Five minutes left on shift, packing away pencils and his small sketch pad. The phone system buzzes, and Freddy turns around, sighing. He debates leaving it for the next bellhop, but checks the room- Penthouse. Fuck. One bad comment from whatever B-List celebrity trashing the place will get him sacked immediately, Freddy rolls his eyes dramatically and picks up the phone.
“Front desk speaking, what can I do for you tonight?”
“Yeah, hi, I have… a kind of weird request,”
Weird didn’t quite describe the contents of the cart he was hauling up to the top floor.
A pot of coffee, some cigarettes, were normal. A few cans of film, replacement lenses… not unheard of. Bright orange lingerie, a fluffy pink bathrobe, a single high-heel, wrap around sunglasses (“y’know like that dude from X-Men”, Freddy sadly did know), a tape of The Honeymooners, Rorschach Test Ink Blots, and Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust; Freddy was supposed to be home thirty minutes ago. This guy better tip, and well.
The Penthouse was quiet, more so than normal for this time of night. Knocking on the door echoed down the hallway, and so did the footsteps from inside.
“Oh hey, for a second I thought you weren’t coming,” The man opening the door is, surprisingly, normal. No rich actor with his dick out or a wrinkled suit on and women hanging off of him. In fact, he’s completely alone. The mess Freddy walks into suggests he once wasn’t, but now he’s just a guy in boxers and a White Zombie shirt.
“Well, it took a while to find everything,” Freddy says as the man walks over and puts a hand on his neck.
“You’re a good sport doin’ that, what’s your name- Freddy?” He tilts his head, checking his name tag, “Before I let us part in the night, can I ask one more favor of you?” He doesn’t reek of booze or weed, but his eyes are vacant. And… insanely blue.
Freddy nods a little, and the man ruffles his hair, knocking the bellhop cap off.
“Great! Thank you Freddy, you won’t regret this.” He grabs the robe, putting it on, and then the pot of coffee, drinking it straight from the spout before putting it back down.
As he inspects the lenses, he continues to talk, “I’m a director, and y’know I’ve made stuff, but all of that stuff’s nothing. It makes money, gets me through the year, but I’ve been saving my cards.” He picks his camera up off the back of the couch, replacing the lens and walking around to the floor to ceiling window.
“You know what I’ve been saving my cards for, Freddy?” He takes a shot of the city skyline and swings back around to the bellhop, who shakes his head.
“Oh you’re cute,” his arms drop to his sides “you belong in a movie, cute face like that, what’re you doing catering to dumb b-list movie stars and hollywood drunkards?” He says, climbing up on the couch and pointing the camera at him once again.
Freddy barely shrugs, looking the other way.
“That wasn’t a rhetorical question.” He says flatly, “What’re you doing here, Freddy? Why aren’t you takin’ money shots to that pretty face or modeling skinny jeans?”
Freddy’s eyes flick down as he blushes a little, “It’s a living.” He answers, looking at the man behind the camera.
“You like it?”
“N-no but, can’t make a living off what I do like so…” Freddy shrugs again, gesturing to his uniform.
The man gets on his knees, manuvering the camera closer and resting his elbow on the couch’s back, “What do you like, Freddy? If you could make decent money with it, what would you be doing? What are you saving that pretty face for?”
Freddy hesitates a minute, squirming under the camera lens and looking around the room, before answering.
“Comic books, I’d be drawing comic books, I know it’s not realistic so I stick to being here,” he spits out.
“Yeah? You like drawing? God, I’m sure you could make a living off of that.” He settles back, sitting on his heels. “Hop over, sit with me.” He moves the camera to the side, and Freddy does so. The man turns around rummages around a cluttered table, and is given a notepad and a ballpoint pen.
“Draw somethin’, I’ll tell you what I’m saving my cards for.” He places the camera on the coffee table.
So, Freddy does. One leg crossed over his knee, hunched over the notepad, he draws and listens. The man takes a cigarette from the cart behind the couch.
