My Husband the Movie Star
My husband starred in a movie when he was twenty — not a blockbuster, but nonetheless a movie nearly everyone I know saw. It had a big cast, mostly people in their early twenties playing high school students. My husband was the sweet, stoner football player who defies the coach.
Rob maintains the straight man is a harder role than flashy character parts; it requires subtlety.
From that movie, three actors became famous. One woman has been in a bunch of indie films, you’d recognize her sly, mischievous face. Two of the men are bona fide stars. One makes millions playing superheroes or spies. Last year, the other guy won an Oscar.
Rob was so beside himself he could barely watch the Oscars. He kept waggling his foot until I said, “Seriously, you’re going to give me a seizure.” He oscillated between telling me how Christopher Lombardo was a pretty cool guy, after long days filming they used to throw darts, to saying Christopher was an asshole. “He hit on an extra who was barely sixteen.”
I’d heard all these stories many, many times.
When my husband and I started dating, when he was twenty-six, people would recognize him. That would fucking make Rob’s day. He’d autograph take-out menus or tank tops, and I would offer to take pictures. This was back when cell phones were first becoming cameras. Though Rob would whisper to me first, “Do I look okay? Do I have anything on my teeth?”
Now nobody recognizes him. Now he Googles himself, though hell, so do I, so does everyone I know.
There’s no question in my mind that I wouldn’t have begun dating my husband if he hadn’t starred in that movie. I would have found Rob cute, but in a forgettable way; I wouldn’t have imagined he was special.
Then again, he wouldn’t have dated me, had I not looked unusually hot that night. My housemate Jill and I went to this party. The host owned three restaurants. We wanted to look like silent movie stars: false eyelashes, dark bow mouths, the works. We even wore wigs. I was going for Lillian Gish, with her shoe-polish bob. We looked so amazing, we took a bunch of pictures. I had this fake pearl necklace, long enough to loop over both our heads for the pictures, long enough to step inside as if it were a hula hoop made of pearls.
Here’s the funny thing: we both made out with Rob that night. But I didn’t find out that Jill also hooked up with him until weeks later. The other funny thing: he called our landline the next morning, I picked up, and Rob said “Hey you.” Weeks later, Jill said, “Promise not to trip about this,” and told me that she’d also made out with him that night, sat on his lap while he pointed out stars. Then I thought back to that phone call, and wondered whom he was trying to reach.
Jill doesn’t much like Rob. She calls him “slippery”.
I’m like, “What do you mean, slippery?”
So she says, “Okay: feckless.”
You have to cut former actors slack. They spend their formative years pretending to be someone else. That’s why they have trouble developing concrete selves, why the outlines of their personalities feel smudged.
Plus, they need constant validation.
Last week when Jill and I were getting cheap pedicures, I held up an issue of Us Magazine to show her the cover. It was the movie star from Rob’s film, not the Oscar winner but the guy in the superhero flicks. I say, “See, if Rob had gotten really famous, maybe right now he’d be fucking his costar who plays the evil, hot villain and we’d be getting a crazy expensive divorce.”
“And instead you’re married to someone fucking some bimbo bookkeeper,” Jill says, and then sees my face. “Sorry Meg.”
“I don’t know that for sure,” I say. “I was just speculating.”
She shrugs, like, Whatever.
That night I’m reading to my daughter, and Piper tells me that she’s a little bit famous. I say, “How so, honey?” I’m expecting some preschool story, something about how Ms. Bushnell said Piper did the best job decorating her Easter basket. Piper says, “Daddy’s a little bit famous, so I am too.”
I think about that party twelve years ago where I first met Rob, when I was twenty-three and looked better than I ever had or ever will again, with kohl ribboning my eyes and my Lillian Gish wig. From the back deck, I saw Rob holding court across the lawn. People would point him out around Austin: “See that guy? You know who that dude is?” A full moon out, so big it looked artificial, spotlit him. I remember thinking that if I could get close enough to Rob, some of his milky glow would rub off on me. That whatever luminosity he possessed, like my long-ass pearl necklace, was wide enough to enclose us both.
Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing (2018) won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her novel The Light Source (2019) was published by 7.13 Books. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her story “Madlib” was selected for Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press). Her story “Surfaces” was selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50 2019. She is the Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com
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