SHORT STORY 5

2014

N A T A L I E - P O R T M A N - & -I

SHORT STORY 5

2014

NATALIE PORTMAN & I

DISCLAIMER:

None of this happened. You're not even reading this.

Leaning back in my desk chair, I finished reading an e-mail, and then looked out my open window where leafy vines framed the abyss beyond. Eventually, I returned to my laptop. Once I read the e-mail again, I paused even longer, before clicking 'reply'. All I wrote was, "Too bad it's too late."

'Send'.

Without another thought, I turned up Soulfly, No Hope = No Fear, and made myself a cup of Earl Grey. By the time I sat back at my desk, I found that I already had new message in my Inbox, from Sasha Marber at IMC Agency. With a suspicious eyebrow, I opened the e-mail. It was brief, asking why it was too late, as they were still in Berlin until tomorrow morning. I drank my tea slowly. Fine, I'll play this little game, it's not like I really had any other plans this evening – except Bark. Always with Bark. Nothing going on in my life but Bark. So, I replied.

After ten minutes of on-line chit-chat, I was out my door and walking down the humid streets toward the closest taxi-stand. What can I say, her argument convinced my curiosity. I'm a sucker. But ultimately, any excuse to get outside was a good one. I'd just finishing the artwork for Chapter 6 of Part 2 of my Bark trilogy, the official half way point, and in my isolation, there was no celebration, only continuation.

As I sat in the taxi, heading to Unter Den Linden, the situation got me thinking about the European Elections that had been held today, Sunday, May 25th 2014. The idea that once you've cast your vote, you can then maintain some form of control over that particular liar in office, seemed ludicrous to me. Throughout history, political parties did whatever they liked after the power had been granted to them, completely regardless of their promises and ideals. Yet people continued having faith in a system full of the illusion of control, for the arrogantly hopeful validation of their individual importance. Which reminded me of the end of last year, while in London, I had been walking past Saint Paul's Cathedral, and down Fleet Street at rush hour. There, I suddenly recalled a similar thought I'd had in 1998 when I lived in Tokyo. In both city states, I'd been surrounded by vast masses of people, and I knew none of them. Those places didn't even know that I existed, yet they continued functioning self-sufficiently. And if I didn't need to be there, then what did it matter if I made one or two of those complete strangers also disappear. These violent thoughts never ended. They were part of me, or was I simply part of them. After all, my consciousness was a passenger along for the ride in the taxi of my reptile brain. I'm an insect responding to stimuli, the mere sum of my past experiences, with no say in what body I was born into and with no choice in what I became or where I was going. So, I followed my true-will in my unconscious taxi that I was supposedly in control of, just to see where this spiral would lead. However, if I'm wrong about tonight's invitation, then what does that say about any of my life-choices? That I'm nothing but a parasite on society. But all artists are parasites. Beyond the precept of creating beauty, artists serve no greater use to the survival of the species. We live on the efforts of others. Yet if my art seeks only ugliness, then I must be the worst kind of fucking parasite. Fundamentally, a good parasite wants to live symbiotically with its host. Malaria doesn't actually want to kill you, or it dies too. I am more like cancer: creating shit no one wants with the sadistic goal of seeing everyone suffer. Why should I hope for anyone to better themselves? In fact, why should I even struggle to better myself? I'm already a white male. Apparently, I rule this fucking planet! My life must be fucking perfect! Like a politician in power, I merely seek to perpetuate my tenure. If I fail at everything, I'll still be better than all of you – because you fucking say I am! You've put me on an infallible fucking pedestal. So, I feel no pain, and therefore no fucking compassion. I'm a parasitical-cancer of the worst kind on my way to meet Natalie fucking Portman. My fucking life can't get any fucking better than this fucking bullshit!

The taxi dropped me off outside the hotel Adlon Kempinski, right next to Brandenburg Gate. Glancing across the street at a public bench, I thought of Valentine's Day 2006, when my fiance and I sat there in the sun. Back then I'd heard that Portman was in town for the release of one of her block-busters. She was the actual motivation for bringing my girl out here under the pretense of a romantic lunch. And yet now, eight years later, I was standing on the curb just before midnight, glaring into those five-star golden lights. Invited or fooled, it didn't matter at that point, all I really wanted was a fucking coffee. The old bellhop gave me a weird look as I stood outside like a drunk about to vomit, when I spotted someone inside waving like an excited kid in class who knew all the right fucking answers. I couldn't help glancing around the empty sidewalk in case she was calling to someone else. Nope. It was me. The fifty-year-old woman in a scarlet Chanel suit, came out with one of those all-American smiles, so huge it was a wonder that her cheeks didn't explode from the pressure. "Bruce! Bruce, my dear! Such a pleasure to finally meet you. I've heard so much. Come inside. Come inside!"

So, this was Sasha. She acted like a long-lost aunt, desperate to ejaculate years of pent-up, inappropriate affection all over my face within the first thirty seconds of our acquaintance. After vigorously shaking hands, I didn't get a chance to say a single word as she dragged me inside, her arm hooked around my elbow. This was a chick who clearly got shit done her way. I glanced at the bellhop and we shared a moment of what-the-fuck, before I was plunged into a world of perfume-soaked air-conditioning, soft piano-like elevator-music, and hotel staff dressed in uniforms that looked more elite than the combatants of some countries. Sasha led me across the enormous lobby to the sofas near the bar, explaining that we were a little ahead of schedule, so we could just relax for the time being. I'm early? Seriously, I missed her e-mail by a fucking week! What kind of fashionably-fucking-late schedule are they going by? Anyway, I ordered a latte, and sat in a marsh-mellow of a leather armchair across from Sasha. She then let loose a machine-gun-monologue upon my senses. Mostly she went on about their hectic travel plans, and how much she loved some new song hitting the charts in the States. As I finished my coffee, I was distracted by a metallic Hummer pulling up outside the front windows. Two Arabic girls in long black dresses with matching fur shawls stepped out of that wide-load vehicle. A fat rag-head entered the hotel ahead of the girls, while a servant followed like a good slave-boy carrying two tiny mutts. Whoever said equality was a good thing, sure wasn't sitting on top of the food-chain. Sasha kept squawking about her current likes and dislikes, while I focused on those two barely-legal babes in skin-tight black. They both flicked their smooth hair as they sat on the sofas right next to ours. One of them glanced my way with that who-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are expression. I however, locked my eyes on her fake tits, immediately comparing them to the second girl's cleavage, before returning my judgmental scowl back to her eyes. She was undoubtedly insulted, and that made the evening even sweeter. So, I zeroed-in on the other girl again, just to rub it in. That's when some part of my brain realized that Sasha was waiting for an answer. She'd finally asked me an actual fucking question, "So? How'd you meet Leslie?"

