And once upon a time, I slaughtered people like Jeff Goldblum. I had it IN for his ILK. I remember there was a boy we knew in high-school with the G-man’s same deliberate stutter, his same studiedly un-hip bifocals. Stella and I were cruel juniors around the time Jurassic Park hit theaters (unfortunate timing for this poor schmo) and I remember a few fun months spent terrorizing a now-defunct little freshman dude, taping ‘Dr. Dork’ signs to the back of his shirts, smearing peanut butter across the handle of his briefcase, etc. Me and Stella, Stella and I, the pair of us, we ran that school back when it was standing. But karmic retribution is swift: I never would have imagined a day when I’d be life and death hitched to any geek, let alone THE ULTIMATE geek.
On the day we met, Jeff-in-the-flesh told me that “he’s actually not at all like the characters he usually plays” by definition of being “a fairly confident ladies man” and “in to music in a BIG way.” If you ask him for his side of the story, he will tell you that I swooned on sight just as I found him putting the finishing touches on his SCREENPLAY, which is about an urban black couple planning a heist. He’ll tell you we were at Joshua Tree, hopeful still that other people (any other people) had survived the fall-out and the earthquakes – spirited still, lively still. But seriously folks, I found Jeff Goldblum weeping in a thicket of ocotillos crying “Mom, mom!” He was an easy target, but I didn’t laugh. It wasn’t funny.
I took what I could get. We hold each other up. It’s the end of the world, I figured. Pigs flying + hell freezing = super dweeb new friend…Jeff.
These were the early days. There were no radio signals coming through, and no helicopters circling, and not even too many corpses, just ash. I didn’t ask how he’d managed to live through it. He didn’t ask me. Instead, Jeff and I walked West together, aiming for Los Angeles proper. This beginning was busy and awful – we couldn’t stand in the sun for more than a few hours at a time so there was a lot of night trekking by the light of a temperamental moon. He attacked cacti for fresh water (claiming an excellence at “Wilderness Skills”) and I found food. Jeff – the goof – tried to stay a vegetarian for the first few days, until it became apparent that the drought was, oh, I dunno, bona fide.
I remember Stella was a veg-head for those three months she loved a hippie boy. I thought of the smells of her stanky-ass Morningstar burgers and amateur dread-locks baking in a home-made beeswax while I killed the first improbable coyote Jeff found with a flat, wide rock. I pretended the poor thing was someone’s God’s head.
Jeff and I cleared Beverly Hills before cannibalism became a real threat (and dodged a bullet, there. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when your obit reads: “Eaten to death by hungry has-been”). I guess I first started to tolerate him then. We spent time shuttling between the decimated homes of old celebrities in the hills, scouring for caviar tins and tiny fun reminders of how things used to be…DVDs, costume jewelry. But I think Jeff convinced himself that I was somehow perpetually starstruck in his company. He started telling me at length about the screenplay (tentatively titled Compton Blues, yuck) and all the grand adventures he’d had on the road prior to our hook-up (and I’m giggling on the inside, like seriously, do I look like Dean Moriarty?).
Once, in the backyard of what-might-have-been William Shatner’s old crib we found a Ferris wheel and spent a full evening swapping bad jokes and climbing all over the rickety ride like kids. We would talk about the past on days like this. In the timid language of frenemies. A lack of yer basic listening skills betrayed that he’s not really the world’s best actor…surprise:
Jeff Goldblum and Bernadette Zlubarsky forage in the sagebrush outside a former Captain of the U.S.S Enterprises’ former abode:
BERNADETTE: I remember when we were children living in a bungalow by the Venice boardwalk; my mom was studying for the bar and Dad was teaching eighth grade biology. We were poor, though Dad kept three Koi in a backyard pond and we only rarely ate leftovers.
JEFF: I used to be good friends with Will and Jada. They had a bungalow in Budapest, I think. They invited me out there once or twice but I was always filming.
BERNADETTE: Stella and I used to call ourselves by secret names – she was Connecticut and I was Kentucky. We shared a room. One Wednesday, Mom took us to a paint shop to pick out wallpaper. I know Stella wanted the blue dancing horses but she said nothing when I whispered, “The gold swirls are my favorite.”
JEFF: I think I might be getting asthma. Can you “get” asthma?
I’ll give him a MODICUM of credit – it was his idea that I keep a journal. He called it an ‘account.’ “Truth is stranger than fiction,” he’d tell me. Then he’d smirk, or squint at the ominous, red sun that seemed closer to our faces all the time. He’d bury his nose in Compton Blues.
JEFF: (pacing aimlessly across the yard with a small stick he says is used for ‘orienteering,’ [the fucking Girl Scout]) When I was making Independence Day, I tried to keep an account of absolutely everything I was doing, all the time. I didn’t want to forget a minute. You end up wanting to remember things, even if you’re not the scrapbooking kind. It makes you crazy, not remembering. I thought I would literally GO CRAZY.
Jury’s still out, G-Man. Can you ‘go’ crazy?
Jeff became very concerned with what he called “preserving our civilization.” He took it upon himself to make elaborate markings on all the buildings we occupied and to study all the written documents he could find, even if they were just bank statements lining melted recycling bins. Meanwhile I learned to cook with a smidge of panache, relying on the pricy spice cabinets and elaborate woks of the once rich, once famous up and down the boulevard.
“Keep up the good work, cowboy!” he’d tell me at the end of each day, all smug. “We’ve gotta be hot on something’s trail.” His optimism began to feel rancid at a point. I could tell he was acting. Two truths and a lie (or a syllogism? Mother, do I forget my schooling?!): You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, you can pick your friends’ noses. You. Pick.
