Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Two Vignettes in Costume

Halloween was one of the very tricky times of the year for Sarah. One was supposed to get a Halloween costume together - which itself wasn't that hard. Sarah had some skill at costuming. There was a world, in fact, Sarah Jennings: prop master, was instead Sarah Jennings: costume designer, a world that would not involve her wearing an evil goatee (which as a woman would very look very odd but very fiendish - wait a second that was a good idea. Put it on the maybe list.

No, that wasn't the hard part. The hard part was not simply taking her ‘Mazing girl costume and going to parties in it.

This was wrong, she knew, on a number of levels. The most important was that enough people saw her in the exact same getup that it would stretch her secret identity more then it was usually stretched - which was pretty stretched. She depended a lot on the awkwardness of people not saying "Hey are you...?" which wearing the exact same costume was just fucking with her friends at that point. In the comics people always say "Bruce, why, that’s a terrible Batman costume, ha-ha you look nothing like him". Nope she looked a lot like ‘Mazing Girl, thank you.

The second was, well, it was kind of gauche.

The third was, if you assumed it was funny - which Sarah kind of felt it was hilarious - it was the kind of joke you could do only once, and Sarah wasn't prepared to do it yet. Maybe when she was old and retired she could make that joke, and laugh. And laugh. And recall the glory days of her youth.

But in the midst of them she still needed a Halloween costume.

Old fashioned stuff - vampires, werewolves, policemen. She was in entertainment, and that was a little unambitious for her. Yeah, she could, but whatever.

She had seen once something super high concept of someone going as Youtube - (a large cardboard box with a screen on the front) that was clever to a degree, but nothing so clever was coming to mind.

Sexy? Sarah was in her 20’s, and there was the assumption that women in their twenties wore something sexy. She could do sexy - but sexy wasn't an instant trick.

Sexy ‘Mazing Girl? (Her costume wasn't all that sexy)

Wait a second... it was cheap, but she could go to a comic story and do a quick knock off ‘Mazing Girl - that could work.  There was a certain irony to that.

Wait a second...

And in a spark of genius, Sarah decided on her costume.


**********

In your twenties costumes and Halloween really mean parties. If you’re in LA, and in the entertainment industry, it tended to mean a couple of hundred people at the kind of houses owned by people who really can't afford them, but buy them anyway. Right now she was going into the house of Ben Quazail, an actor on a US show she never worked on but had managed an invitation. He lived in one of those really big houses that clutched the edge of the mountions like a jewel, complete with a view of Downtown LA and the ocean. It was really expensive. She hoped, for his sake, that the loan he took out to buy it wasn't too big because you could not afford this on a US TV show salary. 

But, well...it was nice of him to invite Sarah despite the fact that they had maybe exchanged five words over the years. He seemed like a nice enough guy, if a little big on the ‘I’m a celebrity’ vibe. But, well, the booze was free tonight.

Sarah parked her not extraordinarily nice car a ways away, and walked up a mountain to the party.

He was standing by the door. "Hey! Nice seeing you," Ben greeted her, without mentioning her name. He was dressed like Jamie Fox from the movie the Amazing Spiderman 2 - which was a reference she could get behind, in so much as the movie hadn't come out yet. He wasn't African-American, and Jamie obviously was, But she wondered if the light blue makeup was racist. Probably not, in Ben’s case. But Jamie’s. In any case, it was a good costume - it looked as if it was designed by someone who had a good look at the costume from the movie (which again, hadn't come out yet). So there. It wasn't a very good costume in a stand around in normal light sense. Ahh well.

Sarah walked in - wearing her Flame costume.  The Flame, being the other major female superhero in Los Angeles, except smaller and a lot creepier - also with her power to create fire, much more more burny. But the costume...it consisted of a shortish gingham dress, and some light black shoes. Sarah, despite the numerous times she had interacted with the Flame, had never much paid attention to the shoes. They were kind of a classic early 30s number that she had spent a little bit of time tracking down. Superheroic shoes were a trick to pull off, she knew, and she kind of admired them for what they were.

The dress had been tricky. It was a costume that depended on lines, and Sarah’s lines were quite a bit different. She had curves, for starters. She was at least 50 pounds heavier, and 6 inches taller, and a lot of that was chest and thighs. which were both larger, and wider. She tried to capture it, but hints of a parody were creeping in. Sarah was big. The Flame was small. Such a difference could not be hidden.

"Pretty good," said Jane, a make-up artist on the show who was made up to an outlandishly silly degree. A bit thematic.