" Leslie?" I asked quietly. "Who's that?"

"Barany. Leslie Barany. Who introduced you two?"

Bewildered, I frowned, when an average Joe in a forgettable suit strolled over. Sasha jumped up and rattled-off a list of prioritized miscellaneous orders at this sorry-for-himself looking guy, who didn't so much as acknowledge my presence. Abruptly, Sasha excused herself, and then this guy turned directly toward me, "Sir, you must be Mr. Knox."

I stood and shook his hand. Instantly, I knew this guy was part of someone's security detail. He spoke with one of those clean American accents, articulating himself in a very non-intrusive manner. The kind of guy who could probably break my neck in two seconds if given the go ahead. A real professional. This whole situation had me playing my cards close to my chest, but this guy wasn't interested in small-talk. His name was Jack and apologized while informing me that I had to wait a few more minutes. He too then excused himself. So polite. Definitely ex-military. So, I ordered another coffee and sat comfortably near those two whores thumbing the shit out of their iPhones. Again, I wondered if this was all a set-up, a bad joke, was someone fucking with me. I hadn't seen MTV in years, but maybe this was the new Punk'd. Get an idiot to think he's meeting a famous person, just to pull his pants down and catch him on video with his dick in his hand. Anything for unscrupulous ratings. The more I thought about it, the more legit this theory appeared. It seemed a lot more understandable than what I'd been told so far. Which wasn't a lot. What would Occam's razor have said?

An old guy then stepped over, asking if I had a light as he sat down across from me. With his cravat and spectacles, he reminded me of one of those jolly old chaps who solved murder mysteries on the Nile back in the nineteenth century. While flagging down a waiter, he asked in his gentlemanly English, "Do you visit often?"

"First time," I replied, watching as three taxis arrived all at once. Several young adults then stumbled into the lobby, all high on whatever the fuck the kids were snorting in the clubs these days.

"The history, it's practically visceral," Grandpa Poirot stressed. "Oh, you must see the wall while you're here."

"You mean, The Great Wall?" I mocked.

"My lord, you're thinking of China. Where were you educated, my boy?"

"Wow! You look totally different with hair," a distant voice said with a smile.

Looking up, I finally found the one and only Natalie Portman walking straight toward me.

That old prick and I both rose to our feet as Natalie approached.

"Didn't realize this was a date, my lad. I'll leave you to it." And Santa's older brother wandered off, still in search of those long-forgotten matches.

"When did you grow the fro?" Natalie asked, as I shook her hand.

"Since I went celibate, in January," I replied. "You sure are a fuck-load shorter in reality."

"I know," she giggled, slowly looking me up and down. "The camera adds two feet."

"Why don't you take a photo, it'll last longer."

"Not intimidated, are you?"

"You can eye-fuck the shit out of me all you like – as long as you buy dinner first," Taking half a step back, I titled my head, overtly giving her petite figure the once over. She wore slip-ons, jeans, and a casual blouse. "I've had worse."

Natalie literally laughed like a gun shot, and then punched me in the shoulder. "You really know how to compliment a gal," she said, still beaming with that massive smile of hers.

"It's not my fault, I have this disease," I admitted, glancing back at those two sluts pretending not to watch us. "It's called charm. Terribly infectious. Condoms are useless."

"Thought I saw a Prince Charming in the guest book," she played along. "Now the pieces are coming together."

"Yeah, it's me. Don't tell anyone or I'll punch your face in."

"Hmm, charming." She paused. "Indeed."

"Isn't that why I'm here?" I whispered, wondering where her bodyguard was lurking. "You sure didn't invite me for my looks. Have you fucking seen my hair? You think I want to fucking look like this?!"

"Yeah, what went wrong?" Natalie nodded. "Going for the mad-professor-look or something?"

"No, no, no. It's the I-just-made-sweet-sweet-love-to-the-wall-socket look. Trust me, it's big in Milan. Sixty-four-thousand volts of awesome," I calmly confessed, just as my coffee arrived. "Want to sit?"

"Actually, we can have drinks in my suite," she suggested. "Shall we?"

"After you."

"See," she chuckled. "There, you can be charming."

"I won't lie, Natalie. Not to you," I said, while following, "But I'm afraid, that ass of yours, looks fat in those jeans."

She instantly turned her head, mouth gasping in genuine shock.

"Just saying. Radical honesty. It's the destruction of every healthy relationship known to man."

We stepped into a lift, and the doors shut us in alone. Natalie stood side-on to me as she said, "It's actually really nice to meet you. Totally not what I was expecting."

"We could do this whole thing again if you like. I'll play the shy, introverted artist, afraid of his own fucking shadow. I'll even piss my pants when we first meet. But scat, now that'll cost you extra."

Again, she burst into laughter, and that's when I caught my first sniff of her hair.

Down a pretty corridor we went.

"It's just, you seem very... Inaccessible, from your artistic profile."

"Inaccessible? Me?" I scoffed. "You're the fucking movie star. You, of all people, should know better. Appearances are deceiving. Just like this whole thing right now. So really, why am I here?"

"Wait. What? Didn't Sasha tell you?"

"She said a lot of not much."

