Not that I manage to say any of that out loud.
Of course I don't.
Sometimes I think everything wrong with my life can be located in the space between what I should have said and what actually came out of my mouth. No matter how hard I try, no matter how well I prepare, the right words are, for me, forever out of reach. Not because they catch in my throat. A cat hasn't got my tongue. None of the usual phrases apply. It's a more comprehensive kind of collapse. When faced with any real conversational pressure, my personality just goes offline, AWOL, and no matter how hard I try, it doesn't respond. Catastrophic system failure.
Speak, I tell myself in those moments. Speak.
Like I'm Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, lying barefoot in the back of that truck, gritting my teeth and trying to force my insubordinate body to bend to my iron will.
But I'm not Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. I didn't train with Gordon Liu. I don't know the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, and I don't have the body to pull off a yellow leather motorcycle suit. So I never get my toe to move. I never drive that truck to Vivica A. Fox's house. I never get revenge and I never find my daughter. I just starve to death in a hospital parking lot.
And in real life, when asked to explain to a potential employer why I'm the best candidate for a job I desperately need, I don't deliver a rousing monologue about the exhilarating, all-encompassing, soul-shifting, life-shaking power of cinema. Instead I just comb my fingers through my ponytail for the seventeenth time while mumbling something about my work ethic.
Then, to top it off, I shrug—I 'shrug'—and I say: "I just really like movies, I guess."
My agent makes a sound so pained I'm genuinely worried I might have killed her.
I don't know what else Nell expected, it's been six years since I've had to look for work. Six years since Amy hit it just big enough that we could coast from feature to feature to feature without having to hustle for work we hated in the interim. It took some doing—the plumbing in the Mid-City two-bedroom we shared was more vague promise than functional reality, and six nights a week we ate rice and beans we bought in bulk—but eventually she was able to stop taking AD gigs; I was able to stop doing TV. We found a rhythm that worked for us, postproduction bleeding into preproduction and back again, and if I didn't have time for a social life, I wasn't particularly bothered: I got to live and work with my very best friend.
But last month I decided it was time to start thinking about getting my own place, and Amy and I put the new movie on hold so we could figure things out.
It didn't take long to realize that blowing up my personal and professional lives all at once wasn't exactly the smartest thing I could have done. For about three days it felt freeing. But then I ran out of new-release movies to see.
And so, this afternoon, I found myself pacing the inadequate length of my short-term rental in Burbank, restless, anxious, fingers fluttering at my sides. I had finally managed to work up the nerve to send a few emails to old colleagues, hoping I could pick up an episode or two of I truly didn't even care what, but either they didn't remember me or they were all out to lunch or Gmail was down for everyone but me.
By two p.m., my nerves—already frayed by the arrival of my credit card statement—drove me to a desperate act: I made a phone call. I left a message for my agent explaining that Amy and I were taking a break, that I needed a job, and, therefore, that I might actually be willing to take her advice for once.
I should have known something was fishy when she called me back right away.
"You have a meeting," she said.
"Who with?" I asked.
"Don't worry about that. Get here by six, I'll take care of the rest."
"Today? At rush hour?"
"You want a job or not?"
"'Nell'. Have they even seen my reel?"
"Don't worry about that, either."
"The more you say that the more I worry."