The crowds waited in anticipation as the pompous fanfares marked the opening of the red carpet, a crowd of slick journalists rushed to the front fence. An even larger crowd consisting of “common men” were held back at the perimeter – like some reserve force. And then they arrived, the dashing superstars in their lavish costumes. The simultaneous flashes of hundreds of cameras enlightened the long expected arrivals from constantly shifting angles. Some of them sweated, others blinked, but they all kept their faces. They smiled because they were used to it, and they lifted their arms and waved. They paraded along the marked lines giving autographs, and they were all in a splendid mood.
“The film was excellent, Mark Thompson! How did you feel upon receiving the award”
“It was a great honor, of course.”
“How do you feel about being nominated as the most sexy man in the business”
“I appreciate good taste when I see it”, the middle aged actor said and put on his best grin.
Those who heard him – and there were plenty of these – roared with laughter. They would have escorted him to his limousine, but sunglassed guards – probably picked or perhaps even bred for size and grim appearances – blocked their way. Strangers struggled, they shouted after him, and for their sake Mark Thompson stopped, walked over to the fence where they stood and signed several autographs. Then he moved on to the next fence closer to the parking lot. There were three of them along the way, and Mark Thompson radiated even more humor and wit at the two next ones. He was warming up. Only the last two hundred meters did he walk a little faster when he noticed an open limousine waiting for him. He sighed when the car doors slammed shut behind him, because he now was protected from a multitude of stares by bullet proof colored glass. But a sigh was all he could manage because even if they could not see him, he was able to see them, the vast moving crowd, an organism by itself, twisting and turning, giving off sounds of hysteria, of admiration and sometimes – more often than people realize – of disgust and resentment.
The car navigated through the streets of the city center, and stopped by the venerable Grand Hotel. The door opened, and again he was exposed. But there was that million dollar, tastefully bleached smile that had melted so many hearts, and there was that sharp tongue that always knew how to dodge awkward questions. It had served him so well, and it only became more and more efficient with age. It ripened like a fine wine.
At the reception, men and women he had never met and sometimes not even knew existed told him from a mahogany podium about how he had completely altered their lives, sometimes saved them from bad marriages, improved their sex lives and prevented suicides. Of course, he had no choice but to be humbled by his enormous power, such good fortune that life had bestowed upon him. He was obliged to tell them of his own struggles, and how thankful he was that he had made it, arrived at his station, and how they too could make it if they just followed their dream. Ever onwards and upwards.
There was fine dining, exquisite cuisine, which he enjoyed in silence, while hum and chatter, and toasting glasses sounded over his head. Then he got up, excused himself and rushed through the velvet corridors for the bathroom. But a young blonde had made it passed the guards, was blocking his way and was flashing her excellently sculpted breasts. Then, there was a bizarre situation in which a gigantic two meter black body guard chased the tiny creature down the corridor. Mark Thompson walked by and smiled.
“They never stop”, he told the guard, “they can’t help it. You’re doing a great job, thank you, but be gentle on her. She is drunk and very young.”
“Yes sir”, said the giant bodyguard.
He did his thing in the toilet, washed his hands in the gilded sink, and returned to his seat. His agent was on the phone, several radio stations wanted his views on some matter. He found a quiet corner, and called them. He preferred these brief phone interviews. No one could see his face, he could even do them in the nude at home, if he wanted. But somehow it never seemed right. Even in their voices, he could sense their eyes.
At ten o’clock that evening he called it a day. He had been at it since morning. Then there was the routine of leaving the building, the choreographed exit, the waiting door. The relief of departure, the oddness of seeing those ordinary people walking along the bar strip as his limousine passed. The loud music, the distant laughter. He had been 18 once, hadn’t he? He had not always had this life. Many many years ago, he too could walk down that strip, and no one would even look twice at him, a pimpled mumbling nerd. The girls had even giggled at him with pity, the pathetic boy who would never get laid.
The cortege struggled through traffic, but as they entered the more affluent areas, people and vehicles magically dispersed. He was left with majestic glass and steel constructions, all polished and glimmering, fancy restaurants with private entrances and then the villa area: well kept gardens with pools hidden by carefully landscaped residential palaces. As dusk fell, the stars had come out and they hung over his home, stretching endlessly towards a million dollar horizon and view. Below them lay the vast pulsating metropolis. On top of the hill stood his isolated palace, his marble columns, his tiled walkways.
Another open door was waiting for him, and he rushed towards it. He had made sure that it had been made of the most quirky wood he could find. It stood out because it had the texture of an English cottage door. The faces that met him, his servants, were friends at least, he thought. He paid them enough to fake it.
“Is she still awake?” he asked as the maid took his coat.
“Yes, sir. She is awake”
He then stopped by the stairs, and wondered whether he would he would be brave enough to enter her room. But the memories overwhelmed him, and he bit his lip as climbed the steps.
There was the door he dreaded. He leaned his forehead against it as he knocked. It squeaked open, and the silhouette a huge bed and a dying woman was visible against the moon light from a half open window. He walked those final steps to the vacant chair, and an imperceptible breeze silently swung the door shut behind him.
by Mchael Henrik Wynn