The Shoot (Part Four)

The story I’m telling myself as Miranda and I drive to the cemetery is that I’ll be home by dinner. Considering that it’s half-past-three and Mike is still, to the best of my knowledge, in the shower, it’s less of a story than a baldfaced lie, but it’s a lie that I cling to as I sling a guitar over my shoulder and start jumping out from behind trees and rising up from behind tombstones per Miranda’s instructions.

“You’re supposed to be a rock star,” she says from behind her camera. “Don’t be so stiff.”

The “rock star” appellation is less a description of who I am than of the role I’m supposed to be playing. There are four characters in the mini-drama that Miranda has scripted: The Hot-Rod Kitten, the Pet Detective, the Rock Star, and Mama. I’m the rock star, and Mike, stretching any and all definitions of the word, is going to be Mama. What doesn’t occur to me is that a Hot-Rod Kitten and a Pet Detective have yet to be cast.

“Move your shoulders,” Miranda says. “Rock out!”

The song I wrote and recorded is playing on her phone. It’s called “Never Talk Back” and tells the story of a prostitute who gets killed because she doesn’t bring in enough money. I think Mama is supposed to be her pimp, actually. Or something like that. It’s been a long time since I wrote the song, and the seven-page shooting script, which we’re pretty much abandoning as we go along, has very little to do with the lyrics. Thank God. Or, to give credit where credit is due, thank Miranda, since she wrote the script.

And, it turns out, is a pretty good director.

The truth, I realize, is that there’s something vaguely comforting about following orders. I don’t have to worry about what to do or say. I don’t even have to run any of my “normal people behavior” scripts. I just do what Miranda says to do and trust that it will all work out in the end, so I try to play some guitar riffs along with the song and start to mouth the lyrics.

“Maybe don’t sing along so much,” Miranda suggests. “We don’t know which clips we’ll be using where.”

“Got it,” I say, settling gradually into the role of the rock star.

“And remember,” Miranda adds. “Don’t be so stiff!”

The Shoot (Part Three)

The dog keeps barking — or yipping, or maybe just squeaking at top volume —  as Miranda says she thought I’d just come in the back door like everyone else does. The dog’s name is Mocha, and my guess is that he weighs about five pounds. Mike, it turns out, is in the shower, and there’s an array of costumery laid out in their upstairs hallway.

By now, I’m consciously running all of my “normal human behavior” scripts in an effort to seem like I have my act together and don’t mind for a second that this isn’t the day I had planned. I say things like “Thanks for having me over!” and “Gee, I haven’t been here in a while!” Then I squat to pet the dog and say, “Aren’t you a cute dog!” And then I go out on a limb: “Do you mind if I use your bathroom?”

For a brief moment I wonder if I should have said “restroom” instead of “bathroom,” but the issue is mooted when Miranda yells, “Mike! Marc has to pee!”

And Mike yells “God, Miranda!” as my brain lurches toward imminent meltdown at the prospect of being ushered into the bathroom where Mike is showering.

“There is another bathroom, right?” I ask.

“You don’t want to use that one,” Miranda says. “It’s a mess.”

“Not a problem.”

“It’s okay,” Miranda says, banging on the bathroom door. “Hurry up in there! Marc has to pee!”

By now I’m halfway down the stairs in search of the other bathroom, which turns out to be fine, largely due to the fact that nobody is showering in it.

When I return, Miranda has an outfit of Mike’s clothes laid out for me and is talking about makeup. She wants to glam me up, she says. Silver lipstick, blue eye shadow.

“I, um,” I say. “You know, maybe just the…”

I point to a black blazer with red stripes.

Perhaps sensing my trepidation, Miranda relents on the issue of the makeup but insists that I wear a skinny red-and-black bow-tie.

“But I’m not wearing a collar,” I say. “Won’t that look funny?”

“No,” Miranda says as if to tell me to get over it. “It’ll look punk. Very eighties.”

At this point, Mike is still in the shower, so Miranda suggests that we go out and shoot some footage in a nearby cemetery.

Because, you know, why not?


Me in Mike’s jacket and tie, posing with a self-portrait of Mike and a cityscape by Miranda.