Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard
Janyce Stefan- Cole

UNBRIDLED BOOKS

Hollywood Boulevard

This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are either
the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Unbridled Books
Copyright © 2012 by Janyce Stefan- Cole

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any
form without permission.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Stefan-Cole, Janyce.
Hollywood Boulevard / Janyce Stefan-Cole.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-60953-075-4
1. Actresses—Fiction. 2. Hotels—California—Los Angeles—Fiction.
3. Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.) —Fiction. 4. Psychological fiction.
I. Title.
PS3619.T4455H65 2012
813'.6—dc23
2011043886

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Book Design by SH • CV

First Printing

For Brandon
Come, come, whoever you are
Wonderer, worshipper, wanderer, lover of leaving,
whatever you are.
This is no caravan of despair.
Come—even if you have failed
and dropped out dozens of times—
Come on, try again, come.
— Jalal ad- Din ar-Rumi

Part One
But his own mind was helpless against
every moment's headline. He did nothing
but leap into the mass of changes and
explore them and all the tiny facets so
that eventually he was almost completely
governed by fears of certainty.
—Michael Ondaatje,

Coming Through Slaughter

1

L e a v i n g J o e

I
used to think about quitting all the time. Then I quit, and now I still think about it. Maybe the dream slipped away, or got sullied into something no longer recognizable, or came
at too high a price— as in be careful what you wish for. So I float between a sleeping dream and real life. At the moment I'm holed up at the hotel swimming pool, a terraced affair set below a pricey Japanese restaurant, with narrow gardens guests can visit via little golden keys that open short red gates to various paths. It's off- season, the unheated pool is glacial; leaves fall in, float a while, and sink. A Shinto gate sits importantly on the pool's south side, like offspring of the restaurant above. The landscaping is uneven: artificial waterfalls, a miniature pomegranate tree, the Shinto gate aligned with a chain- link fence facing nondescript Hollywood back streets below; calm and common all at once.
    The maid cleaning my room is the reason I am lying low, wrapped in layers against the early- spring chill. What does the staff think of me in my suite— with kitchen— so much of the time? The awkwardness of having to get out of the maid's way so my mess can be cleaned, though I like not having to do it myself and have mostly not had to. Her arrival threatens my days. Today the interruption came near noon; tomorrow it could be three p.m. or ten thirty a.m. Maid or no maid, I prefer my mornings. A day that ends badly may have begun with sunlit, wide- awake eyes. It doesn't take much to tip the scales; my mornings do not inform my nights, they never have.
    Too persistently the question arises just what the maid is interrupting. The answer is always a big nothing. I was an actor until I quit, walked away, some said with my best work in front of me, but that sort of talk comes cheap; quitting does not. Can the maid, Zaneda— I think that's what she said her name is— imagine my life as I can so easily imagine hers? What does she think I am doing at the pool, noticing the haphazard landscaping while the sweet Chicana makes my very tossed bed? Does she wonder that there are no signs of sex on the sheets? Her prettiness is homey, eyes behind wire glasses gentle. She treats me as if I am special.
    "El Señor is a director of movies, no?" she asked when I first arrived. She meant my husband, Andre Lucerne.
    " Señor is a director of movies,
sí
," I replied, cutting the conversation short. El Señor insisted I come, which explains in a nutshell my presence at the Hotel Muse. My having agreed, my being back in Hollywood while he shoots his film, could spell trouble, like a recovering junkie camped out in the poppy fields.
    He said he needed me by his side. That's not how Andre expresses himself. He expresses himself through his work, so I was surprised by his words and, I admit, a little suspicious, and I don't know why I agreed to come.
    I'm not sure how much English Zaneda understands. I try to speak to her in Spanish. I did learn that she has four children, aged sixteen to three. She works long, hard hours, traveling who knows how far to get to the hotel, by car or bus or metro, to support those many kids. Yet her smile is uncompromised by exploitation. I think she said the other day that she'd seen me in a movie once. Possibly I misunderstood. It hasn't been that long since I quit, but Hollywood develops amnesia faster than a corpse forgets to breathe. I don't
have
to escape my room and Zaneda's enduring reality against my— what?— ethereal existence, but if explanations begin to be required, of how I spend my days and why I stopped acting, then I have no choice but to flee. Imagined conversations can be worse than actual ones.
    I shifted my chaise three times just now. The sun was warm, out of the breeze. I looked up, hearing voices above me in the outdoor grill area that has been vacant each time I've come here before. I closed my eyes to wish the intruders away.
