Pairing/Characters: Kate Bosworth/Ezra Miller
Summary: A fact: He has never been good at following rules and heeding warning signs. The filming of Another Happy Day.
Rating: R (sexual content, drug use)
Word Count: 7,600
Disclaimer: This is all lies and I own nothing. Title taken from Robert Frost's "The Figure a Poem Makes."
Author's Note: hahahaha I don't even know. This has been me and my life lately:
I started this thinking it would be 4,000 words tops, probably less, and somehow it ballooned into this and I don't want to talk about it. I just have a lot of feelings about these two and I don't know how it happened. All I know is that I refuse to take any of the blame for this because I am nothing but a victim here. If you're looking for blame blame the fact that the universe let Ezra Miller exist, blame those pictures of them, blame the Interview interview, blame May because everything is always her fault. But do not blame me.
act (noun): one of the main divisions of a play or opera
act (verb): to do something; exert energy or force; be employed or operative
act (verb): to represent with one's person
I don't know what that Method is. Acting is life, to me, and should be.
To create a character and to live it fully, to the pinnacle moment where you almost don't know the difference; when life is feeding into art so quickly they are one thing.
What is acting but lying and what is good lying but convincing lying.
[SIR LAURENCE OLIVER]
This is not a fairytale romance or a carefully crafted Shakespearean play in four acts or even a simple Hollywood affair.
This is only the story of boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy and girl film a movie together. Nothing more and nothing less.
Maybe that is a lie, maybe diluting it down is the same as building it up.
(But then again, this is also a tale of truth and lies, of fiction and reality.)
On the last day of filming she will grip his shoulder, blunt fingernails digging into his skin, a smile upturning her mouth, her eyes too bright. She will look sad and embarrassed and he will not know if she is embarrassed because she is sad or if she’s sad because she is embarrassed or if it is all something else entirely.
He will not know what to say because she won’t say anything. He will say, “We still have press,” a lift at the end of the sentence as though it is a question and not a surety.
(As it turns out, they will not do much press, and the press he will do is tied up in another movie that doesn’t involve her. Ellen will do most of the press and his question will founded. His question will be answered negatively.
They will not do press except for one interview in his hotel room in Detroit—he will be on the couch and she will sit across from him in an armchair, a representative of the magazine with their own notepad and tape recorder will be there too, will scribble down notes as Kate asks him questions that everyone always asks, questions she already knows the answers to, questions he answers with sincerity because of the way her hair shines in the light and how her feet are tucked under her.
But that is later, that is after they film, that is after they say goodbye. That is after.)
“Yeah.” She will kiss him on the cheek, her lips ghosting over his skin, barely there.
“Yeah,” he will repeat, as if she said something that requires agreement.
And when she lets go, when she turns around and leaves, then turns back to wave, the same sad smile on her face, he will nod his head and shove his hands into his pockets like he did the first time he met her.
It will feel like the end of something. And it is. The end of filming, the end of 23 days where they were a brother and a sister—half-brother and half-sister—but it feels like the end of something else too.
His mind will be plagued with words that do not fit, words that haven’t applied to him long before he met her—clichéd words like innocence.
He will keep his hands in his pockets as she gets into a cab and heads for the airport, and he will watch the cab become a speck in the distance, the air cold around him making his bones feel brittle because he hasn’t been eating, because Elliot doesn’t eat like he usually eats.
He is not good at shaking the roles he picks up, maybe because he likes to turn into the characters physically, maybe because he likes their feelings to settle inside his chest and his body so deeply that when action is called he doesn’t know if he is himself or if he is the character. Because that is when it feels like he is succeeding, that is the only way he knows how to measure his success.
So he watches her go and forgets for a brief second that he will never acknowledge, that he will never remember as something important enough to acknowledge, that he is not Elliot and she is not Alice and that they are not related. He will forget that Alice and Elliot went home together and he and Kate do not.
But then he will remember, and it won’t matter that he forgot.
They do not do a chemistry read.
Sam and Ellen cast the film by picking the actors and offering the script and waiting for a yes or a no.
When Ezra gets the script he knows he is going to say yes even before he reads it, the weight of it heavy in his hands, the pages not as white and crisp as the other scripts he gets, scripts his agent sends him without bright orange sticky notes that say this one on them, scripts that do not want him but want anybody with more than one facial tic and the desire to be the next multimillion dollar celebrity ready to kiss the public’s ass.
