A woman’s boyfriend gets seduced by Hollywood. Will he take her along for the ride? 2,277 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.
Until that day I had never been to Hollywood, and I still have never met Jeremy Botz with the red hair, not really. He was an A minus celebrity, the street cred version of a producer. Two thirds of the people I’d mention his name to would say, “Jeremy Botz? Who’s that?” And when I told them, they’d nod their heads and say, “Oh yeah, that guy.” So he commanded respect. OK, props. But he still ruined my relationship.
It started casually enough. My boyfriend Brody had this friend – an actor, “super talented,” whose work “showed his diversity.” Anyway, this actor showed Brody’s novel to Jeremy Botz who got a major hard on for it and informed the actor that Brody’s novel “had Sundance written all over it.” Published over a decade earlier, it was a roman a clef about a writer who develops severe agoraphobia after his divorce.
It sold well enough. There was buzz — not bee buzz, more like fly buzz — but still buzz. There were even write-ups, the kind that are sufficiently impressive like Vanity Fair or The Guardian. Brody managed to never sound like he was humble-bragging when he brought these up, thank god, just regular bragging. With a big personality like Brody had, he could get away with shameless bragging because people assumed he was being self-deprecating somewhere deep inside even though he wasn’t. It’s the best way to network.
Mr. Botz sent emails on the regular about turning the book into an independent film because he really liked Brody’s “juvenile yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor.” Then Brody told me that Jeremy Botz — “get this” — really liked his “juvenile yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor.”
But, before I continue, let me explain about Brody and me.
We met a few weeks after I arrived in California. I moved around a lot back then. In fact, being a readily hirable exotic dancer made it easy for me to move as often as I felt like it. But I had come to San Francisco to settle down because I guess I was trying to turn over a new leaf.
Brody sat typing a music review on his laptop at the coffee shop across from his place, and two blocks away from mine, when he approached me in the middle of the day and introduced himself. He was the kind of guy that could do that. Then we just sat together while he typed and I read. When I stood up to leave, I assumed that was it between us, but then he asked me to hangout again.
"Would you like to do a date with me?"
“OK,” I said and wrote my number on a napkin.
So I mentioned that Brody was agoraphobic. Most people misunderstand what that means. It’s not really a fear of leaving the house. It’s actually a fear of panic, which in most cases leads to not wanting to leave the house. I was gold star-level supportive of Brody’s agoraphobia. If we couldn’t walk to the better sandwich shop three blocks away, I would suck it up and go to the one with the crappy bread. If we had to go home early because Brody was on the verge of a panic attack, I let everybody think it was just because we were tired. But it was really annoying when he had to do a band write-up and he’d drag me to the show and make us leave after one song, then base his entire two-page review on five minutes of music. Even then I didn’t say anything criticizing or complaining.
However, no one was more supportive than Brody’s Mom.
Anytime Brody needed a ride, his Mom would take him. He had difficulty driving alone, because he was afraid of having a meltdown. I found out a couple months into our relationship that his Mom had driven him to our first date and dropped him off around the corner. I offered to take him places, but he preferred his Mom to do it. And since she was having drama at home with Brody’s forty-year-old brother who wouldn’t find his own place, they decided it was best for her to stay with Brody in his studio apartment during the honeymoon stage of his new relationship with the young woman, whom he had recently fallen in love with. Me.
She lived in his walk-in closet. At first it was just the only place to put the trundle bed. But it didn’t quite fit; the end stuck out about two feet through the curtain which Brody had hung in the doorway of the closet to give her privacy. It was supposed to be temporary, but a couple weeks turned into months. She brought over some things to get by: blow dryer, pillows, nail polish, home and garden magazines. Then she started buying things to make the closet more cozy: a little metal shelf, a painting of a horse she found at a garage sale, bargain-bin mystery novels, a vase in which there were never any flowers. After the first month passed she purchased things she thought Brody might like for the rest of the apartment: knick knacks such as dog figurines, pot holders with lemon slices on them, paintings of boats from Goodwill. The apartment itself began to resemble the walk-in closet like a shirt that had been turned inside out. At night she would strap her sleep apnea machine to her face. Brody and I would fall asleep to her Darth Vader breathing as her feet stuck out through the curtain. After she walked in on us having sex I decided to start spending more time at my place a few blocks away.
Brody and I did that nauseous thing where we texted online for hours while working on other things even though we had just spent the day together. But once Jeremy Botz started sending emails directly to Brody, the producer’s presence smothered me even in my own home as Brody and I chatted online. I couldn’t get away from Jeremy Botz the way I had Brody’s Mom.
“Check out this email from Jeremy. I’ll forward it to you,” Brody texted.
“OK,” I replied.
“The joke he made about the anal sex scene.”
“Yeah. That’s hilarious.”
“Jeremy really does get my sense of humor. I think I have like a total man crush on him.”
“Someday I’m going to be writing scripts in L.A.. Everyone seems to live in Silver Lake. I looked up some prices on studio apartmentss, and they’re really not that bad.”
“Mom keeps talking about moving down there, too. It’s kinda weird, but maybe it would be good for her to get away from the drama with my bro.”
