Gone But Not Forgotten

I went to Hollywood based on the following logic: I don’t care what I do as long as it’s creative and involves stories in some way. This being the case, why not do something that makes me lots of money and places me right at the epicenter of American culture? That it took me nine months to see the folly in this thinking is the only surprising part of this story. Still, it was not a lost nine months. In fact, sometimes nothing is ever clearer than when seen up against its opposite. My memory of Hollywood is of a hot, barren, strip mall landscape. I drove, and I drove, and I drove past brown hills and glittering studios and walls of apartment buildings looking for my big break. Everyone, it seemed to me, was using everyone else. As a part of an interview for a job as an assistant to a small studio, I was asked to watch three audition tapes and select the girl the executive “would most want to fuck.” I didn’t get the job.

In Hollywood, I was always trying. I was always trying to get a meeting, trying to get my script into someone’s hand, trying to make money, trying to be in the right place at the right time. All this trying was supposed to land me someplace where I would be happy. That was the theory. In the meantime, more trying.

As it happens, I had carried a flame for a girl named Jen who lived in Seattle. Jen and I used to live in Providence, but she moved away when we were eighteen and she broke my heart. Los Angeles is closer to Seattle than Providence, so I decided to call her. And then I called her again. And then again. I remember quite specifically hanging up after a long phone conversation with Jen and feeling the marked difference in my body, as if I had forgotten to breathe all those long hot days in Hollywood. I thought, “Oh, that’s right. This is what it feels like to be Bill.” When I talked to Jen, I wasn’t trying to be a screenwriter, I wasn’t trying to be rich, I wasn’t trying to successful.  When I talked to Jen, I wasn’t trying to be anything but happy.

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