"Oh, this is embarrassing." Natalie stopped dead in the corridor and glanced about the lush carpet as if she had suddenly become all timid and uncomfortable. "See, I have this addiction. It's actually a medical condition. My family totally understands and supports me... But you see... I'm a sex-addict."

"Well, shit. No problem," I laughed. "For a second there, I thought you were about to admit to eating the souls of new born babies – just like my last girlfriend. She liked them with just a little touch of barbecue sauce."

We both smirked, arriving at her door.

"But seriously... I want you–," she whispered, leaning up close, pressing her hand against my chest, as she pushed open the door, "–to meet my friends Chloe and Dennis."

"Mr. Bruce Stirling John fucking Knox! Great to fucking meet you!" Dennis yelled out. He was about forty, French, and unshaven. A very casual looking rich guy, who seemed rather intimate with Natalie. A bit too friendly maybe.

"How are you?" Chloe said, shaking my hand firmly. She was older, gray hair, and looked like she'd just woken up a minute ago. Her accent could have been anything.

"So...," Natalie said, slowly moving across that large suite full of antique styled modern furniture.

Then there was this abruptly awkward moment of silence where those three, who all seemed like confident people, looked temporarily lost for words.

Finally, I stepped up, "So shall I just say it? You have a 'cease and desist' order and want me to kindly fuck off with my bullshit, or you'll sue my ass back into the stone age."

Everyone looked at me. No one said anything.

"And to think, I left my fucking coffee downstairs for this party."

"What did Sasha say to you?" Dennis asked.

I inhaled, "Something about some project in pre-production. Co-funded by Israel. You need some concept development. So? So, fucking what?"

"Yes! The project is absolutely happening! Was my idea bringing you on board for the design process. Should really read the script, it's frightening stuff!" Dennis went on like most directors do, jerking off over their next biggest hit.

I cut him off, "Not interested."

"Just wait till you get the script!"

"No thanks."

"Don't be stupid! This is an incredible opportunity!"

"Not doing that shit anymore."

"What are you saying? This is ridiculous!"

"This conversation is over." I wasn't in the fucking mood to kiss the ass of some cunt that I had no fucking need to appease.

"Hey, let's talk about this!" Dennis demanded. "Listen, we've made a lot of arrangements to meet you here!"

Looking at Natalie, I found her staring intensely back at me from a sofa, "I'm only focusing on the artwork for my book. After that, I'm fucking done wasting my fucking life."

Natalie's expression tightened.

"Are you an idiot?!" Dennis laughed, walking toward the suite's private bar. "Artists don't just quit and get a day job! Art, it's a calling!"

"Wow," I grinned bitterly at that fuck, as he poured himself a vodka. "You really live with your fucking head up your ass, don't you."

"Would you look at this guy!" Dennis smirked. "What fucking attitude!"

I turned to Chloe, and she crossed her arms.

"Hey, Bruce!" Dennis persisted. "Work on this project, the connections you'll make, it'll set you up for life!"

"Too fucking late," I replied, glaring at that old woman who never blinked.

"You're after more money! I love this guy! We got to get him a team to supervise!"

"Why are you leaving it behind?" Chloe asked.

"That's really none of your fucking business."

"What are you going to do then?" Natalie spoke at long last.

"I believe the technical term is: dis-a-fucking-ppear."

"Where are you going?" Chloe inquired.

I swallowed my growing annoyance. "Away."

Dennis then came over, handing me a glass of vodka, "You'll bring a real edge to the whole production. Just look at you, people will shit themselves. He's perfect!"

"I don't drink."

Dennis was oblivious, rambling on about the vibe that needed to be cultivated around his set, keeping the mystique dangerous with the tension high, insisting that they could never reveal what was really going on.

Walking over to Natalie, I placed my glass on the coffee table. "Nice to meet you. See you."

Natalie looked confused, as I turned my back on her and headed for the door.

Out into the corridor I went.

Into the elevator.

And then out the front door of the hotel.

I doubted that the trains would still be running at such a late hour, so I ignored the stairs down to the U-bahn station and kept walking. It was all just another waste of my fucking time. But hey, I met Natalie Portman, for fuck's sake! What a foxy little mamma!

"Bruce!" Natalie called out.

I cautiously paused before turning around.

"Sorry. That was weird. The whole situation," she tried to apologize. "In fact, none of this has gone how I imagined it would. I had assumed–"

"Ah. The mother of all fuck-ups," I said, spotting Jack standing outside the hotel.

"Sorry. It's just that..."

"Hey, no problem," I said, glancing around the empty streets in front of Brandenburg Gate. "Do you want go get a drink? I know a place not far from here."

"Thanks, but I can't leave the hotel, not without... All that," Natalie smiled with a flicker of frustration. "Do you want to come back in, and I'll have that coffee with you. No one told me that you don't drink alcohol. Is that serious?"

"Does someone have to tell you everything about everyone else before you meet them for the first time?" I asked. "Do you do even wipe your own ass?"

Natalie's demeanor shifted again. Changing her stance ever so subtly, she replied, "We both only seem to know as much about each other as we've allowed the world to perceive of us."

"I once heard someone say something about the more you give of your personal life to the outside world, the more it drags you down," I recalled from fifteen years ago. "Our secrets must be kept secret."

Natalie Portman & I ended up back in the lobby, sitting at the bar this time.

"You seem like a pretty cool chick," I said, and Natalie choked on her drink.

"Why do you sound so surprised? Someone tell you I'm a complete cunt?"

"Yeah. The guy at door warned me to watch out for the likes of you. You didn't tip him. So, he fell over."

"That joke. No. You seemed so charming until you said that."

"Would you rather I be a pig? 'Cause I'll do it."

"Wait. You do have a pig mask, don't you?"

"Of course. Don't you?" I said, pulling out my phone, showing her some photos of the pig-faced Major Obnoxious. "Jesus Christ! When you laugh, you really go balls-out!"

"Are the neighbors getting upset?" Natalie gasped beneath her hands.

