Projectionist

From her vantage point, Rebecca can see everyone. The reflected light illuminates enough that she can see their shapes and gestures. The couple directly beneath her think they’re in complete privacy, but she knows where their hands are.

The girl hates her parents, and is consenting to this boy’s affections not because she likes him, but because being with him is an excuse to stay out of the house. The boy isn’t as aggressive as he’s pretending to be, but something in one of these movies told him he’s supposed to push boundaries whenever possible. Neither of them feel safe in the other’s presence, though they are momentarily comforted by the other’s embrace, smothering and protective.

A few patrons are actually watching the movie, some po-mo sci-fi rom-com about love and robots and narrative dissonance. An older couple is using the two hours of movie time to delay their inevitable divorce by two more hours. They don’t dislike each other yet, but they feel no affection anymore and they’ve already had every conversation they could possibly have.

Her phone rings.

“I told you not to call me when I’m at work.”

“I’m sorry, baby, I just wanted to make sure we were still on for tonight.”

“Just text me.”

A few scattered souls have come alone. They distribute themselves entropically, though they came to the theater to participate in film as an event, to feel a part of something larger. Every one of them wishes they had someone close to them, but they separate themselves into makeshift booths and silently judge the couples around them.

If they only knew how pathetic they looked from up here. Rebecca starts the second reel and reaches for another fistful of popcorn.

#dramatic-irony, #microfiction, #movies, #relationships, #smug, #superior, #voyeur

Director

As a great admirer of the female form, Paul felt he had a good idea what women were supposed to look like. The proportion of leg and butt to neck and breast was supposed to form a golden ratio, but the more subtle parts of the fractal were in the curves of the ankles and wrists and nose, brachistochrones all three.

“Next,” he called. The woman in front of him, though beautiful, even strikingly so by some social standard, did not pass mathematical rigor.

“I’m sorry? I haven’t even started yet.”

“I’ve seen enough.”

He’d been at this all morning, and had started to find a pleasure in deflating the egos of these models who thought they were special. After thousands of sketches of the ideal woman, anything less was a disappointment.

“Are you casting completely on physical appearance? Is that what you’re doing? Because I thought you were looking for dancers.”

“Listen. I’m sure you’re very talented, but we have a clear idea of what we have in mind.”

The woman kneeled down to her boombox and started her track, a tango. Paul sighed, but allowed her to continue. Her routine was more rooted in ballet, but it fit the music in its own way. She simulated a partner out of air and gesture, and the two of them functioned in a necessary symmetry.

When she finished, Paul clapped for her, and she smiled, coyly. He looked her over again. Her proportions weren’t exactly phi, but better than his own, he had to admit.

As they switched consciousnesses, he felt pleased with himself that he had taken initiative, whatever she chose to do. Whatever her standards were, his were higher for himself.

“Next,” he heard behind him.

#closeted, #dysphoria, #microfiction, #misogyny, #psychics

Credit

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. All rights reserved. Winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood, California, where he or she will enjoy seven days of authentic movie magic. Working closely with a talented crew and award-winning director Carl Ingersdotter, the winner will learn exactly how a movie gets made, and even earn a spot in the credits!

“Can I yell ‘action?’”

“You can do whatever you want. You won the contest.”

No one had explained to Carl Ingersdotter exactly what the competition had been, but the powers that be had impressed upon him that an outsider on set would be great publicity. The man had probably opened the right bag of Cheetos, the right Dr. Pepper.

“This is a pretty good scene, but I feel like Georgio — big fan, by the way — needs to act a little bit more, you know what I mean?”

“A bit more what?”

“Just more.”

In the final cut, Georgio slaps his costar across her face, sending her flying. She looks to him with equal parts fear and contempt, and Georgio turns away, smoldering. He stares upward to the heavens, mournfully, and extends his palm upright, as though holding a skull.

“I did that,” A man tells his date over the frantic shushing behind them. “I made that happen.”

By the way she replies, “Mm-hmm,” he can tell she doesn’t believe him. As the credits roll and she stands up, he remains in place. “I’m going to show you my name.”

Carl Ingersdotter has his name all over everything: story, writing, design, directing, consulting. Surely someone else could get a measly Special Thanks.

“I must have missed it,” he says, as the woman, whoever she is, pulls him to his feet. He slaps her.

“Blame Ingersdotter,” he says. “It’s all his.”

#acting, #contempt, #creep, #deception, #discovery, #fear, #jealousy, #misogyny, #self-loathing, #show-business, #ugly

Thumb

While the rest of the class performs sun salutations in synchronized bows, Caleb stands breathless on his mat. Something in him has come loose. He looks ahead, to the sea of butts in sweatpants around him, and tries not to stare.

“Remember that you control your own comfort. Remember the sources of that comfort.”

Everyone is focused inward, on their respective inner children, who have been scolded since adolescence to stand rigid and tall. Like everyone else, Caleb is here to undo that damage, and as he turns his attention inward and touches his toes, he remembers his thumb.

Until he was thirteen, his left thumb lived in his mouth. Not when anyone else could see, of course — he had some survival instinct — but every moment alone, he had kept it there, until the pacification it provided was finally outdone by the shame. He tied his arm to the bedpost one desperate night, and from then on formed nuanced opinions on social issues.

