The ghosts come at dawn. There are dead lotharios and dead spies and dead soldiers, executives, swindlers. They are all husks of men, not white sheets but mere mists of what he once was, the types he played when any director would have him for whatever price he demanded.
In the kitchen he makes coffee but burns his toast and the charred odor reminds him of the paparazzi swarms that day, him having had enough of it, telling the limo driver to fly, and the irony being that they did, in fact, fly—right over a canyon cliff. He got out just as the vehicle exploded. A blow torch scorched his face and singed his hair and why he did not die is a mystery. Most mornings he wishes he had.
After eating the awful toast he goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth. The space between the cabinets is wallpaper with screw holes. He took all the mirrors out after the accident because the sight of his scar-melted face frightened him. Now he tilts a drinking glass on its side to catch his reflection. After more than twenty surgeries, he’s still a ghoul.
He dresses and goes into the trophy room downstairs. On the walls are movie posters with his image. Two gigantic hutches hold his awards. Framed photos of him with celebrities and starlets adorn the bar counter and coffee tables.
He had never wanted to be famous. Dumb luck got him spotted by a talent scout, then a breakthrough role and his life was never really his again. All that time being hounded by fans and gossip rags drove him crazy, made him bitter and he prayed to be anonymous again. Now he’d love it all back, every bit of it. The shrink he goes to says it will take time, that time heals all wounds, but the shrink is speaking somewhat metaphorically because the ex-actor’s face will never heal.
In the car, parked at a stoplight, a young boy in the vehicle next to him won’t stop gawking. When the light changes, the boy’s car drives off and the actor doesn’t budge until others start honking and shouting. The cacophony is somehow soothing and it’s the least alone he’s felt in many months.
“Move it, douche bag!”
Fame, he realizes now, is a narcotic that increasingly pulls you back when you’ve been away from it for too long.
So he drives to the city. In the high rise people pretend not to stare. He gets off at the top floor, goes through the employee door, up two flights of stairs to the roof, steps over the ledge and slides down onto the very narrow landing. It’s windy and he could be thrown. He steadies himself and waits. Down below tiny clumps of people look up and point. Then there are mobs of people. Some shout for him to jump. Sirens wail. Copters arrive with film cameras. Famous again, his heart has never beaten so hard.
published 7 November 2012