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.
Oh Niles, you’re such a good lover!
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.
On his way into the grocery store, Kirk noticed a frail and elderly woman pushing her cart, and with a bow, he paused a moment to activate the automatic door for her. The poor woman had gone a bit senile, and eyes forward, face locked in permanent scowl, she rolled right past him. No thanks, no nod, but Kirk didn’t mind much.
He had company coming for dinner. A date, he supposed one might call it, their third, though they hadn’t yet used the vocabulary. Their first outing had been in the company of friends, their second in a museum. Tonight was the first time they would have real privacy, and he wanted the evening to be special.
- Lamb Shank
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Red Wine
- Scented Candles (Cinnamon? Guarana?)
- Playing Cards
He was about to check out when the old woman queued behind him. Though she hadn’t been appreciative before, he thought she might as well have another chance, and he waved her to the front of the line. As though he wasn’t even there, she shuffled forward and lifted her apples onto the conveyor one at a time. Kirk waited for any acknowledgment as she slowly filled out her check and made a note in the ledger. As she stomped away, he shook his head.
“Some people are just ungrateful,” the cashier said.
“Let’s just hope my date tonight is better.” The cashier did not laugh, though this was clearly a joke. He felt a little slighted.
The echoes of their footsteps built up a rhythm that colored the moment. The techno soundtrack implied a chase scene, police officers behind them, pistols drawn. Neither he nor Leslie was athletic enough to vault over obstacles or slide under railings, and in fact their running would have more realistically been called jogging if not power walking. If power. Nonetheless, they made the sounds of running. If he remembered the moment later, it would be dynamically framed, with wipes and swipes and filters.
Once they hit the pavement, their movements lost resonance, and they shuffled forward with characteristic asthma. She stayed a few steps ahead, which was fine, given that she knew where she was going. The way she walked was lopsided, but had a grace of its own, as if compensating.
He caught up to her for the sake of conversation. “Thanks for letting me stay with you.”
When she didn’t reply, he continued talking, like he was supposed to. “It’s good to be back. You have no idea what I’ve been through in the past few years. Don’t you miss when things were simple?”
Before he was socialized, Leslie had tried to instruct him in the art of conversation. “It’s rude not to answer when someone speaks to you,” she had said. He couldn’t remember the exact context, only the maternal tone of her scolding. She’d always seen him as a child, and somehow that had seemed flirtatious to him at the time. Before he was socialized.
“Did I tell you you could stay with me?” she asked, but Ezekiel wasn’t entirely sure the question was directed at him. The artificial lighting of the streets at night had taken his attention. Shadows cascaded in all directions from almost everything.
Leslie was not attractive. He didn’t want to objectify her in any specific way, but she was ugly, no question. Whatever part of him made inventory of physical characteristics and analyzed the data worked automatically. The conclusion was in his favor. The great worry he’d had was that she would trigger the hormonal crazy part of him that had been his personality at twenty, and because she wasn’t attractive, she was safe.
He had not yet started a conversation, or alerted her to his presence. The sculpture in the center of the square was a good enough hiding place for him to catch his breath. It was cube-shaped, on its corner. It represented modernism. His own place in the metaphor seemed less clear, though he supposed if he was hiding behind modernism, it would be some statement on self-awareness in media, or perhaps how modern art obfuscates more than it elucidates.
Leslie hadn’t seen him yet. She was smoking a cigarette, as was her custom, and he watched her take deep tar-filled breaths through her drooping beak. Though she wasn’t wearing a watch, she looked at her wrist several times while he watched. The twilight suited her, especially with the cigarette. She was like a Hopper, or a Norman Rockwell on an off-day.
She was waiting for him. He couldn’t believe she wanted to see him.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not attracted to you anymore.”
She put out her cigarette. “Hi. I was never attracted to you in the first place.”
She hugged him like a belt. He didn’t know what to say. He never knew what to say. He was glad to see her.
