The actor Lead Crystal stopped me in the doorway to my apartment. He was desperate, he was broke, he was down to his last, he told me, couldn’t I, with my wristwatch and my easy smile, couldn’t I spare a dime for a laborer in the ur-culture industry. I paid him no mind, slipping past him into my building. I could already hear him, in his good announcer’s voice, accosting the next joker on his way home.
It’s true that I remember him. I was 10 when I first saw “What the Blazes is Glory?” , and I was hooked. I saw all of his films, as a matter of fact, even “Didn’t Know I was Dropping In,” the flop that rested atop his career like the cast iron lid of a cistern. Those were different times, different days, right before Social Software and then the personal feeds. In those days Lead Crystal would never have been asking for change. I- hundreds like me, even- would be begging him for his autograph, some artifact to somehow connect his lifestyle and panache to the average Joe Gonowhere.
You have to laugh to yourself when you look back at how things were always more innocent then, before, back when. It’s hard not to believe in progress when there is always the notion that, somehow, with all the changes that come around, everyone, from your grandparents to you, looks back with the same forgiving and nostalgic eyes. Remember movie stars? Remember going somewhere, to someone else, for a taste of the good life?
Once inside my apartment, I sat down at my dressing table and put on my stage makeup, made a few adjustments to my hair, tinted my irises for best capture on fiber optic, took a deep breath, tried to imagine me coming home from work, and set the webcams rolling. There I was, coming out of the TV, the soundtrack to my evening routine a new one that had just arrived that morning. I ate some food, made some witty and embittered comments while reading the news, put the dishes away. Leila came over around 8:45, we patched her feed into mine, and we did our best us, careful of the contractual agreements regarding time at center stage, number of lines granted to each of us, made sure we mentioned our sponsors, etc.
I put it to her pretty naturally, I’d say. One of my best performances. Had to remember to put it at the top of my profile feed in the morning when I headed off to the cinema for work. For flair, at the very end, I thought it would be interesting to portray what Lead Crystal might do in this situation. I adjusted my smirk, the contemptuous offhandedness with which I handled Leila, to how he would do it, wondering how the numbers would come back or if the machines or anyone else would notice the change, stop buying my sheets or my condoms, whatever.
“Baby, you mean so much to me. Look at me, baby.” I told her as we were falling asleep.
“Look at me, sweetie.” She murmured, snoring.
Lead Crystal was asleep in my doorway in the morning as I straightened my tie and headed to the theater. Some people just can’t keep up, the poor bastard, can’t just see that the world that gave them their heyday is over. I gave him a stern look of pity, pausing a minute as though I was thinking something. As I turned to go, he opened his eyes.
“I made you people, you know.”
When I got to the theater the first thing I did was check to see if my ratings had flickered along with the shift in my performance last night, but there was nothing. No sign I had done anything different.
Huh. To all appearances I was performing as my best “me” the entire time.
My phone rang. I answered it. “Oh, Leila!”
That was when I was really starting to fall for her, couldn’t stop with the affectionate talk.
“Look at me, baby!”