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“Do you have any interesting roles lined up for me, Jin?” I asked my agent in his office.
“Denzel Washington needs a girlfriend for his new action flick. That seems interesting.” said Jin, flipping through his papers.
I rolled my eyes. “Cut the bull, Jin. How about a leading role? Ever since ‘Letting It Go’, I’ve been trying to get to another role like that.”
Jin shook his work. “Those kinds of roles simply aren’t out there.”
“Those kinds of roles aren’t out there for me, you mean.” I said, leaning back. “That’s why the TV. series didn’t work out. That’s why I get more attention for carrying a Louis Vinton bag than for my movies.”
“You knew it was going to be an uphill battle from the beginning, Gav. If you think it’s bad for you, think about an Asian man trying to get a leading role without knowing karate or kung fu. Ha!” Jin used to be a stunt man before becoming my agent. As a man of Japanese descent, he understood the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Even though I was an attractive, intelligent woman, I was also black. That automatically cut my desirability by at least fifty percent. I had been lucky. I hadn’t had to resort to play any of the stereotypical crack head or baby mama roles that most black starlets had to start out doing. My African American fan base appreciated my standards, but few white people had even heard of me, even though I had acting alongside LL Cool J, Jaime Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and others. Sometimes, I wondered if it was even worth it to have standards.
“It’s fucked up.” I usually tried to stay positive, but it was my 28th birthday. After seven years in the business, I was still mostly unrecognizable to people on the street. “Denzel Washington had to play a crooked cop to win an Oscar. Halle Berry had to play an abusive mother to get an Oscar. I think I’m seeing a theme. Play what they see us as already, and you get rewarded. What the fuck?”
“This is nothing new, Gav. At least you’re getting steady work.”
“It’s the same steady work. A random, slightly interesting doctor. Someone’s black best friend. Would it be too much to ask to be someone’s boss for a change? Or, God forbid, someone’s black girlfriend?”
“Times are changing. Not as fast as we would like them to, but they are. Tyler Perry is really changing the industry right now. Other black directors and writers will be more mainstream in another five years.”
“I don’t want to stay in my little black woman box. I want to be able to play any role Hillary Swank can play, or Charlize Theron can play. I don’t want to be another pretty face.”
“Then I suggest you go low budget. Keep your face out there in minor supporting roles in Hollywood, and I’ll try asking around for more indie roles for you.”
“Low budget indie films? That wouldn’t be taking a step backward?”
“Hillary Swank did ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. Hell, John Travolta was a has-been when ‘Pulp Fiction’ came out. If you want to get recognized, you have to do something different.”
“No drug use.”
Jin sighed. “You’re tying my hands here, Gav.”
“I mean it. I don’t mind dressing up as a man, or even doing a love scene. But I’m not going to set a bad example.”
“A bad example to who? Your fan base is made up of black college students and young professionals. They aren’t pre-teens.”
“Alright. But if a good role comes along that really stands out, and you pass it up for your high morals, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.” Jin leaned back in his chair, getting comfortable. “Do you have any plans for your birthday?”
“Not really.” I told him. “I’m still pretty much the loner I always was, and with my family being back home…”
“Let me take you out.” he said with a straight face. All of a sudden, he was looking at me with an intensity that made me uncomfortable. Jin was a very handsome man, but I wasn’t attracted to him.
I shook my head with a nervous smile. “No. That wouldn’t be a good idea. You can’t mix business with pleasure.”
“Are you blowing me off because I’m not an Asian woman?” asked Jin, tilting his head to study me.
I was shocked. “Ex-excuse me. What?”
“You don’t look at women the same way you look at men. You know. The way you should.”
“Oh my God.” I couldn’t look at him. He found me out.
“I kind of guessed when you kept showing up to all the award shows alone, never paying anyone with an XY chromosome any attention. And the way you hit on Rose Rollins from ‘The L Word’ was real smooth. If I didn’t have a gay cousin, I would have never caught on.”
“I didn’t know she was straight.” I said meekly.
“Luckily for you, she still doesn’t have a clue you’re gay.”
I stared at him. “You’re not going to out me, are you?”
“I care too much about you to do that. Besides, I’m your agent. That would be sabotaging the both of us.” Jin sighed. “I shouldn’t have even mentioned it. It’s just…if there was any chance of anything happening between the two of us, I wanted to take it.”
I nodded. “I can understand that.” I grinned. “And if you were an Asian canlı bahis girl, I would go out with you.” Jin looked away. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have made a joke about it.”