He calls his agent less than five pages in and says he wants to do it.
He can hear the grin cracking his agent’s face across the phone, a deep laugh as if to say I knew you’d say yes, as if to say I know your particular brand of neurosis, which Ezra would be slightly annoyed at, but it’s his agent’s job so that’s probably a good thing. He decides to be a bit more unpredictable next time nonetheless.
A few weeks later he meets with Sam and Ellen at a restaurant in Soho and they talk for half an hour about Broadway, the failures of the Republican party, Ellen’s bat mitzvah and his and Sam’s bar mitzvahs all before they transition to the film. They do not talk much about it.
Sam says, “There’s isn’t much money or time to shoot.”
“But we’d really love for you to play Elliot,” Ellen interrupts. There is a confidence to her that Ezra likes. She knows he is going to say yes, she knows he is here because he already said yes. He is not Ellen Burstyn or Demi Moore (or Kate Bosworth). He didn’t really need to meet with the first time director to make his choice.
He leaves without knowing who will play Alice, too full to ask, having already decided that Elliot is malnourished and that he will need to stop eating until they finish the shoot.
But when they’re on set, the sun warm for a September day, Sam will look at Ezra and Kate right before they start filming the dress rehearsal, right before they film Alice and Paul speaking for the first time in years, and he will say, “You two have good chemistry.”
Ezra will not know what to do with that information but he will say, “We had to make up for the biological lack, and it was either chemistry or physics.”
Kate will add, “Or neuroscience.”
Ezra will smirk, the heat causing him to pull at the string of his (or Elliot’s, whatever the semantics of these things are) black sweatshirt.
They have 23 days to shoot and even less time to prep. Most of Ezra’s prep is with Sam and Ellen, most of it is over the phone before they even begin, discussing the character and his relationship to his mother and how it reflects and contradictions his relationships with the world at large. Most of his prep is spent sitting on the rumbled sheets of his bed, shoulders tense, stomach knotting. Most of his prep is spent trying to feel like Elliot until he feels like Elliot, thinking about Elliot until he thinks like Elliot.
Ezra will think, later, that they have missed a puzzle piece. They have missed Alice.
He doesn’t do prep with Kate, but when they have breaks, when Ellen and Sam are huddled together around the camera watching the playback, Ellen’s hand jutting out to cover herself on the monitor, her laughter deep and sharp, Ezra and Kate will duck into the next room and run lines.
“I look to you. I always look to you,” Ezra finishes, voice pitched as he does a terrible Ellen Barkin impression.
Kate looks at him blankly before she brings her hand over her mouth so Ezra isn’t sure if she’s hiding a silent laugh or a smile, but he can still see that her eyes are shining like she’s Tyra Banks or some shit. She asks, “Is that really what you hear when she talks?”
“I’m working on it for when I play her in the movie of her life. You know, pull a Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There.”
“Who are going to be the other Ellens?”
“Ellen is going to play herself in the movie of her life except for when you’re making her sound like a dying animal?” She raises her eyebrows, fiddling with the corner of her script, dog-earing the page.
“Sounds right to me,” Ezra says, leaning back in his chair, the front legs of it lifted off the ground so all his weight get focused in his shins and his calves to keep him from toppling over. He holds onto the edge of the table with his hands.
“You’re a piece of work,” Kate says, closing her script.
The clouds shift and a slant of sun makes him squint. “So I’ve been told. Like the Mona Lisa.”
Kate rolls her eyes. “Thanks for running lines with me, Mona.”
“Glad I could be of service.”
She shakes her head, a smile cresting over her face even as he can see her fighting it, her fingernails digging into her arm. He leans forward, the legs of the chair make a loud popping noise as they hit the ground and as he says, “If you need any more servicing I’ll be in my trailer.”
He and Kate became fast friends, but then again, the making friends thing has to be quick when you don’t even have a month. Ezra’s not sure if it’s because Sam and Ellen are always busy, always together and always making wide gestures with their hands, if it’s because Daniel’s mother is always giving him the stink eye, as if offering the kid marijuana—one time—is going to ruin him for life, or if it’s because Demi is constantly on the phone, voice tense and low as she speaks with Ashton or Ashton’s assistant or whoever she can get on the line.
