This Doesn't Count
“So, like, what happened to you? I used to see you in stuff all the time.”
As the woman before Troy Demetri popped her head back up, she pinched at her thin nostrils and inhaled a few times to work the white powder through her nasal cavities. She ran her pinky along the edge of her bank card and gathered the residue from the edge. She painted it over her gums, waiting for an answer from him.
He shrugged, distracted. He was fixed on the small clutch pinned under her armpit. It was a party and he wasn't having fun. Not the kind of fun she was clearly having. That was his brand of fun and it had disappeared a few moments earlier into that small, blue bag.
“I don’t know. No goodwill in this town can last forever, I guess.”
“It’s a real fucking shame. You were great! What was that one movie where you were the little league coach that funded the team by winning street races?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, her back arching backward with the revelation. “That’s the one. I saw that movie in the theater, like, three times.” That put her age somewhere between a very hard-looking twenty-something and a slightly less hard thirty-something.
Troy smiled. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.”
“You know, I never realized you had an accent,” she said, opening her purse and fishing out the coke baggie again. “You sound, like, super American. How do you do that?”
Troy’s focus split unevenly between her hands and her face. “Dialect coaches. Very good ones.”
“Do you think if I worked with a dialect coach, I could sound, like, British?” She said the last few words like a bastardized Harry Potter character. She clearly meant English but Troy wasn’t English. He resisted the urge to correct her. Nothing about their conversation so far had convinced him there would be any point to it.
“Sure,” he said.
“I’m trying to get into acting myself. Right now, I’m a model and a writer, but if I could learn other accents, maybe I could be in a Hugh Jackman movie or something.” She paused, weirdly hopeful of the connection that seemingly clicked in her head. “Do you know Hugh Jackman?”
He also wasn't fucking Australian.
“I’ve never met him. I’ve heard he’s very nice.”
“Are you good?” She raised the baggie and swung it at him between her thumb and index.
He declined politely as if it were the last slice of pizza. But much like someone who’d do that, it wasn't sincere.
“Are you sure?” her voice went up at the end in a sing-songy attempt to entice him. She’d used too much effort. The want was there -- coursing through him in fact -- he just couldn’t. He had four years clean and it was nearly the last thing left in his life he could hang on to.
“Yes. I’m sure.”
As she came up from another bump, she was tapped on the shoulder by a man from behind. She turned around and excitedly hugged him. Troy took the opportunity of being momentarily forgotten about to continue to the open bar, where he’d been headed before being stopped by her.
There was a gentleman in a black vest with an unwavering gentle smile behind the portable bar on the second floor, waiting for him. He was set up in the small seating area at the top of the staircase. From one of his visits to see him, he’d learned his name was Tom. Tom saw him on his way up, and he dutifully dropped a sugar cube into a glass and reached for a muddler. Thank God for Tom, Troy thought, for at least the third time that night.
Thirty-ish people filled the house with echoey chatter, either all hopped up or chilled out on something, going on about the projects they had with their A-list talent attached. Troy heard snippets of conversations as he moved through the rooms and so far, everyone was confident they had the next big blockbuster franchise on their hands.
The house offered a panorama of infinity views of the Hollywood Hills built from spotless floor-to-ceiling panes of glass. The interior was stark and open on purpose. It was minimalist, colorless, and didn’t dare distract from the view that their 34 million dollar (Troy had approximated) hillside perch provided them. The host? Troy had probably seen him at some point, but he wouldn't have recognized him. He had been told a name that he had since forgotten by the person who’d invited him -- an old agent of his that still liked him. The invite seemed perfectly timed with a suggestion from Isaac, his manager, for him to attempt to breathe some air outside of his apartment every once in a while. Troy guessed, from the house and its desperate desire to be coveted and envied, that he was probably a successful producer type with a mouth faster than he’d ever be able to run. Some constantly flop-sweating, sausaged-fingered creep who needed to have his hand near the ass of a woman as he spoke to them. It could have been any of the several men Troy had walked past.
