Once–a character sketch

I was Eddie’s best friend once: once a long time ago in the carefree life of dorm rooms, screenings, lectures from visiting film-makers recently lauded at Sundance. Eddie was good—hell, probably still is. What made him good was his charm coupled with his ability to ease into a situation un-noticed. His camera was dwarfed by his six-foot frame and warm brown eyes that were always focused to spark a conversation. His rumpled outfit was always the same—the nice fabric of the J. Crew button-down sent every year by his mother paired with Levi’s and Clark’s, and seemed to draw as much attention in its lack of attention to detail as did his charm. Truth be told, I followed him around, acting his accomplice, to get dates—cliché’ I know; weak I know. But hey, in college I was the nerd—short, stumpy, already balding. I had no fashion sense, no warm brown eyes, none of the mystique of the artist.

An artistic career was his hope. We’d sit up late at night, under the stars somewhere off campus, and he’d talk of the role of the film-maker in modern society. Such an academic concept for most, but Eddie had the passion to make it his role in society. He had a knack for finding the personal in the situation, a skill I think he used his friends to develop. He’d interview us about anything—getting grades, the holiday visit home, how we felt about buying gifts for our mothers. Simple stuff really, the stuff of daily life. Eddie’s films, in some quirky way, inspired me to find meaning in everything I did. But when I saw him tonight it seemed his hopes, maybes, and that sounds goods, the that might works of young adulthood had turned into it’s too lates. He left college early, at twenty, handsome and passionate and with his film camera as an extra appendage; now he is a directionless 35-year-old mall worker, at a job that only affords him macaroni and cheese on sale; his rationalization is that it brings him many hours of nothingness a year to make film.

See Eddie last night in the mall parking lot caused me to realize what I’ve lost since those days. I no longer know what’s important about what I do; in fact, all that I value in my daily life is the check that comes with each deal. This realization hit me as I walked to my car with Eddie’s carmel voice still in my head, “Man, it’s what you get while you’re doing it that makes it good.” Right now I run through an average day in my mind, pretending that I’m Eddie watching me, making a film of my life, looking for the personal buried in the daily details. This is what I imagine: a short bald man of no distinct features climbing out of a too-clean, too-sterile, cleaned by someone else shower. I pause to find the name of the cleaning lady, and find it in my mind only when I watch myself write her check—it’s Clara Holmes, that’s all I know of her. The man then steps into khaki summer weight wool slacks, bought by his wife, hemmed by his tailor, and pressed by his dry-cleaner. He chooses a shirt—white, from J. Crew—also bought by his wife and pressed by his dry-cleaner. The motions go on until he is dressed. He steps into the car, drives to Starbucks, returns to the car, drives to his parking spot, walks to his office on the fourth floor of the mall which he owns. He looks over the papers that were written by his assistant, typed by his secretary, and will be recorded by his lawyer. All he actually does is write the checks for his housekeeper, his wife, his tailor, his dry-cleaner, his Starbucks card, his assistant, his secretary, and his lawyer. He knows nothing about them but their names and the amount due.

I’ve caught myself once again pretending to be the artist. I drop the camera in my mind. I let my hand fall from the door-latch of my car and turn, but Eddie is gone and I realize my life is only full of cancelled checks.

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