“I’m reading a book called, ‘I Make Him Wear My Panties’”, Levi announced to Damien, who sometimes regretted phoning Levi and asking, “Whatcha doing?”
Damien’s surprise gave way to laughter. “Are the movie rights available?”
“Let’s look into it. We may have stumbled across your Oscar-winning role: Controlling husband Peter. Real estate tycoon who wears his wife’s silk panties under his—oh-so-predictable—conservative Brooks Brothers three-piece suit.”
“You know. . .I’ve never worn panties on-screen.”
“Or off, right?” Levi asked with alarm.
“You got it. Boxers on-screen. Off-screen? Briefs, boxer briefs—and the occasional thong and jockstrap, per your request. But panties? Neither and never. Why in the world are you reading that and, better yet, how did you even get a book like that?”
“Judy—you’ve met her; she works with me. We trade books. It’s like an Oprah’s Book Club–but for perverts. Instead of ‘Anna Karenina’, I loaned her, ‘Cockbusters’ a novel about two gay PIs who not only fuck over the mob, they fuck the mobsters. And she loaned me this epic about a wife who tames her husband by making him wear lacy panties and nylons and garters and bras. Those heterosexuals are fucking nuts.”
“Speaking of which—”
“Is my chariot to my drug-dealing doctor’s office here?”
“Pulling onto your street now—”
“Woo-hoo! I’ll be downstairs in a minute, hunky man!”
“Oh, good,” Levi said to his psychiatrist as she stood in the door of the waiting room, surprise pulling her chin down and leaving her mouth agape. “You see him, too.”
He had begun to fear the doctor thought Damien was a figment of his imagination. And so he introduced them: “Doctor Muir, this is The Man who Is Not a Figment of My Imagination. Damien, this is the Doctor Who Knows All My Dirty Secrets.”
“Of course, I know who you are,” the psychiatrist said, laughing at the awkwardness of the moment; she explained she had loved him as the Tourette’s-afflicted widower in “Pardon My French” as well as being so, so moved by his performance in “Abduction of the Heart”, a depressing film Levi had skipped as he didn’t want to see Damien die of a premature case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, on-screen or off.
Levi had warned Damien that the doctor’s office reminded him of a talk show set and Damien had to agree. It almost made him, likewise, hear an imaginary band playing walk-on music. In Damien’s case, the fanfare from “Santa Claus: Christmas Warrior”, in Levi’s, “Crazy In Love.”
They took their place on the couch, side-by-side. It was Levi’s first time on the psychiatrist’s couch. He had always elected to sit in the wing-tipped chair opposite Doctor Muir, fearful he would go from talk-show mode to full-on psychiatric loon, crying about god knows what in a fetal position. (He had seen so many television shows and movies with patients who became hysterical as they lay on couches that Levi had come to blame and fear any sofa in a psychiatrist’s office.) But with Damien tightly beside him on one side and the sofa’s arm against him on the other, he at least knew he’d remain upright. And, just as he always liked to imagine that he wasn’t so much having a psychiatric evaluation every few weeks but instead popping in to be this afternoon’s guest on a talk show, he felt like he and Damien were appearing together, maybe costars in a movie making a joint promotional appearance.
“He wanted to come today because I had. . .a bit of an issue.”
“By issue he means something that concerned me.”
“He actually has a list of things that concern him.”
“I’m a list maker.”
“He makes lists. Lots and lots of lists.”
“He gives me lots of material.”
Levi offered, “’Things I love about Levi.’ ‘Things I’d like to do to Levi’.”
“’Ways Levi drives me crazy’.”
“Hey! Are you telling my psychiatrist I’m nuts?”
“Dear? I would never dare.”
“Isn’t he the cutest patient’s friend you’ve ever seen?”
“You know what I mean. Can I call you ‘boyfriend’ without you jumping out the window? We never really discussed the terminology.”
“I’m happy with boyfriend. Hug hunk. Dream Man,” Damien offered. “Whatever you’d like to call me.”
“Whatever I want to call you? In that case, I shall henceforth call you Sir Damien Toots in his Sleep, Earl of Buttfuckery and Maker of my O-Face.”
“And I shall call you, Levi. King of Loons.”
“Mmm. Make it King of Loins and I’ll make it worth the trouble.”
“I’ll put it on the list. Speaking of which—my lists. On that,” Damien said, producing an actual paper list, not a list he could flip to on his phone but an actual list on paper that Levi found to be the cutest thing ever, “Is his drugs. Is he really supposed to take all these?”
