this is an inaccurate retelling of a romantic comedy.
The only reason Silas knows it's Tuesday is that a jogger runs down his street every morning, and he's always wearing a t-shirt with the day of the week stamped on it. When the jogger first began his morning runs, Silas developed a habit of leaning out of the window of his second-story apartment and mocking him for the inherent lameness of said t-shirts, but has since come to rely on the Time Jogger (known from here on in as 'TJ') as his own human clock. (Fun Fact: One time, TJ got his laundry mixed up, and Silas thought he'd somehow skipped a day between Thursday and Friday. Not only did he miss work and face a severe verbal lashing from his boss, but he also spent the rest of the weekend researching UFO websites until he realized the jogger's washing machine was to blame. To this day, Silas holds an undying grudge against Maytag.)
Silas is up early, sitting next to that window, looking out over a stretch of Chicago wildlife. A batch of coffee is already half consumed, black livelihood boiling in a brown-stained pot – Grown in the mountains of Columbia, and liberated by drug task forces. He can taste the justice in every sip. And it tastes good.
A minute later, Joel is in the room, shaking his head at the sunlight and fumbling around the kitchen for cereal, which is already on its side, lying half-open on the counter. He pours a bowl.
"Ever wonder where porn stars go when they retire?" He asks this question simply and matter-of-factly, as plain though subtly pleasant as the frosted mini-wheats he's eating.
"No, I never have." Silas doesn't think much of Joel's questions. They're typical, slightly annoying even, and they come constantly.
"Contrary to popular belief, there's not some warehouse somewhere where they're stored until they reach an old enough age to re-enter the business in the "mature" genre."
"How is that popular belief? And you've really looked into this?"
"Yeah. As it turns out, porn stars go on to lead happy and productive lives, as long as they remember to leave 'adult film actor/actress' off of their resumes."
"So maybe, when I was 10, I drank Kool-Aid with their kids while playing Nintendo, or received a surprisingly non-sexual hug when it was time to return home after a sleepover."
"Exactly. Then, one day, your friend Joey told you about Mrs. McPrescott's job from when she was in college, and you could never really look at her the same way again."
"You've changed my entire outlook on strangers."
"Good. Meet the woman in the apartment across the alley yet?"
"She caught me looking into her window, and we talked. Her name's Danielle."
"Is she nice?"
"Her name used to be Victoria Humps."
Silas gulps down a larger-than-normal swig of coffee, silently looking back out the window. The street below, not so far down, is coming to life, complete with its permanent residents, most of whom Silas has assigned names for (in addition to TJ, that is.) These include, but are not limited to:
Lee, the produce shop owner of indecipherable Asian descent. Rod, the guy with the sign. Yeah, the sign that says 'The End is Near.' You've probably seen one of his distant cousins in your own neighborhood.
Joe, the struggling crack dealer. He fights with our next contestant.
Biff, the pimp. Granted, Biff isn't always present on Kedzie Street, but at least one of his girls is working the corner there on most nights, so his presence is indirectly felt.
Joel leans forward slightly, tilting his head a bit to the side to get a look at Silas. "You there? I said Victoria Humps, man. She used to be a porn star, before she got knocked up a bunch of times."
"Doesn't Victoria Humps sound a little obvious?"
"Does it matter? It all sounds the same when it's moaned."
Silas drives limos for the ridiculously wealthy and more than a little sketchy. More often than not, he's partnered up with Verne, the only real friend outside of Joel that Silas can say he has. When you spend all day inside a black-tinted moving casket for the upwardly mobile, introspection and quiet talk amongst coworkers become somewhat imperative. He only talks to clients when they roll down the back window to complain or make requests, but this rarely happens. Silas and Verne are somewhat infamous as reliable in what often become tense situations.
Important people in straight corporations don't pay as much money for limo drivers as pseudo-criminals do. There's never really the possibility of an arbitrary thug attack or FBI tailing, and that's where all the good tip money is.