“It’s okay. You have fun on your birthday.”
“Thanks. I will.” I got out of there as soon as I could. Well that’s just great. I thought. Not only does my agent know I’m gay, he wants to go out with me. Just my fucking luck. I drove my leased Hybrid sedan from Jin’s office, and around Tinsel Town aimlessly. I had no idea what to do. Jin wasn’t as underhanded as most agents were, but when someone’s heart was involved, there was no telling what they were capable of. I just kept turning it over and over again in my head. If my parents knew, they’d disown me. I didn’t want to disappoint them after I had come so far. And my fans would go running for the hills! Being gay in the black community was something that wasn’t even discussed by most people.
With all my driving around, I finally made it back to the place where I had spent my last few birthdays: Tiny’s. Tiny’s was a little coffee shop off of 30th and Grove, nothing much to look at really inside or out, except for the funky revolving door it had. It was a hangout for anyone trying to break into the industry. Actors, screenwriters, and directors who hadn’t shot one reel of tape all hung out here. Established actors believed it was beneath them to even set foot in Tiny’s.
The truth was, I just wanted to be out of a tight, designer gown that cost more than my car. I wanted to be myself, without all the networking, the limp handshakes and fake smiles. Thankfully, I wasn’t recognized. There were a few stares, but I think it was because I looked vaguely familiar. I wasn’t a household name, just one of the occasional celebrities you see in the fashion section of the tabloids. I didn’t mind. I just needed some time to think about getting into the indie business. I ordered a roast beef sandwich to go along with my stale coffee.
While I was eating, I noticed a younger white woman with frizzy brown hair eating alone. I pegged her for a writer. Anyone else would have known better than to be seen outside their home with bad hair, glasses, and ill-fitting clothes. In Hollywood, image is everything. If you don’t at least look interesting when you have horrible fashion sense, you might as well try another profession. The woman looked straight at me and caught my eye. There was something about her smile that disarmed me instantly. I found myself staring back, before I remembered what Jin had said about the obvious way I looked at women. I hurriedly finished my sandwich and left Tiny’s, going out of the revolving door.
The woman left right behind me and bumped into me by mistake. “Oh! I’m sorry!” she apologized. “I’m still getting used to these revolving doors. I’m Amy.”
I hesitated before giving her my name. “I’m Gavin.”
“Gavin? Why a boy’s name?” She didn’t say it in a cruel or flippant way, so I felt comfortable answering.
“My parents thought I would be a boy for some reason.”
“It must be because you have a strong personality.”
I shrugged. “I stand up for what I believe in. In general, anyway.”
“It’s hard to do that around here.”
“Not really. People just have to sacrifice for what they really want. Most just settle.”
“You sound like you know a lot about sacrifice.”
I looked away. “You have no idea.” I don’t know why I didn’t walk away then. There was just something about Amy I couldn’t put my finger on. There was something else underneath her homely exterior. Something in her strange gray-green eyes, cloudy and dark. “So what do you do, Amy?”
“I’m going to be a screenwriter. Right now I’m a dishwasher, but that’s only temporary.” She stopped speaking and looked down at her feet. “Everyone says that. Don’t they?”
I couldn’t bring myself to be too negative. “Yes, until they make it. Anything’s possible.”
Amy looked at her watch. “Oh my God. We’ve been talking for more than sixty seconds. That’s got to be a record around here.”
I broke into the first genuine laugh I had had all week. “Has to be.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, what’s someone like you doing in a place like this? You’re obviously an actress who’s been a few films.”
I looked away. “I don’t know. I don’t get a thrill slumming. I just feel more comfortable here than most places.” I felt comfortable telling her that. She seemed genuinely curious. “To tell you the truth, I’ve been coming here for the past three years on my birthday. Before that, I was a regular.”
“Happy birthday! How old are you? Let me guess…twenty-four?”
I smiled shyly. “Thank you, but I’m a bit older than that.”
“You can’t be too much older. You look gorgeous and you haven’t had plastic surgery.”
“You really think so?” It always surprised me when I got compliments on my appearance. I had been one of the only black girls in my hometown, and the darkest of the bunch. I wasn’t really considered ugly as much as I was considered…odd. It felt good to have people call me adjectives bahis siteleri like ‘beautiful’ and ‘pretty’ without having ‘exotic’ or ‘unique’ attached. And ‘gorgeous’ was my favorite adjective.
“Yes. I guess you hear that all the time.”
“Not as often as you think. I’m just another pretty face.”