Whatever it is, Ezra doesn’t feel like spending most of his free time with Kate is a choice even if no one is holding them at gun point in their trailers or in the house they’re filming in, other people milling around and not paying attention to them—if anyone on set was going to be listening in, interjecting unwanted commentary, Ezra knows it would be him, so he takes that variable and throws it out.
Take the two of them, take the two of them playing brother and sister, take the two of them playing brother and sister, her shoulder bumping sharply against his, add, multiple, divide. Throw out Zoe—
Zoe doesn’t need to be thrown out. There has never been a label there. There has always been openness there. If Ezra was in some dumb movie without a soul or a brain he’d say that Zoe gets him.
But that doesn’t change that one night—when he’s stoned out of his fucking mind, the phone cold against his ear, Zoe breathing the down the line—she asks, “What’s up with you and Bosworth.” As if he hasn’t been referring to her as Kate the entire time, as if there is something up with them.
“The sky,” he says. “The sky is up, and it is up above me and Kate and you.”
She chuckles. “Stop being a smartass.”
“Nothing.” The words slide easily off his tongue, like a line on the page. So he says it again, “Nothing.”
Maybe it’s the fact that he says it again that causes her to say, “You know she’s dating that vampire right? He’s probably not as cool as me.”
“Nobody’s as cool as you.” A beat. “Except for me.”
“And apparently Bella Swan.” There is no malice lacing her voice, just a vague amusement, vague interest. “I just want to make sure your body doesn’t show up somewhere drained of blood.”
He laughs, his head falling back against the couch cushions, feet sliding along the coffee table. He laughs again because he’s stoned and because Zoe’s voice is quiet and thick and because vampire aren’t real. “Duly noted.”
—So throw out Zoe, throw out prying eyes and prying ears, throw out Alexander Swedish-last-name and you get the two of them to some power that can only be achieved by the intensity of a movie set and a script that’s darkly funny and darkly real. You get the two of them in a moment in time that can never be replicated, that can never be more or less than it is.
But he never finished high school, never got beyond pre-calc, never even finished pre-calc, so maybe his math is wrong.
Ezra likes to think it is, a miscalculation caused by some variable he forgot to add in even when her knuckles scrape harshly over his skull and he pokes her in the ribs, her laughter bright and warm against his neck.
On the way to the set there is a four-way stop. Each day Ezra is the only one there and each day he blows right passed it in the rental car under his mom’s name.
He has never been good at following rules and heeding warning signs.
The entire cast and crew go out for dinner one night at a family-owned Italian restaurant, the kind where the place smells homey—like nutmeg and wood and a gas stove. There’s a picture on the inside flap of the menu showing a burly middle-aged man and his curly-haired wife standing outside of the restaurant and smiling like someone shoved bananas into their mouths. The picture is sepia-toned and the sign behind them is different from the one hanging outside now, but Ezra figures they’re eating dirt and won’t care that their son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter or whoever used helvetica for the new logo.
The lights are dim and Kate sits next to him, her elbow bumping against his every few minutes as she talks to Siobhan.
Ezra leans over and says, “You have sharp elbows.”
Kate turns to him. “You have bony arms.”
“Good thing we can form a meaningful, human connection over something as simple as anatomy.” He wraps his palm around his glass, the condensation making his hand cool and damp.
“Good thing. I don’t know where we’d be without that.” Kate rolls her eyes and leans in closer. It is noisy in the restaurant, multiple conversations going on at the same time, at the same table, so Kate leans in and the ends of her hair brush his shoulder, his arm.
Ezra says, “There’d probably be more unabombers.”
Kate’s eyebrows knit together and she presses her mouth in a straight line but Ezra can see the laughter on her face. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a strange kid?”
Ezra hears the word kid and he clenches his jaw. He’s smarter than the majority of the population. He’s a goddamn genius. “Not to my face old lady.”
Kate laughs, the warmth of her breath ghosting over his cheek, her long blonde hair tickling his neck. “I’m not that old.”
“I’m not that young.”
Later Ezra will swear that something dark flashes in her eyes then, so quick he almost doesn’t notice, so quick he only notices because they’re squeezed close together at a table with the entire cast and crew, notices because her eyes are large and round.
She turns towards the table, turns away from him and trails her fingers over the stem of her wine glass. Ezra studies her profile, watches as she picks up the glass, takes a large gulp and wets her lips with her tongue.
