass cinemascope too.”
“So don’t worry about it. You’re doing fine as the star of this thing. Look at these rushes again. You’re like freakin’ Leonardo DiCaprio and Marlin Brando rolled into one for God’s sake. Also, don’t you realize that in this film, you’re supposed to be an anti-hero? It’s so you can behave as badly as you want and still be entitled to a get-out-of jail-for-free card. That’s the reason why you look so creepy. I deliberately made you that way because I am the director. I really think you should give up on that lame rock drummer dream of yours. You’ve got star power, and it shouldn’t go to waste. Nowadays, nobody wants to be a drummer. They’ve got machines to do that.”
“But I’m only doing this on a lark. It’s not where I’m really at. I wanna make music.”
“We can talk about this later. Right now, I wanna tell you about tomorrow’s shooting schedule. You see, I’ve booked some time for the use of a soundstage at the university where I’m taking courses in film directing. I’ll tell you how to get there now.”
The next thing that happened on the long and twisty road to my becoming a movie star was truly bizarre. I showed up at the time and place as the director directed, and we got to work. The soundstage was in the center of a large theatre in the round with gradually banked seats extending upwards into the darkness of the house. Although there were several cameras manned by technicians off to the periphery, harsh spotlights and footlights shone brightly onto the stage, so our movie scenes had the look and feel of a play more than a film. For the first two hours, we rehearsed and then shot the scenes. When we started rehearsing, all of the surrounding seats were empty. However, by the time we were getting around to doing the actual filming, I was more than a bit unnerved because the place was beginning to fill up with people. What kind of movie shoot would have that kind of nagging distraction happening?
I gazed out at the rapidly gathering audience and was astounded that one of the people out there in the crowd was in fact, Jennifer, my ex-girlfriend the Lizard Girl! It dawned on me that this really was a play all along, and I had been hoodwinked into thinking it was a movie. My ex pretended not to notice me as she became deeply involved in a conversation with the middle-aged fellow whom she came in with. Damned if the dude didn’t look like a classic sugar daddy figure even if I could only see him from afar. As I was processing this, people continued to take their seats in the theatre. They were staring at me and my co-star as the camera was rolling. At length, an officious woman came into the room and announced that she was the professor of this class. With that pronouncement, people started getting out their pens and notebooks.
“Now class, we’ve got a lot of work to look at and to critique this afternoon. So Bill, we might as well start with your project since you’re one step ahead of us, and you’ve already taken the liberty of setting everything up. So you go first.”
And with that further pronouncement, what I thought was a film shoot that had turned into a play now transformed into yet another incarnation, this time into a seminar in film directing. The class was quick to criticize my director’s style. They trotted out the old chestnut that Bill was doing far too much telling and not nearly enough showing, at which point, my ex-girlfriend raised her hand and said, “Professor, I think the character of Tim’s sister Jill should be getting more lines because how else can the viewer see how evil she is if she doesn’t have enough evil things to say?”
I wanted to interrupt her and tell her that she should do the rewrite since that was her stock in trade, but again, I managed to keep my mouth shut. I bit my lip and stabbed my tongue. Then the rest of the class added their two cents worth, saying in so many words, “Do this!” “No, do that!” I practically got a case of whiplash just listening to it.
To top it off, all through this spirited discussion, Bill kept saying, “Professor, can I do one more take?”
To which the good professor replied, “No Bill, you can’t have another take because yours isn’t the only project that we have to get through today. Also Bill, lemme just say that you have to learn how to manage your time better. Who do you think you are, Federico freakin’ Fellini? This is not some sort of Cecile B. DeMille magnum opus that you’re working on. It’s just a ten minute short for god’s sake. In the future, you will have to pay closer attention to budgetary concerns.”
“But I want to talk about my artistic vision …”
“To hell with your damned artistic visions. This is Hollywood on the effin’ Hudson. We don’t put up with those kinds of happy hallucinations.”
“No, but …”
She cut him off again before indicating that it was a good concept, but it needed a bit more work.
Then, the good professor turned to me and said, “And thank you, Albert, for a very, umm, … interesting performance.” I liked that way she hesitated on that one. Gee, I had seen the earlier rushes, and I kinda sorta had to agree with her --- it was rather … er … eccentric. But I didn’t think about this for too long because I knew I had work to do. So I ducked into the costume room which was right next door to the soundstage. The rest of the student actors were trying on a wide array of outfits. They were in varying stages of dress and undress and were posing in front of mirrors while their directors were carefully studying the clothes in minute detail. Walking up to the manager, I pretended to be one of the student actors.
“What can I do for you, my friend?” he asked.
“I want to look like Robin Hood. Is that doable?”
“Aw hell yeah. That one’s pretty easy. Hold on a second. I’ll go in the back to look for it. I think I’ve got something for you that would be perfect for the part.”