"Why do you care? Is it 'cause you're a mother now?"

"Fuck you!"

"Kiss your kid with those lips?"

"Jealous?"

I paused, reminding myself that she was married. "What are you doing in Berlin?"

Natalie glanced away and groaned, "You know, meeting with producers, like Dennis."

"Thought he was the director."

"Thankfully no. Likes to stick his nose into other people's business, but he's only good for the funding."

"Meet a lot of people like that?"

"Unfortunately. And fortunately."

"Sound conflicted. Need a hug?"

"Yes, but not from you."

"Good. Don't want to catch the Jew-disease."

"There's that charm again. You must live a lonely life."

"Every night I sit at my grand piano next to an open window, lace curtains blowing gently in the breeze, as I read Edgar Allan Poe by moon light. I'm slowly going blind, 'cause it's fucking impossible to read anything by fucking moon light!"

"We should team up. I'll play the world's smallest violin and we can bath in each other's tears of self-pity."

"I wish you'd stop laughing at my pain."

"I can't help it, your pain is the only thing bringing any joy to my life."

"Dennis should come down and film the real Natalie Portman: 'sadist of the noblest blood.'"

"Definitely not! This is private. Just between us. If you ever tell anyone, I'll have you killed. And I can do it. I know people. I'm fucking famous!"

Again, I clenched my jaw, and had to reminded myself that she wasn't actually flirting with me. "So, I hear you're moving to Paris."

"Are you stalking me?"

"Once upon a time. But alas, I realized one-dimensional movie stars aren't real people."

"Not real people? What are we then?"

"You're crab-people."

"Of course."

"So, Paris. Shame about all the French. Looking forward to it?"

Natalie hesitated. "Absolutely. I'm looking forward to everything coming up. Couldn't be happier."

Leaning over, I whispered, "Now say it like you mean it."

She smiled, staring into my eyes.

"You know, you sound like my ex. Actually no, you sound like several exes. In fact, you sound like all of them."

"Is that so?"

"They're all off doing their thing, all very different, but all with that same unease in the tone of their voice. Like they want me to reassure them that everything will work out fine."

"How many have you been through – wait. Don't answer that. I don't want to know."

"Jealous?"

Natalie looked me up and down again. "A little."

"Oh, Natalie. You'll always hold a special place in my heart. Right next to my fetish for girls in knee-high socks."

"Whoa! Okay. Now that's crossing a line. Jesus, I'm definitely more important than socks!"

"Not just any old socks. Knee-high motherfuckers!"

"I'm sure I brought some with me. And I look amazing in them. But you know, I'm more than just my socks!"

"I'll be the judge of that."

She smiled but was distracted. "You want to see them?"

Leaning back, I had to swallow my shock.

"I mean, we're here because I wanted to ask you to paint me."

"Like one of my French girls."

Natalie licked her bottom lip and whispered, "You want to come back up to my room, little boy?"

"Fine. But I'm not going to fuck you. So, get that out of your head, right now!"

"Good. As long as that's clear, we can both remain strictly professional."

The next thing I knew, we were in the lift again.

Then walking down the corridor.

I was watching her tight ass as we returned to her suite.

"I'm shy," she said. "So be gentle."

"I'm not making any promises. But I'll check out your socks. I'm only human after all."

"There you go again, reducing me to nothing but socks," Natalie said, grabbing one of her huge suitcases. "Do you have trouble imagining people complexly?"

"Ah, there's that expression I keep hearing a lot these days. Usually by those that also say things like how much they hate stupid people," I muttered, while moving toward the corner windows looking over Brandenburg Gate. "The infinite intolerance of the so-called sympathetic."

When I finally turned around in that soft-lit hotel suite, I found myself standing across from someone dressed in a full-length black burqa.

"Hi," I smiled. "Are you a ninja?"

"No!" Natalie laughed, "You're so insensitive!"

"What part of 'socks' don't you understand?" I asked, leaning back against the window frame, as Natalie approached. She then slowly raised her left leg, lifting up the thin black cloth, exposing her foot that she rested on the coffee table. And yes, she was wearing white, knee-high socks. "See, now this is perfect. I have just the socks to admire, and none of that superfluous identity of your awful character distracting my fixation."

Natalie instantly threw the burqa back down covering her leg. Standing with her hands on her hips, she tapped her foot impatiently, saying, "I thought artists incessantly complimented their models!"

"Is that what gets you off? Bad pick-up lines from sleazy fucks with mummy-issues?"

"I've been photographed by Vogue, for Christ's sake! I don't need to listen to this."

"Do you want a medal or something?"

"How about some respect?"

"Respect for what? The fact that you can cry on cue?" I replied. Even though I could only see her eyes, I could tell she was still smiling. "Shit, that's basically all my exes could do, and you wouldn't believe how much I disrespected them. And they were people that I actually fucking loved. You're just a celebrity. What's fame but the gross-exaggeration of someone's mortal attributes. Idealizing anyone only ever leads to epic disappointment. I truly pity the day that Jesus might ever return."

"So then, I guess, no more socks for you."

"Ah, so it's a tradeoff you want."

"Isn't everything?"

"Sure."

"What's in it for me?"

"I have no idea. What do you want? Why am I literally here?" I asked, as Natalie slowly crawled on all fours onto one of the big sofas. "And why the fuck do you even have a fucking burqa anyway? Isn't that against every-fucking-thing you stand for?"

"Discovered I get less attention on the street while dressed in one of these."

"I recently saw a film about Diana, about how she was constantly threatened by the media. It reminded me of a guy who said that Orwell was wrong, that ultimately, we'd all willingly put ourselves under constant observation. Which reminds me of an artist I know. We have polar-opposite opinions on identity-copyright. She was livid that I drew her without her explicit permission. So, I asked her, what if a model said no to her, what would she do? She shrugged, admitting she'd probably just continue painting them anyway. So why ask in the first place? Who the fuck needs permission to take a shit. Fuck that! The very act of a revolution is to fucking defy authority. I hate these fucking artists too fucking chickenshit to stand up for the fucking right to express their art freely without the fear of offending someone. Fuck their fear! Fuck their permission! And mostly, fuck all this spineless fucking art! Because in the fucking end, this is about more than just fucking art! My unconscious never asks me permission first, it just does what it fucking does!"