She says, “I didn’t mean it like—”
He says I know and before he finishes the sentence she reaches out, under the table, her fingernails grazing hesitantly over his thigh before she pulls her wrist back sharply. When Ezra looks at her face her mouth twists away from him, a cue her body takes as she curls into herself and turns back to Siobhan.
After they’ve eaten, after Kate’s inhaled an entire plate of lasagna and two glasses of wine, after Ezra has picked at a salad and meatless spaghetti, she will say, her words soft and round, “I know you’re not a kid.”
And there will be something about the way she says it, the timbre of her voice or the way her words slur together as if she cannot say them fast enough, as if she should not be saying them at all, that will make Ezra gulp. Her eyes will be dark under the dim lights, her elbow will not bump against his as everyone gets up to leave. The air will be thick with laughter and chatter but they will be quiet and she will not touch him.
She will not say anything else, and he will take her words as they are not meant to be taken. He will hear something lush and something dark and something forbidden. In an Italian restaurant he thinks could be the site of a mafia movie, the setting of a love affair between an older woman trying to seduce a younger man, the setting too cozy and warm to be found in a romantic comedy, he will not hear the apology she intended, but an offer he can’t refuse.
Ezra hates the word seduction. Hate the way it sounds, too many syllables caught on the tongue, too hard and too solid. Hates that it implies power-dynamics where one person has no choice, where one person is at the mercy of the other. He thinks for someone to be seduced, they will have wanted to have been seduced. He thinks seduction is an excuse.
Another thing about Ezra: he is a hypocrite.
He will say that Zoe seduced him.
Later, much later, he will say that he seduced Lauren.
He will say he and Kate seduced each other.
In the middle of filming Another Happy Day he turns eighteen. The cast and crew do not throw a fancy party because there isn’t money and there isn’t time, but Sam brings him a small, round, vanilla cake that reads happy b-day because there wasn’t enough room to spell out birthday. Ellen cuts him a small slice, scoops it onto a paper plate and hands it to him before setting the rest of the cake down on the kitchen table and letting the first few people who come across it finish it.
When he goes back to his trailer, cake in hand, and sets it down on the small table, there is a quick knock the door.
“Come in,” he calls, falling onto the couch and closing his eyes.
He hears the faint squeak of the door being opened and the faint thud as it’s closed, hears the rustle of fabric as someone slumps into the chair across from him. Ezra squints, opening one eye. “Oh. It’s you.”
“Yep.” Kate looks at the cake on the table, runs her finger around the edge of the plate.
“Are you sure?”
He nods, blinks. “Are you going to say happy birthday?”
“How do I know this isn’t some elaborate lie, like those assholes on facebook who change their birthday just so people write happy birthday on their wall and then look like idiots for not knowing them well enough to know it’s not actually their birthday?”
Ezra’s mouth falls open and he slaps his hand over his chest in a play of indignation. “You really think I would do that?”
“No.” Kate picks at a crumb of cake. “I know you would do that.”
He laughs, sits up straighter and stretches her arms above his head, the constant tension in his shoulders creeping up his neck, making him feel sore.
“And I couldn’t find your birthday anywhere online.” She pops the crumb into her mouth, swipes some frosting with her thumb and scrapes it off with her teeth.
“What? Did you Google me?” he asks, incredulous.
She frowns and looks down, tucking one foot around the leg of the chair. “Maybe I was bored and didn’t want you laughing at me when I wished you happy birthday on a day that wasn’t actually your birthday.”
Ezra smirks. “And what else did you discover about me in your boredom.”
“Not much. Nobody cares about you.” She shrugs as though it is nothing, her nose crinkling as a smile crests over he lips. She shrugs and steals another bit of frosting with her thumb as though the fact that she fucking Googled him is normal.
“What were you hoping to find?”
“Your birthday.” She says it is if he is an idiot, as if she means to add duh or moron to the end of the sentence. “Nobody tells interviewers anything interesting about themselves anyway.”
He takes that as a challenge and tucks it away for future use. For now he says, “What would you like to know, journalist Bosworth?”
She raises her eyebrows and pushes the cake away, leans her elbow on the table, cradles her cheek her hand. She looks at him carefully, she looks at him and he can feel his entire body go on alert, his muscles feel jittery and his stomach clenches.
Kate opens her mouth, inhales before shaking her head almost imperceptibly, changing her mind. “How does it feel to be legal?”
