“This guy is falling for you.”
“This guy is falling for you.”
“This guy is falling for you.”
Charlie sat on the bus stop bench, repeating the line that had become something of a mantra to him over the past 3 days.
“THIS GUY is falling for you!” he shouted, gesturing his hands out in front of him as if he were catching a child falling from a window. The elderly lady behind the wheel of the minivan stopped at the light in front of him looked over at him, surprised.
“Oh, uh, I’m sorry. It’s a line!”, he yelled over at her, as the traffic light turned green.
“It’s a shitty line, kid!” the lady shouted back, as she drove on.
Charlie sat there, watching her car drive off into the ocean of cars down the road.
“This guy… is falling for you”, he whispered.
After a moment, he thrust one arm out in a wide arc, following the flow of traffic. With his right arm still sticking out, he looked back to his left, seeing an old man with one leg hobbling up on crutches.
“Everyone thinks they’re a fucking comic” the old man said, glaring at Charlie, who was staring at the blank space beneath the old man’s rolled up, tied off pant leg.
“Oh! Oh, no sir, I’m sorry, it was just a line for–”
“Yeah, up yours kid, I can still kick your ass with one leg. Two hits, me kicking your ass, you hitting the ground. The only falling you’re gonna do is fall in love with my boot up your ass. Back in ‘Nam, I used to dodge lead every morning while taking shits bigger than you. You wouldn’t last a goddamn minute over…”
As the old man continued his rant, Charlie slumped in his spot, embarassed, ashamed and confused at his purpose in life. His only solace was in repeating the line in his head, where nobody could misunderstand him.
The bus was 3 minutes late.
When his agent, Lucas Green, had called Charlie up to let him know that there was an audition for a small role in a local film company’s new feature film, Charlie had been so excited, he decided to ride his bike down to Lucas’ office, saving a few minutes and dollars.
“I’ll take it, definitely,” he said as he bounded through the office door, sweating and breathing hard.
In one look over at Lucas, who was calmly lighting the tip of his cigar, he barely had time to realize his mistake.
“Sit down kid, I said it’s just an audition, you haven’t gotten the role yet, Jesus.” Lucas was a salty old man in a young man’s body, jaded by his decade in the southern California ecosystem of dead dreams, broken hopes and the pungent stench of suntan lotion.
“Jesus, did you run down here? You’re sweating so hard I can see that shit getting all over my floor. Whatever, sit on the other chair – no, the other one, that fabric covered one. I didn’t spend a month’s salary on this fucking leather chair for your sweaty ass to get it all moist with your hydration problem.”
“Yeah, sorry Lucas, I just didn’t want to keep you waiting like last time. So what’s the deal, can you share any information about the gig with me yet?”, Charlie rattled off as he tried to catch his breath.
The fabric chair was uncomfortable, missing one arm and flattened over the years by the many hopefuls that had sat here before.
Lucas continued, as he studied the ash at the tip of his cigar, “So, this film studio is brand new, and they’re local, but they’ve just gotten a big dump of local investors involved because their main actor in this film, it’s going to be their first feature length film, the main kid is the son of that lawyer prick, the one on the TV with that crappy commercial-”
“Yeah, the one with that tagline, ‘Why bother praying if I can get them paying?’, Mark Babbott?”, Charlie suggested.
Lucas continued, reaching over to the ash tray on his desk to ash off his cigar.
“…Yeah yeah, that piece of trash. Anyway, his kid, Eric Babbott, is apparently some big YouTube sensation, overnight success and that whole bit, had a stint doing a few interviews on daytime talk shows, whatever. He’s gonna be the star of this studio’s new feature film, and they have a role for his gay best friend.”
“Yeah Lucas, I’m all in, man, I can be totally gay, I love it, just let me know when and where–”
“Shut up and listen, kid, Jesus, I’m fucking busy and I’m trying to brain dump this on you as quick as I can so I can get on my flight in forty-five minutes, okay? So, they have a whole lot of people really interested in getting this film made and put into as many film festivals as possible, where there are going to be a fucking ton of eyes from the industry on it. So it is big, and everyone wants in – think America’s Got Talent big. So they’re going to do a big mass audition, try to knock out as many as they can in one day. So the line they gave out for the actors to practice is ‘This guy is falling for you.’ So get that shit stuck in your head, okay?”
“Definitely Lucas, definitely man. This guy is falling for you. Gay best friend. Got it.”
“Charlie, kid, listen to me here. This shit needs to become your fucking life for the next few days, okay? There’s a lot of people on this, and this could be big for us both. It’ll get you out of that librarian gig you’ve got going on, and can seriously launch you into the fucking atmosphere in this city. You hear me? Don’t fuck this up, kid. You got this.”