"So, you just don't give a shit if you hurt someone's feelings?" Natalie enticed, slowly rocking back and forth on her hands and knees.

"My only responsibility as an artist, is in creating the art!" I sneered in disgust. "I'm only interested in making my art as good as possible. That's my priority, at the cost of everything else. And I fucking accept my marketing failure. But no one ever gave a fuck about my shit anyway, and I fucking know why, because every-fucking-thing I've ever fucking done is utterly fucking unimportant!"

"That's the angry Bruce I was expecting," Natalie said quietly. "If I give you permission, will you shut up and draw me?"

"Are you getting some kind of perverted thrill from this?"

"Aren't you?"

From my point of view, Natalie was side-on upon the sofa, as she then lifted the burqa all the way up her legs and off her ass! She wasn't wearing anything under it!

"Yes, those are some excellent socks. Yes. Yes, indeed."

"So that's a yes, you'll draw me?"

"Fuck yes!"

Smoothly, in one steady movement, Natalie pulled the entire burqa off like a giant t-shirt. Leaving her stark naked with all her messy brown hair highlighting her exquisite face. I was frozen in a moment of all consuming, holy-fucking-shit awe!

"Wait," I uttered, "I don't have anything to draw you with."

"Silly. I don't want you to draw me here like this," Natalie smirked. Sitting in the middle of the sofa, she crossed her legs, and stretched her arms out confidently. "I mean in New York, when we both have more time. I just wanted to meet you and see if you're really the psycho that Leslie made you out to be."

"Who is more obsessed: the stalker, or the stalked who stalks the stalker?" I grinned, still examining her tanned skin and little tits. "You always walk around naked under that thing?"

"Aren't we all naked under our clothes?"

"Burqas always made me laugh. As if it's the ultimate protection from getting raped. Besides, most females in burqas have more to fear from their own fucking husbands raping them to death than anything. But hell, chattel is chattel, and slaves don't have the right to say no."

"That's an over-simplification," Natalie stated.

"Anything anyone ever says is an over-simplification! Everything can be fucking elaborated upon. But do you really want to spend the next hour expanding on the very definition of moral-relativity verse the-law-of-the-land, before even stating the premise of the concept?" Suddenly, I realized I was standing directly above Natalie, as she reached up, slipping her fingers into my belt buckle, and then she pulled me down so that I was kneeling over her thighs.

"Is it acceptable to you to do anything at all in the name of art, regardless of ethics?" Natalie whispered, the tip of her nose touching mine as our eyes darted from left to right. "Sounds like an excuse, absolving actions in the name of art. Even criminal behavior. What's the difference between art and inciting hatred?"

"Depends if you're creating something rather than instructing others. I'm not telling anyone what to do. That's why I am not interested in people like Ai Weiwei, who gets others to build his shit. I'm not a fan of collaboration. At what point do these artists create a cult. I'm fucking repulsed by sheeple!"

"But you're part of a larger community. And you're preaching your opinion through your art."

"Opinion is just a reflected observation. Anyone who listens to me and takes anything on face-value without questioning, is a fucking moron!"

"But at some point, there has to be a mutual trust, where someone admires the work and can trust the informer not to give false evidence. That's how knowledge is passed down."

"I don't know a single person I trust that much," I hissed, my hands sliding up Natalie's shoulders, moving up to her throat. "Look at you. You're a mother and a wife, yet here we are. Alone together."

"Who said we're alone?" Natalie whispered, her mouth so close I could taste her words – and then I sat back. She smiled, tilting her head. "What if I told you that this was all for art. That what we're doing right now is art."

"Are we being filmed? Or are you just using art as an alibi for your infidelity?"

"We're constantly being watched, even if by our own eyes. But there are some people who can see us better than we ever really see ourselves."

"You mean therapists?"

"I mean artists," Natalie said quietly.

I looked away. "I can't help you then."

"What are you saying?"

"I only see whatever I want to fucking see. If you're looking for an objective, rational perspective–"

"I wouldn't have asked you, if that's all I needed."

"You make it sound like you're having a mid-life crisis."

"Yet you're the one quitting your art."

"Don't go there, sister."

"Why are you so uncomfortable talking about it?"

I stood up, but she grabbed my hand.

"Tell me!"

"Why don't you tell me why you're naked with a complete fucking stranger in your hotel room?"

"You remember Leslie?"

"No! Who the fuck is this Leslie? Did I shit in her cereal or something?"

"The agent you contacted in 2003."

My eyes glazed over, and I eventually sat on the coffee table in front of Natalie.

"And in 2007, I also heard about you."

"The Tom Waits video? Epitaph or Anti Records, they contacted your lawyers back then. That guy Hein told me that you saw my animation. You said it was 'pretty cool'. Except for the bonus scene at the end of the credits."

"Yeah, that's right. It was rad."

"So, what the fuck happened? Why was I met with a wall of fucking silence after that? Hein said they wanted to promote it as the official music video. But then. Nothing."

"Well, you'd already been red-flagged by Leslie."

I sighed and shook my head slowly. "That motherfucker told me that Giger would have no fucking interest in ever seeing my work. Fucking piece of shit. We're talking about the guy who painted a wall of cunts getting fucked, and got the Dead Kennedys charged with obscenity! Yet I'm the sickfuck?!"

"And yet here we are," Natalie smiled.

"Yeah. So, what changed?"

Natalie crossed her arms over her delicious breasts, she seemed cold, so I pulled the burqa around her shoulders like a blanket. "Thanks."

"You okay?" I asked, as she hunched over. "Seriously, do you need a hug?"