He doesn’t wink at her when he says Good, but then again, he doesn’t really have to.
Later, after they cross a line that they have been smudging with his smirk and her fingers hovering over his thigh, with his reading of her words and her thumb scrapping away the frosting on his birthday, he will tell her something personal. He will tell her something he will tell an interviewer because he will want to tell an interview something interesting. He will hear her in his head, taking her words as a gauntlet she never meant to throw down, he will see white frosting on pink lips and a pale thumb.
He will say, “I lost my virginity when I was thirteen to a girl who lived down the street. It happened in her basement after school when were supposed to be working on some science project about spontaneous combustion and we spontaneously combusted. Boom. So, like, I know what that look on your face means, Kate. I’m basically Casanova. Except with better hair.”
She will chew the inside of her cheek, absorbing his words before asking, “How much of that is a lie?”
He will scoff. “None of it.”
She will roll her eyes dramatically and kick his thigh with her foot from where she is sitting, her back against the arm of the couch in his trailer. She will say, “Okay Pinocchio.”
He will ask, “That look on your face?”
She will not answer but a blush will creep up her cheeks and bloom down her neck.
Once, after they are both done filming for the day, the sunset making the sky look inky purple, Kate will find him in his trailer with a baggy of joints he just finished rolling, some leaves spilled onto the table.
“Well aren’t you a badass.” She smirks, flopping down onto the couch.
He groans. “I will give you the speech about how pot is a natural substance that should be legalized and explain how all the moral zealots who argue against it are ridiculous because it isn’t harming anyone. In fact, it helps people and would do wonders for the economy. I will give you the speech.”
“But didn’t you just do that?”
“That was the outline.”
Kate laughs and it overwhelms her face, crinkles around her eyes and her cheeks and her nose, fills her mouth and pulls her eyebrows together. “I don’t know what the world is going to do with you.”
“I am God’s gift to mankind.” He rolls the joint in his hands between his fingers, watches her carefully before sitting down next to her on the couch. He does not look at her; instead, he looks straight ahead, the smattering of leaves on the gray table, the sky sectioned off by the blinds, the lamp casting a soft glow even as the trailer gets darker.
She says, “And they can put that in their pipe and smoke it.”
Ezra chuckles, reaches over to the side table and fumbles around for his lighter. He finds it, flips it open with his thumb, the click audible in the stillness. He ignites it and watches the flame. He turns to see her watching the flame, to see her watching him. “Research?” he asks, raising the joint.
She worries her lip between her teeth, glances between his face and the joint, runs a hand through her hair. It gets caught on a knot and she tugs. She tugs at her hair but she doesn’t look away from his face for more than a few seconds. “Research?”
“Research,” he repeats, lighting the joint and taking a hit.
When he hands her the joint their hands brush too long, the gesture lingering, and either it or the weed sparks a tingling sensation under his skin. If you asked him, and nobody ever will because nobody will ever know, but if you asked him his answer would change depending on the day, depending on if he thinks their hands brushed the first time he passed her the joint or if they brushed later, if it was after they’d each already taken a few drags, the smoke curling in his lungs and seeping into his veins.
Depending on the day he will lie or he will tell the truth.
But it doesn’t matter, what matters if that their hands brush and it is deliberate, first it is him and then it is her. Their hands brush once, twice, three times and then the joint is gone.
She says, “My favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s half-baked.” She chuckles like it’s the funniest thing anyone has ever said, toeing off her shoes.
“We are not half-baked. We are overdone. We’re burnt.”
She laughs again but the sound fades quicker this time, get muffled into his shoulder, and Ezra doesn’t remember when their thighs became pressed together but they are now. He’s acutely aware of it as she rests her head on his shoulder and the static of her hair sticks to her shirt and then it sticks to his cheek.
She turns her head and her breath is hot against his neck, his chin. “If this is research I have something to say.”
He says, “Shoot.”
“What do you think of Alice and Elliot’s brother-and-sister thing?”
“That’s a question,” he says, “That is not saying something. That is asking a question.”
She reaches up and presses her finger to his mouth. “Shut up and answer it.”
“If I shut up I can’t answer it.” He slumps farther into the couch, scooting down and willing the cushions to swallow him up.
She settles even closer into his side. “Don’t be a smartass.”
