I remember a long flight of stairs up in the almost-dark and then turning left into the bright room, but I don’t remember the outside of the building or moving through its front door or what street it was on. I remember driving but not parking. I remember heat. To achieve a windblown look, I’d kept my head out like a dog as I drove. Endlessly, I repeated the mantra: Saturn. A different kind of company. A different kind of car.
I imagined what I’d seen on some TV show or maybe in a play, that I’d enter a space similar to a doctor’s waiting room: a vase here, a lamp there, hair oil stains on the walls above orange plastic chairs, trade mags strewn on a center coffee table. I pictured my competition arranged about the room in various modes of handsome: cowboy, cop, tycoon, lawyer, doctor, rebel, cad (I was the Byronic hero). I assumed a door would open, an actor would emerge and without looking up depart, and then a smallish brunette in black glasses, with vestigial traces of acne, would look down at her clipboard and call me to the inner room. In a whisper, as I passed, she’d wish me luck.
And there, in the inner room, the room where dreams got made real, would be the director and two others, the one in chinos and a green fitted short sleeve dress shirt maybe an executive from the advertising firm in charge of the commercial, the other in the charcoal gray suit with the off white shirt and royal blue tie from Saturn itself, sitting behind a table on which is scattered: styrofoam coffee cups, notebook papers, candy bar wrappers, crumpled packs of cigarettes, pencils, ashtrays full of butts, black licorice lozenges, two pair of bifocals, one attached to a silver chain. They’d be, the three, though of wholly different backgrounds and temperaments and propelled by wildly differing desires, and though weary now on this the second day of The Search, still ready to be moved, as a unified creative unit, when The One appeared.
And I wanted, more than anything as I rose in the dark two stairs at a time, more optimistic in that moment than I’d be for the next decade, to be The One.
But when I turned left into the light, into what I thought would be the anteroom to the audition room, to what I thought would be the cops and cowboys and cads making, to themselves, final adjustments to their Saturn lines, I was confronted instead by a roomful of what looked like LA’s most down-and-out. I stood for a moment in the doorway, gathering my bearings. The light strained my eyes. No one looked at me. They stood around in groups or alone or sat in chairs arranged in a large circle. A coffee urn was set up in the corner, or, quite possibly, my memory has placed one there. Where the hell was I?