He took his Old Fashioned from Tom with his left hand and a gracious nod before putting another generous tip into his jar. His grip on the glass felt good, but he couldn't always trust it, especially when he’d been drinking. He switched it to his other hand and traveled up to the balcony on the third floor.
He really wanted to be on the roof, especially after his run in with the bag of coke with the chatty girl attached to it, but he hadn't seen a way up there that didn't involve climbing the exterior structure of the house. Even if he thought he could do that climb at sixty years old, being five Old Fashioneds deep, Troy envisioned it ending badly. The railed-in balcony seemed like a good alternative.
The lights at the bottom of the pool flickered on as he came up. He put his elbows on the glass railing and closed his eyes when he saw a breeze start rustling a pathway of bushes that led to him. It was crisp, still being nipped at the heels from that winter’s hanging chill. His silvery curls picked up on it and whipped around his forehead and ears. He needed a haircut. That’s what his mother would have told him if she could see him. “George Harrison is not my son. Troy Demetri is. Would you please get your hair cut? I would like to see him again,” she would say, playfully ruffling his hair when it was still the color of roasted hazelnuts. She teased him about it well into his twenties and past the point of him needing a tidy, corporate appearance to have a meaningful income. He was a working actor by that time, making enough from his craft to call it a living. A paltry one perhaps but one that made him happy. He’d always acted more annoyed with his mother's harmless ribbing than he actually was. He wished he hadn't. He missed it terribly now.
“Troy Demetri! There you are!” An English accent. London-grown if he had to guess. Surely the girl snorting coke off a debit card hadn’t learned how to imitate one so quickly.
He looked over his shoulder and saw a woman he’d only seen on television on her way over to him, hurrying to close and tie a deep yellow peacoat around her. She was much taller than she’d looked and possibly pastier if that were even possible.
“You were looking for me?” he asked.
“Yes. Luckily, I just followed the trail of cologne.”
He chuckled stiffly, a touch embarrassed. “Sorry. Must have gone a little heavy-handed with it.”
“It wasn’t a complaint. I like it. You have good taste.”
He shrugged. “I really don’t. I bought what my ex would buy me for my birthday.”
“Then you have good sense for continuing to buy it. Moze Sullivan,” she said extending her hand. It had just begun to warm in her coat pocket when he touched it.
“I know exactly who you are,” he said, gently squeezing her hand before letting go, “and you’re too good for this. You have a BAFTA.”
Moze laughed a tragically English laugh that sounded nervous and wound a bit too tight. “In England, I’m too good for this. This is America, and no one gives a fuck about my BAFTA. I have to kiss ass at these schmooze-fests just like everyone else.”
"Has it worked?"
She shrugged. "Maybe. I'll know in a few weeks. You know nothing's a done deal in this town until you can't legally talk about it." She nodded to his hand hanging over the railing, gripping his glass. “Having fun?”
“I heard you’d gotten clean.”
“I am clean. Four years. I'm not sober right now, but I can handle this."
“The semantics of your logic is very interesting.”
“This isn’t a relapse," Troy assured her. "If you would have known me before, you’d know that this isn’t anything close to a relapse. I'm Scottish. I don't think this even counts.”
“Does Isaac know that you’re drinking?”
Troy's smirk withdrew from his lips. He shifted his eyes away from her, and into his glass. “No,” he finally said.
“There's a good chance you think it counts to at least him.”
“How do you know Isaac?”
“He dated a friend of mine a few years ago. Nina Trent.”
“Ah, yes. Nina. How is she?” Troy hadn't the foggiest idea when she’d taken her turn with Isaac, and the name didn’t ring a single bell.
“She’s well. She also has a BAFTA now. We meet up once a week and let them have a playdate.”
Troy chuckled into the bottom of his glass before putting it to his lips.
A pair of heels clicked across the balcony floor to them, turning both of them around to look. Moze outstretched her arm for the woman coming over, and drew her into her side at the waist.
