Chapter Seventeen

I was about twenty minutes behind in my work. Two scenes were bothering me that I couldn’t place. I knew I should use at least one, and the other seemed like a perfect fit, but, where to put them had me staring at the screen playing the almost completed video over and over.

One was a sequence of scenes that I cut to make a whole one that lasted five seconds. Its a relatively key component- you can’t advertise a day care center without showing kids having fun. At least, that’s the theory. The shots are raw, meaning Ralph, Sofia, nor myself told the kids what they should be doing. In fact they were vaguely aware Ralph and I were in the room for four hours.

There were wide-angled shots of a group of kids finger painting, another group playing Duck-Duck-Goose with one of the employees. Several children were coloring. A few were drawing. Some of the older kids were playing house. The footage was great. As I watched Ralph pivot the camera I began picking out which scenes I thought worked best for the commercial. There was no need for a narrator or someone standing in the middle of the room letting you know what this place was about; the footage spoke for itself.

Towards the end of recording I made the decision on what font to use over the footage. It had to be bold and professional, yet playful. Back at the internship I had a project like this. My teammates wanted to use Comic Sans. I was against it not because I didn’t like the font but, to me, it isn’t professional. The work you put in says a lot about who you are, and I don’t like half-assing my work. We went with a bold Japanese handwriting font that ended up being a big hit with the bosses. One of them took me aside and personally praised me.

That was the day I personally met Derek Chambers. He thinks he’s been grooming me for a position somewhere else because, according to him, this is beneath me. The movie Ralph and I are working on is my answer to that. I do not like waiting for people to make good on their word and this industry moves fast, and I’m what you’d consider impatient.

Ralph had been all too eager to be my partner in this, more so to live up to the promise he proposed when we were kids: work on a movie together, no matter what. Done.

I needed a few minutes away from my computer screen so I left my office and made haste for the bathroom. The place was deserted. Most of the lights were off save for a select few halogen lights in each corner as well as the pantry. I let the sink run for a moment, drowning out the loud buzzing of silence then cupped my hands under the water and then splashed my face. I turned the faucet off and wiped my hands, allowing my face to air dry, and then left for the pantry.

I poured myself a medium sized cup of coffee using Domino sugar packs along with Half-and-Half milk. The coffee wasn’t anything fancy despite the budget being large enough to splurge. Each of us grew up in New York. Most of us are either Hispanic, have close Hispanic friends, or purchased coffee at a local bodega. There was only one brand we were used to and it was befitting: Cafe Bustelo.

Walking back to my desk I heard the tail end of the text message chime fade. Setting my coffee on my desk while sitting down, I flipped the phone open. It was from Sofia: just got home, about to shower. I checked the time, quarter to nine. I estimated Sofia leaving home in about an hour. But the question remained- which “home” was she leaving from? There was no time to waste.

I scanned the video three more times and decided a clip of parents picking up the children would be scrapped to make room for the collection of scenes. All that remained was a group shot of the kids saying “come play with us!” simultaneously. I didn’t use it. The commercial gave the illusion that the kids had no idea the camera was present, that play time had been natural. I saved the project but kept the program open so when Sofia came I could ask her how she felt.

The text message chime: done showering, in a cab heading your way. ETA: twenty min.

That meant she was in Manhattan. I picked up the office phone and dialed the security desk.

“Security.”

“Tommy, its John up on thirty. I’ve got a guest coming up. Could you just let her through?”

“Sure thing, John. Should I call when she’s on the elevator?”

I thought about it for a second then, “yea, thanks” and we hung up.

With the commercial awaiting final approval I worked on the footage from the movie. It was a short scene that gave the impression both characters would eventually sleep together. Ralph set the mood quite nicely but 90% of directing is casting, so we can’t take all of the credit.

The text message chime. I guess I’ll call it a day now.

It was Wendy, no doubt disappointed that her earlier message went unanswered. Another message: kiss me goodnight?

That was a tricky request. If I responded with a virtual kiss it meant I had been screening her messages and had purposely declined her invitation. If I don’t respond it’ll appear like nothing was wrong.

Another message: I’m pulling up.

A quarter to ten. I opened the top drawer to the desk and fished out various menus. Dropping them on my desk, I stood up. A minute later Tommy called. We hung up and I walked to the receptionists’ area. Thirty seconds later Sofia walked out of the elevator. She looked nervous. So was I but I’m better at hiding it.

Her Prada bag seemed to slump on her arm. As I escorted her to my office she revealed a bottle of French wine from the sixties. She was in the mood for Chinese and ordered sesame chicken with wonton soup. I ordered the poo poo platter. She took a seat on my side of the desk and stared at the screen.