When she speaks he can feel her lips moving against his shoulder, against the crook of his neck. His body tightens and his throat feels dry. He says, “I think maybe in a family like that they might lean on each other too hard.”
“Me too,” she agrees, and her fingers reach out, hover over his thigh, suspended in the air and he knows it’s because he’s so fucking high but he feels like they’re suspended in time. This moment freezes and he knows she takes it, takes just one moment, to process and to think. She can either pull always like it never happened. She can blame the pot and she can pretend everything was hazy and the air was thick and maybe it was just his imagination. Maybe it was just the pot and the heat pulling at them both, the sun over the horizon now, the sky dark, the moon still rising.
She can pull away and that will be it.
She doesn’t pull her hand away. Instead she splays her fingers over his thigh and she repeats, “Me too.”
He looks down at her and she is looking up at him, her pupils blown wide open. He looks down at her and he will think, head fuzzy and tongue heavy, that this is a mutual thing. That if she took her moment he is allowed to take his. Fair is fair.
He kisses her, their lips barely press together in the dark of his trailer, the lamp light barely reaching beyond the table. He kisses with a hesitancy and laziness that only comes from being stoned. He kisses her and she takes a moment—time paused, just a moment, only a moment to process, to let her brain play catch up—but she kisses him back. He kisses her and she kisses him back, hand pressing harder into his thigh.
She opens her mouth under his, and he complies, he kisses her harder, slips his tongue into her mouth and pushes her down against the couch cushions, pushes his hips against hers as her legs open under him, under the cheap, scratchy couch in his trailer, her skirt riding up. Her hand is on his neck, her fingers scratching at his scalp and tangling in his hair and he grinds down against her.
“So Alice and Elliot are definitely fucking,” he says into her mouth.
She laughs, the sound vibrating against his tongue as he slides his hand up her thigh and presses his palm against her underwear. Her laugh turns into a soft sound against his mouth, her head hitting the arm of her couch when he kisses down her neck, bites at her collarbone. He remembers Zoe then, remembers that Kate has a vampire boyfriend and that this is a terrible idea. He remembers that this is research but they are not Alice and Elliot, they are not brother and sister—which is good, he thinks, he thinks that is good—and they are not fictional.
He thinks they are done smudging the line like she smudged the frosting on his cake. It is blurred and maybe they are trying to erase it with their hips, maybe he is trying to erase it when he shift her underwear and trails his finger along the line of her cunt, when he slips one finger inside of her and then a second. Her hips arch into his hand and he knows that she is Kate and he is Ezra and he knows what her face looks like when she comes, knows the way the sound feels, muffled against his throat, knows how her body feels simultaneously tiny and tall under him.
He looks at her, face flushed, fingers wet from her cunt, and he says, “You’re beautiful,” and he says, “I’m so stoned” as if those thoughts are connected.
He says them both as if they are reasons, as if they are excuses.
He says them both as if he can smudge the line one way and then back the other.
They have a week left of filming. Sixteen days gone, seven left. That is math Ezra can do even as a high school dropout.
Math he cannot do: him and Kate and the next day.
He doesn’t know where to add or multiple or divide or square. He thinks that maybe there will be a remainder, maybe they cannot divide themselves by what happened and there will be something left over. He does not know what to do with that.
He stops at the four-way stop sign for the first time since filming started, no cars coming from any other direction, but he looks right and left and straight ahead.
He stops but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. He stops but it is too late.
They are filming the scene in the bedroom and the scene in the kitchen. He thinks to himself, good thing we did research, he thinks it and he wants to laugh, wants the dread in the pit of his stomach to disappear, wants to go back and draw the line in something more permanent.
When he sees Kate she smiles softly and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. Her eyes are dark and he thinks that they looked different last night, that one looked green and the other looked blue, knows that they are, knows that is true. But now they both just look dark.
She walks over to him in the kitchen, her back straight. She says, “I’m really sorry if this is--”
“Good.” She smiles again, smiles as Sam and Ellen come in and say hello, smiles and walks over to them, leaving him in the kitchen, the edge of the counter digging into his back.
An old saying:
Time heals all wounds.
Ezra is staunch in his stance that that is bullshit. Time does not heal all wounds because the world is more complicated than that, people are more complex than that.
But nonetheless, as filming goes on things get easier, things get looser, things get better.
Ezra thinks maybe that means there were no wounds to begin with.
