I have been absent lately. I’m sorry. But I’m going to try and write more again, and the first thing I’ll do after my brief hiatus is one of my favorite types of posts: a bad movie idea.
You see, I have this super power that allows me to quickly turn most anything into a really awful, yet awfully believable, movie idea.
A bad movie post is also very appropriate because last year I made four very beautiful (and disturbingly realistic sounding) bad movie ides for the holidays. This time, there is no theme besides being a movie that is sad and sadly realistic. I give you
This Town Isn’t Big Enough
Raymond Eugene Cornelius (working name, I’m sure producer’s would want to pick something sexier) is a happy-enough New York man who is average in most every way; he’s in his late 20’s, been through some relationships he views with a mix of nostalgia and slight pain, works a decent job that affords him enough to survive and, occasionally, indulge. The only thing that seems to set him apart — and something he prides himself on — is his name, which is unique from start to finish.
Or so he thought.
One day while joking with a friend, he decides to google himself. Only when he googles “Raymond Eugene Cornelius” the person who comes up isn’t him; it’s another man located just north of New York. This other Raymond is a few years older, with a life that sounds more exciting and — gasp! — unique.
The discovery of this second, and in some sense original, Raymond Eugene Cornelius throws our protagonist into a spiral of depression and shame. The thing he had prided himself about most was his name, his very identity, and now he has discovered that someone else has possessed this aspect of him (and more) his entire existence. In a way, his being is a shame. So, of course, he decides to take action.
He decides the other Raymond Eugene Cornelius must die.
Raymond 1 travels to this other city and stalks Raymond 2, planning what he’ll do to this man who has stolen so much from him — only to discover the man he has come to kill is, by all accounts, a great person. Raymond 1, using an alias, befriends Raymond 2, and slowly learns his nemesis is a pediatrician who volunteers at the local homeless shelter and is a devoted single father of two. Suddenly, Raymond 1’s plans are thrown into chaos as he realizes he loves (whether platonically or romantically will depend on whether the Director wants an Oscar or not) Raymond 2, the man who stole his identity.
Raymond 1 battles his feelings, but eventually he decides he can live in the shadow of this other man, and if he wants to be an individual he should strive harder.
Unfortunately, the world has other plans.
In the climax of the movie, Raymond 1 is confessing his story to Raymond 2, who is shocked but also expresses how he reciprocates Raymond 1’s feelings; he says that, even though Raymond 1 only associated his uniqueness with his name, he possesses so many other virtues (which I haven’t really figured out yet, as the basic plot makes Raymond 1 pretty blatantly a psychopath). Raymond 1 flees afoot, ashamed, and Raymond 2 follows. As Raymond 2 is in the crosswalk, he hears a horn and the sound of wheels turning that he had missed: a semi-truck is coming! Raymond 1 turns back in time and observes the danger his friend is in, and desperately pushes Raymond 2 out of the path of the speeding vehicle.
Raymond 2 recovers from his fall and goes to Raymond 1 (this is getting confusing), finding Raymond 1 is dead.
And so it goes that Raymond 1 dies saving the man who, until that moment, he had blamed for his lack of identity, and, for the first time since Raymond 1’s birth, the world does indeed only have a single, unique Raymond Eugene Cornelius.
And hey, maybe this sounds a bit ridiculous, but I want you to think: is this more ridiculous sounding than movies like Her, about a man who falls in love with his phone’s OS, which is getting a number of prestigious nominations? Really? Not really!
Spike Jonze, I look forward to your call/email/hastily scribbled post-it note asking me to be your new idea guy.
I walked down the street in Clinton Hill, my hopes low. My stomach gurgled familiarly, demanding ice cream in penance for putting my psyche through such torture. The light was fading as the sun set, twilight silence engulfing the neighborhood where neither man nor beast seemed to be awake. I studied the buildings and the streets with attentive disinterest, the same way you might look at that thousand dollar dessert in Manhattan, knowing it was probably delicious but that you would never taste it unless you seduced a rich widow. And in the back of my mind, I remembered being in this same position one year ago.
I strolled across the south side of Prospect Park, enjoying the view of autumnal leaves cascading around me. I was on my way to Sunset Terrace to view a three bedroom. The meeting was in a half hour, so I might arrive a bit early, but I knew it’d offer me the perfect opportunity to surround what was, I hoped, to be my future neighborhood.
