Elle the Angel
9/11/17 9:34PM, in the sky
I. Am. Tired. Thoroughly, very. very.
I arrived at the Toronto Film Fest on Friday after a enjoyable flight with Reza. We traveled together by happy coincidence and requested seats side by side. After discovering all upgrades unavailable, we’d passed Allison Brie in 1st, Brie Larson in business, and wound up in the final row, beside the bathrooms. We willfully decided there was something dignified about this position, as though we’d been irreverent and intentionally booked the final row. “It’s last class. Last class,” he chuckled.
At the Pearson airport, after checking into Canada beside Nicholas Cage, Reza and I parted with a hug. I discreetly yanked my Lululemons from between my cheeks while Rebecca swung up in a pristine town car. Her latest movie, Novitiate, was showing and I’d come on a whim to support. She looked beautiful, her dark chocolate hair pinned behind the ears, her cheekbones cutting like blades through pale skin. Rebecca mulled about her phone organizing our night and I felt fortunate to be there, on another adventure. I didn’t expect to push forth my own project which I considered might be sad. Since when did I possess such diminished hope that anything good would happen for lil’ ol’ me? I found comfort in touting the movie’s stars as “my actress friends” deliberately separating them from me, me from them. I wanted to pretend I’d forfeited the race and wasn’t running anymore. They can sweat and pine and work and I’ll watch and cheer them on. It’s safer for my ego on the sideline, I suppose. But since when have I ever thought this way?
I bought two exceedingly sweet glasses of rose at the hotel bar and carried them to our room. The Gladstone is an artists’ hotel, each enclave designed by a different creator. Ours featured a wall-sized woven tapestry of what appeared to be a naked caveman orgy at the beginning of time. The bathroom was wallpapered in faux stone. Rebecca and I unpacked our respective bags, her carefully removing suede Dior and blood red Manolos. I was grateful I’d painstakingly styled myself in advance, taking photos in each outfit like Cher prepping for her date. I prayed my Dolce Vitas and Toga Pullas would masquerade themselves as Versaces and YSLs. They weren’t a far cry from one another after all. I’d walk with my shoulders back and plead their case.
We didn’t arrive early to the InStyle party, which may have proved a mistake. Many attendees came and went, doing their due diligence and heading to bed. Still, we each teetered on heels, swishing our gowns through the crowd. Frankly, for all my years in LA, I’d never seen so many celebrities in one setting. Kyle MacLachlan obliging a photo, Willem Dafoe, Brie and Brie (now dressed up), Jessica Chastain radiating, Emma Roberts, Jamie Dornan, an auburn Abbey Lee pondering a switch to my strawberry blonde, and, “Let’s say hi to Jake.” Gyllenhaal I’ve met time and again but I’d rather pretend in lieu of making him remember. Though, if he weren’t a star, I’d be pissed by now. Apparently I’ll allow this double standard of an actor. And for the record, I’m feeling foolish for even highlighting these people for a story. After all, I’ve fantasized being in their ranks, whether in front of or behind the camera. But on this particular trip, I wanted to feel this way… this distance. I was ashamed by my lack of success.
Still, in the foreground stood Elle Fanning. I’m told I look like her, or vise versa, and even Britney Spears’ mom once mistook me as such. “Are you one of them Fannin’ sisters,” she’d sung in her cute Southern accent.
Elle, Elle, Elle, what a beauty. She appeared genuinely etherial, as if not a hint of adversity or fear had ever touched her heart. Her porcelain skin glowed flawlessly and her powdery, food cake hair shone, a spotlight upon it, the source of which could not be found or traced. She looked like a literal angel. I rested a half glass of tequila ginger between my palms and spied. At this point, I’d be arrogant to assume we look akin but I couldn’t deny she reminded me of some yesteryear. Her confidence was that of unabashed belonging. Elle spun through the room, her flesh pink dress undoubtably sewn together by chirping birds and anxiety riddled mice. Her toothy smile promised you’ll love her, and you do. She possesses the confidence in which I’d checked the high school musical casting list. Of course I’d be the star. Everyone knew. Of course I’d do well. Everyone knew. Meanwhile, back in Toronto, I’d offended a producer by complimenting his boisterous laugh. I loved it but he didn’t appreciate the reminder. His reverberating chuckle apparently embarrasses him. I shyly plucked a lavender macaroon from the height of a styrofoam cake in avoidance. “This is going so well,” I laughed to myself.
The next afternoon, Rebecca and I attended a cocktail party and the screening of Novitiate. My old friend Philip Ettinger was there premiering First Reformed with Amanda Seyfried. I know him and Margaret Qualley both via my beloved Emily Meade who’s now starring in The Deuce. I embraced Margaret, the million beads of her otherworldly Valentino gown digging into my skin, and was overcome with pride and happiness. The sensation of beholding friends’ success is unparalleled. I loved seeing everyone overjoyed. I told Diana Argon I’d been dying to see her particular Dior in person, black mesh with intricately embroidered phases of the moon lining the entire length of her body. And I’m ashamed to be such a magpie but I am. I love being in heightened situations with those who’ve aligned their lives and careers with the elite. But all the while, what they say is true, that people are people and it’s as simple as that. Rebecca and the girls dressed as nuns and used the instrument of their bodies and imaginations to play out emotions I’ve felt my entire life, things I’d never seen on screen. Most of the cast claimed to be quite godless, or lost in the mystery of the great beyond but Margaret admitted she imagined God was her boyfriend. It was a sensual love story between Jesus and the nuns who longed to marry him. I could relate.