“He thinks I take too many drugs. His nickname for me is Merck and Company.”
“Well, yes. It does seem like he’s on an awful lot of pills. But I’m asking because he’s forgetful. Tell her.”
“I just seem to be in a fog all the time. Like the chemicals that balanced out my chemical imbalance and make it hard to feel are now making it hard to think. Or remember. Like. . .like I’m not completely awake, I guess.”
“And I’m pretty sure one day last month he forgot how many pills he had just taken and he took a second dose of everything all over again. And when you take as many pills with as high doses as he does–”
“It wasn’t that bad. I just threw it all up. Oh—and I still vomit a lot, too.”
“Show her your hand.”
“He thinks it shakes too much. And it does shake. It’s not doing it now but sometimes it—yeah, it trembles. Like, like if I’ve had too much caffeine, that sort of jittery feeling.”
“But it’s not too much caffeine.”
“Well, how do we know? She’s the doctor, not us.”
“It happens when you’re sleeping.”
“Well, lots of things happen when we sleep, Damien. It doesn’t mean a person has Parkinson’s Disease.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Damien clarified. “Look–even his handwriting looks different from what it looked like when I first met him.”
As Damien unfolded more paper from his pocket, Levi quipped, “You could have put all those in a folder, you know.”
“See? His handwriting was always clean before,” Damien said, handing over the smoothed notes from Levi Damien had saved. “Beautiful. And now—”
“Ugly. And hearing you talk about it that way is giving it a complex.”
“Forgive me,” Damien said, patting his hand. “Your handwriting has a beautiful personality.”
“And lovely shoes. By the way, I know this is off-topic but I just have to say it because I think this is so funny—”
“Oh, no. Don’t. . .”
“Damien here has a stunt butt. A stunt! Butt! Have you ever even heard of such a thing? A stunt butt. I can’t even get my coworkers to pick me up a coffee but anytime this guy is in a movie where his character is supposed to be naked or show his ass, some guy comes in and drops his drawers on camera for him. How cool is that?”
“I don’t believe actors should have to do nudity,” Damien shyly expressed. “We’re actors, not sex workers.”
“And yet, he’s half-naked at home all the time.”
“Maybe that’s my stunt butt you’ve been seeing around the living room.”
“I don’t know about the stunt butt but that stunt cock I’ve been sucking is—Oh! I’m sorry, Doctor Muir! I forgot you were here. . .in your office.”
“See?” Damien asked the psychiatrist. “He’s forgetful.”
As it turned out, Levi had been taking two medications the psychiatrist claimed she had told him to stop taking but which he had continued to take—and even had refilled. But to help him with the shaking—a possible side effect, she said, of the Lithium—she wrote a prescription for another three pills, which had themselves some wonderfully exciting side effects, as Damien mentioned when he read the pharmacy’s print-out.
“May cause suicidal thoughts?” Damien looked at Levi aghast. “She gave a manic depressive medication that might cause suicidal thoughts?”
“Proof she finds me annoying and just wants to get rid of me,” Levi surmised. “By the way, have I told you yet how romantic I think it is that you came with me to both my psychiatrist’s appointment and to the Rite-Aid to get my prescriptions filled? That’s how you know you’re a couple: when you can stroll the drugstore aisles and shamelessly get pills for your mental disorder and your body deodorant.”
“Speaking of which, do you think they sell Aqua Velva here?”
“Are you for real?”
“It turns me on,” Damien whispered to him, shy as a virginal teenager. “I’d love for you to splash some on some night.”
“’I Made My Boyfriend Wear Disgusting Cologne’, a new pornographic novel by Damien Lanchester. Are you serious?” Levi asked as they found an array of Aqua Velva bottles.
“Yeah. I think it’s tied up in my mind: I lost my virginity to a guy who wore it. Sydney Graham, big costume designer. Worked on one of my first films.”
“And a lover of bad colognes, apparently.”
“Exactly. I’m bidding on his Oscar at an auction next month.”
“He’s auctioning off his Oscar?”
“His family is. He died years ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even send flowers. Or epitaph recommendations like ‘He Gave Damien a Stiff One. Now He Is One.’’”
“Eh—Don’t sweat it. I was over him long before the fling was over. But I did luck out in having a nice guy as my first. He was a pretty classy wife-cheater. Here—smell this.”
Levi whiffed with repulsion and splashed a dab on his neck. A dab that quickly wafted its strange soapy and spicy scent down the entire aisle and across a few, as well. “I hope this is making you horny because I’m about to die from the fumes.”