"Maybe," she laughed weakly. So, I sat next to her and wrapped my long arms around her back as she buried her head in the small of my neck, and I squeezed. She inhaled slowly and then trembled. Her hands crept around my shoulder-blades as she held on for dear life. I stayed there in that lovely hotel suite in the small hours, resting my cheek against her head, and got high on the smell of her hair.

"There's a movie coming out in a week, called, The Fault In Our Stars. It's not really my cup of tea, but in the last year I've became aware of the author, John Green. Turns out he's the same age as me. And I've had this weird thought, that he's like the version of me that I could've become if I was actually a good person. I like watching his Vlog Brother clips with Hank. Despite their overly optimistic well-wishing, I enjoy keeping updated. I think I need it, especially when there isn't much positive going on in my life. You know, sometimes I wonder why I'm not a better human being who cares about starving kids in war-stricken countries. But I'm no John Green and never will be. Yet, if you need a hug. That's some small thing I can do. But that can't console everything else that I've fucked-up in my life."

"No, it can't. But it matters, right now," Natalie spoke into my neck. "Sometimes all that means anything is what you do for the sake of the present tense, rather than seeking later gratification. Be there for someone when they need it most. What's more important than that?"

"I've always wondered what it's like being in a disaster. Just to see how I'd react under truly shit circumstances. Discover what kind of piece of shit I really am. You ever been under that kind of pressure?"

"Not really." Natalie's fingers then dug into my shirt, and I realized it was wet from her tears. "But I've seen some terrible things."

"Did it make you a better person?"

"I don't know. But do we really need to survive atrocities in order to become good people? Can't we learn to improve ourselves no matter where we are."

"Are you a believer that we're all born good, and that it's evil that's learned?"

"We're just born. And sometimes shit happens. But if the environment dictates destiny, then how do you explain those who rise through adversity, like Mandela?"

"Exceptions to the rule don't change the statistical probability that the masses will remain mundane."

"But as a whole we're much better off than ever before."

"Sure. Couldn't argue with that," I whispered, stroking Natalie's spine with my thumb. "But at what cost to the planet and every other living thing, including ourselves?"

"I didn't realize you were such a tree-hugger."

"Couldn't give a fuck about the melting glaciers, or children bathing in toxic waste, or the endless choirs of suffocating battery-hens. But we're still responsible for all of it! Though, who gives a shit about the destruction of the rain forests, as long as we humans as a whole are doing just fantastic! It's all fucking magick! DISTRACTION FROM THE TRANSMUTATION OF SELF-DESTRUCTION!"

Natalie didn't say anything after that.

I then remembered my time in India, when my girlfriend started crying from two weeks of my negative tirades. So, I snapped out of it and changed the subject. "Hey, but what did Kubrick say about life?"

"Stanley?" Natalie asked.

"Is there any other?"

"Smart ass."

"He said something like, since life is so fucking meaningless, it forces us to create our own meaning."

"But whatever something means to me, might mean nothing to you."

"Pretty much."

"That's why we only find accommodation once we form a common ground."

"And isn't that how arguments are won? By understanding the point of view of the other guy."

"That's empathy, baby."

I sat for a while.

"Is this where we are now, Bruce?" Natalie said. "Trying to reconcile each other?"

And then I had a bizarre moment, her voice had become so familiar from films, that hearing it here felt like I was actually trapped in some kind of Martin Scorsese flick – and then I straightened up, remembering what she'd said earlier, about us not being alone. Was this all some kind of experimental film? Were there hidden cameras in the walls? Was this some art-house thing that was going for a new level of realism? Or was I seriously just paranoid and unable to accept the fact I had a naked Natalie Portman in my arms? I then asked, "What are we reconciling, exactly?"

"Our differences?"

"We'll never do that. We'll always be apart. There will always be people like me, who drive us apart despite anyone trying to hold us together."

"Conflict is appealing," Natalie added.

"Who's Chloe?" I asked.

Natalie slowly sat back, running both her index fingers under her smeared eyes. "Why do you ask?"

"Is she the director?"

"No. She's an old friend of the family." Natalie raised her knees up to her chest, as I leaned back, while my right arm was still around her shoulders. "She's actually the real reason we contacted you."

"Why?"

"It's kind of silly." Natalie shook her head. "I pride myself on being this rational, Harvard woman, but Chloe came to me convinced that I was being watched. Said she'd seen something that had come to her in a vision."

"What had she seen?" I asked.

"Something about a house where some kind of unnatural event took place."

"What's that got to do with you and me?"

"You were there, at Loch Ness a year ago."

"That whole situation had nothing to do with you."

"Chloe's certain that her vision was all true. She's the one who searched for you. Found what you wrote. She says there's something attached to you. That it's still with you. You brought it back from Loch Ness."

"And you believe her?"

"She's special to me," Natalie whispered, not bothering to explain.

"What exactly did I bring back?"

"Nothing. Chloe needs medication. She sees things that aren't really there."

"Is she schizophrenic?"

"I don't know, but she's never been like this before." Natalie then laughed sickly. "When you left the hotel before, Chloe burst into tears, saying the whole room was full of these black things. I don't know what's wrong with her."

"Still don't see how you're connected to any of this."

"You'd have to ask her."

"You do know, everything I wrote about at Loch Ness, it did all happen. And yet, my experience is not the same as her experience. No matter what evidence or explanation I have, sometimes there isn't any common ground."

"What happened there?" Natalie asked, turning her whole body toward me.

"Read what I fucking wrote. I think it's all very fucking clear. But you won't. No one ever does."

"Perhaps you should see a doctor."

"Why? Am I threatening you? Am I being hysterical?"

"Do you see the same things that Chloe saw?"

"What does it matter?"

"I don't believe you, you do care."

"And I don't give two fucks what you believe."

"Tell me where you're going!"

"Away."

"Where exactly is that?"

I waited.

"Who have you told?"

"No one."

"What do you mean, no one. You have to tell someone where you're going."

"No, I don't."

"That's not cool. You have people who care about–"

"Whoa! You don't know anything about me!"