He emerged from the storage area in short order and produced the ideal costume that I was looking for. I quickly slipped it on, and then turned to him again, saying, “This will do rather nicely. But I really need to make it even more surreal. Do you have any masks?”
“Oh I see now. You wish to go in that direction. No problem. We have a whole selection. Come back here, and I will show them to you.”
So I went back and started to study them, but not for very long because I quickly settled on a Boris Karloff model which I thought would truly up the ante of the Robin Hood style costume. With that, I told him I would be back after the film seminar was over, and he wished me luck. I exited the costume room and walked down a long hallway that led to the theatre. Upon entering the seating area, I noticed that the class was now deep into discussions about camera placements, extra dialogue, and whatnot. I paid them no mind, preferring to gaze out to see where my ex-girlfriend was sitting. Yes, there she was in one of the middle rows. I paused for a second to savor the extent of her lizardly loveliness. I was especially intrigued by the sauropod overbite that caused her enchanting malocclusion. I was mesmerized. Clearly, she was trying to segue from the reptilian to the human in one fell swoop, all the while bypassing the amphibian. These things were deeply mysterious and the cause of many implications for the rules of attraction, but I had to cut it short because I knew I had important work to do --- I was careful to select a seat that was just behind her, so I could listen in. My Boris Karloff / Robin Hood get-up made me feel absolutely invisible, and I knew she would be none the wiser.
As usual, the Lizard Girl was chatting up a storm, but I heard the dude’s words first: “Jennifer, you seem distracted. Is anything the matter?”
“Well, it’s just that I think I saw someone earlier that I didn’t want to see.”
“Who was he?”
“No one in particular. It’s nothing really. He’s gone now, so that makes me feel better.”
“Wait a minute! I think I know who you saw. It was Albert, right? Yeah, I can tell. It was him for sure.”
The Lizard Girl squirmed in her seat and replied, “Well, yes. Now that you mention it, the actor in the previous scenario --- it was Albert.”
I gritted my teeth because I wanted to tell her to cuff him and cuff him right then and there, but of course I didn’t let that drop because I wanted to hear more of what she had to say. Jen continued on, saying: “Don’t worry Stan. He poses no threat to your territory. And I know that you know that I am your territory. You’ve staked your claim --- in more ways than one. But don’t worry your foxy little head off --- he was a nothing. And he always will be a nothing. I couldn’t get him to stop playing his damned music. I hated his music. All that cacophony. And after a while, I hated him. But while we were together, it was fun hurting him now and then.”
“That’s so good to know. I’m glad that he meant nothing to you. After this is over, we can go back home and you can hurt me if you want. You see, I think I may have done something to deserve it.”
“You sure as hell have. Remember this --- you’ve always done something to deserve it. I’ll put you through your paces. Boy, you can bet on it.”
I appreciated the way she said that. It made me put him in his place by proxy. Bless you, Jen. You beat him up, so I didn’t have to. After that, I got up and left because I had decided right then and there that I needed to return my costume. The manager was surprised that I had gotten it back so early.
The premiere of my friend’s directorial debut took place at a small art cinema downtown. The event was a festival of several short films. I loved it that Bill dressed up like his idol Michelangelo Antonioni. He had the full get-up: Armani suit, flamboyant ascot tie complete with jeweled stick pin, and wraparound shades. The women running around this place acted like it was the Cannes freakin’ Film Festival. Every starlet wannabe was going whole-hog into her most extreme red carpet mode, including my co-star who was on the cusp of spilling out of the front of her minimalist dress as she teetered on her stiletto heels. To top it off, she had some arcane breed of micro-canine on a string. I think it was an Andalusian Fringed Terrier. But the thing was, there were so many others just like my co-star. The passions of these women paraded, strutted and preened for their public. The whole thing looked as if it were a practice for the real red carpet on the real French Riviera. I was amazed that there were even apprentice paparazzi who were getting in their practice licks too. When our movie hit the wide screen, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were lots of pregnant pauses and tight close-ups of languid aristocratic eyes. The whole thing had the look and feel of a South American soap opera. Also, there was an abundance of zoom lens shots to pick up the pace whenever the plot dragged. But what the hell, I suppose some people liked that. I guess I’ll never completely fathom what people like and don’t like. Then, I remembered that when we were filming it, Bill kept telling my co-star not to look at the camera. All I can say was thank god she stared deeply into the bloody camera. That was the best part --- looking into her soulful eyes. For a second there, she almost looked like my ex. I thought of bulging reptilian peripheral vision --- they were aces at that sort of thing. But then I got ahold of myself and concentrated on the rest of the movie. The bad-boy character of Tim was eventually bailed out of jail. Somehow, he managed to find his misplaced moral compass. Then he dusted it off, made his amends, and everyone lived happily ever after, at which point, the rolling credits went down the screen, and everyone exited the screening room. I was quickly besieged by a gaggle of nouveau paparazzi as well as critics who congratulated me on my outlandish acting style. They wanted to know all about my technique, and honest to god, I was totally stumped. I just told them that I was trying to be as normal as possible, but somehow it hadn’t come out that way. I said I was a musician and wouldn’t they really like to hear some of my work, and they said they weren’t interested in that because the only thing they wanted to know about was when I would be starting my next movie project. As fate would have it, when I was about to leave, I saw my ex-girlfriend, Jennifer the Lizard Girl, standing in the corner looking as though she was very much alone. I walked over to her and asked her about the fellow she had been with at the film seminar. Suddenly, she got very wistful and burst into tears.