Today's client is one Lucian DeWinter, a CEO of Belgian origins. Verne has informed Silas that Mr. DeWinter used to be prestigiously smart; one of those too-brilliant-for-sleep types that published widely read essays on economics in graduate school. His hair had turned almost completely gray by the time he took leadership of Veriance, Inc, and is now falling out in exponentially growing segments, despite having toppled over the benchmark age 30 only a few years ago. This is most likely the result of stress, malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and a steady diet of assorted sedatives – with each paycheck, everyone who works in any way for Veriance is given a weekly dosage of their tranquilizer of choice, to take the edge off of the work day and to increase efficiency. They don't work.
As of late, Verne's dog has become perpetually more and more tired. He says his girlfriend can't figure out why. Her name is Meg.
Silas has never met her.
Truth be told, driving around mobsters and embezzlers is extremely boring during the day. Mostly, it's spent in silence, taking one client to <insert restaurant>, then picking up another representative from the same family, company, strip club, whatever, to <insert social hangout>, or sneaking another guy over to <insert mistress>'s apartment for an afternoon romp.
At night, everything changes.
After sunset, it takes mere minutes for the city to transform into a completely different animal. And, as usual, they're being tailed.
"We're being tailed." Verne's into stating the obvious.
"Yeah, I know," Silas replies, looking into the rearview mirror. He changes lanes out of habit, watching as the car two lanes behind them follows suit.
Verne's hand instinctively slides into the breast pocket of his suit jacket, removing a small pistol. When Silas first questioned him as to the presence of a pistol as a limo driver (Silas, understand, was not yet acquainted with the style of limo driving Vern would eventually pull him in to), Vern had commented, "My job security is only as legitimate as the number of bullets in my clip." Verne has a few lines like that memorized for times when he wants to fantasize that he's a badass. That's usually on Fridays, when he's in a good mood. Verne's first client, still a steady source of income for both of them, recently gave him the new weapon he's holding now, and it has yet to lose that new-instrument-of-death gleam, that luster than only the outside of a pistol seems fit for. The discolored luminescence of the streetlights stains the shining pistol's exterior dull, watered-down shades of orange and gray.
"Want me to take care of them?" Verne loves being the one to confront troublemakers. It plays into that side of himself that he can only express through the aforementioned hardcore one-liners and through watching bad action movies.
"I guess. No hurting."
Silas stops the car in its tracks, rolling down the window that separates the drivers from the passengers, and calmly begins explaining the situation to Mr. DeWinter, who is becoming steadily more accustomed to such treatment. Verne exits the car, and walks down the line of cars that are now piling up behind them. Verbal bricks are thrown, headlights are blinding, but Verne is ever vigilant, unwavering in his resolve to, above all, drop off this rich guy so he can go home and drink.
"How is he going to get them to leave this time?" Mr. DeWinter asks, looking out the back window. Silas takes it upon himself to narrate:
"Well, sir, see how he's walking over to them now? He'll stop, and get them to roll down the window, first." Verne, of course, does so. "Three men usually means that the two passengers are armed, and will at some point try to obtain information from you through physical intimidation. Vern will not receive his holiday bonus payment on April 15th if he allows this to happen, and he's aware of this fact at all times. He never knows where the thugs come from, or who they work for. He does know that they're usually nervous, frightened, and in it solely for the money, which they don't have enough of. This is how he knows that, if need be, he may kill them all before they ever decide to take the safety off of their guns."
"Have you guys ever killed anyone?"
"Oh, no sir, of course not. This is just a game of checkers that we play with weapons. Verne shot a guy in the foot once, but we drove him to the hospital afterwards. It's fine. I think they're friends now."