"Hey, that’s nice," said Max, who was wearing a tuxedo that kind of made him look like James Bond if he told you that was what he was going for. His wife (who should be remembered was a professional model) was wearing the same dress that Famke Jansen wore in GoldenEye - which was a pretty deep cut as far as bond movies went. She looked good though, as did he.

"Wow," a random man breathed as he passed. He wore one of those weird creepy masks from Eyes Wide Shut.

"Is that supposed to me?" a voice asked.

Sarah turned. She half expected, for just a second, to see the Flame. Which would have been awkward. The voice belonged to someone else.

It was a tallish woman with black hair. It took Sarah about 20 seconds to place her, though they had never met before.

"When I played the little sister in Bioshock?" Juliet Landeu asked curiously. "Or Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

"No," Sarah told her. "I’m that superhero the Flame."

"Oh," said Juliet and she wandered off with her husband, gladly not wanting to let the awkwardness drag out. Which was good for her. She was an underrated actress, and had a bit more range then she was given at times.

Sarah felt a little bad for it all. There was no such thing as creativity but still.

And the night went on. Sarah could be hot or cold on industry parties. They had the fun sense of being in a world she wasn't normally in, and meeting genuinely interesting people. Or they could be kind of slogs where she spent her time in the corner, sulking, talking to no one. There was a lot of networking going on at this party, which Sarah - being in the ‘bellow the line’ side of the industry - really didn't have to do much of. However, the house was nice, the booze was good (free) and there was a bit of a dance floor going, which was funny at Halloween. Also, Ben was a nice guy. Several times he complimented her, and hoped she was having a good time.

(Weird about her. She was famous for doing cockney accents. But she was not, herself, English. Ben was English, and had a very pronounced cockney accent which he hid on TV. Reality it was fun).

But she tried to take herself out of reality - to do, as the expression went, a little cosplaying. She did a lot of coworking normally, but playing? She went outside to the balcony and stood-and tried to burn up all of Los Angeles with the power of her mind. It didn't work. But it was fun. She tried to act a bit cold and emotionless, and vaguely...but not quite...evil. It had a sense of fun to it.

"Are you an actress" said Ms. Landieu as she walked up behind her. It didn't quite give Sarah a start, but yeah...

"No," said Sarah.

"You look like an actress," she said "Or at least a pretender. Not that that’s a critique."

"No" said Sarah.

Wait a second...Sarah paused. About a week ago she had met a Hollywood actor who was famous for playing a vampire, who it turned out probably was a vampire. Was this the same cosmic in joke?

Nope. Ms. Landeau had drunk a little too much beer to be a vampire.

"What are you then?"

"Prop master" said Sarah. It should be noted while the title implied the masculine, she had never once heard the title prop mistress used in serious conversation. That would be too cute.

"You have the air of someone trying on something else," observed Juliet. 

"I suppose," said Sarah "Urrr...I shall use my powers to burn you up!"

"Ha!" said Juliet "ha."

Then she wandered away again. She was good at that. Maybe that was her superpower, knowing when to leave. That, and wearing an old fashioned pantomime lion costume really well.

She considered the question for a moment. It was something she wondered, on occasion. Who was she? The old joke about Batman was which was the mask and which was real person. The snidish dorky nerd, the upright superhero... or to put another face on it, the quiet competent professional prop master who was good at stretching a budget, or the practical think-with-her-head, even though she had all the muscle in the world, heroine. Or was she the very sexual being who wore glasses, whose bisexuality maybe less of a joke she presented...or the superheroine who was not always comfortable how her image (and to degree her sexuality) was presented to the world. Or was she the person from the deep south, living in a strange land who felt her southern 'values' a little bit conflicted sometimes, or the flying brick who did legitimately like how strong she was and how it made her feel, despite how little it could really change things.

Yes...she was many things.

Right now, slightly drunk was also on the list.

        
******

All of this actually took place on October 30th. Sarah wouldn't actually do anything Halloween specific on the actual date, because she knew that it would be a busy night for her...such as on the actual day.


*********

The fact that it was Halloween was not really interesting to Ellen Gonzales. She was driving home through the valley. She was at the age and economic value when such things seemed kind of frivolous. She was aware of it - maybe she would have a candy bar or something. It was late. She had worked a very hard Thursday at an insurance office, and accomplished very little of actual value to society.

Yet she was driving home with something that did. Eduardo, her six month old son, lsy in a car seat in the back. He’s what she lived for. He’s what she loved. Not much else in the world really mattered. She looked out the window to see some tricker-or-treaters. Ahhh. Someday she would have her own look over.

She drove down Resida over the Los Angeles River. There was a huge concrete ditch 50 feet down to what could be described as...well...a

Huh? A car was suddenly right in front of her.