It did not bother Charlie that Lucas never seemed to remember what he did for a living. He always referred to it as a librarian job, but Reading Out Loud Allowed was an open-mic slam poetry and improv comedy night that Charlie had started shortly after moving out West.
Working with the various bars and clubs around his neighborhood, it had begun to have a decent following around his neighborhood. It was good practice for testing new character voices out, and paid enough to pay his third of the rent. Sometimes he’d even make enough to cover the cost of an Uber ride somewhere.
He saved the Uber rides for special occasions.
Charlie stood on the corner of the street, glancing up from his phone at the sound of every car driving by.
Today was a special occasion, and so he had decided to splurge from his budget on getting an Uber ride down to the Bay Area Event Center, where the audition was being held.
“Come on Ismael, where the fuck are you? Get your blue Nissan ass out here already.”
The estimated time of arrival for his ride had been 7 minutes. It was 17 minutes in, and the GPS marker on the app had moved about half a block. Even after starting to walk towards the car, the marker seemed to keep the same distance from him.
“This guy is falling for you, you son of a bitch. Where the hell are you?”
Frustrated and nervous, Charlie decided to cancel the ride. He could catch the bus if he sprinted down the block, if he was lucky enough to —
Charlie heard the squeal of the tires on the pavement before he realized the bus stop was in the other direction. Or maybe it was in that direction?
oh I’m somersaulting through the air because I got hit by a car I’m falling this is going to hurt OW sonofabitch what is happening
As his body rolled to a stop, the blue door of the Nissan swung open and the driver jumped out, running over to Charlie.
“Sir, sir – are you okay? Oh my God, I am so sorry, I was looking for my Uber fare and, oh shit, oh my God… sir, are you okay? Can you hear me? Sir. What is your name?”
“Oh, no shit? Hey, that’s my name too, man. Haha, wow, what are the odds of… oh, here, let me help you up.”
“No, no, you’re Ismael.”
“Yeah, I know, and so are you. We just said that. Listen man, I think you might have a concussion. Look, it’d be real cool if we could just not have to call the cops or anything, you know? I wasn’t serious about staring at my phone when I ran over you, because I wasn’t. There was a deer in the street. I couldn’t do nothing, man, it–”
“No, dude, your name is Ismael, my name is Charlie. I’m the one you were supposed to pick up, like 20 minutes ago. What the hell, man?”
“Okay, check this out, so what had happened was, there was this girl jogging down the sidewalk, and she was wearing those yoga pants, you know the ones with the… hey, you know what, how about I just give you a ride and we just call it solid, is that cool with you? No charge man.”
Charlie knew he was under a time crunch, and if he didn’t absolutely have somewhere to be today, he would probably go straight to the hospital. His head really hurt, and his shirt had become torn at some point.
at least I’ve got my shoes still
“Yeah, Ismael, that’s fine man. Let’s just go, let’s leave right now.”
“Sure thing Charlie. Hey, you mind if I stop to pick up some smokes? This whole thing has been super stressful for me, and I’ve got a bad heart, you know? I don’t deal with this kind of stuff very well.”
As Charlie stood last in line, at the end of what seemed to be half the city waiting to get into this event center, he leaned over the shoulder of the girl in front of him, peering down the line of attendees.
Many of the actors were wearing headphones, playing on their phones, taking selfies and polluting social media with dog faces.
Man, it doesn’t seem like anyone is practicing lines or anything. Maybe I over-prepared. Maybe this is going to be easier than I thought–
“Alright everyone, that’s it. Auditions are closed.” said the bouncer at the doorway, a good fifty people between him and Charlie.
Charlie’s heart sunk, as the crowd in front of him started booing and jeering, before slowly dispersing, used to the familiar letdown in this industry.
Charlie turned, and walked back towards the parking lot, letting his hand run against the wall of the event center, thinking about the last few days misadventures.
A door opened behind him, and Charlie heard a few people talking.
As he turned around, he recognized two of the men in the group.
“Mr. Babbott?”, Charlie asked.
The man looked over at Charlie. “Yes?”
“Hello Mr. Babbott, my name is Charlie–”
“Look kid, if you’re here to audition, we’re done for today. These guys have gotta leave, and my son is tired.”
Charlie then noticed the younger man behind Mr. Babbott, dwarfed by his father’s linebacker-esque physique. He was about Charlie’s age, but slightly shorter and with a quiet demeanor.
“Listen, Mr. Babbott, and Eric, I know the auditions are closed, but this means the world to me, and I’ve just… I… it’s been a very weird past few days, and it’s all because of wanting to be here just to tell you–”
“Fine kid, spit it out. Give it your best shot. We’ve gotta roll.”
