The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 7, No. 4

Los Feliz

by Neil LaBute

Los Feliz

Tell me she’s not fucking him. Just tell me that much.
           That’s all I can think in that first blur of handshake and forced smile. My handshake, his smile. He’s already looking over my shoulder, looking to spot who he can meet next. See, we’ve had our moment, he’s past me. And with her standing right next to him. Glowing. I mean, if I had to choose a word, describe her in a single phrase, it’d be glowing. I’m not even gonna try to catch his eye again, see if we can start over. Too late. Plus, I’m totally staring at her now, trying to work this whole scenario out for myself. Him and her. And are he and she doing the deed? Yeah, that “deed.” Please, God, someone tell me it isn’t true! I mean, yes, why should I care, fair enough, that is the question. Not “To be or not to be,” no, the real question is, why should I care? Or more appropriately, what right do I have to care? Me with a wife and 2.7 children at home, with the lovely house in Los Feliz and a pretty nice Lexus SUV out front (in the garage, actually—you should never leave your vehicle out front in L.A.). Who the hell am I that I should be caring if this woman is screwing that guy? I don’t know, actually, who the hell I am, I just know that I care. For some reason, I care. It bugs the shit out of me, if the truth be known. To be completely honest, it’d bother me to know that she’s sleeping with anyone, but this guy in particular would really annoy me. Does annoy me. And I’m sure they are. Fucking, that is. It’s just his way, that chummy way with her, the little smile and peck right on the lips that signals the whole damn thing to me, their history. God, I hate that! I mean, look at him, with the longish hair pulled back with a rubber band and hanging down the neck of his sports coat (when was that last “in”?!), the jeans and sandals, the Izod shirt from, like, twenty years ago (with the big alligator, not the new little one) and the cigarette in one hand that he refuses to smoke. Just who in hell does he think he is? And now with the one hand on her neck, too. If I did that, I mean, in rehearsal or whatever, she’d look at me like I was nuts, well, not nuts but clearly on my way. If it wasn’t in the script, I mean. If it’s in the script then it’s all right, it’s open season. It says to giggle and she’ll laugh out loud until the tears flow. It says “sex” and off come the clothes, even with just the stage crew in for a lineup. Not a problem. But try anything in the margin, off the page, after hours, see where that gets you. I’m serious, try it. I have. And now this guy with the dull smile and the yes-we-first-met-in-college look as he massages her neck, brushes a finger over her ear. I love those ears! All right, no, I don’t mean love, it can’t be love because I’ve got the wife and the 2.7 kids and all the other shit I mentioned, but I’m very fond of those ears. I’ve grown quite attached to her ears over the four years we’ve spent on the series together and I don’t like what I’m seeing here. Of course I don’t say anything, are you crazy? I just nod and take my hand away as I mumble “Nice to meet you” while I imagine impaling him on a pike or something fairly medieval. Bastard! And then he does the “whisper thing.” He just leans over, like he’s family now, leans over and says something to her. Making her laugh. I mean, fuck him! You know how many times I’ve tried to make that woman laugh? Do you?! Plenty, and while, yes, I’ve done it in the past, it’s not without a good deal of effort and at great personal cost. Not for lack of wanting, mind you, it’s just that I’m not naturally funny. So, it’s tough. But here comes ol’ Casanova with the ponytail and a quip for every situation. And she eats it up. Just gobbles it down and drops to her knees, begging for more. Or at least smiles over at him. Which is plenty, believe me . . . have you ever seen one of her smiles? I mean a “real” smile, not one for the fans when we’re out on tour, opening another shopping mall or electronics store, but one of those big, glorious ones that she saves for special occasions. Occasions like this, apparently. For a guy like that! Whom she must be giving head to, now that I see them together. The way she hangs on his arm. Glances back to see if he caught someone’s name (as he checks out who he can meet next). The works! I know I should just finish my champagne and get my ass home to the wife and kids, I mean, the Lexus is right out front with the valet, but I can’t stop staring. I just snubbed one of the producers’ wives—that’s gonna cost me during salary negotiations, you can bet your ass on that—because I can’t stop staring at the two of them. I’m starting to feel a bit homicidal now, which is frightening. Not frightening like I want to stop feeling this way, just that it’s a party and there’re too many witnesses around for a clean getaway. I honestly would like to kill the long-haired, gator-wearing motherfucker and would do it, I swear, if only the opportunity arose (and as long as I could be fairly certain there was no prison time involved). He’s running a finger down her arm right now, look at that! Just tracing a lazy trail down the length of her bicep, a beautiful Coppertone bicep that he’s got no business trailing down. And that’s it, I can’t take any more. So I don’t. Their fingers are locking now—she’s talking to one of the costume designers, a lovely redhead with a talent for period detail, and he’s ogling the new gal in casting, seriously, ogling her as he’s holding hands with this angel from heaven!—so I step forward and say something. Years from now I’ll be able to blame it on the booze, when somebody bellows this story out at our two hundredth episode party or whenever, but right now I’m just hanging it all out there. I feel completely lucid and I’m telling you, I just can’t take it anymore. Total Howard Beale syndrome. So, I catch the guy’s eyes, right, he’s probably trying to see past me to another guest, but I hold his gaze long enough to say, quite eloquently, “Hey!” The room doesn’t go silent, exactly, it’s a big place after all, but the area around us definitely quiets down. Heads turning. She looks over at me, about to say something, but I don’t let her interfere—she’s had her chance, plenty of chances as far as I’m concerned. She doesn’t have to have a relationship with me, for God’s sake, but does she have to drag this useless piece of sycophantic shit into a party meant for us? For cast and crew? No, she doesn’t, so I decide to say something. I say it, the “Hey” thing, and the guy looks at me, his lids heavy as the stone tablets Moses carried down from on high, and he snorts out, “Yeah?” Now, there’s my out. Right there. I could’ve said anything, or nothing, got my wits back together and just driven away to Los Feliz, and it all would’ve been forgotten five minutes later. But no, I go ahead and say, “I mean, why don’t you two just get a room?” Her face drops in sections, like snow falling from my parents’ roof in February, as she whispers, “What did you say?”

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