‘He was continuously on the watch for the critic, reporter or love interest that would finally unmask him for the stand-in he felt he had become. It never happened. Instead, his career took off.’
Extract taken from Club Ded
By Nikhil Singh
Published by Luna Press Publishing
The rain drags flags beyond the glass walls of Charles De Gaulle. Brick can feel the Northern winter coming on. He’ll get one last taste of it before stepping through the airlock. A nostalgic ‘escape-to-paradise’ feeling resurfaces. For a moment, it’s just like the old days. Then time catches up to him. Escape to Paradox, the old inner voice chortles. He wonders when he picked up such an annoying voice. Did it come out of rehab? Was it perhaps a fossil of some half-defined character sketch, the career-relic of a younger self? Brick prefers to ignore it in any case. Inner voices are way too Hollywood for Paris in the rain.
The coziness of the airport café, in relation to its freezing views, only accentuates the unreality of his situation. Flying out to a shoot used to be a daily grind. But after years of inactivity, Betty Ford and a splendid array of mid-life crises, the whole situation had started to morph into memoir-potential. Something a young writer could breed a rom-com out of—a real touchie-feelie. Brick realizes that he is finally playing the starring role, in the nostalgic sequel to his very own life. Looking back at the golden years with a bitter aftertaste; ‘Just south of cliché’ was what he would have grumbled twenty years ago. Or was it fifteen? Exactly how many golden years did it take before the ripest of grapes turned to dust in his mouth? He could recall all the dates. The numbers stayed solid. It was just actual memories he was having trouble with. The colours and tones escaped him. Lost time, he ruminates, the ultimate special-effect. He tries to avoid being cynical. He even listens to his wife and attempts yoga here and there. Yet, despite his obvious sincerity he is still haunted by the age-old sensation of feeling like an imposter. It’s a sensation that took him back to when he was a young lion and the world was still his tuna fish. This was back when the fame had really hit hard, leaving technicolour bruises over everything. But even in the glow of those golden days, Brick was always waiting for the penny to drop, waiting by the phone, or in the wings. When fans looked up and saw their ‘dapper Hercules’, fresh from outer space or slick with the blood of an enemy, the man behind the action idol remained in silent doubt. Brick waited patiently to be exposed for the cheap Hellenic mirror-portrait that he struggled to maintain. He was continuously on the watch for the critic, reporter or love interest that would finally unmask him for the stand-in he felt he had become. It never happened. Instead, his career took off.
Brick’s life descended into corporate wangling and backroom deals. Fame crystallized around him; that most exclusive of amber’s, slowly asphyxiating his personal freedom and pickling him in ‘type’. But that was all in the Jurassic—light years ago. Now, Brick has been exiled to the land of Nod. He regards his wife Lisa-Marie, who wafts beyond the wasteland of a wilting cappuccino. She looks so cinematic, he thinks. He begins to mentally construct an opening scene: camera tracks slowly through a large crowded airport. It finds a man and his wife. They sit at a corner table of a cafe. Isolation in a crowd (or is that too obvious for an opener?). The man is Brick Tynan Bryson (early 50’s) and the bottleblonde ex-swimwear model, is his wife, Lisa-Marie Liszt (mid 40’s). She faces in towards him while he sits facing out, feet apart, uncomfortable and shifty in the hubbub. In dress, both are sleek and well turned out. He, every bit the ‘aging action movie star’, large, statuesque, standing out almost comically against a tide of urbane human traffic…. A ‘dapper Hercules, lost amongst suburbanites’ was how the Times described him in ‘95 (the description still sticks—‘like bubblegum on a shoe’). She, on the other hand is (what any callous casting brief would describe as) the ‘mature trophy-wife’.
Perhaps Lisa-Marie had been content to wear the trophy tag once. But 1995 was a lifetime ago. By now the routine has worn thin and died. Her strategically disguised intelligence turned to melancholia, in the same way wines age. The ingredients remain the same, but an irrevocable alteration had occurred after fermentation. She was like that—a real California red. Still, Brick couldn’t help but cartoonify her anxiety. He is incapable of interacting with the morbidity of her yoga-toned body, which to him, is a pointless strategy against the onset of age. Her withering silences had only brought him closer to the shore of death. It’s all too Ingmar Bergman for an old-school action legend. This sensation of mortality became the excuse he offered his reflection. When she was crying in the lounge next door, quaffing dong-qui ornostalgically watching reruns of the sitcoms she had despised so much in her youth. Brick often dwells on her old reflections. He remembers a lush Amazon, bounding un-catchably through the Malibu surf. Or winking down from billboards across Scandinavia. Of course, he loathes the fact that he objectifies his wife. But these judgements are played close to the heart. After all, Lisa-Marie could always be counted on to remind him of his affair with alcoholism. All his neuroses are, by now, just so many dirty glasses to her. ‘Take off the mask, we need the hood’ was still her oldest insult.
Club Ded by Nikhil Singh is published by Luna Press Publishing, priced £12.99