Jack finished his notes from the night before. It was 5:30pm and he was going to follow again tonight. He read again the pages of his new book, How To Move Forward In Life And Still Have Fun. He knew he was doing just that. It was a new year and he was going to take it by storm. His one and only resolution; take this year by storm. Sounds vague but Jack knows the details. He has been a reviewer for a small but up and coming online review blog for almost a year. Reviews for theatre; Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off which pretty much covers everything else.
Jack has a girlfriend who drinks Kahlúa and tries to write children’s books. She rips the perfume samples out of magazines and uses them. Jack never knows how she is going to smell. She is fairly sure she hates Jack but she stays for his cooking. Jack is the chef of the cheap. He can throw the cheap unexpected together and make not only a delicious meal but an experience. Eden, the girlfriend, sticks to the straight, and narrow, she doesn’t like to make waves. At work, she follows the leader and that has been working very nicely. Eden works for a Publishing Company. She has long hours. She works days. At night, Eden works on her children’s book. She has been working on it for four years. She and Jack have lived together for two. She writes in her “writing” chair. She found the chair in the trash. Coming home from work there was the chair with a sign that read DO NOT TAKE THIS IT IS HAUNTED. She took it. She curls up every night with her notebook and Kahlúa. Like the character of Joseph Grand in Camus’ The Plague, she has been working on the same sentence for four years. This sentence she says is pivotal to the book and if she does not get it right then the rest of the book will suffer.
Jack started approximately five weeks ago the work on his new business and so far so good. He's always liked that saying, “So far so good”. It covers things so nicely and leaves room for more.
Jack’s business is going to be a blog about the stars of Broadway and Off-Broadway. Specifically what they do after their daily performances. Where do they go? Where do they go after having played John Proctor in The Crucible, or Don Quixote in The Man Of La Mancha or Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof or a character called No One who does nothing but moans and screams for two hours in a play titled, Four? How do they unwind from their odd jobs of pretend?
Jack has now followed five personalities of the theater world. He will do six before he launches his website. He takes notes and transfers them to the computer getting all his ducks in a row for the launch. He has one more to go. He wants three women of the theatre and three men. The first he follows is a huge underground theater diva. Jack went to review the show and then followed after the show. The Diva went to the nearby pub and had a drink, a martini with olives. A dirty martini. The Diva said, “Make it so dirty its X rated.” He drank it slowly. Then an hour later walked home. That was it.
Jack followed him for an entire week, after evening performances and matinees. The follows after the evening shows lead to the same pub and martinis and X rated humor. The two matinees lead to the gym. Jack was hoping for more but that’s how it goes.
The next week Jack’s review assignment was a production of Beckett’s Not I, a twelve-minute monologue, where the actress is hung eight feet off the ground with only her mouth on view and she spews the monologue as fast as possible. Jack loved it. He followed the actress. She is someone he has always admired. It was a Sunday matinee with no other show that night so he figured she would get dinner maybe or a drink or meet up with friends. She went to a coffee shop nearby ordered a coffee and proceeded to play solitaire for the next hour and a half. She sipped her coffee and played solitaire and checked her phone. Jack drank three cups of coffee in that time. He had two bathroom breaks. When he returned from the second she was gone. He ran out to see if he could find her but nope. Nothing. She had disappeared. He followed her for four more days and each the same; coffee shop, coffee, sit and solitaire. On the fifth evening when she had finished her third game of solitaire still not having won she burst into tears. It was a quiet burst. She sat there with tears streaming down her face collecting on her chin and sweater. Jack not sure what to do decided that may be telling her how much he admires her work would help. He walked over and said, “Hello. I wanted to tell you how much I have admired your work over the years.” Instead of “thank you” she yelled. She yelled, “Stop! You people always trying to get something from me!” and she left. At home, Eden was curled up in her writing chair sound asleep. Her notebook by her side and a half-finished bottle of Kahlúa on the floor. He did not bother to wake her.
The next three follows were, well, complicated.
Jack followed the lead actress in a musical revival. She had played the part many moons ago and it had made her a star. She was back to reclaim her title. “Many moons,” is another phrase Jack likes. It gives the sense of a lot of time in a poetic and respectful way while leaving you guessing and waning. She walked home to her apartment on the Eastside. That was all. For five days she walked home. She wore the same Burberry trench coat and scarf and walked the exact same way. Day six she took a different route and suddenly turned into an alley. Jack approached the alley cautiously. He attempted to peek around the corner when a hand grabbed him and pulled him in. It was her hand and she stood there with a can of mace aimed directly at Jack’s face. When she spoke her voice was shaking with fear. "I don't know who you are or what you’re doing but you stop following me RIGHT NOW or else…! With her “or else” she shook the can even closer to his face. “Do you understand?” Jack so sorry to have upset this icon of the theater nodded “yes” and left. At home, Eden was asleep in her chair. A new bottle of Kahlúa on the table. Jack quietly sat down on the floor and leaned against the chair. He listened to nothing but her breathing. He took the bottle of Kahlúa and gulped down a large portion of the sugary alcohol. He paused and took another gulp.