Brody would text like this every night. It went on for months, and I started noticing a few things that began to cause me serious concern. One, Brody never mentioned me in any of these L.A. life fantasies. Two, Brody seemed more concerned about where his Mom fit into this scenario than me. And, three, the dude had major agoraphobia. He could barely walk a block from his apartment without having a panic attack, but somehow, for Jeremy Botz, Brody saw himself getting it together psychologically to make this L.A. life fantasies happen. I wanted Brody to be successful, but I also wanted us to be together, and his grasp on reality made me realize how tenuous my place in his world might actually be.
As the weeks went on, this realization wore on me. The absurd details of Brody’s life went from being something I could laugh about to being symptoms of how unreliable it all was. His studio apartment began to feel like a Jungian fun house with freakish elements floating around like carnival ephemera. The bath towels that he used to wipe his face when he ate, which before had seemed like an eccentric quirk, now just seemed gross. Why couldn’t he use a goddamn napkin? He purchased his own sleep apnea machine, and it now made him and his Mom into dueling Darth Vaders, as opposed to a reprieve from the draconian snoring. And his mother’s feet. Once they’d seemed funny, but now they seemed superimposed over the landscape of the apartment, like a double exposure, walking all over everything.
“Babe, can we talk?” I texted him.
“Yeah, about what?” Brody looked at me as I sat in the chair by his kitchen window, smoking and staring at the lone alleyway palm tree.
“When you think of going to L.A., do you think of me being with you?”
“I mean, would we move down there together?”
“I’m sure we’d figure it out when the time came.”
“Well, It seems like things are really progressing with the Jeremy Botz thing, and I just want to know what your general plan is.”
“I’m gonna kick this agoraphobia in the ass, and then it will all work out. Like everything’s cool, babe. OK?”
“Check out this recent Jeremy Botz email,” Brody laughed.
I smoked another cigarette as Brody read aloud, but I didn’t hear what he was saying. He just sounded like a Botz-bot until his words, “Maybe Mom could drive me down.”
“Yeah, Jeremy Botz just invited Mom and me to grab coffee in L.A. while he and I map out some script stuff in person.”
“You and your Mom?”
“Can I come, too?”
“Oh, he didn’t mention it.”
“But he mentioned your Mom?”
Brody stared at me like I was asking him if he liked breasts.
“So you told Jeremy Botz that your Mom was giving you a ride to L.A.?”
“No, of course not. I just said that my Mom hadn’t been down there in a while and would love to catch some sites. So he invited her along.”
“But she is driving you, correct?”
“OK. Got it.”
“You don’t sound happy for me at all.”
“Of course I am. I’m happy for you and your Mom.”
“It’s like you don’t want me to be successful.”
“You think that’s what bothering me?”
Brody’s mouth gaped open with exasperation as I walked out the door.
It was the next Monday morning, and I heard Brody standing over me. He nudged me awake. “I have the biggest favor of all time to ask you. Mom is crazy sick and can’t drive me to L.A. today.”
“Jeremy Botz Day?”
As I opened my eyes, I saw Brody’s lids stretched to capacity with the eagerness of his eyeballs. I couldn’t say no. This man-child, who could barely leave his own home, had one chance to pull himself out of his own personal mental institution, and I was his only hope.
“Thanks babe. I’m pretty much ready to go. We can take my car.”
Brody had an ancient BMW that he’d bought back when he worked in tech in his early twenties and could still go outside and stuff. He kept it in the back parking lot of his studio apartment. I drove all the way to L.A. from San Francisco with Brody lying down in the backseat the whole time, giving me directions inbetween panic attacks. His big round eyes would well up with tears that he always had the power to evaporate before more than one of them would fall. One always did, though: a tear for each panic attack. His face, red and bulbous in those moments, as if he couldn’t remember how to breathe. And then his breath would be loud and raucous when it finally came, like an amateur diver coming up for air.
“Babe, we’re almost there,” I warned him as we approached the coffee place in Hollywood. “You’re going to have to pull yourself together. We’re not on the highway anymore. You can sit up now. “It’s this intersection up here. There’s the Starbucks.”
I pulled up and began to park. Brody sat up and scanned his surroundings with a look of visceral skepticism. “Actually, babe,” he said inbetween hyperventilated breaths, “could you pull around the block, and park, and just wait for me?”
“How long is it going to take?”
“I have no idea. An hour or two.”
“Well, how long was your Mom going to wait for you?”
“She was coming in.”
“So why can’t I?”
“I don’t want it to be weird bringing my girlfriend to a business meeting.”
“OK. Wish me luck. I think I Xannied up enough to do this.”
I looked at him in the rearview mirror and noticed he was wearing the same shirt he’d worn on our first date. I focused my green eyes on my own reflection. I looked different. My hair was longer, and I was really into red matte lips. I rolled down my window to talk to Brody.
“Good luck. I hope everything works out.”
Brody laughed a little. “I’ll do my best.”
I watched him disappear around the corner. It looked like a nice neighborhood, so I just left the rear passenger door unlocked, and put the keys under the front mat. It was his car so, technically, I wasn’t leaving him high and dry. I walked in the same direction he had, doing a search on my phone for the nearest strip club. I paused for a moment outside the Hollywood Starbucks. Inside, there was my ex-boyfriend with his producer having their first business meeting. Jeremy Botz looked older than his IMDB photo, and his red hair seemed faded like a movie poster exposed to too much glare. Brody looked excited, and all I could think was, how cute.
This short story first posted here on July 20, 2016.