"Everyone has friends. And you're not a total asshole. You know, I don't run after just anyone on the street."

"And I'm glad that you did. Or else I never would've gotten you naked. And from a pure aesthetic appraisal of your physical composition: you're a fucking hot little number! But you already knew that. You don't need another sycophantic leech gnawing away at your tit."

"No," she said with a coy smile. "But I needed the hug,"

"We all need someone who'll tolerate us from time to time."

"Maybe." Natalie stared at her feet on the edge of the sofa. "You mentioned Diana. The biggest problem with fame really is such a fucking cliche. You know, constantly surrounded by people, but no one that you can depend upon. A confidant. Such first-world fucking problems."

"That's another expression I dislike. A condescending dismissal of another's pain. Just 'cause you live in the first world doesn't change the relevance of your given stress. You might have food in your belly, but that can't stop you from suffering in a million other fucking ways."

"Yeah, but I'm not struggling to find drinking water each day just to survive. That's a whole other level of stress."

"No shit, but all our ancestors were in that exact same situation at some point. Just 'cause someone invented flushing toilets, doesn't mean they also discovered the cure to all forms of possible torment."

"Yeah, mental illness can affect anyone."

"We're all somewhere on a spectrum of mental disorder, no exceptions."

"So, if you appreciate that we're all similar on some level, then you can relate to someone else beyond yourself."

"You tell me, Jew girl. Can you see it from Hitler's point of view?"

"Always got to go too far, don't you."

"What's the point of discussing such ideas if you don't?"

"I think what he did was an act of unspeakable evil, and yes, I find it hard to see it from his point of view."

"If evil is just a state of mind, and all thoughts are at some level mental illness, then given enough time, do you consider it possible to empathize with someone even as extreme as Hitler?"

"Empathize perhaps. But justify, no!"

"Justifications are purely subjective. If you could empathize completely, you would also rationalize what he did. Or you're really not empathizing hard enough."

"Are you trying to justify the Holocaust?"

"I'm talking about empathy. Couldn't care less about six-million dead Jews here, or twenty-six-million dead Russians there. Evolution has a much bigger death toll at the end of the day."

"I'm not asking you to love everyone."

"Then what are you asking?"

"That if you can empathize with others, then can you see why you can't just ignore everyone and hurt those that care about you?"

I looked at Natalie's tiny little feet.

"Where are you going?" she whispered again.

"Reputations. I've come to the conclusion that someone's reputation is as close a construct to this concept that anyone has of an immortal soul. Forget about your genes, they only have a vague relevance to you personally. Your reputation is something that you create, and yet, once again, have little control over. If you have a bad reputation, then you're a bad fucking person forever more."

"That's only an illusion. It's not who we really are. Everything we've been talking about is based on what others perceive against what we hold inside."

"And what we hold inside means nothing to the greater universe. So, would you rather be remembered as a good girl or a mass murderer?"

"I don't need to answer that," Natalie frowned. "Our innermost thoughts might be irrelevant to the outside world, but they matter to us, they shape us, guide us as individuals."

"So even if we're all guilty of thought-crime," I said facetiously, "As long as we don't share it, we're all good?"

"Your secrets are just a form of control! And this big secret of yours, where you're going, it's also a desperate attempt to maintain some power over your life, when you know yourself that you don't have any!"

I nodded. "Just like your prying nature is merely the Electra complex exerting itself in order to control me."

"Is this all a fucking game to you?!" Natalie sneered.

"Of course," I smiled.

"If there's nothing I can say that will get you to talk, then how can we have a dialogue?!"

"I thought that's what this was."

"Why do you refuse to speak to me?!"

"My mind is already made up."

"Then there can be no resolution!"

"I don't believe in such things."

"Talk to me! Engage in open discourse!"

"No."

"Why do you refuse to help yourself?!"

"Who said I needed help?"

"Because none of this is healthy!"

"Says the girl hanging out with her stalker. Seems like you're the one in need of help. Transference much?"

"Don't do that!"

"So, it's cool for you to play pet-shrink, but not me. Smells like typical female hypocrisy."

"I have a degree, what do you have besides your fleeting moments of compassion?! I think you're in need of a hug more than I was!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I pushed away to the other end of the sofa. "I hugged you once, don't expect a repeat performance, sunshine!"

"Oh, I forgot. You're celibate," Natalie grinned. "So, what would you do if I started hitting on you?"

I sniggered, "You mean, hitting on me AGAIN."

"You didn't seem to mind it before."

"That's 'cause I'm a gentleman."

"Of course. And that's why I invited you back."

I bit my tongue.

"But let's just say, hypothetically," Natalie whispered, as she slowly stood above me, and then dropped the burqa to the floor. "Would you tell me your secret if we fucked?"

-

An hour later.

"Life isn't without its bitter fucking irony," I said, catching my breath as I lay naked on the floor in the middle of the suite.

"That ain't no lie," Natalie confirmed, her socked toes rubbing against my bare foot as she lay stretched in the opposite direction.

"Now I have to shave my head again."

"No! Why? I love it! It makes you seem much more... Approachable!" Natalie stated, crawling over until she lay on my chest. "Okay, it could be re-worked."

"Are you calling me ugly?"

"I'm calling you interesting."

"Bitch!" I gasped. "Well, at least you like my personality."

"I didn't say that! Don't you be putting words in my mouth!"

Looking at her lips, I replied, "'Words', is that what the kids are calling it these days?"

"Shut your face!" she sneered, and sat up, straddling me, both of her hot palms against my tattooed chest. "This never happened."

"Of course not," I smiled wider, my hands on her hips. "Like I said, irony. Bitter fucking irony. When I first noticed you back in '99, you were just an archetype that I directed my frustrations upon. But now, you'll forever remain a fucking secret. So many hidden lives kept secret."

"Am I a problem for you?" Natalie asked.

"You know you aren't," I replied, running my fingers over her sweaty belly button. "And now you know my secret, so we have to trust each other."

"Ultimately, we don't have to trust anyone."

