Life has happened. It passed you by with barely a goodbye. A “so long,” and a “see you later,” is all that's left; so much more you could have done with your life. We all have our bucket lists that we wanted to complete in life. Some do more than others, some never even get started. Welcome to Life as it Happened a fictional retelling of those real bucket list items we all hope to complete before our last candle is snuffed. All are welcome to join in and contribute the stories of how they think their experiences would go. I'm your host, Marc Sakol, and I'm here to say “Hello” before Father Time says, “Goodbye.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

6. Ask Someone Famous To Dinner

Chicago in winter at night is strange and hostile; after the plows have made their way through, a barrier forms between the side streets and the sidewalks; the paved roads are covered in a thin sheen of melted snow that shimmers. There are still tons of cars, but the pedestrians are much fewer, and all of them bundled up head to toe, making their own way. Even the groups that gather to go from bar to bar or to head towards the Red Line into the loop are somewhat disjointed, their muffled voices tumbling edgelessly and without form from their scarves. It's not worth it to be outside in a big group in winter; mostly, you'll just get in everybody's way.

This is why I was alone when she came out of Bulgari's right as I passed by. I'm afraid I can't reveal her name because the paparazzi would have a field day, but suffice it to say she's been in more than her fair share of movies over the past four or five years. Tall and thin, thick black hair... there was no mistaking her for anything but a movie star.

Well, I guess you could confuse her for a generic supermodel, but if you didn't know her profession already then you'd be culturally blind enough to not even realize that much. So... let's just say either you knew her as an actress, or you didn't know her for anything but a regular human being.

Sadly, I was, at the time, in the latter camp, and so instead of asking for an autograph I intercepted her path back to the black Mercedes and said "Excuse me, miss... I realize how stupid it is for anyone to even deign ask someone who probably just spent fifty thou --"

"Just spit it out." When she spoke, I winced as though struck by her words. It had only been a few weeks since I'd lost my place on my friend's couch, but being homeless was... well, you know how some things slowly take over, replacing you bit by bit until you come out the other side as another human being? Being homeless was the opposite; every single desire and fear was upended and replaced immediately. The rewiring had already been complete by the time I had found my way into the Loop that winter night, and all I cared about was a drink and a warm place to stay. Panic had rooted deep in my nervous system, and I was spouting terrified flowers for a buck.

So I spat it out. "I just want enough for a hotel room."

She laughed. "You've got to be kidding. You're in the loop."

"Enough for a hotel room and CTA Fare up into.... shit, what's the cheapest neighborhood? Back when I had a job I never had to worry about this crap."

A heavy gust of wind blew a scattershot of snow down the sidewalk, and she stumbled towards me for a step. When I stepped back in fright, she laughed once more. How weird she seemed to me then, in her rich coat standing outside her beautiful vehicle, the driver waiting impatiently as errant snow crept up the obsidian panels. In her bag was a single object worth more money than I had made in years, not since the Designer Bust. I remember being so obstinate about the homeless, how rigid my jaw would be and how quick my pace would be and how narrow my eyes would be. Why would she care?

Maybe it was pity; maybe it was fear that the paparazzi would print "XXXXXXXX XXXXX TREATS HOMELESS POORLY" in the morning tabloids. Either way, she hadn't walked away. And I was going to press my advantage.

"Look," I said, "it'll probably be easier if you get Jeeves to drive me to some place. I promise I don't smell, I haven't been homeless more than a week and even then, it's more of a, uh, temporary thing. sort of trying panhandling as a job." I smiled, glad that I still had all my teeth. I figured, since I was homeless now, I probably only had a few more weeks left before they all started rotting out. "So far? Beats web design by a mile."

There was one beat, one moment, where I was sure she was just going to walk away, finding the whole thing amusing but not worth her time. I knew it was audacious as hell to ask for the ninety bucks that it would cost for some shitty motel instead of chump change to drown myself in ten buck chuck. I keep telling myself that I was being an idiot, but I guess it's already past, hasn't it? And for once in my life, luck was shining on me. She opened the door, gesturing with one hand for me to enter.

"I hope you're not lying about smelling," she said, and I laughed and entered the car. She came in afterwards, and closed the door.

There is always a moment when you meet a person when you're unsure which topic is okay to broach, what will be enjoyed, and what will send the night into fiery flames. I knew that, if I spoke, I would end up looking like a fool and she would kick me out right away. The bright lights of the storefronts and signs danced past us on the tinted windshield, bringing her face into view and then out of it. It was then that I finally realized who it was I was sitting with.

Keep calm, Zach, I thought to myself. If you act like some dumbass fanboy she'll throw you out onto the curb so fast even the guy in American History X will wince. Don't ask for her autograph. Don't ask which movie she liked being in most. She's a professional, it's just a job, just because you've seen her in like three of your favorite movies of the past half-decade doesn't mean you should ask "Hey, which movie did you like doing the most?"

"Excuse me?" She was huddled up against the opposite window; okay, maybe I did smell, just a little.

We were heading north; the area was still relatively nice, with fine two-story houses lining the side streets and businesses squashed nice and tight along the main thoroughfares. My friend's couch flew past and I watched it go in the window with sad eyes, but I remember thinking very distinctly, homeless people shouldn't plant stakes in the ground. Begging there instead of here is only different in terms of the clientele. Just like a business.

"Hey," she said again, nudging me gently with her long skinny fingers. "I didn't hear you. What did you ask?"

"Oh." Realization hit me. "Just... I remember seeing XXXXXXX again recently, and it seemed like you weren't having as much fun as in XXXXXX. Still, great roles, great job, just, uh, you know, I actually really like movies and, being so money-strapped recently, it uh took me a moment and to realize that uhm oh jeez hold on hold on." I took a deep breath. "Sorry. Sorry. I just hadn't realized you were XXXXXXXX XXXXX until like right now. You look gorgeous, by the way. FUCK."

The car stopped. My heart sunk into my gut and everything suddenly got very, very heavy. The winter coat was not helping in the heated car, and I began to sweat.

She smiled. "I know I do." And she did, and she knew she did. And all I could picture in my head was that image of the fat kid trying desperately to give Megan Fox a rose. Look at that poor sad nerd! He loves Transformers so much, he wants to bone Megan Fox's sexy body, but he is thinking to do it through romance. How sweet; how pathetic.

It was winter out, and as I wrapped my scarf on, the words came tumbling out all their own, "Hey, do you want to get a bite to eat? I can't treat you to anything but good stories, but that should be enough."

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