Up There

I intended to make a very small movie with simple characters- a psychopath who wants to kill his best friend’s wife, the wife who is running away from a past where she has abandoned her culture, the best friend who is campaigning for political office but who is secretly taking international trips to revisit an idyllic childhood.

But as soon as we started casting and these actresses and actors came in and read these lines, I felt, No, no, we need to do something more. We need to make this space-age. We need to set it not in our galaxy but instead beyond our galaxy.

I invited the producer for tea and of course she started in about the traffic and the investors and the tax credit and then she told me her mother had just died and that she’d be gone for the next week of prep.

I sipped my tea and I don’t really remember what happened next but then Humphrey was there with all his pretty girlfriends and it was night again and we were out by the pool. At this point I had a drink with ice in my hand and I turned to Humphrey. Humphrey, I said. What if this whole thing is in outer space? What if we put the girl and the psychopath and the friend in space-suits flying around out there?

I don’t think he even heard what I was saying. He jumped into the pool and splashed the girls and they screamed and laughed and threw inflatable pool toys at him. One of them had dark-rimmed glasses and she stared at me with a kind of reckless, angry stare that I find appealing to the point of compromise.

Soon the two of us were floating on either side of a blue, plastic, air-filled raft, staring at each other without speaking.

And then later I got up out of bed and walked over to the window, pulling a soft robe onto my shoulders. Do you like space? I asked her. Outer space?

She stared at me without blinking like a cat before it bites you. I leaned against the jamb. There is all this emptiness out there, I went on. A tremendous void. People are not being pulled down by gravity. They float. Or they ZIP here and there on space rockets. Much more exciting than here… In LA.

I looked back over to the bed but she was gone and I could hear her down with Humphrey and the other girls by the pool. I walked out onto the balcony and watched them from above. They looked so mortal, so transient, while I was just then beginning to feel immortal and infinite. I leaned against the balcony and thought hard about space, and making the dramatic arc still work with the characters in tight silver space suits.

I went down and joined the party. Now and then I caught actual stars out of the corner of my eye. They twinkled in the violet expanse above like they were winking at me. And I just smiled. I’ll take them up there, I said quietly, watching the revelers chasing and embracing one another. I’ll take them all up there…

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