“You’re not just pretty. You’re gorgeous!” Amy was so adamant about it I half-wondered if she was making a pass at me. I decided she wasn’t. “I’m sure you have a boyfriend or something waiting at home.”
I shook my head. “I definitely don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Why not? I’m sure all kinds of men come your way.”
I shrugged. “Just don’t have the time.” I lied effortlessly. I usually didn’t think twice about that little lie, but after Jin had asked me out and questioned my sexuality, I felt hollow on the inside.
“You must be an in demand actress. I’m sure you get to travel all over.”
“Actually, I’ve only been out of the country twice. Both times to Toronto.”
Amy nodded. “A lot of films are shot there. It must have been fun though. Interesting at least, right?”
I smiled, remembering. “Yes. It was funny because I got Toronto mixed up with Quebec. I thought I would have to learn French, but it turns out Toronto is on the English speaking side of Canada. Three classes of basic French for nothing.”
“But it wasn’t for nothing. I’m sure you can impress someone with a little French if you wanted to.”
“Not really. Just enough to make conversation.”
“So, you understand Je suis Hamptan, Nebraska.”
“You’re from Hamptan?” I couldn’t believe it.
“Yes. I was there most of my life. You’ve heard of it?”
“I was raised there.”
“No kidding? That’s so weird! “
“Did you graduate from the high school? Is Mrs. Glass still teaching drama?”
“As a matter of fact, yes to both questions. She really inspired me to come out here and follow my dreams.”
“Me too. I had always wanted to be an actress before, but never quite had the confidence. Believe it or not, her acting principles really helped.”
I nodded and smiled. “Really. Acting Principle Number One is the best. ‘If you get the opportunity, don’t fake it’. I’m a firm believer in method acting.”
“So every time you’ve cried on camera, you’ve really made yourself sad.”
“I’ve had to. Unless I was sad already.”
“Wow. No wonder you get work. You’re gorgeous. You can cry on command. You’re a director’s dreamboat!”
I was flattered. “Thank you.” I thought she was just buttering me up so I could take a look at one of her scripts, but that wasn’t it at all.
“I feel funny asking you to do this, considering you’re probably off to a big birthday bash, but would you like to just, I don’t know, hang out?”
“You really are from Hamptan.” I said mildly.
Amy turned a bright shade of red. “I’m sorry-“
“I didn’t mean that in a bad way. Here people just network. I can’t remember the last time I talked to someone just because.” she smiled at me again, breaking down seven years of carefully wrought defenses. “Did you have any place in mind?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but I like the park.”
I wasn’t sure I heard her right. “The park?”
“It’s funny how I spent most of my life trying to get away from all that Nebraska grass, and now I miss it.”
“I know what you mean.” The only place I really wanted to be was back home. But after accepting the fact that I was gay, that was out of the question.
Amy pulled out her cell phone. “I’ll call a cab.”
“That’s okay. I’ve got a car.” I led her over to my Lexus, and we both got in.
“Nice car. But why not a Cadillac or a Benz like everyone else?”
“I’ve always liked Lexus’s.” I shrugged. “Call me crazy.”
“You have good taste.” She told me, running her fingers over the butter-soft leather interior. “I’ve always liked sedans. I’m glad the SUV craze is finally over with.”
I started up my car and started driving. “They’ll probably be back in another twenty years. It’s funny how everything old is recycled.”
“Yeah. Obama’s wife dresses like Jackie-O-“
“No she doesn’t. They just have a similar look.” There was an edge in my voice. I hated the assumption that black people only wore tube tops and booty shorts.
“Oh.” Amy grew quiet.
“I’m sorry. It’s just…I’ve never gotten used to certain comments about black people. My agent says my skin’s too thin.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you. All I meant was that they have a similar, classic style.” She touched my arm. “It must be really hard for you.” she sympathized.
“I try not to complain, but yes, it is hard.” I felt my body tense. I was trying my best not to react to her, but I didn’t think she noticed anyway. “What kind of scripts do you write?”
“I’ve written a horror movie, and a little indie piece about life in a small town.”
I looked at her knowingly. “That small town wouldn’t happen to be based on Hamptan, would it?”
She blushed a pretty shade of pink. “Maybe.” Amy told me more bahis şirketleri about her script. I could relate to the feelings of claustrophobia and boredom experienced by the main character. After all, I had lived in Hamptan myself. “Do you have any projects lined up for the future?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really know. I mean, I’ve been offered a few things, but it’s the same stuff. It’s awful being typecast.”
