They say I am the most hunted celebrity in the city. Trends move fast, so hopefully next week they will focus on someone else.
I sit in my special corner in my favorite hotel. They take care of me here and protect me from unwanted attention. The stuff keeps the secret of me being here. They don’t have to, I know. Some of them can make a lot of money by just passing on a word.
I was kind to them when I was at the top when my success was celebrated in the cinema and the award shows. Now that my marriage and my career are in the dumps, they are all still behind me, the maids, the waiters, James,the hotel manager.
“How did I get here”? I wonder. I had done everything according to the book.
I went from rags to riches – working hard to get to the top: A success story. I ticked all of the boxes – I had it all. Yet, if I really had it all, how come my life fell down like a house of cards? What didn’t I see? What have I neglected?
I look outside the window and my heart stops. I see a man directing a camera at me to take a picture. I freeze, then shake it off and dive to hide.
He cannot see me, I realize. It’s a tourist taking a picture of the beautiful architecture of the building. I sit up again, hoping nobody saw me.
What happened to me? I was so confident when I was younger. I was using my face, my body, and my sharp tongue, to carve myself a place in the industry. I look back at my younger self and I realize that I don’t know who she was. She was a person I invented in order to get myself out of the hell of an existence I had.
I sip my coffee and am happy with the brave decision that I took. I will hide here until I figure out who I am and where I want to go from here. I look back at myself at twenty-two and I see how scared and alone I was.
“I’m not angry with you,” I tell her.
“You did what you had to, you give us a chance to exist in the professional world. That gave us a great start”.
“When I was 5,” she tells me, ”growing up in our miserable household, with tension and crazy people for parents, I used to dream about having a beautiful bedroom, clean, with girly toys and cushions and with a father that actually looked into my eyes and really saw me. I dreamt of a mother that would come to my bed, laugh with me and give me advice. When I was ten I was so jealous of my friend who had parents that could talk with her like friends”.
Our parents always shouted, argued, and blamed each other for their unhappy existence. This always resulted in my mother crying and my father leaving the house. I just wanted to be seen. To them, I was transparent, unimportant, invisible, uncounted. Then I became a young woman. Then they all looked at me, photographed me, and could not have enough from me – but then I took it all away.
The twenty-year-year-old me is leaning on the cushions and drinking water, when our sixteen years old us comes through the main door, towards us.
She is a beautiful girl with a rebel attitude and too much make-up. She walks like a model. She sets her new bag – which she got from her much too old boyfriend – on a chair and looks at us two old birds as if she is permanently bored.
We are happy you came we say in unison.
“I am going to sign with this agency,” she says determinedly.
“I will be able to make my own money and leave my parent’ fucking house”.
We know she will too. How can we ask her not to go?
“We only want you to know that you are more than just new fresh face to the meat industry,” we tell her.
The words ‘meat industry’ is apparently judgmental and she doesn’t listen anymore. I, being the older one, correct our language.
!You are more than a young model, you have other talents and dreams. We just ask you to remember you are more than what they say you are”.
“Ok”, she answers, surprised for some kindness. I give her a little stone medallion.
“Keep this to remind you of your other dreams.”
“Sure,“ she says and stuffs it in her bag.
She will find it later when she makes an important decision. It will help. She wants to leave, she has an appointment, a photo shoot.
“We don’t judge you,” says my twenty-two self. “We just want you to know, what else you would like to be, what are your other dreams?”.
“I want to be famous, to be on magazine covers and be a celebrity,” she says.
Been there, done that. I say to myself. What would I have become if I had not run away?
“Don’t know, don’t care”. She picks up her bag and leaves.
Did you get the answer to your question? asks my twenty-two-year-old self.
“Well,” I answer, “I understand that I would have made other choices if I was not so keen to be seen.”
“Don’t judge me, I made us world famous, which also gave us great experiences and adventure.” She says.
“I don’t regret anything.” We both then say in unison.
I look out of the window again and I see a couple of tourists looking in my direction with admiration… at the building. People don’t look like that at me anymore, I admit sadly to myself. The celebrity persona I created was fascinating but not lovable.
Suddenly I feel a young plump hand holding my fingers. I look down to see me when I was four.
“Hello to you,” I say with a charming voice.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m going with Nana to the zoo,” she says excitedly.
“Oh,” I sigh. My feisty, funny and loving grandma died when I was five. Living me alone with my crazy parents.
“It’s fun to do things with Nana, right?”
“Can I ask you something?” I say
“Can I have your cookie?” she interrupts my line of thoughts and points at the chocolate waffle that accompanied my coffee.
“Sure,” I smile and she is delighted.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask.
“I want to be an animal doctor.” She says full of confidence. “I want to have a big place with a garden and I will care for all kind of animals like Phyllis is doing.”
“Phyllis?” I try to recall the face.
“Yes, grandma from David, from down the street. If you find a sick bird you take it to Phyllis as she knows everything.”
I am a bit puzzled by this answer. ”Don’t you want to be famous?” I ask and regret it immediately.
“I want a dog, but it is not allowed,” she says with sad eyes, “but when I’ll be big like you I will have two dogs, two cats, a parakeet and a goldfish.”
I caress her little hand, looking at her enjoying her cookie. She is lovely.
An elegant woman enters the room and is coming towards us, the four-year-old me is jumping from the chair to greet her and I am confused. She looks like she could be my older sister.
“I’m you at fifty-five.” She says, being delightfully amused from the state of shock I am in. I can’t believe she actually let her gray-silver hair decorate her face. I would not dare.
“So,” she teases, “do you like what you see?”
I try to judge her but she looks like a commercial for face cream, a centered woman who knows who she is and what she is worth.
“Yes,” I admit.
Suddenly I feel shy. I realize she knows where I am, what I am going through.
She holds my hand, to help me get out of the corner. Picks up my bag and guides me with a gentle touch out of the coffee bar.
“I will tell you what we will do. First, we are going to our house in the country. Then we get a dog. The rest I will tell you later.”