Charlie took a deep breath, nodding quickly at the lawyer. He looked at the young man beside him, and lifted one hand out towards him.
Gay best friend. Gay best friend. I’m gay, and I’m his best friend. This is it.
He turned his hand over, with his fingers slightly pointing skywards, gesturing at Eric.
“This… guy… is falling… for you.”
Charlie was sure the Earth herself took a sudden quick breath.
Clocks around the world hesitated a moment before they moved to click in the next second.
Somewhere, he knew that someone’s dog decided that, for just a tiny while, Charlie was actually the owner that they really wanted.
Never before had a line been delivered so perfectly, so eloquently timed, so holy in it’s delivery–
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
Mr. Babbott’s booming voice knocked Charlie out of his euphoric self approval.
“Can you say that again?”
“I said,” Charlie started, as he lifted his arm up and gestured toward Eric again, “This… guy… is falling… for–”
They love it.
Mr. Babbott turned to his associate, a young man in casual dress, wearing a fedora and shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. “Tommy, did you hear this?”
That must be the studio producer. He loves it. They love me.
“Mark,” Tommy began, placing one hand over his heart, and throwing the other in the air towards Mr. Babbott, “this guy is falling for you.”
Mr. Babbott and Tommy started laughing, and continued laughing until they could hardly breathe. Mr. Babbott was doubled over, with his hand on Tommy’s shoulder, both of their faces scrunched into a wrinkled mess as they continued with their booming laughter.
Charlie was confused.
I don’t understand. If it’s so funny, how did they go through hundreds of people’s auditions today?
“Sir? Mr. Tommy? Mr. Babbott? What is so funny?”
Eric finally piped in, after having laughed a bit himself, but at a lower caliber than his company, and said “Hey man, it’s Charlie, right? Listen Charlie… we just heard the line we gave out said hundreds of different ways over the past few hours.”
Charlie nodded, and was about to begin apologizing for being so late, when Eric continued.
“Look, Charlie. We just had seven hundred and fifty-two people regurgitate to us the line we gave out the other day, and they all said it in their own special, unique way. We ended up choosing a 67 year old Korean man because he sang the line while playing a ukulele. Whatever, it is what it is. But man… you are literally the only person from today who not only got the line wrong… but damn, man, I think it might actually be better than what we had.”
Charlie’s blood drained from his face.
I got the line wrong. How did I get the line wrong? I’ve said it thousands of times, I’ve written it down hundreds of times. What did I do wrong?
“I… I’m sorry, I don’t understand, Eric. What do you mean I got the line wrong?”, Charlie stammered.
Eric responded, “Charlie, the line was ‘The sky is falling for you’, not ‘this guy is falling for you’.”
Charlie stood right where he was, not moving a single muscle out of fear that the whole world would notice him and his failure.
Oh my god. I’m an idiot.
“Oh, oh, that makes more sense, I guess,” Charlie said quietly.
Mr. Babbott was done laughing, drying the last of his tears with the pocket square of his suit.
“Kid, that was amazing. That was definitely worth listening to that Asian dude playing the tiny guitar for 15 minutes.”
“It’s called a ukulele, dad.”
“Whatever. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Curtis, right?”
“Oh, uh, it’s Charlie, sir!”, Charlie shouted as he watched the men get into the limousine.
“Lucas, what the hell, man?!” Charlie shouted into the phone.
“Okay kid, you’re right, I screwed up biggo. My bad.” Lucas said.
“Lucas, nobody is ever going to accept me on their set if this gets out. The kid who got the one line of an audition completely not-anywhere-close-whatsoever wrong. And on top of that, they probably thought I was confessing my undying love to Babbott’s kid! What the fuck man?”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. But hey, it’s not like anyone’s gonna bring it up to you at work, right? No talking in the library and all that good shit.”
“Lucas, you suck.” Charlie said as he hung up the phone.
Charlie did go to his regular gig that evening. As he was MC’ing his improv comedy portion of the night, before introducing the highlight of the night, he decided to vent his frustrations out to the crowd.
The audience was laughing immediately, from the misunderstandings between him and the driver, the one legged man, the accidentally-almost-homicidal Ismael, to his reenactment of the ordeal between the lawyer, Eric, and Tommy the director.
At the end of the night, his audience politely applauded the headliners, but then began chanting Charlie’s name, wanting more of his hilarious recounting of events.
When he got home, Charlie called Lucas’ number and patiently awaited the voicemail message.
At the beep, Charlie said one thing.
“Mr. Green, I don’t think I’ll be needing any more acting auditions.”
He hung up the phone, and jumped into bed, his hands folded behind his head as he stared at the ceiling.
“The sky isn’t falling anymore.”