After Q&A, Rebecca left for a meeting and I met Reza and his friends for an extravagant sushi dinner. I beamed at this table of 12, the guest of honor in an ostentatious Gucci track suit, the entire restaurant rented out and emptied in a display of unrestrained wealth. Everyone was kindhearted and loving, deeming me Mia Wallace in a silk, white blouse.
Back at the hotel, Rebecca and I traded experiences and felt satisfied we’d come, saddened to leave. The next day I only had time to drop $150 fixing my ill Iphone and to begin writing this. Now, I’m flying home from Toronto beside a literary agent at Paradigm and on a plane chock full of industry folk, tired and exhilarated by their new deals and clients and money making schemes. There’s an excitement in the air but it’s not penetrating me at all. Instead, my throat is sore and my form is fading, sinking into the disagreeably hard seat, begging for bed. We made a polite conversation, the literary agent and I before he reached for his earbuds and awkwardly grinned. I smiled back grateful that for all of my flaws and shortcomings, I can read a room. I can catch a vibe. I know when someone hopes I’ll stop talking. I noticed his bright, brown eyes glaze over at the word “writer”. He’d asked what I do but didn’t want to hear it. At least, not that: Writer. He brushed soft hands against ink black slacks and leaned back in silence, thereby silencing me.
I complied. I respected his wishes.
Though the first draft of On Her Knees has been done since July 2016, I’ve only researched and queried agents about a month ago. I suppose I’d fantasied something would fall into my pretty, open lap, much like I’d naively believed a girl could get discovered at the Sunset Coffee Bean in 2005. Naivety, naivety, naivety. I hate to bother people but I’m often told that being bold sets one aside, illuminates a person. But really, I worry he’d just be annoyed, queried on a plane. Besides, I’ve got no butterflies, no spark. I’m exhausted, trying to draw attention to my book. “Listen to me,” I think in stuffy ballrooms and bicoastal Soho Houses and dinner parties where absolutely everyone hopes, also, to be noticed. Even when they already are, they hope to sustain their relevance. Frankly, my desire to become important to the masses has nearly disappeared. Not in a joyful, figured-out-a-better-plan kind of way. Just mid-climb, on the mountain, out of water.
Back at the airport, after meeting an array of movie stars and publicists, I felt none the richer or closer to a thing. I pulled my detestably sapphire carryon closer to the gate and clutched a slim copy of The Pigeon. Everything seemed to take forever and I buried my gaze in it’s pages hopelessly unable to stop eavesdropping on the neighboring conversation. Three studio execs stood in a circle clucking to the sky we’d soon slice through together. They were jovial and celebratory, riding high off whatever victories they’d enjoyed and whatever prospects lie ahead. The lone woman was in her late 40s I’d say, but effortlessly beautiful. She wore an easy long sleeved tee and a pair of blue jeans. I glanced in her direction and considered, I’ve still got time to become happy, to get what I want. There, she kicked from heel to heel and was indeed one of the boys. She wasn’t a mere object of desire but a fully working woman with a career beneath her leather belt. With a primary boarding announcement made, I stowed my literature and heard, “You like The Pigeon? How you likin’ that book?” This party of three turned their collective attention to me. The pretty woman assessed me with bright, open eyes and I blinked.
“Um, have you read Perfume?” I wished my heart would relax to an ordinary pace. I wished I didn’t want things so badly. I wished to tell the woman what I thought of her, how intriguing she was as a lit up being.
“I read perfume,” she offered. “And I’ve seen the movie.”
“The book is better, don’t you think? It’s beautiful.”
“And I don’t have a very good sense of smell so -“
“Now boarding groups 1 through 3!”
I wished I’d said “vivid” in lieu of “good”. I would’ve seemed educated and articulate. They scurried away like 3 mice with a perfect sense of vision and I cursed my ticket: Group 4. I considered rushing into line, to prolong our conversation but I couldn’t bear the shame of being booted. I sighed and shrugged to the sky, to my perpetual source of comfort and strength. I’m still a good Christian girl after all. It was amusing, the cruel twist of an unfruitful trip all the way to the bitter end.
But please allow me to clarify. Like a hopeless romantic, I believe in destiny and positive thinking and the power of prayer. I believe in the vivid, surprising, and joyful plot twists of life. Maybe years from now me and the woman will reconnect in a more suitable setting, my novel stacked in the airport book store. Or maybe, this guy beside me will warm and wonder what I’m up to. After all, he sees me in his peripheral, calmly, lazily stamping on these keys. Or maybe nothing will be at all like I imagine and I’ll be overjoyed with the outcome all the same.