It was time for something new and whatever the clue, it needed to be obvious and it needed to be right.
More gracious than in the past, there was less pleading, less urgency but I was still lying in bed at night, admitting that I had no idea how to proceed with my life. That’s a really open place to be but I didn’t enjoy the underlying fear; like a swarm of bees around my head.
A couple of days later I received a request from my eighty year old landlady. Her meditation teacher was in town and she begged me to walk her Schnauzer so she could spend the day in class without being distracted by her worry over him. Walking Sheamus every weekday morning had become a routine but it was Saturday. I had plans with friends. I told her no and an hour later received a call that my friends couldn’t make it. My landlady was thrilled.
Rather than our typical route through Santa Monica’s lush residential side streets, I turned down Montana Avenue, towards the ocean. We crossed the street, walked another block, turned the corner onto 17th Street and met Marcus Golden.
Perched on his bike, he was steadying himself with his hand on a fence, surveying the corner ‘tear down’. The sign indicated the three structures on this high-priced piece of real estate was slated to be scraped clean. “Does this place remind you of anything?” he said. I looked around to see who he might be talking to. “It reminds me of this place my aunt and uncle had when we were kids and one of the buildings was just full of old furniture. It was the most perfect place to play hide and seek with my cousins.”
His lack of self-consciousness was as surprising as his willingness to engage in conversation with a complete stranger. I assumed this was something you’d get fined for in L.A.. “Yeah,” I said, full of curiosity, “this place has always reminded me of a courtyard I had had dinner at once, beneath fairy lights strung from tree to tree.” He smiled and asked me where it was and I told him it was next to a river in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “It was Christmas and I thought I’d escape the whole thing by being in Asia but don’t you just know the place was filled with American Christmas carols? The only saving grace was when they played Elvis’ Christmas Album. It made the whole evening just surreal enough to enjoy.”
Marcus laughed and I noticed his teeth. Smaller and more organized than most adults, they gleamed a white that seemed angelic. He had on a tan baseball cap and what I imagined might be thinning blond hair beneath it. A blond mustache, perfectly shaped wire rim glasses and a wedding ring. I surprised myself with the rote action of noticing the ring. Such a knee-jerk reaction to meeting an attractive man; I hated the thought of being so unoriginal. He embodied a type of sturdy health that I could relate to, the powerful legs coming from his hours on the bike.
I’d left a career in interior design after three decades and was now doing a bit of marketing for small businesses. I wasn’t sure where this would lead and was open to new ideas. Marcus was a storyteller, a screenwriter. The conversation moved to writing and stayed there. “You’ve never written fiction?” he asked. “Maybe you should.” This was just the sort of out-of-the-blue encouragement I needed. Odd enough to be a clue.
I didn't realize we’d been talking for long until Sheamus started whining and pulling at the leash. It was time to go find something green for him to leave his mark on. Marcus told me to get in touch if I wanted to work on a writing piece together. He said he liked the way I told stories. He had screenplays that he was having novelized. Two of them were already written and he had a story he thought I might enjoy.
Three years have passed since our meeting and I’ve written two drafts of Soul Circus, an adaptation from Marcus’s original script. Our personal lives have both gone through big changes but they seem to have settled down. We talked last month and the dream of turning that particular screenplay into a marketable novel remains. He still wants to self-publish but without a viable contract in place, we can’t move forward. He says he is working on it. In the meantime, I have other writing projects.
People ask me if I’m upset that I wasted time on the novel but I’ve never once felt that way. This novel was part of my portfolio for The Writer’s Studio. With just enough outline, in the way of a screenplay in place, it allowed me to develop character and setting. It taught me to develop storylines, to understand structure and take on some wonderful research.
Marcus is happy with what I’ve done with his characters, the two runaway sisters and old Apache man who are the backbone of the novel. He loves my writing and is impressed with the way I moved steadfastly forward into that world. It would be lovely to see this novel come alive again, but we are two people with shared custody over the lives of this endeavor. It will all depend on how we move forward in our friendly collaboration.
I love writing and am grateful for that chance meeting. It was an omen, a prayer answered, a signpost I was happy to follow.