“What’s wrong, Jen?” I asked her.
“Well, he just up and died.”
“What? That can’t be true. I only saw him a few weeks ago while we were filming the scenes.”
“Yeah, he’s gone. Kaput.”
“It was terrible. I mean, we were right in the middle of … you know, doing it. And all of a sudden, he clutched his chest and flopped over onto the big oriental carpet that I have. You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“Oh yes, I remember it well. If I recall correctly, I do believe I flopped onto it myself many times. But I always managed to survive.”
Then the waterworks went into full throttle mode, and I hugged and consoled her as best I could. I mean, it was probably the gentlemanly thing to do. However, a weird thought entered my head --- I was saying to myself: “Gee, poor boy Stan. I guess he simply couldn’t handle the Lizard Girl. Stan my man, she was just too much for you. I was the only one who was up to the task. Stan the Man wasn’t man enough.” I savored this for about ten seconds before a giant tsunami of shame swept over me soaking me to the bone. But I quickly got ahold of myself and was remorseful for even having pondered such an embarrassing thought in the first place. I literally paused to slap my own wrist, and the awful feeling went away. Turning back to her, I looked into her crying eyes. Suddenly, her tears stopped on a dime, and the Lizard Girl said, “Listen, do you suppose you could take me back? It would be better than ever if you saw it in yourself to take me back.”
“No, never.” I took great care to say it as unequivocally as possible.
“Why not? I promise it would be so good. I know you would have the time of your life.”
“No way, Jen. I heard what you said. That was me in the theatre. I was the guy dressed up like Boris Karloff in the Robin Hood suit.”
The Lizard Girl looked incredulous. “You mean that was you? You were the actor behind me? You were the one decked out in that ridiculous get-up?”
“Uh huh, for sure. And what’s more, I heard every word that you said about me. Jen, I don’t know exactly how to say this, but I think you’re damaged goods. I attempted a transfiguration, but it didn’t seem to take hold.” The Lizard Girl stepped back and gave me a crestfallen look. Then I gave her a perfunctory kiss on the forehead before heading out the door. You see, my public was waiting there to greet me. They gave me a huge round of applause as I walked down the red carpet, and the cameras flashed, and then it was finished. Almost as an afterthought, an apprentice paparazzi smiled at me for good measure just to let me know that it was definitely for sure finished.
And that’s about it. That’s how it went down. That’s the story of how I lost the Lizard Girl. Jesus, these days I’m a godforsaken movie star. What a dead end of a life --- one I never anticipated. I pretend in the present all the time and watch actresses struggling to discern the divide between the real and the fake. I laugh because they are forever trying to ferret out drama where there is none. All in all, it’s really rather boring, so I guzzle and stare at bottles in glittering mirrors, only to go out later and step into glittering lights. The problem is I’ve learned not to try. Whenever I tried, I fell on my face. Whenever, I sleepwalked, I drifted into success. Now, in my most desperate moments, I get bleary-eyed as I think about idyllic moments I used to share with the Lizard Girl before she took a header over that damned book. I stand up and curse that awful tome. Before that, things were so lovely. Music reigned supreme. I was the lord and master of the universe even though people didn’t know it. Dah-keddy-dah. Dah-keddy-dah. Not like now where I’m surrounded by women who want me for all the things I’m not. Being a movie star is fairly easy, but every now and then, I have to do something that’s more challenging. Take my agenda for next week --- I have to fly to a certain foreign metropolis to do a movie there. The film’s got lots of chase scenes, only the trouble with that location is in that wild and wacky city, they never shut down everyday business to make the movie. It’s absolutely not allowed. So we have to shoot while taxi cabs, motor scooters, food venders, street urchins, and errant pedestrians are randomly trespassing through the set. No doubt the situations are sure to keep the gaffers, gofers, and best boys on their toes. Thank God for them. They keep me honest. What would I do without their interruptions? I have to get the whole thing done in one enormous take ’cause most of the time, there are few second chances. No matter, I’m sure I’ll stagger through it somehow. Who knows what will happen? Along the way, I might even get to transfigure someone.
I am a longtime rock and jazz musician currently working on my second novel entitled The Intricacies of Dog Shows. My fiction is largely drawn from my experiences as an archaeologist, world traveler, and tango dancer as well as from my childhood. I also would like to credit my friend and colleague Jessica Guerra for her wonderful illustrations of my work.