Teaser 102: A Catalyst In Catharsis

I walked into John's office before eleven and went straight to the room Gary and I shared and placed my stuff in it. I didn't bother setting any of it up. Gary looked up from his chair as he started to push it away from his desk and asked, “John said you wanted to meet with all of us?”

“Yes, Gary,” I replied and started to walk out. “Let's see who's around.”

All of the twelve producers other than Will and Ken were in the office and all were in the conference room five minutes after I walked in the door. I would have to talk to the other two personally later. I took a seat next to John at the head of the table and leaned on it to rest on my elbows. “Serena and I believe we have a responsibility to each and every one of you to tell you what has happened in the last several days, and particularly yesterday and today. First of all, Serena would much rather tell you this herself, but, unfortunately, she is at this moment flying to Paris to try to rescue her daughter, and I don't use the term 'rescue' lightly, as you will soon agree. I told her, though, that all of you must know what we have discovered now. You must not hear about it through the media or some other source.”

“What is it?” Drake said, peeved and cutting to the chase.

“We discovered a considerable number of bugs, listening devices, and cameras installed in Serena's bedroom wing without her knowledge, done so under the control of her former security person, and with the knowledge and consent of her husband. Of this, I have no doubt.”

There were grumblings. “Cameras? How many cameras, Gregory?”

“We have discovered two cameras so far, John, one in Serena's bedroom and the other in the bathroom at the middle of the wing, the one with the spa.” I paused. “There could be more, though. Both were wired, so they don't emit a signal ever. They have to be visibly detected and it will take time.”

Drake looked at me scornfully, though I knew it wasn't directed to me as he asked, “Her husband was behind this?”

“Do you have another suspect, Drake?” I asked back and he shook his head. “It could be her former security person, in some bush-league blackmail scheme, but this is what I would bet on. We let him go but Serena is pressing charges, a formal criminal complaint. Her former security person, who was hired by both, has flown to France where he's safe from prosecution and back to work for his real master. It's a matter of time before we do discover he is continuing to work for her husband and this would be confirmation.”

Drake was angry and I was spent. I was providing an explanation for a marital spat in which I had no business being involved. You may think differently. Many have, claiming my arrival in Serena's life, “like a whirlwind,” brought it all on. They recall what Serena herself has said: the broken promises from her husband were so slight and so cleverly increasing she accepted his excuses, until the first night Serena Dominguez met me. I brought it to light, even though others had been telling her for quite some time. It was only when I explained about unhappy marriages and how sometimes they can end suddenly, like mine, or gradually, like hers, even though I didn't know how Serena's marriage had progressed, which made her consider it completely. It didn't matter to many people. It still doesn't matter to them. It was my fault Serena's marriage ended the way it did. They blame me. It didn't matter that all those surreptitious devices installed in Serena's own house without her knowledge had been there for over two years before we yanked them all out. It didn't matter and it still doesn't to these people. I am the home wrecker. I encouraged the affair with Serena which ended her marriage and Serena helped to foster the idea with her own explanations. I could see it coming. The onslaught cometh.

Though there wasn't anything any of them could do now about the probability each had his or her privacy and confidentiality violated, the fight and the anger and resentment needed to be fixed on the perpetrator, Serena's husband, not Serena. When I was through explaining it, I had put Serena in a good light with all, even though it was her job to explain it. Get your daughter, Serena. I'll take care of all of this. It would be the last monumental favor I would perform for Serena for quite some time. I was growing to resent the fluffy, puffy, superficial crap she did virtually every day. Would it ever end? The answer pounding inside my feeble brain was “No.” Could I remove it from my life? If Serena can get her life back, can I get my life back? The problem I have always considered about the term “in love” is its alter ego, “out of love.” It's only desire, and what stokes it or cools it is the feedback you receive from the desired one. I was getting the same shit, now coming at me in droves. Show biz life is powder puffery, pretense, and illusion. West Hollywood was reality central and Esperanza was the only real woman I had met since I came to Lost Anglos. I also considered as I sat in this room with the producers the irony I had sex with two women on consecutive nights, but I could only reach orgasm with one. Which one do you think?

