by Ivan Jenson
While my mother was paying for groceries I walked over to the spot where the supermarket sold paperbacks and found a biography on Brando. At the age of thirteen, I often did a mean Marlon Brando impression with toilet paper stuffed in my cheeks.
A sun-bleached blonde girl who had to be around nineteen or twenty years old approached me and said, “I bet you want to be an actor.”
At the time, I mostly just wanted to be cool, charismatic, a lady killer, and rich and famous. How to achieve this–I was not quite sure.
“I guess I do,” was my noncommittal answer.
“Well, it all starts by looking at pictures of famous actors in books and magazines. That is how it started for me.”
“Are you an actress?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Have you been in movies?”
“I am on a TV show. I have a recurring role in Days of Our Lives.”
She was slim, overly tanned and looked like she surely must live in Malibu. There was one burning question: “Do you know how to cry on cue?”
“How do you do it?”
“Well, I will tell you how. It’s all in my head space. For instance, let’s say you were my boyfriend and we were, you know, doing it, and then let’s say you broke my heart.” She reached out and placed my right hand on her cleavage. I looked around to see if anybody was watching. Luckily, so far, nobody was. “And so I allow myself to feel the pain in my heart. I just let the emotion sneak up my spine. Oh, how could you hurt me? I love you. And then…”
Tears were forming in her eyes. It wasn’t long before one rolled down her cheek. Then she took me in her arms and started sobbing. She had the scent of tanning lotion. Her body was hot like she had just returned from the beach.
Suddenly somebody was tapping me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was this old guy who worked at the market.
“I am the manager here. Is everything alright?” he asked as if I was somehow to blame.
The girl then released her grip on me and said to him, “This boy hurt me like nobody has ever hurt me before. He is a heart-breaker and he has ripped my spirit from my soul.”
The manager looked perplexed by her sappy, soap opera-like delivery.
“He looks like just a regular schmo to me,” he quipped.
“Looks are deceiving,” she said. “He drew me into his web of desire and then he lit my fire only to blow it out and leave me out in the cold.”
“He looks wet under the ears to me. Lady, don’t tell me you are actually really dating this whipper- snapper?”
“I did more than date him. I allowed him to see parts of me that nobody else saw. I let him touch me in places that nobody has before.”
“Well then, I would say he is one lucky son of a gun. He certainly has nothing to complain about. When I was his age I was lucky if a girl even said ‘hello’ to me. I guess it’s true–some guys really can kiss the girls and make ’em cry. In any case, if you could take your little love thing outside, we got customers here. You are both making a scene.”
“Sir, if you don’t mind me telling you,” I chimed in, “this has all just been a ‘scene.’ She is just acting, that’s all.”
I was not sure why I would want to negate my new-found romantic stature in his eyes. After all, he was clearly seeing me as some sort of teen San Fernando Valley Casanova.
“Just take it outside,” the manager said.
The girl wiped the tears from her face. “You see, that is how it is done. You have to find the place inside you that hurts and really believe and then the tears naturally flow.”
Just then my mother rolled her cart full of groceries in my direction. I had already fallen head over heels for this green-eyed beauty. This method actress. This soap opera star. She looked to be only a few years older than me, yet she seemed wise, sexy and worldly. I wanted to flee the grocery store with her and start our own groovy life together which I was sure would include lovemaking, weed, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young music, walks on the beach, and moments of pure blissful Hollywood glamour. But I was just an awkward and spaced out thirteen-year-old L.A. kid.
“Jake!” my mother called out as if I were in some sort of danger. “We are going now!”
“Well, I guess this is it for us,” the actress said, “I hope you will always remember this moment we shared. Remember us. And the day you made me cry.”
I already felt guilty for the imaginary way that I wronged her and broke her heart. It made me feel like a regular Ryan O’Neal.
As my mother rolled the cart, she looked back one last time with disdain at the histrionic girl. “What was she talking to you about?” she asked as we exited outside into the blaring sun in the parking lot.
“She was showing me how to cry on cue. She was a real actress.” “You have to watch out for women like that.”
“They will hurt you very deeply. She looks like the sort that sleeps around.”
“How can you tell?”
“I just know. It’s too too early for you. You have to wait until you are ready to deal with all that trouble.”
As I lifted the bags of groceries into the trunk of the family Buick station wagon I jutted my jaw and in my best Brando voice said, “You don’t understand Mom, I coulda had class, I coulda been a contender.”
Ivan Jenson is a fine artist, novelist and popular contemporary poet. His artwork was featured in Art of America, Art News, and Interview, and has sold at auction at Christie’s. He was commisioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled “Absolut Jenson” for the brand’s international campaign, Ivan’s poetry is widely pubished with over 600 poems published. Ivan;s fictional memoir “Gypsies of New Rochelle” was published and released by Michelkin Publishing. Ivan Jenson’s website is https://www.ivanjenson.com