I casually took my phone from my pocket, completing another neurotic check to make sure I had the right address and time. As I searched for the email, a new one from the very man I was about to meet loaded. Confused, I opened it hastily.
The message was brief: “Hey Greg, we found someone to fill the room. Good luck!”
Well, crap. I turned around.
As I turned the corned I quickly saw the building I was heading towards. A young man in his 20’s was adjusting the blinds as I peered up, and our eyes met for a moment. He waved like he knew me as more than someone answering a Craigslist ad, and I waved gingerly back, knowing if I let myself feel any form of enthusiasm my hopes and dreams will be as crushed as when I discovered Santa was a farce.
Moving to the door, I pressed the buzzer. I bit my lower lip in nervousness like a teenage girl who had been asked to prom by the most popular boy in school but suspected it was just a ruse to get covered in pigs’ blood.
A few moments later, the door opened to the the same friendly man from before. “Hey, Greg? Nice to meet you.”
As I walked up the stairs to the house in Astoria, I began dialing the number I was given. As it rang a girl went to the window and looked at me briefly, before turning around. Through the glass I could hear a muffled, “Shit! He’s here already!” Then she fled from my view as I stood, baffled.
I waited five minutes in the dark, confused by what had happened, a constant inner monologue about whether I should leave or not. As I began walking down the stairs in bafflement, the door opened. The same girl I had seen earlier greeted me. “Oh, hi, Greg? I’m sorry, I just noticed your call, my phone was off…”
She showed me the room, her words slurred and her footing wobbly, as three of her friends stood awkwardly in the kitchen, their voices a whisper as if they were afraid I was keeping track of what they were saying. As she took me back down the stairs into the living room she turned to me briefly and sputtered, “Okay, I have a confession; I’m a little wasted.”
Well, no duh.
“That’s fine,” I simply said. She stammered a bit more and introduced me to her friends who were also sloshed, and I feigned interest while mostly questioning my ability to get into these situations.
She turns to me and starts talking about the other guy who would be living there, and I feign interest as I prefer to actually meet someone. In her drunken stupor she insists on showing me his room even though he’s gone, and I appease her, fearing the wrath of a drunken event planner scorned.
She knocks on her roommate’s door briefly before opening the door. “Oops,” she happily stutters, a hiccup almost escaping her lips. She quickly closes the door of the other man who lives there and turns to me once more. “They’re in there.” I can only imagine what she saw.
At that point, I politely flee. A day later she offered me the place, but I decide I’d rather not live with the woman who seems to regularly get drunk on Tuesday and the guy who I first encountered when I almost walked in on him and his girlfriend.
“This is Phoebe, the other roommate,” the man explains as we enter the apartment on the second door, gesturing to a woman in her late 20’s eating a huge sandwich. She waves to me, her mouth full of meat and cheese.
The man, Josh, shows me my room, the bathroom, the living room, before we sit down with Phoebe. Everything is gorgeous, and, with the exception of my room being a bit small and lacking windows, it’s perfect. So perfect that I knew that, in the shadows, there must be something sinister lurking. There always is.
I sat in the apartment in Carroll Gardens, my legs going numb. The man on the couch with me continued talking, changing subjects like a stereotypical teenage girl debating what to wear. Four others stood in the room, too, listening to him talk, barely saying a word as they couldn’t keep up with his word diarrhea. Half of what he said wasn’t about the apartment or himself at all, but rather things like the pros and cons of Trader Joe’s or the effects of Celiac Disease.
As we were leaving, he somberly said, “What I’m looking for in a roommate is someone who is clean, nice, and, mostly, someone who can put up with my shit.” I turned without saying a word, knowing that I had no desire to handle anyone else’s shit.
Phoebe, Josh and I talked for 20 minutes — which might be about as much bonding as I did with my previous roommate after 3 months. Despite my gloomy nature at this process and the impending sense of doom I generally felt, I was actually hopeful.
We parted ways, both sides making it clear that we were interested in — to use as sterile of terms possible — interested in proceeding with this venture. I walked out the door, my heart uplifted at the prospect of living with sane people in a neighborhood I liked and an apartment that wasn’t haunted. I would hear back from them that night, they had said.
I waited for an email from the man in Prospect Heights, and when I opened it I was a little despondent; he said everyone he had shown had loved the apartment and a bidding war had erupted. But then, the silver lining; he had liked me more than any of them and would be happy to have me be his roommate if I would simply pay him $300 more per month than he had originally said I would.
