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TEEN FICTION: 'Talent In New York'

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This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for high school students, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.

Lindsey Grant.

I barely recognized her, but she wasn't washed up; not quite, not completely. The scuffs on her shoes were telling, but she wasn't nearly as far gone as the rest of the girls that came to see Roger.

“Obsessive compulsive,” he said with a flourish. “You can be obsessive compulsive. It's hot right now.”

She stared at him, fish eyed.

“Go. Wash your hands. Count the ceiling tiles. Blink twice every time I say the letter 't.'”

She looked as limp as her hair.

“Look, Roger, there's nothing wrong with me. I'm just--”

“Out of work and out of vogue. So we'll give you a panic attack—an OCD, a something. Something hot. Something people want right now.” Roger snapped his fingers like he was trying to cast a spell. Maybe he was. Word through the grape vine was that he had a magic touch. The magic touch, he would say, the only one in the industry.

Lindsey rolled her eyes.

“I didn't come to New York to get a psychological disorder.”

“Did you come to New York to be out of work? Did you honey, did you really?”

She brushed imaginary lint off of sweater, watching it fall to the floor.

“Whatever you say. Ceiling tiles it is.”

“No, no—let's do something more...obvious. Marketable. Chap stick.”

“You're not making any sense.”

“Chap stick—it'll sell. We'll get someone lined up for you, some business, some new product—we'll get you back on the market, back in the books--”

Roger babbled like a brook.

“Walk with me, darling, walk with me. All it will take is a call here, a memo there--”

Which is my cue, because I did the calls and the memos and the dry cleaning pick up. He hadn't mentioned it yet, but I knew--

“And Chris can pick up my dry cleaning on the way--”

I knew it.

There was something romantic about the first time that someone told me to go to New York. I think it was Laurie.

“Go to New York,” she said, dewy eyed over a skinny latte. “It's the new West, and everyone went West. Kerouac went West. Go West.”

The Beats were kind of her thing at the time.

“If that's what you really want to do,” she said, “go to New York.”

After his OCD lecture, Roger had locked himself into his office.

“I need to think.” He had said. “That idea really drained me.”

I stood with Lindsey in the hall. I couldn't tell if she looked mad or sad or simply broken. Finally, she spoke.

“Let's go pick up the dry cleaning.”

“No, it's fine, you stay. Roger told me to--”

“I need a coffee. I'll come with.”

“No, really, Roger--”

“Can kiss my ass. Or count ceiling tiles, you know, something hot. Something marketable.”

I couldn't help it. I gaped.

“Come on. Let's go.”

I wondered if Laurie would like this New York story. The one where I'm sitting with the ex-soap actress. It's like home but famous. Lindsey has a skinny latte and a look.

“What brought you here?”

“Me? Here? Well--”

She sighed.

“You need a reason to come here. A good one.”

“This is what I wanted to do.”

“Pick up dry cleaning?”

She gestured at the stack of shirts sitting on the chair next to us.

“You know that just one of those shirts costs more than you make a week?”

I wasn't sure if she was being conversational or passive aggressive. I ignored her.

“I wanted to manage talent. I wanted--”

She barked, laughing.

“You wanted to wear one of these shirts? You wanted to open an office and buy Italian and--”

“No.”

She pushed her coffee away.

“How do you mean?”

I was flustered, but she didn't go back to dead eyed or fish faced. She was alive now; wired.

“I don't know. I wanted....I wanted to see things before they happened.”

The pause was killing me. I kept talking. My words felt limp even before they left my mouth.

“Like, pieces. People. Things.”

Lindsey pulled her coffee back, biting her lower lip. The red lipstick came off on her teeth. It made her look shark like.

“I can respect that.”

“You can?”

“Hell, I didn't come here for Louboutins or Lamborghinis or even lattes. I came here to act, dammit.”

“You're still acting,” I said.

“How so? I'm out of work, I'm out of press, I'm out of luck—I'm acting? Tell me.”

“Well, I don't believe you really have a psychiatric disorder.”

She smiled wanly, and wiped the lipstick off with her thumb.

“That's the sweetest thing anyone's said to me all day.”

Two months later and I had nearly forgot about her.

Nearly, but not quite. Still, when she showed up outside my apartment at three am, hammered and haunted, I had trouble recognizing the face.

“You know what? You know what they never tell you? Here isn't really even here anymore. Go to New York they say; go on the big screen, get into the big picture. Go to New York. I don't know what here was yesterday, but it isn't the same. It's all the same now. Go to New York. Fuck! Go to Minneapolis, one half the price with one third the rape. Go to Atlanta. Go to Miami. At least those places are warm. Go to LA. Go to Singapore. At least if they fuck you there you get paid for it.”

She was crying, drizzling tears and mascara. She looked older than I thought she was.

“Fuck Roger. Fuck talent and agents. Go home, kid. Go be Chris. Get out of New York. Go west.”

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