Huh? She pressed the brake...

Huh? Not working...

Huh?

She swerved...her car hit the side of the bridge...

and.....

Huh?

She was falling. Straight down...50 feet bellow.

And out of nowhere something flashed into her screen...and she was no longer moving down.

She was still moving very, very fast. The fact that it was no longer completely vertical did not comfort her very much and...

They bounced against the ground.

Ellen should be screaming. Really she should. But she wasn't.

Why not?

She was moving about a hundred miles an hour...and...nope...they were slowing. They were going through the river, which was a long concrete ditch with a very small creek in the middle this time of year, her car still mostly vertical. Actually, maybe 45ish degree angle...

And someone was walking the car now on the ground turning it sideways and...

Ellen screamed. She screamed so fucking loud...

She screamed bloody fucking murder.

She closed her eyes and screamed.

Then she heard a knock on the door. And opened it.

"Hey!" said ‘Mazing Girl, looking in. "You okay?"

Ellen stoped screaming. It was the sensible thing to do.

"What just happened?"
 
"Your car’s brakes stoped working i think, you ran over the side. I grabbed you in time. We’re at the bottom of the river. Looking like the front took a lot of damage from hitting the railing though. I’m not sure it’s drivable." 

"Huh?" said Ellen. "Can you give me a minute?"

"I can put your car up on the road if you want,” ’Mazing offered. “But you’re going to have to get a tow truck from there."

"Can you watch my kid for a second?” asked Ellen. "I got to do something.”

And Ellen walked away from the car in the middle of the river bottom. ‘Mazing watched her for a second, then realized what she was going to do.

She opened the back seat to look at the kid for a second. He was maybe 6 months old.

She watched him. Despite the fall. Despite the screaming - he wasn't. He looked completely fine for the experience. Chipper, even. Sarah often rescued babies in such circumstances, but rarely were  they so calm She looked at him. He was wearing a diaper and a shirt, and had a surprisingly full head of Hispanic hair.

Sarah just watched him. There didn't seem very much she could do at the moment. He was strapped in as tight as probably was good for him, and didn't seem to want to be. His little hands seemed to be trying to get out, but she left him there. He tried to put a little teddy bear on the strap in his mouth.

she noticed a little pacifier attached to his thing. She picked it up and put it in his mouth.

And watched him.

She tried to ignore the sound of vomiting behind her. It served no purpose for the moment.

She impulsively put her fingers on his hands and shook them for a second.

"Pleased to meet you."

She smiled. Babies liked smiles. He looked up and smiled at her, and spat his pacifier out.

Babies liked that.

Sarah smiled back.

When she was about twelve, and a doctor explained things, the magical changes that were turning her into a woman...and a super being of immense power...one of the things he mentioned was that he doubted she could ever have children. The strong muscles of her uterus probably couldn't grab a fetus, in his medical opinion. Very damm little could cut her skin, probably not that(the werid fact that babies analogous to a sharks remora was brought up).

So....

Motherhood, as Southern Baptist women might define it, was probably out. But maybe it was possible. She had never really tested the theory. She would have made a fucking terrible mother anyway...she barely had her life together. How could she handle something else on top of all that? She was.....

She wasn't married. She was an old maid. She was single and lonely.  She lived in a sucky condo. She didn't have a house. She had a job she kind of despised. Two really, at her most honest. She wasn't a mother, and had no one in her life like this little baby. And Juliet Landeu had been right: Sarah Jennings was a pretender.

"Thanks," said Ellen gratefully. "Do you think I would have....thanks. God...thank you so very, very, much."

Sarah looked away from the baby – no, she looked at the baby. He was smiling. He was happy and for a second she was too, and it didn't really matter that biologically he wasn't hers. In the sense that it took a village to raise a child he was - village being the second largest city in the country, and person being superhero. She was connected to that. She wasn't pretending.

"You must get this a lot," said Ellen. "You know...thank you."

"Not as much as you think" said ‘Mazing Girl. "Can I hold him?"

"You don't have a kid?" asked Ellen.

‘Mazing girl shook her head.

Ellen unhooked the baby and placed him in her hands.     

And Sarah held him for a second, she shook in place just a tad. And felt love for someone she would never see again, or know again. Another anonymous face in the crowded city of LA, but he would always be part of her. Even the fact that his mother was even now taking an iphone picture of her didn't spoil the moment.

Sarah kissed him on his forehead and gave him back.

Then turned to leave.

Oh wait...she promised to help them get out of a ditch. This was awkward.

"Um...I'll fly you up out of the ditch first, then get the car."

And so went Sarah’s Halloween.