It was funny being co-captain of the human race with Jeff, especially because when I was one pea of two in a pod I only ever dared to hope for half the world because I did get here second by a minute and a half. For instance, Stella Zlubarsky got the green dress we both liked and a unicycle for ChristmaHanuKwanzaaCha. Bernadette got dinner and a slasher movie with Dad every other Friday. Stella got skinny in the right places at the right times and Bernadette wouldn’t learn to walk like a lady. We had our own continents, but shared a border; par exemple, I could tell before she told me that Miles-across-the-street had broken her heart(with Jasmine Ghedalia, of all skanks) but I didn’t find her funny and she didn’t care about music.
Sometimes I would wake in the night from dreams. I didn’t share them with Jeff. They weren’t really the stuff of our rapport:
A set of identical twins, one somehow distinctly better looking than the other, wage battle in the laundry room of their ranch house:
BERNADETTE: Stella, you nostril, where are you hiding my jeans?
STELLA: I threw away the black ones. They just don’t fit.
BERNADETTE: They weren’t yours, though!
STELLA: You’re too pretty for this grunge thing.
BERNADETTE: You mean you’re too pretty. You mean all the Tod Hansens’ of the world who don’t know you well enough to separate your face from mine could accidentally misconstrue you as a vampire freak, and Lord Almighty knows that’s social suicide.
STELLA: You never make any sense, Bee. Like, what is ‘misconstrue’?
If you’re angry, I wish you’d just say it.
We’re not the same, you know. Nobody makes that mistake, not even strangers.
Stella and I, me and Stella, the pair of us shared a room until we we were seventeen. It was wallpapered in gold swirls. Even when we were fighting, neither of us could fall asleep till we’d whispered aloud that dumb secret code:
“Hey hey Kentucky, fry some chicken why don’tcha?”
“Hey hey Connecticut, nice picket fence.”
We were kids, once. She had my face. Feels like half my face is gone.
On an unusually cool Thursday, Jeff found something he’d lost. We were hopscotching across the stars on Hollywood Boulevard and ended up in the lot behind an industrial-looking apartment complex – a really Brady-tastic 70s eyesore. He stood stock still for a minute looking up at a particular window, where a particular fire escape was run over with vines and wilted bougainvillea.
“Are you okay, G-money?” I asked. He said nothing. “Do you want to do an inventory? Some civilization preservation business?” He was still quiet. And then, while I watched, Jeff broke into a sprint towards the wrecked complex, vaulting up and across a dumpster and over an upended car. He disappeared through the window of the room run over with bougainvillea. It got hot, so I stood in the shade.
It occurred to me that time was passing and I was annoyed just before Jeff slithered down the building’s drainpipe, looking so much wearier than before. The little crocodile skin folder he used to hold the precious pages of his screenplay together (courtesy of the Arquette residence) was missing from his knapsack. This I noticed instantly, by the shape of his bag.
That night was uneasy. I thought it would be fun to camp in the Kodak theater, but it turned out to be full of menacing shadows and very chilly to boot. Jeff didn’t crack wise and made no mention of the missing Compton Blues. We ate strips of beef jerky and canned corn with thyme and sage for dinner.
I woke up in the night, a little spoon.
“What are you DOING?!”
“Jeffrey Richard Goldblum, are you humping me while I SLEEP?”
He reached for his glasses, which caught enough moonlight to make him look like a wizard.
“You should know I would never do that.”
“I don’t want to, like, repopulate the species with you.”
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said weakly. “Ha.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Because I’m not in love with you.”
He swallowed. Was silent for a while. My words hung in the air like a hideous drape, all wrong. I felt obligated to touch him. I should have loved him, right then – wrinkled little face, puffy eyes, all sinew and bone.
“I loved a girl a little bit like you once,” he said slowly. “Her name was Grace, and she was a florist, and her mother lived in the apartment we saw today.”
Shadows rustled long across the stage. We were in the orchestra.
“Did you know that you scream all night long? In your sleep? You scream and scream and scream. You yell: Stella, Stella, Stella! I hold you sometimes until you’re quiet. That’s why we’re spooning. I’m sorry I didn’t ask. You don’t always get to ask, you know.”
Try to remember Ancient Babylon, Bernie. Try to remember Adam and Eve.
“I was in a community theater production of Streetcar back in ’86, so that was actually my first thought. I was Mitch.”
Plumb subconscious for health class horror stories. Imagine all the boys who won’t become men.
“But your ‘Stella’s’ weren’t performing anything. I remember where they come from. They’re all about needing someone.”
Close your eyes and breathe deep, for God, for England.
“Tell me about your twin, who makes you the saddest. Tell me everything. I’m listening. Just keep your ears peeled and your eyes alert for my dumb stories, too, because I also need to chat. Just don’t make any jokes, Bernadette. We’re too big for jokes. We have a lot of time, but none for jokes.”
No man is an island but space is a vacuum.
“I’m sorry,” I say, and mean it. “I get it. The point is only..it’s very scary.”
He smiles normal. “I know. But you’re not alone. And it isn’t what you thought or wanted or chose, but…we take what we can get, we hold each other up. Pigs flying + hell freezing = super dweeb new friend Jeff.”
I do touch him, then. Just a little. On the face. I do love him, then. Just a little. On the face.
Moving forward, thoughts include:
- Platonic spooning with Jeff Goldblum?! Gadzooks! Stella, can you see this? Well, I never.
- You cannot contain multitudes. You can be anything but somebody else. You cannot write a screenplay if no one makes movies anymore. You cannot face this world alone (Cornball alert)
- Someone’s been reading my diary. Only in his infinite wisdom, he calls it an ‘account.’