I did hold one more huge concern. All of this was new to me, every bit of it. Many of my actions, my words, my movements were under intense scrutiny and I was frequently hearing about them on television, on radio, in reports available to anyone on the internet, and often of total fabrication. At times I considered I had no private life, that I stood in a glaring spotlight at every moment and could not escape it, like I was a rat being tracked by the biggest cat in the world, like I was a convict behind a fence topped with razor wire in a prison called show business. I would shake it and had been shaking it for months now with all the developments, the changes in direction which I had pushed. Each one fell to me at the appropriate time and I had seen them coming, had anticipated each one and took action immediately. It kept me going, moving toward a destination few in the business had ever reached, and the nearly constant movement kept me from thinking too much about the constant scrutiny. When I did think about it the anxiety concerning my notoriety could take me right to the point of breaking, until the next move fell into my lap. I was so close to breaking so many times I actually found myself alone and struggling for breath, convinced I had no hope of release. It would pass, generally once I laid full out for minutes, for hours, alone. The attacks from various pundits was enough and most in this room had already witnessed the agony on my face when this subject was broached. They all learned to never talk about it to my face, but only recently did they understand the anxiety I couldn't escape personally. John knew about Serena and me but everyone else knew about it for only weeks, that I was deep into a romance with the woman I desired above all others, and I still couldn't have her, yet now I was explaining to them about bugs and cameras in her own house which I was instrumental in discovering. I could not keep on this way. Daniel and I had been discussing in great detail the rest of the performances and he was convinced the shows we were planning in the east would be hugely successful through the measure of attendance only. Yet, if I cracked, if I broke from the unrelenting pressure from both the professional and personal sides, these shows would never take place. I knew my reputation was at stake, that each and every one of these shows would make or break my reputation, and I had already decided show business and Serena would be placed in the back seat of my life. I had done enough. My turn.

I sat in a room with my fellow nine producers of one of the best movies of the year, if not in years, and I considered, as the conversation swirled and mixed, not one had ever set foot in my apartment in West Hollywood. I had been to every one's private residence at one time or another, except for Will and Ken, since both lived on the east coast. Yet, my apartment in West Hollywood was my sanctuary, where I could discard the growing cancer of celebrity, of show biz life. Gary had said, “Welcome to show biz.” Now, I was ready to say, “Goodbye, show biz. I'll see myself out. Thank you.”

Catharsis flashed in my mind. “You are the catalyst,” John said, and Drake echoed. They were telling all that for years their relationship with Serena had been friendly but distant. Her world rarely intersected with theirs, with any of the other producers. Since Serena had built the mansion out in the sticks of Lost Anglos, John had been there a total of four times until he received my screenplay, Drake only once, and Will and Ken had never been there. It's why they labeled me the catalyst, when Serena had told John reading my screenplay had made her see the man behind the words, a man she had never considered alive and possible before, and his words spoke directly to her. It's why she was so insistent upon meeting me, meeting this man. I am the catalyst which made it all happen. Everyone in the room muttered agreement. I may have been the catalyst, but I was now in catharsis. I needed cleansing.

“I have been thinking throughout this meeting, not one of you has ever set foot in my apartment in West Hollywood, and I thought I should resent it, to consider it something akin to the plague, something to avoid at all costs. I don't resent it though, because when I step out of my apartment to enter the show biz life, I am filled with dread, anxiety, and the strongest feeling I do not belong here, this is not for me, so I look forward to returning back to my tiny apartment, where I can kick back, be comfortable, relaxed, and be surrounded by people who make me feel like I belong. And this comes to an end next week, when 60 Minutes will arrive to shoot the last of their segment on me, descending upon my sanctuary with their camera crew and when they leave, most of the people who surround me will never treat me the same.

“I'm going to take time off and rest and relax in West Hollywood, John, finish the 60 Minutes shoot and make our last promotional push until the tally has hit the figure beyond your wildest dreams. Then, John, I'll hug you like the best friend you have become, because I'll be through and I'll be leaving, leaving this town, because I probably won't make any more movies. I'll save you the time, so you can devote it to other things more deserving of your attention, by telling you we won't have those conversations about our future together, because there is none. I can leave and walk away from this without any regret whatsoever, because I have given you everything you need to do it again. You don't need me to do it again. You have all the tools, you know now how to do it, and you have all these people, both in this room and in this office, who are dedicated to you, and they know how to do it, too. My time here is coming to an end and I'm not staying here to be sucked into the show biz hole. This is not my life and I have no appreciation of its trappings either and I know you do. You enjoy your big houses, your fancy cars, the lifestyle which you can afford, while I have no appreciation for it. I will take back my life and do the other things which are calling me, are compelling me. At least I accomplished one thing while I was here.” I turned to John who was disconsolate. “I did something no one else has done. You'll never forget it.”

- Just Desserts, Segment TwelveVeni! Vidi! Vici!” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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