Verne is ignoring the crescendo of hateful sounds echoing down the street from the line of cars that can't get around their stopped limo. He stoops down next to the guys that have been tailing them, resting one arm on the car door's frame, the other dangling out of view. Silas continues his color commentary:
"What he says to them at this point is really pretty irrelevant. They never buy it, but they don't have to. It's just a distraction. He'll make up a story about how a passenger is violently ill and we need directions to a hospital, or how we're trying to drop some kids off at the prom and don't know where the high school is. Just watch his right hand."
Silas knows what to look for, so he can see Verne slipping his hand into his pocket and producing a tiny razor. Headlights glint off of it briefly on its way down towards the tire, which Verne subtly slits. Seconds later, he's thanked the gentleman for their directions, and is sitting back in the passenger side. Mr. DeWinter reaches forward to clap him on the shoulder, then leans back in his chair again, mixing a drink.
Silas pulls forward. In the rearview mirror, he can see the tailgaters outside, venting their frustration by kicking their now-deflated tire. Silas doesn't worry about being followed the rest of the evening.
Silas is beginning to wonder if he's the only one with vision. That seems ambiguous, but that's the way the words are forming in his head. Everything and everyone seems one dimensional, and he can't figure out if it's because he has no depth perception, or if it's because everything's just TV on a bigger scale.
He's looking out his window, and Joel's got his head out the window facing the alley, talking to Victoria Humps, or Danielle Stevens, or whatever her name of the moment is. Changing a name doesn't change a person, as far as Silas is concerned, and calling her "Danielle" doesn't do anything for the mental image in his head of her on her back. Joel's become somewhat infatuated with her, and though he insists that their newly-formed morning talks are strictly platonic, he can clearly hear her voice echoing throughout his blue-lit bedroom at night. She's typically involved in thought-provoking dialogue with characters like 'Slick Lay' and 'Seymour Slides,' or screaming at the top of her lungs. Though Silas doesn't mention it to Joel, he's received several phone calls from video stores about late fees.
It's starting to irritate him.
Not the late fees. Everything.
Rod, the guy with the sign, is yelling up at him from the street below:
"You! The one that sits above me as the sun rises, always watching, never answering! Don't you know that the end is at hand?"
Silas pauses, takes a sip of his coffee, then sets it down. He stands up, leaning out the window.
"Yes. It ends every day. What do you suggest I do about it?"
Rod responds without even the slightest of pauses, and Joe the Crack Dealer peeks his head out of a nearby alley, watching them. "Accept your salvation!"'
"…Ok. I accept it."
He pauses. He doesn't feel any different.
"...That wasn't genuine!"
"What do you want from me? I'm trying my best. I live on a street where I watch prostitutes spit on a crack dealer, and laugh while you condemn them. I buy fruit from a guy who's been in this country for four years, but still refuses to acknowledge that he knows English – And he does." At this point, Silas faces the produce stand down the street, and yells again, for good measure: "YOU KNOW ENGLISH! YOU'RE NOT IMPRESSING ANYONE WITH YOUR ADHERENCE TO A FORMER CULTURE." He looks back to Rod, continuing. "My roommate has developed a slightly disturbing crush on a fairly unattractive ex-porn star named Victoria Humps, and won't shut up about it."
From her window, Victoria yells, "My name is Danielle, you bastard!"
And since Silas is on a roll, he keeps right on rocking. "The only person I know that seems the least bit logical is the guy I work with, and I've never even seen where he lives or met his girlfriend."
Rod frowns, and takes his sign off. The back of it is face-up, and it says, "Little Ceasar's Pizza" across the top, and has a phone number painted across it. He sits down, hugging his knees, his back to the wall. One of Biff's prostitutes has apparently been watching, because she runs over, scowls at Silas, then pats Rod on the back, whispering consoling words into his ears. Everyone's a mother when the steady features of their everyday lives are crying.
TJ runs by, and his shirt says "Wednesday" on it.
Silas follows Verne home after work on Thursday. That's funny and ironic, because Verne doesn't notice, and that's his job. Verne lives in a dense apartment complex, a few floors up. The whole thing seems empty and industrial, though a few of the windows facing the street glow a flickering blue color.
