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The Number Dream

The Number Dream

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Published by Scotty Milder

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Published by: Scotty Milder on Aug 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Number Dream 
By Scott MilderTwenty-three years old, on the twenty-third of October, in adowntown club in San Francisco.It all happened in less than three minutes.The face that hit the newspapers the morning after was grainyand five years old. It was a publicity shot from the actor’s lasthit movie, just before the decline. There was a half-smirk abovean open-throated white shirt, a tiny gold cross framed by abeautiful jaw line and chin and two tanned collarbones. The hairfell in a self-conscious wave, bleached with just a little bit ofthe original dirty blond at the roots. The eyes were wide, andthey appeared kind, but they were also somewhat empty.It was just a newspaper photo, after-all. And a bad one, atthat.It started with marijuana in the limo on the way to the club,then went to three shots of tequila, with salt off the chest ofsome laughing, pasty-skinned model. Three lines of cocaine beforethe doors opened. Not great stuff, but good enough. The actor’seyes were bloodshot, but anyone standing close enough to notice wouldn’t have thought much of it, because his smile hideverything. As it was, the person who always stood closest to him  was his younger brother, another actor who had yet to hit it bigbut who would win an Oscar six years into the future. The brother was handsome in a more rugged way, shorter with darker hair andthe skin of their Sicilian father. But tonight he wasn’t theactor. Just the brother.
He knew there was something wrong; something about the actor’sdemeanor that night put him on edge, but he didn’t say anythinguntil much, much later. By then there was no one around to hearit.The window down, the breeze chilled like champagne.“I had that dream last night,” The actor said. The model was inhis lap.“What dream?” Said his brother. “The number dream?”“Yeah.”The club was owned by a friend of the actor. The owner was aboutsix years older; he had been an actor, too, and was stillremembered. He had a TV show in the late 1980s that was a hit, andthen he did a string of movies, and only three of them were flops,and even the flops reviewed well. He never won an Oscar but he wasnominated once and he had both an Emmy and a Golden Globe to hiscredit. He retired from show business awhile ago, and with his money he opened a nightclub in Los Angeles, and then this one inSan Francisco. He didn’t act anymore, but he catered to all hisold friends and was known as the greatest thrower of parties thathad lived. And he got laid a lot.“Just 23. Like a neon sign. Over and over and over again.”“You’re fucking weird, brother.”“What do you think it means?”“I don’t think it means anything. I think it means you’refucking weird.”“I think it means something.” A papery sound like a locust’s wings. A roll of the eyes.
“You need to stop it with the psychics and shit, brother. It’s messing with your head. A dream is just a dream.”“Fuck you. It means something.”It all went down in the bathroom. At any time there could be as many as ten or twelve people in there: crammed into the smelly,chromed stalls; smoking or washing their faces at the sinks;sometimes staring into the mirror and examining the uniquepositioning of their eyes. All familiar faces to those of us
 in the club, washed and purified by a thousand bright lights and movie cameras, now haggard and drawn but still glamorous in their way. A mop of curly black hair here, two stone-chiselled eyes overthere. Ten or twelve glowing smiles. No rotted teeth. They mayhave all been junkies, but they made it work for them. An undulating shroud of whispers cloaked the bathroom, piercedby the occasional wavering laugh. It used to be that the stalls inhere were mostly for sex, but that was before the druggies tookover. Now the sex was generally upstairs in the balcony.Occasionally someone still got adventurous in the stalls, though,but not often.The actor stood crammed in a stall with another man. This man was famous only to the famous. Bald, fat, and pink, lips likeliver, eyes like two scratched emeralds, wide nose a mess of burstcapillaries. He wore a suit always on the verge of getting wrinkled.This man was famous to the famous because of what he alwaysbrought with him, and that was why he was welcome in thisbathroom.Tonight he had a syringe, and with green eyes glinting he handedit over to the actor, who perched on the cracked seat with his

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