    I dozed a few minutes, and now the voices have gone. It was probably safe to go back to my rooms, but I began rearranging the deck chairs instead. I walked the perimeter and found four wasted beer bottles tossed in a corner next to a blooming bird- of- paradise. Three days ago I walked the Japanese garden paths for the first time. Past stunted sculpted trees and little waterfalls and pools with timid goldfish that skittered away at my approach. Directly below the restaurant is a small pavilion with steep steps leading to it and two red benches under a peaked roof, a spot for viewing sunsets. Precisely below, a matter of inches from the pavilion, I noticed a bubblegum- blue used condom. I examined the red bench where the event had probably taken place. Maybe the couple had been drunk or in a hurry, the condom tossed in the dark. The next day it was still there. The find was solid gold, treasure a secret observer lives for— I've become a kind of hotel spy in my endless spare time. The restaurant has a reputation, so I was surprised to see the prophylactic lying there, but it's off- season and we are in a recession; cleanups might not be what they have been. Still.
    I kicked the beer bottles next to the chain- link fence. I ought to have resisted the desire to arrange the pool deck but didn't. Having to arrange,
needing
to, possibly reflects something wrong with me. But I'm not interested; what good would it do if I learned I was a compul sive this or that, a so- and- such unable to reveal myself except through gestures like rearranging furniture, an utterly failed communicator— for an actor? I enjoy few things better than creating order out of chaos, yet my life is a study in disorder. Lurking is the awareness, faint and intermittent, occasionally urgent, that something
is
wrong and does need fixing. Or maybe the pool area looking a lot better now is explanation enough.
    Husband number one said I only played at house. This was around the time I signed with Harry and Hollywood. That would be Harry Machin, Big Time Agent and proprietor of the very exclusive Machin Talent. Apparently with issues of his own— I mean the ex, a writer, he once hid out in a broom closet. I'd taken him to a party, not an A- list deal but sufficiently who's who. I didn't notice him missing until the hostess found him among the cleaning products and whispered in my ear to ask what was wrong with my guy. Back then I thought we would be a comfort to each other in social situations. I thought that's what couples did. Social outings are knotty anyway, on a guy's arm or flying solo. At the time of the closet incident I was better at taking cues and holding up my end, though I'd wilt at the smallest off- key passage: a casually unkind word, the bon mot landing flat. Still, I had a solid sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and nothing was going to stop me; I'd run over anyone who tried. I'm not saying I don't savvy the parley, flirting just enough to raise an eyebrow, playing the provocateur until my energy saps and I collapse like a diseased lung, sagging under the weight of human contact. Which, considering the assumed largeness of ego expected in my former profession, and the supposed need of an audience, makes me a candidate for problems from the start.
    At a recent party here in Hollywood— no, Silver Lake, to be precise— where I knew enough people well enough to indulge in conversational back- and- forth, I left the crowd to play with the family's five- year- old, Ella. She proudly exhibited her many fairy dolls. All showy dresses, translucent wings, and long luscious hair, blond and thick like hers. After oohing and aahing appropriately, I began checking for underwear, lifting gossamer gowns, cotton pinafores, and tulip minis. "Let's see if she's wearing underpants," I said, peering at one doll's lower parts. Soon the dear little girl was checking too. "Underpants!" she'd say. "Underpants," we'd say, examining each doll. "No underpants!" she gasped. "Let's see!" I said, pulling the delinquent figurine from her small hand. Seeing the naked, rubbery flesh- colored blank where genitals ought to be, it occurred to me that I'd taught this lovely child something her parents might not appreciate. What was I thinking? Children are so unself- consciously sexual as it is, and she was just at that Freudian cusp, five, the postphallic stage, on the verge of the superego. I've perused a few pages of Freud, and he's a pessimist, if you ask me, and all wrong about penis envy. My grandmother used to say men start wars to match the heroics of women producing babies. Who knows, maybe
they
have the envy. That's a thorny topic, though, starting with Adam trying to shift blame onto a wily snake, quite possibly the beginning of blaming the victim, and certainly the genesis of men getting all the good lines in movies while the actresses get the great clothes. And I'm not certain there really is a victim, though I read somewhere that, according to Victorian mores, a "lady lies still" during the sex act. And what, studies the ceiling? I know it's a mixed- up ball of wax if the lady is taking it passively on her tummy or handing it out on top. Sex could be simple, lovely fun, but somehow there are always complications.

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