Between takes, when Sam and Ellen are setting up a shot and discussing what they’re going to have for dinner—only Sam and Ellen are invited to this dinner, Sam and Ellen who spend more time together than Ezra and Kate. Because there is a Sam and Ellen but there is not an Ezra and Kate. There is an Ezra, and there is a Kate, and they are fast friends because they only have 23 days, but there is no Ezra and Kate like there is a Sam and Ellen, like there will be a Sam and Ellen who will date and move in together.
There is no Ezra and Kate but there is an Alice and Elliot. This, sometimes, Ezra doesn’t know, because there are moments when he swears he is Elliot, moments when he looks at Kate but all he sees is Alice.—Kate turns to him and smiles, says, “This weed isn’t as good as yours.”
“Probably because this weed is fake.”
She nods her head and bites her lip likes she’s thinking about it. “Probably. That would make sense.” She pauses, pulls at her shirt and doesn’t look at him when she says, “Maybe we could smoke together again some other time?”
Ezra nods. “I have enough with me to be arrested on intent to sell.”
Kate laughs, her eyes bright again, her body leaning slightly towards his.
This is the closet they come to talking about it. This is the closet they will ever come to talking about it.
Instead of talking about it they will discuss other things and Kate will understand what Ezra means and he will understand what she means. And even if they do not quite understand, even if Ezra takes her words and makes them mean something she does not intend, it will be close enough. He will be close enough and she will be close enough.
It’s a hit and a miss.
(There is no room for or.)
Something that may or may not be important:
When Sam in nominated for an academy award, for two academy awards, the categories being original screenplay and director, he will do an interview. And in this interview he will be asked about how he works with his actors.
He will say that every project is different.
He will talk about the movie he is nominated for that year, but he will also say that he let Ezra and Kate, for example—he will pluck them from the back of his mind, take the flower and take the petals and pluck them, years later he will still think of them and set them up as a paradigm—create a bit of Alice and Elliot without him. He will say that they developed their relationship, transformed it from what was on the page and took it in a direction he did not imagine and could not have imagined. He will say they made them better. He will say they made those characters when they made that relationship.
He will not say anything else about them, not that year and not in the years after, but he will say that.
Ezra will never see or read the interview.
The night the shoot wraps there is a party.
There is a party in the hotel’s bar where they are all staying because Ellen rented it out because Ellen wants to get drunk. She wanted the party because she’s proud of everyone and because she’s relieved that it’s over, 23 days of constant, fulfilling work.
And Ellen does get drunk. Ellen gets really drunk and Kate and Ezra sit in a booth in the back of the bar, watching her twirl around and around, head tossed back cackling. They watch her stumble into Sam, her hand twisting into the front of his shirt, and they watch Sam steady her with an arm on her shoulder.
Kate says, “A hundred bucks if they’re not already together that they’ll be together by the end of press.”
Ezra says, “They’ve clearly had sex already.”
“You can’t possibly know that.” Kate takes a sip of her cocktail, something pink and fruity that Ezra tried, grimacing at how syrupy sweet it was.
“But I do.” Ezra finishes the rest of his drink, puts the glass back on the table and pushes it away from him. “If you had eyes that worked you’d know.”
Kate rolls her eyes. “You’re annoying.”
Ezra looks at her curled inside the booth, little black dress, bare shoulders, her fingers tapping along to the music. He smirks. “So you’ve said.”
“For someone as smart as you are, you don’t seem to know the definition of compliment. That?” She pauses, shakes her head. “That was an insult.”
He smiles even wider, “You think I’m smart.”
“Shut up.” She pushes him away hard and then her fingers curl into his shirt and she pulls him back, pulls him closer.
Ezra will think, later, that this is Kate. He will think it when she tells people he’s really talented and that he is going to go far. He will think that she pushes him away and then pulls him closer, a wave rising and falling, waxing and waning as she goes from A to B to C and then from C to B to A. He will think she tries to be one thing and then she tries to be the opposite. He will think she doesn’t know how to navigate what she wants to be and what she wants.
He will think that he has always known what he wants to be and what he wants, that he pretends he is already there. People say fake it until you make it. He is good at faking. He is good at faking it until he makes it even if he still feels like he’s faking when he gets there.
He will think he is one thing and Kate is another thing and those two things don’t go well together.
Except when Kate leans in, her lips moving against the curve of his ear as she whispers “We should get out of here.”
