Like They Teach in Acting Class
Step 1: Parts Established
He walks by, sits ten feet from me, pretend-reads his magazine.
Look fast. He’s looking. He blinks.
“Beautiful night,” he says.
Beige leather jacket, Dolce & Gabbana. He’ll eventually say what he wants to say.
“It’s going to get cold. Winter’s on its way.”
“Do you live around here?” he says.
“I live nearby. On Madison.”
He takes a cigarette case from his jacket. He stands and comes close. Sits. Offers.
Shake my head once.
He holds the cigarette far out on his fingers. Like they teach in acting class. Tight to the chest. Tough guy. Tip of the fingers. Aristocrat.
Step 2: The Deal
“Would you like to take a walk?” He blinks. I wait. “Would you?”
He pretend-thinks. Bad acting.
Step 3: A Doesn’t Equal B But I’m Thinking About Extra Work While We Walk
For the last shot they put me far down the boardwalk. The day’s ending. The horizon’s pink and gray and the waves no longer look lazy with the tide coming in and the water rougher, darker. On the other side of the boardwalk the actor’s trailer looks too new, too white.
They call places.
The actor walks out of the trailer. Even in the fading light the actor’s eyes are still there, still lit. I’m watching him and he catches me. I don’t move my eyes until he moves his, has to move his, have to be honest, he’s the one walking, I’m not, the take hasn’t started, and he walks easy and strong like the end of a movie, like a scene that should be my scene.
I blur my eyes so the faces of the crowd behind the rope become my extras.
It’s getting cool, wind off the ocean. I button the vest they’ve made me wear. I just want to take the charter bus back to the city, back to my apartment to sleep. Tomorrow I have a 7 a.m. call for another day of extra work on another film.
The assistant director calls Action. I walk. In front of me the Ferris Wheel’s still turning.
They do another take.
The assistant director calls That’s a wrap.
It’s almost dark.
The actor’s walking toward me. The crowd’s around him and he keeps stopping for selfies. A woman pushes through, touches his shoulder. The actor’s in front of me.
“Thanks for the day,” he says.
“You were looking at me like you wanted to kill me,” the actor says and smiles and I’m looking in his eyes, looking to see if I can learn something, something about how he is where he is, but I already know and his eyes move and he’s walking and all around they’re taking down the lights.
Step 4: The Seal
The doorman opens the door. The lobby floor’s polished.
We take the elevator.
Inside his apartment he presses his gut/chest against me.
“Let me see you,” he says.
I step back, put my hand on my crotch.
Like in high school. I’d go to the university. Inside the Economics Building, Herter Hall, down in the basement bathroom, stall doors removed. My buddy, also a junior, was mean. He lit matches, threw them at whatever old guy was sitting on the pot, old cock in old hand, young cock sticking through hole.
“It’s all here,” I say.
I see need in his throat.
I auditioned a lot. I wasn’t getting any parts. Look-at-me practiced in the mirror x 675 = Lincoln Plaza’s movie screen. I looked it up, figured it out.
He goes into another room.
I wasn’t going back to bussing tables. Putting the bucket next to the dishwasher. Scraping plates into the Hefty bag. Moving my body back to the floor.
He comes back.
He gives me ten twenties.
I pull down my pants.
He puts his mouth around my cock.
Step 5: Movie Moment
I’m facing a mirror.
My head. My neck. My chest. My stomach hard, sit-ups every day. His head.
I smile just enough, mostly in my eyes, perfect for x 675.
It looks real.
It is real.
Stanislavski’s method. Sense memory. Become the part.
ADAM BERLIN has published four novels, including Belmondo Style (St. Martin’s/The Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley Award) and Both Members of the Club (Texas Review Press/ Clay Reynolds Novella Prize). His story collection All Around They’re Taking Down the Lights won the 2023 Tartt First Fiction Award and will be published by Livingston Press. He teaches writing at John Jay College/CUNY in NYC and co-edits the litmag J Journal.