I'm sitting across from one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, and he's trying desperately to remember the name of a film.
"No, it's the one... You know." He reaches to his telephone and presses a button. "Carla? What's the name of that picture? You know, about the pirates?"
"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. These are not Rock of Love contestants or American Idol runner-ups, though. I'm talking about the kind of famous that even locals who live in the Kenyan hinterlands would recognize.
Posters of his films framed in platinum cover the other walls. Extra copies of books he's written are stacked on top of one another alongside dozens of dog-eared film scripts. This office reeks of success. I'm in awe, sitting cross-legged across from him, bouncing my open-toed sandal against my heel.
He quickly changes topic, and 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. I bite my lip. Have I chosen... poorly?
"I couldn't do anything without her!" he says. He speaks with such happiness. It's like there's an exclamation point after each sentence.
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? I've been hit on in meetings before, so the idea crosses my mind.
The thought quickly departs as I open the popsicle, which seems to be already melting, despite the air-conditioned coolness of his office.
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, and quickly close my mouth over the ice-covered stick.
Suddenly I'm hugely embarrassed by this 'display.' Here I am before an important director, who's launched more careers than I can possibly name. How can this man take me seriously while I'm ravenously sucking on a popsicle?
So I bite the popsicle and clean off the stick, just to be done with the ordeal. But the coldness of the ice flash-freezes my tongue.
Now I'm mortified. 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 seven years old.
Carla re-enters and reads off his to-do list for the rest of the day. He listens intently while I grasp for a tissue in my purse with as much dignity as I have left, realizing that my lips are probably oddly discolored from the ice.
As Carla leaves, the director looks at me, while still sucking on his banana popsicle, "Do you ever get depressed?"
Do I ever get depressed? (Yeah, right now.)
It's kind of hard to take this question seriously. He's waiting for my answer and licking his popsicle. I don't know what to say to that? Kind of personal, no?
Um, should I be honest? 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 want to give this man a great first impression; I don't want to turn this into psychotherapy. 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 towards me and says, "You wanna know what I do? I take thirty minutes each day and I let myself have it."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, 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."
I'm literally struck mute. It seems as though he wants comforting, but I don't know this man. I don't want to insult him.
There's an awkward silence "I have that too. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever work again, or if I'll be able to make a living as an actress doing movies that inspire me—or even movies that don't. I take things personally a lot. I'm a control freak, and shy too."
He shifts to his side a little, the leather chair creeks 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:
"Don't worry. Nobody has the 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 again.
"There are no strong men, there are no beautiful women. At least you can die knowing this and you will have the only possible victory."
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. He pushes the wooden structure in front of me and asks me to describe what I see.
"Um, I see a person pushing a ball."
"Wrong!" he exclaims.
"Ok... I see a person forcing a large structure upward."
"Closer!" he says, more and more excited.
"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!"
He smiles even more broadly now than when he had the popsicle.
"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. Alexis played "Ingrid" in the Sci Fi Network original film Grendel. Other TV work: Days of Our Lives, and the FOX pilot Faceless. Alexis's latest film, Thor: Hammer of the Gods, debuted on the Sci Fi Network in spring 2009. Stage roles include Summer and Smoke and the 2004 ADA award-winning Moonchildren. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.