Except when they’re in her hotel room, a floor and two rooms up from his, her mouth too sweet against his, tasting of strawberries and sugar and alcohol, her hands soft as her fingernails bite into his shoulders. When she’s writhing underneath him and gasping against his collarbone, he will think, in that moment, that it doesn’t matter if they go well together or not. He will think that Alice and Elliot do not go well together but it doesn’t matter.
She will know the shape of the purple mark on his hip, the way his face looks when he comes, the grunt in the back of his throat and how his eyes twist shut. She will know the feel of him above her and inside her and she will not think about Alice and Elliot.
She will think they do not go well together and they do not belong here. They should not be here. She has a boyfriend and he has whatever it is he has and they are supposed to be professionals. They should not be here.
After, sitting on wingback chair in her room, legs curled up against her chest, his hand on the doorknob, she will say, “It was nice working with you.”
She will want the words to be professional, but there will be a shakiness to them, a nervousness, and he will know that the way he takes them and the way she meant them are the same.
He will know what she means. He will say, “You too.”
Before she interviews him for Interview Magazine she will call him and advise against him being an asshole. She will say, “Don’t make some stupid crack about the uncreative magazine name or the questions I am asking. And for the love of god do not talk about Beethoven and the subway.”
He will laugh into the phone. He will promise not to make a fool out of her.
She walks into his hotel room in Detroit with someone from the magazine and three other people Ezra doesn’t learn the names of. He is reading a book about neuroscience that he quickly tosses on the table before running a hand through his hair.
She hugs him. She opens her arms and makes the move and everything falls into place. They talk for half an hour, Kate glancing down at her notebook every few minutes to make sure she is still asking questions, to keep them on track when they start to smudge the line again, keeps saying things to remind him that he is 18 and she is old. But back in the Italian restaurant she had said I’m not that old, and this he remembers. This he remembers as he continues smudging the line that she has redrawn for the occasion.
A thing he will learn:
He never gets better at respecting the line drawn in the sand. It is too easy to cross, it is too easy to erase. He cannot respect it. He cannot care enough to try.
When the people from the magazine leave, taking Kate’s notebook along with their own notes and tape recording, Kate stays.
She stays and she says, “You’re such a showoff, you know that?”
He laughs. “It’s not my fault that you’re charmed by my intellect.”
She scrunches her face, twisting her mouth. “I don’t think charmed is the word I would use.”
“Yes you would.”
She stays in her chair, pulls her sweater down over her hands. “I should go. I have dinner plans with Alex.”
It is the only time she will ever mention him. She did not mention him on set. But she mentions him now. Ezra will think it is because they are alone together in a hotel room again. He will think it is because she was sad and embarrassed when she left the set. He will think she cannot stay when she mentions him, when she remembers they are not supposed to be here.
But whatever her reason, she mentions him and gets up to leave just as Ezra knew she would. He is good are reading the script.
Kate hugs him goodbye, rubs circles into his back and then she kisses him, soft and slow, before pulling away and resting her hand on his cheek, the same sad, embarrassed smile on her face as when she left for the airport after they finished filming.
“I’ll call you,” she lies.
He knows she is lying because she mentioned Alexander Swedish-last-name and because she bites her lip as her thumb brushes over his cheekbone. He lets her lie because he’s distanced himself enough from Elliot to do that. He lets her lie and he lies right back. He says, “I hope dinner’s good.”
He listens to the door click shut.
He lets the credits roll.
The first time he meets Kate her hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail that falls over her right shoulder, she’s wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and she smiles. He shoves his hands into his pockets. He wants to make a crack about Blue Crush but he’s never seen it, so instead he settles for a simple, “Hey.”
“Hi.” She sticks her hand out and introduces herself, “Kate.”
“Ezra.” He pulls a hand out of his pocket and shakes hers. He thinks it is oddly professional, like maybe she’s trying to prove something to him or herself or someone else entirely. He knows what that’s like even as he pretends he doesn’t, as he pretends not to give a shit what anyone else thinks. He says, “You have a weak handshake.”
She laughs. “I can see why they cast you.”
He feels warm when she walks away, walks over to say hi to Ellen.
He shoves his hands back in his pockets and starts to think about Alice and Elliot.
Ezra falls in love with Kate.
Ezra doesn’t fall in love with Kate.
Rewrite the line. Smudge it.