thin paper wings
More from the rewrite, with some overlap from yesterday:
A huge smile spread across his face as he stood up.
"W!" he said, "You look great, man!"
I love it when he calls me "W" (pronounced "double-you") -- my whole life I wanted a nickname, and it?s the closest I?ve ever come.
He closed the distance between us in two strides, and wrapped his arms around me in a big, fatherly bearhug.
"You too," I said.
"Have you eaten?" he said.
"Some coffee and toast this morning," I said. I didn't mention anything about my nervous stomach, and the barely-touched omelette I left on the table.
"Help yourself," he said, and pointed to a table where some food was set out. "They always give us too much food, you know?"
I haven't spent nearly enough time in green rooms to know how much food was normal, but I took his word for it.
I opened a ginger ale and picked up some veggies with a trembling hand. As I munched on a carrot, he said, "How have you been?"
It was the question that I always dreaded. I would always smile bravely, ignore the knot in my chest, and say something like,"Oh, you know . . . Things are slow, but I have an audition next week."
I spoke before that familiar knot could tighten.
"Not too bad. I haven't worked in ages, but I'm doing a really good sketch comedy show at ACME in Hollywood." I took a long drink.
"And I made myself a website where I write a lot of stuff. It's pretty fun."
"Have you been doing any cons?" He asked.
"A few," I said. "I did one in Vegas last month."
"Yeah," I said.
"How did it go?"
"I took my sketch group out there and we did a show. It was really fun."
"Oh! I heard about that. I hear you're really funny."
"Yeah, I try to entertain the kids." I said. I don't know why, but I didn't want to talk about it. Here was the one thing that I'd been doing, and doing well, yet I felt uncomfortable, almost embarrassed. I noticed that I'd been shoving carrots into my mouth. I changed the subject.
"Have you been watching TNG on TNN?"
"Yeah," he said, "it's amazing how those old shows hold up."
"Except Angel One," I said.
"And Code of Honor," he said.
"No vaccine!" we said in unison, imitating one of the actors in that show. It was a long-running inside joke, and we both laughed.
"It's so weird for me to watch them," I said, "because I was so young. It's like my high school yearbook has come to life."
"That's because you've actually grown up since then," he said, "the rest of us have just gotten fatter."
"Don't let Marina hear you say that," I said.
He thought for a moment, and added, "Okay, all of us except Marina."
He winked. I smiled.
"Seriously, though," he said, "we've just gotten older. You're the only one of us who's actually changed."
"I guess you're right," I said, "Did you know that I just turned 30?"
"You're thirty?!" If he'd been eating, he would have choked on his food. "Do you know how old that makes me?"
"Uh . . . 35?" I said cautiously, with a smile. I heard the elevator bell ring out in the hallway, and a familiar voice echoed down the hall.
"Man, I can't believe you're 30," he said, shaking his head in disbelief, "and you're married."
"With children," I said.
"Goddamn! Children? Plural?" he said, "how many do you have?"
Before I could answer, Brent Spiner entered the room like an actor taking the stage.
"Hello, boys!" he said.
"Data!" Jonathan said with a smile, "Do you know how old Wheaton here is?"
Brent didn't miss a beat.
"Of course, I do. He's 37!" He said, "But he doesn't look it."
I stifled a laugh, but I couldn't deny the huge smile that spread across my face. I was overjoyed to be there with them.
"Brent!" I said, "How did you know?! I've worked so hard to keep it a secret!"
"Wil, you were 22 when we started," he deadpanned, "Do the math."
Jonathan pointed at Brent's enormous goatee."You know what I just realized, Brent?"
"What's that, Jonny?"
"For the first time in history, you look more like Robert Goulet than I do!"
"Oh my god," I said, "you're right!"
Brent laughed. "It's for a character I'm playing called 'The Evil Devlin Bowman' in Dana Carvey's new movie Master of Disguise."
"Are you really evil?" I asked. I always admired Brent's ability to create and portray diverse characters. I was especially impressed with his comedic ability. I could just imagine him stroking that goatee, and stealing the spotlight from everyone else on the set.
"Oh yeah. It's a lot of fun," he said, "but the hours are long. I'm really tired."
"As long as Late Night With Les?" I asked. I referred to a director we used to work with on TNG who would always turn in good shows, but took forever to shoot them. It was common for us to be at Paramount until midnight when he directed us. It felt good to recall our Star Trek days together, and I didn't realize it then, but I can see now that I was looking for commonality, familiarity. I wanted to reconnect with a happier time as much as I wanted to reconnect with the two of them.
"Nothing is as late as Late Night With Les," he said with mock gravity.
We laughed together, and it was like I never left. I felt that knot start to form in my chest. This time, it wasn't the usual regret or humilation, though. It was sadness. I missed Jonathan. I missed Brent. I missed this.
"Did you get the latest draft of the script?" Jonathan said to Brent.
"Oh my god, they're talking about Nemesis!" My inner fanboy said.
"Shut up!" I snapped back, "You're not a fanboy here. You're a peer. Be cool!"
I took my own advice and stood there, silently, and listened to them talk about the movie. Production hadn't started yet, but I could tell that they were excited about putting on their uniforms and getting back into character.
While they talked about the sets, the story, and the production schedule, I felt like a grounded kid, sitting at the living room window, watching his friends play kickball in the street.
There's much more to come. This bit will be rewritten at least one more time before it's finalized, for sure. I need to search my feelings so I can figure out why I felt so embarrassed when Jonny asked me about my sketch group, and I'd like to explore that knot in my chest. There's some stuff hidden there, if I can untie it.
I talked with my mom this morning, and she told me that she read my rewrite yesterday and that she liked seeing the evolution from the first draft. She said it was like seeing "The Making of Just A Geek."
It's always weird for me to hear from people I know who read my site, especially my mother. It's always easier when the audience is hidden by the footlights, you know?