"No, it's the one.... You know." He reaches for his telephone and presses a button. "Carla? What's the name of that picture? You know, about the pirates?" "Captain Blood." "Yes! There you go."
We're in his office. He's wearing a handsome suit and a big smile. Behind him are two floor-to-ceiling corkboards—custom-designed, I'm sure—covered with signed photos of him with famous people. I'm talking about the kind of famous that even the locals living in the Kenyan hinterlands would recognize.
He presses the intercom again. "Oh, Carla," he says, "bring us a few Popsicles." He asks me if I prefer banana or cappuccino flavor. "Cappuccino," I say, a bit uncertain. He conveys my choice to Carla and orders a banana for himself. Have I chosen poorly?
Carla walks into the office dressed in a stylish tan suit, her hair pulled tightly back into a well-kept bun, two Popsicles in hand. As I unwrap mine, I suddenly wonder: Why are we eating Popsicles? Seems a bit...um...phallic. I have a panic moment: Is this some kind of come-on?
As I lick this rather large cappuccino Popsicle, it starts dripping all over my hand. I revert to childhood habits and attack the ice, sucking on it before any beige liquid drips on my clothes. I realize that I'm also making a sharp sucking sound. Suddenly I'm hugely embarrassed by this "display."
I look up to gauge his reaction, but to my surprise he's devouring his banana 'sicle with more gusto than I've seen anyone do since I was 7 years old.
"Do you ever get depressed?" I thought we were here to talk about acting. Do I tell him I get sad? Or will that come off like I'm emotionally unstable? I want this man to keep me in mind for jobs, so I feel like I can't let my wall down. I grope for the most appropriate answer. "Sure, I feel sad from time to time. Like anyone."
"What about negative thinking? Do you ever have that? Like if you don't get a job or you can't find an agent or you break up with your boyfriend. Does that affect you?"
I nod my head yes. He leans a little closer toward me and says, "You wanna know what I do? I take 30 minutes each day and I let myself have it. I tell myself I'm an awful director and that I'll never do another picture. I'm hard on myself for being shy at parties and feel like nobody at the party really likes me. Why can't I just walk up to strange people and say hello? I'm insecure and selfish, and I believe my career is over."
He shifts to his side a little, the leather chair creaks, and he takes out a black leather wallet. He opens it and hands me a little piece of wrinkled paper. On the paper is a poem by Charles Bukowski:
beautiful lady, not really, and
nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is
exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be.
it's all a trick, an in, a con,
don't buy it, don't believe it.
the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it's not
what it seems, it's just
another act to fool the fools
there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible
I hand the poem back. "That's beautiful."
"Whenever I have a moment of weakness, I read it." He points to a miniature statue he has of a man pushing a large ball. "It's the myth of Sisyphus. This man has to push this ball up a hill for eternity. And once he gets it to the top, it'll roll down and he'll have to push it back up again. At first this seems like torture, but then the man realizes once the ball is rolling down the hill he has a few minutes of freedom. I know your life probably looks like this, but you should never give up." I smile. "Don't worry, kid. You'll be fine."
Afterwards, I sit in my car in the parking lot for several minutes, thinking about what he said and trying to make sense of it. Though I don't grasp all of it, I sense something extraordinary happened. As I turn on the engine, I glimpse myself in the mirror. Tan Popsicle dye surrounds my mouth. I try to lick it off, but instead I laugh. As I leave the parking lot, I wonder: Are all Hollywood directors like this?
Alexis Peters graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood in 2004. She played Ingrid in the Sci Fi Channel original film Grendel and has appeared on Days of Our Lives and the Fox pilot Faceless. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.