Circe told Odysseus he had to go to the gates of the Underworld, and beyond them, to consult with Tiresius’ shadow. Only then, could Odysseus return home to his wife and kingdom. She seduced Odysseus, and nearly claimed him forever. She turned his crew into pigs, too.
He wasn’t famous by the time he got to me. He was a washed up boozehound, fat and surrounded by an entourage of lazy enablers. He showed up at the first read-through looking like he had just rolled out of bed, and it was 2:00 in the afternoon, and we were supposed to start at 9:00 in the morning, and I knew it was going to be a long, difficult shooting, but I knew I could make magic out of this man.
I remember when I was just a girl, innocent to this world, and my father would take me to the movies. I saw these amazing things happening – like miracles – on screens larger than I could even imagine. I remember years spent in the elements, holding lighting and booms, watching great men crumble for the camera lens. The beautiful, plastic world was my home and my air and my bread. I took the director’s chair when no one thought I could do it, and I made magic. I’ve made so much magic. I was famous for it. I bought my own goddamned island in the Mediterranean Sea, and nobody helped me pay for it. When my friends came by we drank, and worked on experimental films. It was supposed to be my high art phase, after all that fucking money. It was supposed to storm the art houses of the world. And, it did. I won awards. My films were meaningful, beautiful, and more real than reality itself.
He came to me, on my island, with all his fat yes-men. He was out of rehab, and thinner, but still heavyset, and no longer the muscle-bound leading man of his youth. He was stiff. He yelled at my crew. He mumbled through his lines like he was falling asleep.
I had seen this man, when I was young. He had boomed to topple kings and gods. He had raised his fist against the darkest nights of black and white, where daylight itself is a kind of darkness on the screen. I thought that I could reinvent him. I thought that if I didn’t, no one would.
I gorged his entourage on all the fruits of my kingdom. I fed them to separate them from the great man they had infested.
Alone, before my camera’s eye, he was naked and weak. I made a film with him about swimming to make him swim every day. I made a film about the old, great kings, to remind him of what he had lost. We made a war movie, so he could remember what it meant to be a man. Then we made a movie about falling in love, because I loved him. I had always loved him. When I was a little girl, and looking up at his huge, silvery, jagged face, I thought that I would never step into my own dreams enough to make this great man love me.
At night, in my bed, he wept for his Penelope. I rubbed his back. I had heard about the men she had had all the time in her house, and their son raised by these men. I cooed in his ear, and I told him it wasn’t his fault.
He thinned out, and narrowed. The men that came there with him had all gained thirty pounds, been on long, hard drunks.
The last day he was there, we filmed a scene from the romance set among these pigs of men, and the women that came to them from the villages and clubs. I thought that he would see the pathways of his life diverging between my cool bed, and these sweaty men.
The men fell silent. The women, recognizing who walked among them, gasped and held still like fawns in headlights.
He walked among his men.
One of them held up a mirror to him. There was a white powder there, in a line, to be breathed in deep.
I watched from the dark past the treeline.
He smacked the mirror. He punched the man in the face. He shouted and fumed. The women ran. The tables upended almost of their own accord in his fury.
The next day, he went swimming alone.
Lord Byron drowned in these waters, not far from my shore.
I made miracles. I made magic so great I could own an island by myself, my own private world.
These days, nobody remembers me except for when I was with him, right there in the end. It’s as if I am a shadow of my own true self. It’s as if it’s all my fault, what had become of the man that came to my island.
Anyway, I made magic. Remember me for that. Saving him from his lifestyle was only one small thing in a long summer.