By Gabrielle Marceau
"You see Lainie this is all we need: A couple of smokes, a cup of coffee, and a little bit of conversation. You, Me, and five bucks.”. You said this to Winona Ryder in Reality Bites. You knew that was a smooth line, but we knew it was also necessary. It was all you needed because it was all you had
“Wear something nice” the text message said, and so I do. And I spend two hours trimming and polishing for someone I have seen more than once drinking barefoot at a bar, having recently and not quite fully returned from working on a farm. He has no possessions, only travels by foot, and frequently loses his phone service so I get texts from strange numbers, “Are you up?”. He doesn't use the internet and so doesn't know that’s a cliche. He also has no steady home, so I lay awake until it's morning enough to ask him to leave. And he goes to the 7-11 two blocks away for churros, coffee, a bruised apple, salt and vinegar chips.
The women in your life don’t get ready for you, Ethan, they happen to you; Gwyneth in Great Expectations showing up after prom to surprise you with the hem of her green dress; Winona pesters until you relent and fall in love, irrevocably and all at once; Hamlet 2000 would be happy enough to ignore Ophelia, Julia Stiles is a passive past time for you; Julie Delpy was just too much.
Days later, a text message comes from a stranger’s phone. “Come meet me at the park.” When I get there, I can't see him, but across the park I can see blurry fires and the sound of men together. I wait, increasingly aware that I am alone in a park at night. I figure he has stumbled upon 5 bucks worth of fun by the fire. I notice man shaped shadows pouring out from a cluster of trees. It was almost the last time I saw him.
The last time I saw him - walking into a little produce shop with a snowy beard and an armful of library books - he struck me then as the best version of himself.
Your Hamlet is a millennial fuck boy, a mediocre artist and an oedipal mess. I applaud how unlikable you let such an already unlikeable character be. He’s the kind of man who thinks his emotional turmoil is not only the most important thing is the room, but at the very center of art, commerce, and fate. You wear so many asshole accessories in that movie. Did they let you keep the camcorder?
Actually the last time I saw him was early afternoon in the summer. He rinsed his face and finally left - passing the cat:“You’re very handsome. Don’t let it go to your head.” I guess I don’t need to tell you, Ethan, that he took the stairs.
One couldn't really call you beautiful or even handsome, but in 1994 you were hot. My heart belongs to your Troy Dyer - coffee-house guitarist. What is it about teenagers in the 90s? Everyone I know has typed ‘young Leo’ and scrolled to find the most perfect picture. A fool’s errand, they are all perfect. But outside of the frame, Leo was tearing through uptown parties with his Pussy Posse, a squad of marginally famous shit-heads. Ethan, have you seen Entourage? I loved Leo because he looked boyish, romantic, and ocean deep. But it was just a look - man, these famous actors, they get older, their girlfriends stay 22 year old supermodels. I know that's cheap criticism, Ethan, but don't you see the hole in him? You seemed like a grown up even at 24 when you were playing a fuck up.
Your Great expectations is all green and expensive. After you take the fugitive's money you leave the swamp for New York, where your studio is rambling, your girlfriend boring and your art lazy. But still just stylish enough: in New York being from Paris or Singapore is nothing special, but being from Florida is exotic.
Before Midnight shook me down. It shook my friends, married young or perpetually single, with the truth that love, even true, could be cruel and cold. That coupling dooms and ruins us for each other. But I was shaken by you walking your wife home at a vacation's pace, putting your arm on her neck in a touch that wasn't a grip. What is a thing that is solid and loose at once? A willow tree, a run-on sentence (you know how much I love those), a skilled dancer, his big and easy mind.
Do you know Snow Falling on Cedars was the first film that made me cry? Maybe I saw it too young and maybe I should have never seen it, because for decades afterwards it remained my model for true love: one that had a quick end. I never thought about the kind of man I wanted because some arrested development kept me longing for fuck ups and quick fucks. For the safe distance of recklessness. Romance is all about pain because desire, in collapsing distance, is painful by nature. Sure, but I suddenly saw a thing I wouldn't want to be distanced from in the way you walked her home. What kind of thing is that?
- Days later I was still shook and I took a side street to avoid the noise. The last time I saw him, stepping through a garden gate and lighting a cigarette. How did I not notice it, even down to your heart stopping resemblance. Same face and walk, same quality: solid and easy. You and I have met before.
- Today I walked into a bookstore looking to spend money on a stapler, and you were there too, in black and white on the cover of a magazine, wearing a work shirt with the word ART embroidered over your chest, looking not a day over 1994.