“This isn’t my commercial.”

“Click on the other tab.”

She did and looked shocked. “How can you-?”

“I told you, I work fast. This work is easy for me, like tying my shoes.”

“I didn’t learn to tie mine till I was eleven.” She laughed nervously.

“I learned at five.”

“Early development?”

“That’s what my mom assumed until I pointed out that no body hair had grown until after my eighteenth birthday.”

“Must have been tough with your peers.”

“Not really. Besides it came in waves the next year. I hate hair but I don’t want to be bald.”

“You don’t have the face for it.”

“My thoughts exactly. Now, are you gonna watch it already or do you want to continue this conversation about hair growth?”

“Sensitive subject for you?”

“The least of my problems.”

“What’s the most of them?”

I walked behind her and leaned in. “Some other time,” I whispered and clicked the play button. Almost five hours of footage cut and edited into a twenty second commercial that left Sofia turning in her seat with her mouth in an O shape.

“I’m impressed.” She said, and watched it again.

“I have a clip that I thought might work but can’t seem to place it.”

“May I see?”

I played the clip for her. She then watched the commercial again. “It doesn’t fit. Its smooth as is. Raw.”

“That’s my feeling. This clip gives the impression that-”

“It’s staged.”

I shook my head. “Very well,” I said, and inserted a flash drive. Transferring a copy of the saved version onto the flash drive I then took it out and handed it to Sofia. “I hope this brings you more business.” She took it from me and let her gaze wander into my own. I held it there as I inched a finger up to her face, brushing a strand of hair away.

My desk phone rang. It was Tommy again alerting me to the arrival of the order. The delivery guy outstretched his hand with the food just as I appeared at the glass doors. I handed him the money along with a generous tip. When I got back Sofia was popping off the cork of the wine bottle. There were no wine glasses in the office so we used regular glasses.

“To the end of an…interesting, working relationship.” She said, raising her glass.

“And to the start of a whole new one.” I added, joining my glass with hers. She stared in surprise as I casually sipped the wine. “I rather enjoyed working on this commercial. The kids all seemed so composed to their surroundings, like their attention spans have begun to advance.”

“I noticed they hadn’t paid any mind to your crew while filming. I’m sure that made things easier.”

“It did. It certainly was no help when Patrice would cut in front of the camera to join in the activities.”

“Do you have footage of that? She was a riot.”

“Unfortunately not. When an obstruction cuts in front of the camera Ralph hits pause.”

Sofia clicked on the tab with the scene from the movie. “What’s this?” I told her about the scene. “May I see?” “By all means.”

She clicked played and as she watched I moved around the desk to observe her concentration. The scene lasted almost five minutes. It was a character building scene that, in theory, was laced with dramatic dialogue and sexual chemistry. It reminded me of the one we were currently filming, so to speak.

She looked at me when the scene finished. “You directed this?”

I shook my head.

“You’re very good.” She emphasized the ‘very’ with a longing gaze. I smiled.

“You’ve been working your whole life for this, haven’t you?”

I shook my head. “Its what I’ve wanted since I was a kid.”

“The intensity of the scene felt very authentic. I find that ironic.”

“Why?”

“You seem to not need women. You flirt. Its a natural thing. But giving yourself to one doesn’t seem to suit you.”

“I had a girlfriend.”

“Just one?”

“Two. I’m working on something right now, though.”

She looked disappointed. I slowly made my way to her. “Why that look on your face?”

“Oh, nothing, I,”

“You assumed I’d just come out and admit my attraction to you?”

That got her full attention. “Haven’t I admitted to being attracted to you?”

“Not that I can recall.”

“I believe we had a similar conversation in this very office the day you came in looking to hire us for the commercial.”

Her lips moved to speak but I kept them shut as I pressed mine against hers. There had been enough talking, more with our bodies than mouths. It was time they acted. I cupped her face in my hands while she caressed my chest with hers. I lifted her off the chair. We walked until her back was against the window.

Behind her, the Manhattan skyline was beautiful under the dark of night. Cars rushed passed. People the size of ants walked in strap hanger gridlock. Clubs would be packed. Restaurants would be backed up. Broadway plays had extra performances. Friday night in New York City, and I was in my office. But not alone. I was a man with a plan, one that seemed to be moving along nicely.

I released myself from her lips and directed her to the sofa in the left hand corner of the office. Sofia began to unbutton her blouse, her eyes were smokey with seduction. I had to have her not just for my little experiment but my body has been calling her name of late. Its time I looked in that direction.

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