“Let me put it to you this way: we are skipping lunch and going straight to my place. No—your apartment. That’s closer. Here–put this bottle in your basket.”
“I bought you a few things,” Damien announced, handing him a gift-wrapped, thin box. He kicked off his shoes and joined Levi on the remarkably soft sofa in Damien’s office, sitting behind Levi and wrapping his legs around him. Of all the rooms in Damien’s house, Levi loved this office most—bedroom aside. Well, Levi called it an office but it was really more of a library, its walls lined with sleek bookshelves from floor to ceiling, tastefully but airily filled with neat stacks and piles of books covering film history, theatrical history, bound screenplays, and some old crates filled with old theater scripts. Scattered around, as if for maximum photographic impact, were framed and matted photos of Track, Damien’s teachers and family, and framed lobby posters of Damien’s favorite films (“Brief Encounter”, “8½” and “This is Spinal Tap”). And scattered around the room, Damien’s many, many awards: his Independent Spirit Award, France’s Cesar Award for Best Actor, the Palme D’or, two BAFTA Awards, and so on. (All except that elusive Oscar.)
They had retired here after they had put Track to sleep in his bedroom. Levi had read Track a story after dinner here while Damien had worked at his desk, reviewing some preliminary images of revised set designs for the film he was producing after the “Penny Serenade” remake. Not that he had gotten much work done; he had been enjoyably distracted by Levi’s reading of the story and Track’s utter delight. Levi was pretty darn good at creating various characters from the pages, illustrating each with their own distinct voice and knowing when to emphasize something which would make Track burst into giggles. Instead of reviewing the pictures the set designer had sent, he had closed his laptop with plans to review them in the morning at the office his production company rented on the Paramount lot. He watched, mesmerized, as Track openly adored Levi, clinging to him, giggling, and resting against him.
“Did you wrap this yourself?” Levi asked as Damien handed him the thin, long box. “Oh? I’m quite impressed. This is beautifully done, Damien. You have a career ahead of you in the gift wrap department at Saks.”
“Just open it, baby,” Damien said, his lips in Levi’s hair.
“I will but you used so much tape. Where can I? Ah-ahah! Here we go. Let’s see what this—Oh my God!” Levi twisted about to look at his smiling face. “’Double Wedding’! How did you find this on DVD?”
“I was thinking we could watch it tonight. How about in the theater? I don’t know why I bothered building a home theater; I never use it. Let’s put it to some use, why don’t we?”
“I’m in. But the use we put it to may not be watching the movie,” Levi reminded him.
“We’ve never made it through any movie.”
They hadn’t. Fifteen minutes in, one or the other would get too amorous and the film would be forgotten.
“How about we sit on separate sides of the room?”
“That wouldn’t be any fun,” Levi answered with a whine, cuddling into Damien’s embrace. “I want to be in your arms whenever you’re near. Yes, like now. I swear, your arms feel like they were made for me. So, so snuggly and. . .just wow.”
“And you wonder why I’m crazy about you. . .”
“No. . .I’m just crazy.”
“Speaking of which. . .”
Damien stretched down, beside the couch, and pulled up a Rite-Aid bag. “This is for you, as well.”
“Aw,” Levi cooed. “Rite-Aid? Let me guess: An enema? How romantic!”
“Pill boxes,” Damien explained. “Look, I labeled each one. All by myself. Using something called a P-Touch!”
“Ah! Yes. We more pedestrian people just call a P-Touch, ‘the label-maker thing’. Oh, look at that! One labeled ‘Morning’. One labeled, ‘Afternoon One’, another ‘Afternoon Two’—Oh, for the pills I take in the late afternoon. . .’Dinner’. . .’Bedtime’. . .”
“You know how my dietician has me on all these prepped meals?”
“Unfortunately, yes, I’m familiar with that nightmare.” To Levi, what Damien had to endure during filming—and right before filming—was insane. All of his meals—except for those he cheated on by going with Levi and Track to a restaurant—were prepared ahead of time and stored in labeled containers in one of the kitchen’s refrigerators. Chef-prepared, yes, but completely planned and lacking any spontaneity to accommodate what the appetite might crave at a particular moment. Not to mention, they all looked like various types of grass. Damien knew what he would eat Monday for breakfast was in one container and, after consuming that small meal, he was to eat nothing until it was time to eat the next container. And Damien was as fit as a man could be. No wonder heavier people had such a hard time trying to lose weight.