I tensed, my reptilian brain slithering about, debating what to do. “$300 is a lot of money! … But it’s in Prospect Heights. But $300 is a lot of money! But he seemed cool. But $300 is a lot and this is probably me being a sucker. BUT I LIKE THE APARTMENT!”
In the end, I took the apartment, and my hunch that I had been a sucker was consistently reaffirmed. But that was coming to an end.
The email arrived 3 hours and 20 minutes after I had left. As it loaded my brain was in turmoil, a mix of fear, hope, hunger, anger, happiness, and zestiness clouding my thoughts.
The email started nicely enough, saying the pair had enjoyed meeting me and would like to have me as their new roommate but — at that word my stomach always lurches — their current roommate had decided to stay.
My head did a free fall onto the desk, my brain turning into a puddle of mush and seeping out of my ears, pooling into a formless mass in front of my face. After so many terrible run-ins I thought I had finally found freedom, only to be gunned down all the same.
And that’s why looking for an apartment makes me want ice cream.
This isn’t awkward. This isn’t awkward. It isn’t awkward! I kept repeating the phrase to myself, the thoughts becoming louder and louder until my ears almost hurt, as my parents and my friends sat in our living room, eating sausages and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol (NOTE: for my family, one drink is excessive). I tried my hardest to will the not-awkwardness into reality, but — just like when I tried to will being Tina Fey’s long lost son to be true — nothing happened.
Outside, snow fell, blanketing our home, and making the scenery perfect for the day: it was Christmas Eve.
As we sat, chatting and imbibing, the lack of someone’s presence was easily noted. We pretended it wasn’t an issue, that there was nothing amiss, but we all knew the terrible truth; my brother should’ve been there. But he wasn’t.
I can’t believe this happened. That jerk. If only I had said something else. Oh, this terrible!… Oh well, I thought, mentally going through all five stages of grief in under 3 seconds.
My dad began to joke about something with my friend’s mother. What did he say? I don’t know, I was too distracted, but, knowing them, it probably involved feces, The Bachelorette, or blowing up fruit, because we are classy people.
A few minutes more passed, and then I heard footsteps coming upstairs. I looked expectantly, and it was him: the prodigal brother. He had returned, after 30 horrible minutes of uncertainty.
The last fateful time I had seen my brother was, as said, half an hour before. Upon seeing him I made an inquiry about the one request I had given him for the evening, and it set him fuming.
“What? You were serious!?” His arms came up like a comic book character, showing his frustration and disbelief.
“Um…. Yes.” I looked at him simply, perplexed at his confusion and shocked at such a dire reaction.
“I thought you were joking!”
“Um… No.” Again, I looked him up and down, one eyebrow raised in skepticism at this reaction. I saw the steam building up inside his body with nowhere for it to escape except through his mouth in loud bursts of frustration.
“You can’t do this! You can’t be serious! Greg, this is Christmas Eve, you can’t take over!” He bellowed all this at me, his indignation matched only by his incredible rate of speech.
My dad, hearing this (not unusual) level of volume and passion from my brother’s voice hurried over to resolve the conflict. Ah, my father, always the mediator; I knew I could rely on him. “What’s going on?” he asked, his voice serene as two sleeping kittens.
“Greg was serious earlier!”
My dad simply laughed. “Hah, no he wasn’t! Greg, you were joking, right?”
I looked at them both plainly, aghast at this turn of events. “Um… Nooo?”
Then my dad’s face, generally calm and kind, changed, as he too was filled with anger. “Greg, you can’t tell me what to do in my own house! I dress like this for meetings and I won’t let you tell me what to wear in my own house!”
My brother pointed one finger at me and poked me squarely in my chest, basically bowling me over because he was in good physical condition and I have the physique of a pudding cup. “Greg, you’re a Christmas dictator.” He decided he could no longer look at someone as atrocious as Kim Jong Un and went downstairs in a huff, never to be seen again (for 30 awkward minutes). My father called to him to come back, but his words fell on deaf ears. He looked at me once more, angry that I would make a request that so thoroughly destroyed our family, before returning to his work getting dinner ready.
All I could think about was the previous day’s phone call that sent this whole thing into motion.
“Hey Greg, can I bring anything tomorrow?”
“No, I’ve got the food covered. I was just wondering if you could wear something other than jeans so it’s a bit nicer.”
“Hah, right, okay. See you then.”