It’s noon now so I’ll just wait out the sun and the lunch crowds. Herds on the street, cannibalistically going for cow patties. Sheep wearing lightweight wool. I can’t see them as people.
I’m trying not to move. The air-conditioning unit is broken. I told the manager last week but it’s easier to leave things the way they are. You can do that, until someone scares you into thinking you have to change.
For lunch, I always try to go someplace familiar, where my presence is unremarkable. After the first time or two, I cease to be that girl they saw up on the big screen. They see me stammer my order – Mr. Daniels says I can’t be articulate without a script; he didn’t mean for it to come out that way; we were at that party and he’d been drinking and he said, “Oh Sidra, honey I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” But I know it’s the truth. I open my mouth in real life and the spell is broken.
They ask about my glamorous life, and I tell them oh, it’s going swell – I have a maid and everything.
They say: Really? And I say: Yes, she works for the Motel 6.
I wait for a terrible moment before smiling to show them that hey, it’s OK, you can laugh. And then they laugh. But for that moment, they look so shocked and ashamed. I have to admit, I kind of like it – telling some swoony-eyed guy or lady that the stars don’t all live in castles made of cloud. I mean, people need to learn the truth someday, about everything. Even though the entertainment reporters say I represent superficial beauty, lies. They have never asked me about this, not once.
I should have had it better, Mr. Daniels says. He says he wants to strangle my agent for not making sure I had better contracts, but I feel that at last I am getting what I deserve, after so many years of getting more.
Karma balances things out. I believe this. But it will also punish you for things you never asked for.
I never asked for this, any of it. I simply took the path of the least resistance. Also, I don’t want to let Mr. Daniels down. In some ways, I am his project, although I know he thinks of me as a daughter. Still, it was his hand that nudged me toward the director who put me in the first flop and then the sequel.
“Everybody deserves a second chance.” For the sequel, he altered the role, tried to give my character more depth, even did the lighting different to create shadows of age on my face. I tried hard, too. But the audience wasn’t buying it.
So here I am, in my room that a maid cleans each day, sitting by the silent air-conditioner unit, a broken box that nobody fixes and that even I am giving up on, looking out onto the stampede on the sidewalks and streets. I don’t think of them as people, and I don’t want to join them. So help me, I don’t want to join them in anything. They do not love me back.