He returns to a standing position. This is a judgement free zone. As he returns his prodigal digit to its rightful home, he feels the erasure of two decades. Perhaps this position completes a circuit within him, a mudra. He bows again with elbow tucked in, and he is stretchier, more fluid, more of a human being. Maturity is pretense, he realizes, something we have to prove to each other. We live between quotation marks.

The class has turned their attention to him, and they applaud his breakthrough. He continues to perform his asymmetric gestures to the heavens, up and down, long after the class has stopped. He is a fever. Even when he falls forward onto his jaw with the full force of his body, he swallows, satisfied. He will always be complete now.

#memory, #nostalgia, #pride, #shame, #society, #sucker, #yoga

March

Her wedding was in a month, though it still felt far away to Katie. Rupert’s family had taken over sending the invitations, booking the hotel and the church, catering, parking, various zoning laws, whatever needed to be done. All she had to do was buy a dress. Wedding dresses all seemed similar enough that she didn’t consider the details important, though she supposed she needed to be fitted. She really knew nothing about it, but she had friends who were excited. They wanted to take her shopping, and couldn’t believe she wasn’t more into it.

“Sometimes I wonder which one of us is getting married,” Sarah said through her crooked, pitying smile.

Katie waited patiently as her friends discussed with the tailor what she needed. They spoke of trains and trusses and she didn’t know what else. Words she’d heard in other contexts lost their meanings here. Now that she’d been measured so invasively, she didn’t know what else they needed from her. Tacit approval, no doubt, or just a body to hang things on. She felt like a doll at a sleepover, the only toy in an austere but affluent home.

“Is she going to wear her hair long, or short?”

“Crazy thought: what if she did pigtails?”

“She’s the bride, not the flower girl.”

They chose for her something modern, not at all innocent, a little bit punk. “Put your shoulders back. Try to look sexy.” As they goaded, she followed their instructions, doing whatever slight yoga they wanted. “Yes, you’re perfect, stay just like that.”

The mirror confirmed that she was beautiful, as did Rupert in his breathless, “I do.” She held her position, letting him kiss her.

“Now give up your career,” Sarah instructed, in their room in Cancun. “I can’t wait to have kids!”

#apathy, #docile, #marriage, #overwhelmed, #passivity, #wedding

Important

Though you may not yet know his name, Niles “Pop” Goodrich could soon be the most influential writer in Hollywood. For years, he’s been polishing his debut screenplay, and though it’s not exactly what he had in mind when he began the process, he has every confidence the final draft is better than 90% of scripts that see the green light.

“I think I offer a unique perspective,” he says. “No one’s ever seen a movie like mine before.”

The screenplay, a semi-autobiographical tell-all Goodrich describes as “brutally honest,” follows the journey of a struggling writer looking for love and meaning in a cruel, uncaring world. Hounded by the fear of rejection, one man presses on, and takes on society with a laptop and a Starbucks Gold Card.

“You get free refills in the same visit. No one cares if you stay all day.”

Goodrich considers himself a strong feminist, and has crafted the unattainable objects of his protagonist’s affections into people in their own rights. They see straight through his attempts at impressing them, even his charming self-deprecation. “Women are beautiful, and they’re smart,” Goodrich tells me. “They’re able to put their sexual instincts on hold to get done what they need to get done. I wish I could do that.”

Goodrich and interviewer share a meaningful stare. CUT TO:

INT. BEDROOM, NIGHT.
Two bodies violently wrestle under the blankets.

INTERVIEWER
Oh Niles, you’re such a good lover!

GOODRICH
I think it’s important to focus on a woman’s pleasure above all else. People tell me I should be a masseuse because I have great hands, but I think my tongue is better.

INTERVIEWER
Oh, Niles!

#coffee, #gross, #idiot, #misogyny, #pretention, #writer

Mutiny

Opening the store as she did every morning, Moira had scooped a few spoonfuls of coffee into a filter before she noticed the notice, taped neatly to the front of the shelf.

“To: All BirdLand™ Employees (Including Management)
Coffee Is
For: CUSTOMERS ONLY!!!!!
thank you

She pressed the brew button and spent more than a minute making sense of the sign before ripping it away. The owner didn’t speak to her often, choosing instead to communicate in these passive aggressive telegraphs. This was fine. He could make whatever edict he wanted, but Moira was the one running the store, and she couldn’t do that without first a cup of coffee.

All of her staff came a few minutes late, and she had to remind them that she was required to give them all demerits, though she wouldn’t. “But please, be on time. I know we don’t get customers this early, but it’s still important.”

She hated scolding these kids, because they weren’t kids. They were in their twenties. Some were even in their thirties, older than herself. They were only late because they didn’t want to come to work. She understood. The feather caps were but the smallest of their daily humiliations.

“You know what? Let’s not wear the plumages today,” she said, and she waited for them to understand. “Don’t follow your sentences with birdcalls either. In fact, let’s be human beings today.”

They seemed confused, but she urged and assured them. “Just relax.”

“She said take off your hats! F—weewweet!

As they set up displays and checked inventory, she poured herself a cup of coffee. On her computer, she opened a new document and started typing.

“Coffee for management and customers only”

#animals, #authority, #chain-of-command, #hierarchy, #humiliation, #retail, #sheeple, #work