“Freddy, ever since I started I’ve been trying to make my movie. I’m stuck making other people’s movies, but my movie is gonna be different. It’s gonna be a love story, the best one ever told. Only problem? I don’t have a love story to tell, anymore. This girl, I had pined after her for years, wrote about a thousand pages on her and I coulda done more. She never loved me back, though, and that was my whole problem. I never cared about her, so everything I ever wrote, it was hollow. It wasn’t the best love story, and now, now I have to figure out what is the best love story. I don’t even know if love-”
The man’s eyes wander, back over to the bellhop, who was looking back at him. They share a moment, his pen poised on the notepad, halfway through a line. Freddy hesitates, looking down at the pad, before ripping the page off and handing it to him.
He looks at the paper a moment, “See, this? This is love, you don’t know me, but you, you just want to draw. Given the opportunity, you dive into transcribing the human form, stranger or no…” He trails off, staring at the drawing.
He snaps out of it, “That wasn’t the favor, it probably should have been, but I need you to be in a shot for me.” He turns back around, grabbing the rest of the items in the cart, throwing the lingerie to Freddy. He stares at the man, before the man laughs.
“NO-no, you don’t have to put that on, hey you can if you want, it’s not necessary, just,” He points to two chairs, on the other side of the room, “Sit in one and put the lingerie on the other.”
Walking across the room, lingerie in hand, Freddy wonders how he got here. He wonders why exactly, he has not left. He’s too tired to answer to himself, partially praying that this is a dream.
The man follows him, and after Freddy sits down, puts the high heel and the Honeymooner’s tape in between both chairs. The man in the pink bathrobe is silent, and places the wrap-around sunglasses on Freddy himself, and Freddy lingers on the touch a bit too long.
He steps back, camera under one arm as he places the inkblot cards in the book.
“Alright, Freddy, I just need you to hold this book and pull the cards out and throw them to the side- okay?” He’s much quieter now, behind the camera, as if this was actually a sound stage. He mouths “three, two, one, go”, and Freddy does as he’s told. He flips through the pages of flowery text and throws the cards to the side, nothing else.
“Perfect! Perfect, thank you, Freddy.” He shuts the camera off, and untenses his shoulders. Freddy takes off the glasses and ruffles his hair back into place.
“What’s this for, if you can’t make your love story yet?”
“I don’t know yet, why do you draw if you can’t make comic books?” The man walks away, to the bar next to the balcony.
“Keeps me sane, even if I can’t do what I want, I can just draw.”
“Exactly, Freddy, dear.” He returns with two flutes of champagne that Freddy can’t guarantee isn’t drugged, but takes it anyway. The man sits in the chair opposite to him, back resting on the lingerie.
They drink champagne quietly, before Freddy asks, “This girl, she was special?”
The man shakes his head, “She was a good woman, but she didn’t want to be special, I was idealizing her and I didn’t even know her. There’s no love story in that.” Freddy watches his mouth move, the man sighs and then looks to him.
“It’s late, I bet you wanna get going,” he sets the champagne glass aside as if there’s a table, and it shatters on the ground. He doesn’t pay it any mind, and takes Freddy’s hand, leading him to the door.
“You’ve been a good sport, Freddy, thank you for this,” he begins to open the door, and pauses a moment. Freddy doesn’t move, for some reason, holding his hand back.
Then, the man in a pink bathrobe, kisses him. He kisses him, still holding his hand, without ever telling Freddy his name. And Freddy? He takes a moment, and kisses back. A man asks you to be in his movie and you swap stories about your mutual failures, you can at least kiss him.
The man leans deeper into the kiss, hand on Freddy’s neck. He grabs onto the bathrobe to keep from leaning too far back, practically sitting on the back of the couch.
He’s there, and then he’s not. Freddy feels the absence of the man’s mustache on his lip, his hand neither on Freddy’s neck or in his hand.
There’s a wad of bills slapped in his hand, “I don’t normally tip, but you’re a good kisser.”
Freddy leaves the penthouse wondering what exactly just happened.