Ezekiel was waiting in the subterrain for a subway train. He fudded the phrase as he said it, and repeated it several times until all the syllables were clear. Someone saw him muttering and made a face. He nodded in her direction until she turned her head and ran away. Had he won?
Though he wasn’t sure what he was waiting for or where he was going, he was confident he would find out. He wasn’t aimless and he wasn’t a vagrant, so he had a reason for being here. In his backpack, he had a notebook, most of which was blank, but a few pages in the beginning had some phone numbers and comments. Leslie was circled, whatever that meant.
Perhaps he should call her, but he didn’t want to talk. The thought of hearing his own voice was too much to bear. Besides, the fact that she was circled meant that he had probably called her already. Maybe she was waiting for him somewhere.
He picked up a discarded matchbook. It had one match left. He put it in his backpack.
Among the odds and ends he had collected included a glow-in-the-dark rubber ball, a Nintendo DS Lite with a brain training game, a self-published book of poetry he would never read by an acquaintance he hated, and a 0.22 automatic pistol, a gun that could shoot things, automatically.
He closed his backpack quickly. Wherever the gun had come from, it was in his possession, and there had to be a reason for it. He felt vaguely threatened. The underground air was stifling, and he couldn’t bear it. He went up the broken escalator to the street.
Leslie was waiting in a nearby square, next to a cube. He was glad he didn’t shoot her.
Though he was early, he leered at his watch. He was only a little early, just enough to make sure he was there first. He liked to be first.
Around the cafe, he saw people, though he couldn’t focus on their faces. None of them were her, and that was all he cared about right now. Everyone else seemed dumb. He heard excerpts of conversation, “You look good for someone on death row.” Half-hearted jokes just to break up the monotony of their one-note lives.
“You’ll be fine, just tell them you’re mentally disabled.”
“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I don’t respect a good boobie.”
He tried to stop listening, but every word of inane banter grabbed him by the scruff and smacked him around. It was unavoidable. People speak loudly in public because everyone else speaks loudly. He couldn’t help but hear people talk about themselves, saying whatever they assumed their friends wanted to hear. Probably quotes from some movie they’d seen together. All they did was validate each other. One by one, they laughed, turn by turn, though no one ever said anything worth acknowledging.
She arrived right on time, and he assured her he hadn’t been waiting long. Points for magnanimity, he reckoned. As she told him about traffic, he listened attentively. She wasn’t interesting, but she loved to talk. Each nod of his head added a tally to his implicit superiority. The less he spoke, the smarter he seemed, and she began to love him, he could tell. Her face was made of love, and it was all directed at him. Sweet, merciful, stupid love. Something within him moved, but no one could tell.
He came first. He always came first. He loved to be first.
As the train pulled into the station, Ezekiel thought about calling ahead, but it was best if she didn’t expect him. His plan depended on a certain amount of secrecy, if he had a plan.
He noted: he was the sort who made plans.
Before he talked to Leslie, he wanted to know what his objective was. He knew why he’d left the first time, and cringed as he remembered. He was certain that his infatuation was over, more certain, surely, than he had been at twenty-three that she was the love of his life. The insanity of who he had been then seemed unreal. The way he’d stalked her, engineered situations with her, tried to be her hero, all seemed like something he’d seen on late-night sitcoms. He’d nearly killed her trying to create an opportunity to save her. She had been more traumatized than grateful.
Once he stepped out of the underground, he would know what he was doing. Almost everything is based upon momentum, and as soon as he stopped thinking, he could proceed in the direction he was going. The escalators all went up. He walked toward them.
He had to use the bathroom, and noted: he was the sort of person who drank too much water.
The entrances to two opposite gendered restrooms were entirely symmetrical, and neither one had a door. Social convention dictated that he should enter the men’s room, but he resented that it said “MEN” so clearly on the wall. The women’s room was nowhere near as capitalized, perhaps due to space restrictions, but he felt a little oppressive using a MEN’s room, convenient as urinals might be.
He noted: he was a thoughtful person. He cared about rights. The thought satisfied him as he peed.