Silas knocks on Verne's door, and Verne cracks it open, looking out. He squints in the darkness before a glimpse of recognition flashes over his face, and he opens the door fully. He seems somewhat hesitant, but still friendly. "Um, hey. What're you doing here?"
"I just sort of thought I'd stop by and see if you wanted to get a drink or something. I was bored, I guess."
"Ok, hold on a minute." He turns, and goes inside. Silas follows without asking, stepping into what is clearly a male-dominated space. Clothes and empty food wrappers litter the floor, and the television is on. Verne goes into his bedroom, and Silas can hear him digging around in his closets. Next to the television is a stack of old VHS tapes.
"Do you watch a lot of movies or something?" Silas inquires.
"Always with Meg." He comes back out, but he hasn't changed clothes, put on a jacket, or anything of the sort, despite his journey into his closet. His voice a bit lower, he says, "Honestly, I have a habit of crying during movies. I don't mention it, because I know nobody else does anymore…These aren't necessarily very dramatic films; I'm just as likely to cry during a romantic comedy as during a 3-hour epic. Meg makes me feel like I'm in movies, sometimes. She understands the emotions that I feel, though the number of these emotions that I understand is depressingly small."
It's true, Silas realizes. Every conversation had in daily life can be easily synthesized through a combination of straight-forward objective statements and poorly veiled cynicism and frustration. "That's really great that you have someone like that in your life, Verne. Want a glass of milk? I'll pour it, if you've got any. Joel says that the doctors on TV have been saying that it's good for you, and you should drink a glass a night in addition to your alcohol."
"No thanks." He sits on the couch, staring into the TV screen. He looks different there, bathed in an eerie indigo glow. As Silas approaches, Verne leans forward almost imperceptibly, his eyes narrowing. "One day, I'm going to stab Tom Hanks."
Silas sports a confused look, sitting down on the couch. "What?"
"She cheats with him all the time." Verne's eyes are glued to the screen.
"I don't understand. What are you talking about?" He leans back in the cushioning of the chair, arms folded over his chest. On the screen, Tom Hanks is kissing a pretty blonde woman. She's wearing a skirt and a pullover sweater. Silas recognizes her. It's Meg Ryan.
This hits Silas squarely in the chest, because he knows that it's Verne's Meg. Just TV on a bigger scale. Another line on his one dimension, spray painted in blues and grays and corporate logos. He stands up, stretching, and fakes a yawn. "On second thought, Verne, I'm feeling tired. I think I ought to go ahead and go home. It was fun stopping by, though."
Verne doesn't respond. He's still staring intently into the screen, a stressful expression giving away the inner turmoil he's got to be feeling as he watches Sleepless in Seattle. Silas sees You've Got Mail sitting on the floor, and knows Verne's in for another defeat when he gets to that one. He backs himself up out of the apartment, attempting not to show the disappointment on his face.
Syndicated life is never encouraging.
"Maybe, in the end, we want to be one dimensional. Maybe we just want to be innocent, and we want something that makes us feel beautiful. Those momentary lapses into insecurity can seem pretty insignifigant when we're about to cut to a commercial. Like we're a round peg in a round hole. Not to sound sexual or anything. I don't know. It's weird. I'm still trying to figure out it, and I guess that's part of the point -- Once I think I understand, that's when I'm screwed, right? Basically, we don't have the luxury of controlling our emotions, really. We might think we do, and we might condition ourselves into some sort of mental sedation, but it's always there, under the surface, building tension. I don't know. Maybe I'm thinking too much. See, this is way better than driving cars. Sometimes the weather's nice, and I can steal fruit when you're not looking, and I can ramble incoherently, and the only time you'll understand is when I say something like, 'Can you hand me those apples, so I can shelve them?' That's what makes this low-maintenance."
Lee nods, lifting a small wooden crate of apples and handing them to Silas.