“Could be worse.” said Amy, giving me that smile again. “You could be no-cast.”
I found myself smiling back at her. It was a genuine smile, not the plastic Barbie doll grimace I displayed on the red carpet. “That’s true.”
“I knew I could get a smile out of you! What’s a birthday without a smile?” Amy clapped her hands in glee.
I pulled into the park. The park was known for it’s historic water fountain, a late 30’s pink marble construct. The whole thing was several yards around with a Roman statue of Venus in the middle, sitting in a clam shell. We both sat next to the fountain, right in front of the Venus statue.
“Do you know why there aren’t any coins in the water fountain?” I asked her.
“No. Why not?”
“It’s supposed to be cursed. You’ll get whatever you desire, but you’ll suffer for it.”
“Be careful what you wish for, huh?” Amy asked. I nodded. “Have you ever put a coin in the fountain?”
I shook my head. “I guess I’m superstitious like that.”
Amy took off her glasses. “I don’t know why I’m still wearing these. I only need them for reading.” She clipped them onto her shirt. I blinked. Without her large, coke bottle glasses taking up half her face, Amy was beautiful. “You okay?” she asked, noticing the change in my expression.
“Yes. I’m alright.” I looked away quickly, not wanting to embarrass myself. Before I knew it, Amy was throwing a quarter into the fountain. “Why’d you do that?” I asked in a panic.
“I think wishing you a happy birthday was worth it. Besides, I’ll be paying the price. Not you.” There was a mysterious undertone in her voice I didn’t understand.
“No one should have to pay a price for a wish. Wishes should be free.” I said quietly.
“Acting Principle Number Five: If it’s too easy, it’s not good enough.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Can I ask you something? I can understand if you don’t want to answer. I mean, you hardly know me.”
I made myself look at her. Did she realize she was beautiful? The kind of natural beauty that made me nervously clench my clutch against my body at a movie premiere, or make me look away in a public restroom? “Ask.”
“Are you happy? You’ve only smiled the one time since we’ve talked. And now you look…” her voice trailed off.
“What? Tell me.”
“Miserable. Like you’re suffering.”
I smiled sadly. “I’ve been found out.”
“Is everything alright back home? Are you homesick?”
“Yes and no.” I couldn’t really admit that I was homesick for my little hometown. People would think I was nuts!
“Are you pining after someone?” She nudged me playfully. “Come on. I bet that’s it.”
I closed my eyes, remembering all the bad luck I had trying to hook up with another closeted woman. Nothing had worked out. “I guess.”
“We should go out tonight. Someplace fun with lots of new people. There’s this club over on 21st and Main that just opened up-“
“I’d rather not.” I was sick of rejecting men, whether or not they just wanted conversation. I tossed my hair nervously. “I think I’ll just have a quiet evening at home.”
“But is that what you want?” Amy asked with that smile. I looked away. She was giving me butterflies in my stomach, and I was finding it hard to breathe.
“No.” I managed to say. “But that’s the price I have to pay.”
“Sounds to me like you’re punishing yourself for something.” She looked into my eyes searchingly. I felt panicky. Did she know?
“Are you…a reporter?” I changed my words at the last second.
“Me? I don’t think I’d be staking out Tiny’s for someone like you, wouldn’t you agree?”
I sighed, in both relief and frustration. “I guess. It’s just so weird how I met you.”
Amy nodded. “Imagine two women from Hamptan meeting like this. And on your birthday!” I didn’t say anything. I felt Amy take my hand. “Come on, Gavin. What’s wrong?” Her compassion nearly stopped my heart. Here she was, a random stranger, worried about me, holding my hand like an old friend.
“I have a secret. I’m-” A couple walked by our bench, and I shut my mouth. I stood up. “I can’t do this.”
“Is there some place we can talk privately? I hate to see you like this.” She wasn’t making a pass at me, she was genuinely concerned.
“I live in a condo.” I said quietly. I bit my lip as soon I said it, knowing I sounded like an idiot.
She looked at me strangely. “What?”
“I mean, I live Beverly Hills. We can go there.” I drove her to my home. I couldn’t help wondering what was going to happen. What was I doing with this woman? Surely she wanted something from me. No one was that altruistic. I parked my car and hesitated. “What do you want from me?”
“Just eat the birthday cake I’m going to bake for you. A Nebraska girl like you has got to have some flour and eggs somewhere, right?” She smiled again, and I knew I was down for the count.
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