The next review was another revival, a drama this time, and the actress a TV star new to the theater. His review would welcome her to the Broadway family and look forward to seeing more of her on the Great White Way. She was young and ready to enjoy all the Big Onion had to offer. She went out after every performance with the cast but for the Wednesday matinees. For those, she would get sushi and take it back to the theater. Jack imagined her sitting in her dressing room preparing herself for the evening audience where she would once again have to show them all she was supposed to be there. On the last day of his follow, the Sunday matinee, she, as usual, went out with the cast for drinks. It was early in the day and she had not eaten and so the alcohol went straight to her. She stumbled out of the bar before the sun had even begun to set and made her way to the apartment she was renting in Hell’s Kitchen. This time his follow was not so much to observe but to make sure she got home safely. She was doing her best to keep upright and not appear to be as intoxicated as she was but she could only do so much. She stumbled and grabbed lampposts and street signs and the side of buildings, and then she stumbled and stepped right out of her shoe. Her left shoe. The loss went unnoticed by her and she continued down the sidewalk. Jack grabbed the shoe and moved towards her breaking his cover. However, since today was the last day of the “follow” it didn’t matter so much. He was simply a guy being a good citizen. He hurried to her. He called out her name. She looked back. He waved her shoe to show her what she was missing, she looked down and saw her naked left foot looked at Jack and screamed, Stay back!” Then she ran. She ran hard, fast, intoxicated and straight into a lamp post falling backward. The fall was so slapstick, so comical it was laughable. Jack was mortified. He ran to help but she was yelling over and over, “Stay back!” He placed the left shoe by her side and fled the scene.
That Tuesday he reviewed a premiere of an off-broadway play. The playwright a supposed new voice on the horizon. He hated the play but the lead actor was someone he really liked and so he did his best in his review not to crush the play. After all, if this writer WAS a new voice of the theatre wouldn’t he look like an idiot saying she wasn’t. He followed the star actor in the new playwright’s show for three days. A hunky very attractive man known in the off off-world as someone who creates unforgettable and odd characters. He is like the Lon Chaney of the modern theatre contorting his body and voice into strange and memorable roles. This is his debut in a simple kitchen sink vehicle. He was superb. So Jack followed him for three days. The first two the actor did nothing but stop off in a bar for a beer and then home. On the third day, he came out in an oversized coat and shorts. At least Jack assumed shorts as he didn’t see pants just bare legs. He walked his usual walk and went into his usual bar but this time he went to the bathroom and didn’t come back and didn’t come and Jack started to think, “He’s on to me!” Jack checked the bathroom to see if the actor had slipped away without him noticing. No one at the urinals but Jack saw the actor’s legs in the stall. He must have heard Jack come in for he flung the stall door open and yelled, “Come in here and let's have some fun!” His coat was off and he was completely naked but for shoes and socks. His arms open wide for all to see his beauty. He exclaimed again, “Come in! Let's have some fun!” Jack tried to keep calm and replied, “Sorry I have a girlfriend.” “And I have a wife !” the hunky actor replied and he grabbed Jack and pulled him into the stall. There was a scuffle. In the scuffle, the actor punched Jack in the stomach. “You say a word to anyone and I’ll say you’re a liar out for money,” the actor yelled as he fled the stall with his coat half on. Jack was buckled over in pain. He waited until the pain had diminished somewhat and left. At home, Eden was not in her chair instead there was a note. It read, “Gone out with friends don’t wait up.” Jack took two ibuprofens and two sleep aids and went to bed.
Two days later his final review and follow before launching the site. A new Broadway musical about The Incredible Hulk with the brilliant title HULK and starring a very well known ex-WWW wrestler and now film idol as the Hulk. Jack’s stomach was painful and black and blue from the punch but he was excited. This would be the big follow and the one that would definitely get him attention. After this, he can request to follow the famous. After this, some of them may even ask or better yet beg that he follow them. After this life IS going to be fun and definitely moving forward. He wrapped his stomach in a gauze bandage and headed out. The musical was three hours long so he decided to see the Sunday matinee for his review. He loved it. It was funny and touching and true to the Hulk’s image, with amazing special effects. The ex-wrestler can now add Broadway star to his title.
Jack had to wait outside near the stage door for almost half an hour for the follow. There were others waiting. Fans clutching their programs for an autograph. A stagehand came by at fifteen minutes to let the crowd know it took the ex-wrestler half an hour to get the Hulk makeup off. Everyone nodded and smiled and understood. At exactly half an hour he came out. He was glowing from the performance. He signed every program and smiled for every selfie. He shook hands and hugged people and was simply gracious. Jack was impressed. Then the ex-wrestler took to the streets. Walking and looking in windows, standing outside bars but never going in. He walked further and further away from the crowded streets until he was on a very quiet street in a very quiet neighborhood, not a soul around, and that’s when he turned, ran to Jack, grabbed him by his coat and lifted him off the ground.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Who the hell sent you?”
Before Jack had a chance to answer him the ex-wrestler slammed him down on the ground and punched him in the already punched and sore stomach.
“I don't ever want to see you again! You leave me alone and my friends and family! You understand!” Jack nodded.
It was late when Jack got home. Eden in her chair asleep. Her Kahlúa and notebook in their usual spots. He looked at her for a moment and then felt the surge of bile findings it way up and out and ran to the bathroom just in time to throw up in the toilet. Blood and food and water and pain all spilling out. From the other room, he heard Eden’s voice, groggy and upset, clearly, he had woken her with his puking. “ You should learn how to drink like the big boys.”
He wiped his mouth and looked in the mirror. He thought I want to change my New Year’s resolution to add one more item. Sop take the year by storm AND find a new girlfriend.