“Well,” Damien explained, laying out the containers before him, “just like I have meal prep, you have pill prep. You put all your pills in these at the start of the week and that way. . .” he tapped Levi’s forehead, “No accidental overdose.”
Levi chuckled. “You’re so cute.”
“I know.” Damien’s face grew serious. “So please do this. For me.”
“I will,” Levi promised. “Of course, I will. My boyfriend made me labeled pill boxes!”
And as Levi promised, so he did. When he went back to his apartment the next morning to grab some clothes for work and to get him through the next evening at Damien’s, he took the time to distribute all his medications, based on their prescription, into the daily compartments of each of the time-specific boxes.
It was, he thought, the sweetest gift he had ever been given. And that it came not from Tiffany or a Rodeo Drive boutique or Saks Fifth Avenue but from a Rite Aid drugstore made him laugh to himself. “I must,” Levi decided, “Wear a little extra Aqua Velva for him tonight. It will singe my nostrils but if it turns him on and makes him happy. . .”
Nickolas, Damien’s assistant, resented that his job as personal assistant was actually what had been described in the job description. Like most ambitious people, he read a job description and disregarded it. Nickolas had no interest in running the errands or managing the domestic staff, or being home for furniture deliveries or paying the pool team or gardener.
He wanted to direct.
He had thought by becoming Damien’s assistant, Damien would move him over to his small production company. True, they only produced one movie every year—Damien hadn’t even been in the last one; he had only greenlit it and produced it, acting in four movies for other studios, instead. But he had been sure this assistant role would lead to the job Nickolas really wanted.
Unfortunately, like many assistants to the star in Hollywood, buying the star’s toilet paper, underwear, and unlocking the door for the housekeeping staff didn’t usually amount to much. Yes, Nickolas occasionally got to pick up or drop off a screenplay or other paperwork to real industry players—but more often than not, these errands only let him meet those people’s people. And people who have people don’t usually have people who care to meet other people’s people.
And almost all of those people also want to direct.
So Nickolas hated his job for being what it had been promised and hated Damien Lanchester for not having the foresight to see Nickolas’s brilliance beyond his ability to ensure the gardener trimmed that tree that had dripped sap all over Damien’s SUV. And oh, how he loathed that new boyfriend of his, that blond with the green eyes. “Green-eyed Levi”, he had heard Damien sing to him. “Green-eyed monster,” Nickolas had thought, noticing how suspicious Levi seemed to be of Nickolas. As if he’d ever sleep with the boss.
Well, he would , but Damien never looked at him long enough to notice his willingness to add that to his job description.
Which was yet another reason—but one he would never admit—that he loathed working for Damien. Another was his cheery text messages, always so polite and kindly-worded.
Like the one Nickolas knew was making his phone vibrate now.
When he found himself stopped at a red light on Vine, Nickolas scrolled to this new text message from Damien:
“Hey! Good Morning, Nickolas!”
“Fuck off, Damien,” Nickolas muttered.
“When you have a chance this morning, please contact Cynthia and have her look into who holds the remake rights to a 1937’s ‘Double Wedding.’”
“Why can’t he call Cynthia himself?” asked the assistant.
The message continued, “Screenplay by Jo Swerling, and Ferenc Molnar. It was made by MGM, directed by Richard Thorpe and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy.”
“Is he trying to remake an old movie?” Nickolas wondered. And then he instantly saw an opportunity. He should see this old film and tell Damien how he would update it for today’s audience. And then, maybe then, Damien would put him on his production team instead of his domestic one!
“Nah—he’s a fucking idiot,” Nickolas thought. “He’ll make that Levi guy a director before he even thinks about me—the guy with a film degree! Levi’s skills: Fellatio.”
He read on: “Please treat this with confidentiality.”
“Oh, I’m sure Entertainment Weekly will really want the scoop that stuck-up too-good-for-superhero-movies Damien Lanchester wants to remake a Myrna Loy movie! Fuck you, Damien.” Nickolas groaned.
Then his skin grew hot. “Please do not mention anything about this in front of Levi. Thank you.”
In his car, Nickolas screamed so loud, he burst his ear drums. Damien always did this: get a boyfriend and give them a career. For crying out loud—Levi worked in a toy store! And now Damien was going to obtain rights to some movie? And somehow Levi was involved?
Was he going to make that blond guy a director?
“A director?” Nickolas screamed.
Then he screamed once more when he read the rest of the message:
“And when you have a chance, can you please drop by Rite Aid and pick up some more condoms? And lubricant from Hustler. Thank you! You’re the best!”