You know, that week: A Story of Belonging (Chapter 4)

Thursday

Christopher opens his eyes. Thursday morning. He couldn't meet Petey last night just like Mary couldn't meet Jessica. He stood him up and turned off his phone. Something felt too strange about it. He pulls off his blanket and sits up and then it hits him.

Mary opens her eyes, forcing her mind to push itself out of the dream that's still lingering on. She throws the covers off and just lays there, wandering what crazy thing she's going to do today. And then she remembers.

“Christopher.” “Mary.”

They say out loud and that strange mix of butterflies and doubt roll down their bodies.

Two questions linger on their minds.

Is the other person going to remember? Did it even happen in the first place?
What better to do when you lose your sense of self than meet up with a total stranger who knows nothing about you?

It certainly feels right. They're both excited, deep inside, not letting the surface betray themselves.

It's a meeting without expectations of who you should be or who they've known you to be. You can be different, not someone else, but the person you've slowly been changing into, right in an instant.

And you can see if you really are that person or if you've only just pulled an illusion over your mind.

It's a restart. A test.

Mary arrives first. Her driver parks on the side of the street across from the shop. It's only when she sees Christopher walk inside the bubble tea shop does she know the answer to her questions. And then those questions are replaced by more questions.

'Should I really go?'

Christopher orders a fruity drink with jellies in the bottom. And he waits. And waits.
But Mary doesn't come. He finishes his drink and lets his mind wander. There's nothing left that he wants to do. So he sits, watching the people come and go, sometimes finding himself staring too long. Finally, he sits up, straightens out his shirt, and stands to leave. He says goodbye and walks out into the afternoon sun and a car door opens across the street. A hand waves out at him and he already knows.

It's Mary.

He can't suppress the smile on his face. Of course she wouldn't stand him up. He runs across the street. A car beeps its horn and squeals its breaks.

'Take it slow.'

He takes a step back, out of the road, and waits for a break in the traffic. Hundreds of thoughts run through both of their minds, but all fades when that break comes and Christoper makes his way inside the car.

There she is. The star. The one everyone is raving about. Just a normal, everyday girl. There are no celebrities; not when you had a taste of the spotlight. After that, there are only people. This one's named Mary.

“I thought you weren't going to show up.” Christopher starts the conversation as the driver starts moving.

“I was afraid you were going to ask for my autograph, become one of those freaks, obsessed over my every move.”

“Sorry, but you're not that special. Don't let all those freaks get in your head.”
Mary smiles. “Looks like someone has a chip on their shoulder. Did Thailand do that to you or were you always like that?”

“It's Taiwan.” Christopher corrects her again.

“I thought so,” Mary interjects, ignoring his true meaning. “So what happened there?”

Christopher's mind flashes back, starting with that last day in the office with Mr. Chen and back through twelve years of selected memories. All in only three seconds. “Nothing,” he lies, but his face already gave himself away.

“Well whatever happened, maybe it wasn't all bad.” Mary sighs, feeling the stress in her shoulders dissipate. She looks out of the window and then back to Christopher's eyes. “I forgot what it feels like... to be normal. Just a normal girl. When I'm with you... I don't know. I just become that nobody country girl again.”
Christopher tries to break this girl down. Her make-up is a disaster. Everything is just too big. He's not sure if she's wearing kitchenware or clothing, and her hair looks like a gerbil that got electric shock treatment. “What about all your friends?”
“All my friends?” 'Like Jessica,' she thinks. “They are the true crazy ones, and don't even ask about my fans.”

“There's a crazy one out there, isn't there?” Christopher asks anyways.

Mary nods too large for a simple yes. “His name is Domitian.”

“Whoa, you actually know this guy?”

“We went bowling together...”

Christopher's eyebrows go up.

“After he stalked me for the last six months.” Mary quickly adds.

“Okay, so it sounds like you let him have a date.” Christopher prods.

“Okay, new subject.”

Christopher smiles at her. They continue driving around for hours, sharing stories and laughing at all the crazies in the world. It's already dusk when Mary drops Christopher back off at the tea shop. They exchange numbers and agree to meet up again.

Christopher gets back in his car and realizes he hasn't eaten in awhile. He calls home and tells his mom he's going to eat at home.

Mary has the same impulse, but goes to one of those high class places where you have to have your name on their list to get in.

It's a place with dimmed lights, strange half-naked art work on the walls, and fancy table sets. A mix of modern art and fine dining. Mary has the name to get in, but she doesn't exactly fit in yet. It only takes a couple of minutes to realize you're supposed to present yourself in a certain way in here.

Mary sits down at the bar, made for those who came alone so they would never have to actually be alone. There's a lot of people in here she's only met once, like the guy sitting next to her. They met at a banquet a few months back. Another actor.

The actor opens up communication. “Hey Mary, I thought that was you. What's with the 'I don't care, let's just get trashed look?'”

“Well I guess I just don't care,” Mary laughs loudly, feeling free in a crowd of people more famous than herself.

“That's a fast burnout rate. You've only landed one successful show and you already cracked,” the actor chides her.

Mary's demeanor changes. “It's all the crazies out there. You don't have your face plastered all over town.”

“And what about the crazy in here?” The actor says, pointing to her chest. “Trust me, when this face is plastered on the tabloids, you're the only crazy one they're going to see.” The actor waves his hand around her face.

“What's the alternative? Being stalked everywhere I go? Not being able to go anywhere I used to ever again?”

The actor smiles at her. “Honey, welcome to the high life. You need to care what you're people think of you, not the crowds. This is your family now. Sure it's full of back-biting and gossip and dysfunctions, but that's family. Your problem is that you're still hanging on to those ordinary people. That's not you anymore. We're extraordinary. This is it. You made it. Now show us who you can be.”

Mary has no words. It's so direct, so clear. She looks around, trying to ignore the actor next to her, but also realizing everyone else is dressed in thousands of dollars and wearing smiles and laughter.

'No,' she thinks. Not everyone in this room is as low as this actor. This is a safe haven though. The words replay over and over as she eats her food and disappears as quickly as she can.

She knows she has to make a change. She can't continue living this way. It's about time she starts living the life of an actor. She made it. She's extraordinary. That's what everyone keeps saying. She just has to believe it.

Christopher's night is anything but extraordinary. He has another typical meal with his family who talk about their typical days and ask about his job search. The last thing on his mind is finding a job, though. He can only focus on one thing, Mary, whom everyone thinks is extraordinary, but he sees for who she really is. They both fall asleep earlier than expected, but now with very different thoughts filling their dreams.

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