It’s Called Acting

“He’s fearless. He’s rich, made himself rich. He’s the kind that walks into a room and he’s all you can see,” the director says.

I stand with my script in hand in another actor’s living room. I’ve been in this room many times, have spent hours, weeks here, rehearsing for plays. Tonight I’m rehearsing for a film. In 36 hours I’ll report to a house in the Castro, where for the next three days I will work 12 hours a day, pretending to be someone else.

I nod so the director knows I’m listening. I stare at the floor near his feet, imagining what fearlessness looks like, what fearless people have I known? A man I dated awhile back, Mr. Type A from that night at the Stud a couple of weekends ago. The way his chest led the rest of him as he entered a room. His unwavering eye contact.

“He knows the game, he’ll play the game if that’s what it takes, but he doesn’t really care.”

I really need to get these lines down. I won’t own them till I know them. And until then, it’s all fumbling.

“Let’s take a break.”

In the kitchen Scott fills a bowl with the soup he’s made. White beans and carrots and slivers of ham. It’s a little too hot, I lift spoonfulls to the surface of the soup, turn them over as the steam rises. The director and the kid are out front smoking. All I’m thinking about is the next half hour, the scene waiting.

The director and the kid are back. “I want to show you guys a scene from Querelle,” the director says.

Somehow I know which scene he’ll show. We gather in the back bedroom, he has it on DVD. I make a mental note to get a copy. I sit in a chair next to the bed. The kid stands next to me. The director presses a few buttons on the remote, cues the scene. Sure enough, it’s that one. Brad Davis the sailor losing a bet to Nono. The sailor getting fucked on a table. I wonder if the kid is straight, and what he thinks of all this. The scene makes me sweat, every time. I kind of wish everyone would just leave the room.

The director points the remote, the TV darkens. “No nudity,” he says. “All that heat, no nudity, just the connection between them.”

The kid hasn’t said anything. Then again, neither have I. I check his profile, his bright blue eyes blinking behind his glasses. We clutch our scripts in our hands. I’ve taken off my shoes.

I sit with my back resting against the railing at the foot of the bed. The kid sits on the edge of the mattress while the director pages through the script. He settles into the chair. “I’m still trying to figure out how this is going to work,” he says. This makes me a little nervous. I thought he had this all story-boarded or something. “For the purposes of rehearsal, when the script says “kiss’, just touch your cheek to his, Michael.”

“Okay” I relax a little.

We try a few positions on the bed. Sitting side by side on the edge of the mattress. Sitting, one of my legs curled around him. Lying side by side.

“That works,” the director says. Okay, so you kiss him, he resists. It’s too much for him, too intimate. You get him to roll over on his stomach.” He pauses. “Now, how do we get his pants off?”

We try a few maneuvers; settle on one that’s a little more fluid than the others. I pretend to take my shirt off, back to the camera. I reach over and pretend to take his pants off. I climb on top of him.

“Here we’ll frame you as you grab a condom from the nightstand, waist up. Tear it open with your teeth and spit it out.”

Then the failed fuck. He turns over.

I sigh, roll over, grab a cigarette from the nightstand. I motion and the kid settles against me, my arm wrapped around him.

“Okay,” the director says. “Let’s save the rest for the camera. Unless you guys want to run it again?”

Nope, we’re fine. Let’s call it a night.

The night air is cool, the lights of the restaurants on 16th street washing over the sidewalks. I roll the script up in my fist as I walk to the car.

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