“I was looking for you! That couple you left me to talk to are swingers,” the woman said, also English. She was shorter than Moze naturally, but edged out her height with the heels and the thick, kinky explosion of hair pulled tightly to the top of her head.
“Oh? Well, we’re definitely accepting that invitation to dinner at their house now.” She playfully glared at Moze, and Moze planted a firm, “forgive me” kiss on her temple. “Sorry about that, but I saw Troy and I had to catch up with him. Troy, this is my girlfriend, Lacy Ziegler. Lacy, this is Troy Demetri.”
“No introduction needed. I’m a big fan,” she said.
“Thank you. It’s very nice to meet you, Lacy.”
“I’ll be back in there in just a moment,” Moze said, swaying Lacy softly at the hips, “I promise. I just need to talk to Troy.”
Lacy turned to her and nodded. She received another kiss from Moze that landed on her lips this time. “I’ll be waiting for you at the bar.”
“Tell Tom I said hi,” Troy said.
Lacy smiled at him in a way that made him feel like a hapless old fool. It briefly occurred to him that maybe she had just smiled at a hapless old fool.
He raised his glass after her and turned back to Moze. “She seems lovely.”
“She has to be to put up with me.”
“Does she also have a BAFTA?”
Moze laughed her laugh again, the one that felt as if it were being squeezed through a too-tight chest. “We’re working on it. She’s an ophthalmologist, so it’s going to be trickier to get her nominated.”
“Why didn’t you want her to stay out here?”
Moze sighed, and Troy finally caught a look from her that matched all the uneasy laughter. “I’m really glad you’ve found me somewhat funny so far because now I have to make things very awkward. I have a bad habit of posting things I think are clever on social media, and with all the drugs going around at this party, I made a joke on Twitter about forming a circle with them to summon Pete Doherty.” She waved her hand to hurry herself to the point. “Long story short, Isaac saw it, he knows we’re at the same party, and he wants me to... check your arms.”
“Check my arms? For what?”
Moze squeezed her eyes shut as if she hoped it would pop one of them out of existence. “To check if you’re using, Troy. I’m really sorry.”
“Why do you need to check for that? You can ask me. I’m clean!”
“Clean-ish. For the record, I don't think you're on anything, but I told Isaac I would do this.” Troy waited for Moze’s face to break around some kind of “gotcha” smile. But she looked just as uncomfortable about the whole thing as he did, if not more. She pulled anxiously at the sleeve ends of her coat to bring them over her hands, but the wool didn't have any give to it.
He put his drink down on a table between the lounge chairs and removed his sport coat. “I’m sorry,” Moze said again for good measure. He unbuttoned the sleeves of his shirt and rolled them up to his elbows. He turned the inside of his arms to Moze and she carefully rolled them around in the remaining available sunlight to look at them. They were four years without a needle in them and fairly unremarkable save for a long, raised line of scar tissue running from his left wrist to his mid forearm. “What happened there?” she asked.
“Nothing from tonight.” He waited until she'd let go of him to smooth his sleeves back down and refasten the cuffs, but Moze still looked distressed, like she hadn’t caught her breath yet from a blow to the gut.
“Could you turn your pockets out as well for me?”
He brought the black silk linings of his pant pockets to the outside and took his coat from over the balcony railing. “Here. Check it.” He impatiently pushed it at her abdomen.
She quickly dipped her hand in and out of each of the pockets, coming back up with nothing each time. “Isaac sounded concerned about you when I talked to him, not suspicious. He said you’d had a really rough few weeks.” She handed him back his coat, and Troy got it back around him.
It had been five weeks, and they had been downright hell.
She took out her phone from her coat. The light from the screen wiped all of her features. “I’m going to text him right now and tell him I didn't find anything.” For a beat, only the muted buzz of haptic feedback existed between them. “I'll leave out the drinking bit,” she added. “You can tell him about that yourself if you choose to.”
He sent the last watery corner of his Old Fashioned down his throat and nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”