I swiveled my head, listening.

"Heard this thing about a kid at McDonald's. Bill Murray apparently came up and started eating his French fries, saying, no one will ever believe this happened. And then he just walked away. Same thing applies here. You could tell anyone about all of this here tonight, and who in their right mind would seriously listen to you? Especially with your reputation."

"I had a realization a few weeks ago, backstage at the Nachtmahr gig. That I like having affairs more than anything. See, last year I became increasingly disgusted by how incestuous everyone was. Everyone is fucking everyone. And sure, I was absolutely guilty of being one of those fucks. But it all became about the bragging. I felt less and less toward everything! But the fucking thing is: I've always had the most intense feelings for someone who was kept secret."

"People will always want what they know they can never have."

"Is that why you found me? Because of my red-flag. You wanted to meet someone you were warned to stay away from. Do you also like to hunt lions, tigers, and bears?"

"Don't flatter yourself. You're just adorable!"

"Like a lovable little snuggle bunny?"

"Oh my god! That's so totally you!"

"Call me Uncle. Uncle Fingers."

"Eww!" Natalie giggled, as I tickled her ribs, and we rolled around the floor at the bottom of the bed.

Grabbing her waist, I flipped her over the bed. Her knees were still on the floor, as I pressed myself against her ass, and leaned in up to her ear. "If you ever tell anyone my secret, I'll fucking kill you," I whispered, pushing my forehead against her skull. "Now fucking ask me if I'm fucking bluffing?!"

Both of Natalie's arms supported our weight, as she held her breath, and then eventually responded, "I believe you."

"Fucking liar," I said, before releasing her and grabbing my jeans.

Natalie inched up the destroyed bed and sat against the headboard, watching as I pulled on my Chucks while perched upon the large armchair facing her.

"How many affairs have you had since you got married?" I asked, tying my shoelaces.

"You know, we're not all like you, Bruce."

"Yes, you are. I'm just like everyone."

"No."

"I learned recently that my understanding of the word 'whore' was wrong. I'd thought it was slang for a prostitute. But it's not. It simply means anyone who has promiscuous sex. So, we are all fucking whores!"

Natalie glared defiantly back at me.

"If we're all guilty then why even bother denying it? If everyone's a whore, then that means we're the very fucking status quo of humanity. Why act ashamed of our underlining human nature?"

"BECAUSE IT'S VULGAR!"

My head drifted aside. She was absolutely right. "We must keep up appearances. Maintain the illusion of beauty, despite our actions."

"Why do you always have to focus on the negative? People are more complex than that. You just choose to ignore the context in support of your bias."

"Yeah. And. So do you."

"I choose to help those when I can. Do you even try to do anything constructive in a positive light?"

I just looked up at Natalie's thighs.

"We all need a little fun, vent, and let off some steam. As long as we're careful and no one gets hurts, then it's healthy," Natalie said, as she came closer, lying on her stomach. "You should try harder, fight for what really matters to you, and not get dragged down into this self-destructive obsession."

"And then no one gets hurt?" I chuckled. "Someone always gets hurt."

"That's simply not true."

"Look, I'm pretty friendly with all of my ex-girlfriends. They know me better than most, but I don't recall a single one of them ever defending me as a person. As soon as someone accuses me of one of the many shit things that I've been blamed for, they all roll their eyes and say, yeah, that was probably Bruce. Never the benefit of the doubt. And these are the same people that you claim fucking care about me!"

"You don't know that. You're assuming too much."

"A conscious observation witnessed first-hand many fucking times, is not a fucking assumption!"

"You're looking at it the wrong way."

"Maybe. But how many times have I heard them confess, now that they're with a new guy, that they're doing the exact same fucking shit that they once accused me of doing. Yet now they laugh about it. Their fun and games are all innocent, and like you say, no one gets hurt. Even though they're whoring around town. I could tell you some debaucherous fucking stories. Yet when they catch their current boyfriends so much as chatting with their ex, it's all, men are such fucking pigs. Still, these same girls will have some of the most sexually depraved conversations with me, Bruce, King Pig. The burning hypocrisy here only serves as a reminder, that as bad as I once was to all of them, they were doing the exact same shit behind my fucking back too! Because we're all the fucking same! The only difference between you and me, Natalie, is I want to go to fucking hell!"

"It sounds like you're already there."

"Then maybe it's true. I'm already dead."

"Please." Natalie reached her hand out. "Just don't go to–"

I lunged forward, clamping my right palm over her fucking mouth, my left hand grabbing the back of her skull! "You promised not to talk about it! Don't break your fucking promise! Not while I'm still in the fucking room!"

She nodded her head with a sour look in her eyes.

Releasing Natalie, I grabbed my shirt and jacket.

"You need an intervention."

"You mean exorcism."

"Maybe both."

"Yeah, and who the fuck is going to do that?!"

Natalie went blank.

"It's too fucking late."

"Will I even see you again?"

"Once Bark is done, if you get me a ticket to New York, I'll do your portrait. And we can pretend like none of this ever happened. You can play the perfect role of a dutiful wife and mother, and I'll be the charming artists you once met by accident in Berlin," I said, opening the door out of the suite – when Natalie suddenly ran up and slammed it shut!

"Wait!"

"Why?"

"I never thanked you."

"For what?"

"For not talking about my films."

"I don't like any of your work. I like you as a person."

"Charming."

And then I whispered, "Once, Clive Owen asked you what your cunt tastes like? You replied, 'heaven.'"

She smiled, "And?"

And I kissed Natalie Portman goodbye, and then shut the door behind me.

As I walked through the early morning light, down Unter Den Linden, I watched the city begin to come alive like clockwork. I didn't need to be here, and it would all keep ticking on by one second at a time. So, was I even here now? Had I actually met Natalie? Plugging in my headphones, I selected White Zombie, Real Solution #9. One thing was for certain, like that song kept repeating: I'm already dead.

Bruce

© 2014 BRUCE STIRLING JOHN KNOX