I answered an ad in the paper and got the job, secretary to Larry who sold advertising in the yellow pages. Larry looked exactly like you’d expect him to: mouse-colored hair, wire-frame glasses, a tie clip. He had his own office. I had a desk outside and so did Roxanne who was the receptionist answering the phone and polishing her nails. I typed Larry’s letters. He didn’t have too many of them. In between I wrote a story on a yellow legal pad about a man who lived alone and pasted pictures of girls on his walls and how the pictures whispered to him.
When I was 14 in school I had written a long story about a man in solitary confinement. The man with the girl pictures was similar, both people who were completely alone and going a little crazy.
Working for Larry was my first full-time job. We had just gotten to LA and moved into the cottage in West Hollywood that Kerry, Geoffrey’s glamorous older friend, had found for us in advance.
The cottage had lime-green-and-white shag carpeting in every room including the bathroom, yellow linoleum in the kitchen and mirrors pasted on one of the bedroom walls.
I didn’t have a car. I was the only person in LA who didn’t have a car, and I would never have one because how does anyone buy a car? Geoffrey has his Uncle Elliott’s castoff Mercedes, a big box 4-door that we drove cross-country in. Geoffrey doesn’t have to work because he’s on the payroll of his fathers mail-order jewelry company and gets a check for $80 every week.
So he stays home. He is sleeping when I get up and put on my black pantyhose and skirt, when I walk the two blocks up to Sunset Boulevard in this Los Angeles city to catch the bus.
I am always glum. I look out the window on the way to Larry’s office and every single thing is wrong – this job, me a secretary while my talented boyfriend stays home to write screenplays on his self-correcting IBM Selectric, an instrument I never would have thought a person could buy and have in their own home. Geoffrey’s sits on the heavy wooden desk we bought at the Salvation Army and placed two feet from the end of the bed against the wall.
At the other end of the bed, behind our heads as we sleep, is the full stereo with turntable, top-of-the-line dual cassette recorder and Geoffrey’s big puffy black headphones.
We came to LA because Geoffrey wants to be a film director. He likes to write screenplays about good-looking witty people who have affairs with each other. I read his screenplays and always feel like I could never be friends with his characters, or that they would never want to be friends with me. I don’t really know why Geoffrey says he loves me. I am not likes the people he likes though I try.
I hate not liking myself and I hate hating my life. I hate Larry’s office. One day he calls me into his office and gently, without a reason, fires me and I have to fight hard not to cry in front of him.
I continue to live in the white cottage that stands in a shady line of identical white cottages, across from a line of identical white cottages, a cement walkway in between.
I go on to the next job, this one a little better because at least we are creating books. I answer the phones at Fotonovel. Fotonovel takes stills from movies and pastes in bubble of dialog. The guy in charge is very handsome, remote, wealthy and stylish and I recognize his girlfriend form my college back east, but she and I don’t speak. I sit across from the artists, people just a little older than me who have their own windowless offices and do the paste-up. I admire them their title.
One night I sit in the living room at home. There is the brown Salvation Army couch and the color TV and coffee table and the blue ceramic ipe in the shape of a wizard. There is the TV Guide that Geoffrey has gone through, making everything he wants to watch and tape, and in a blur of tears I am cutting my hair without a mirror, just cutting it off.
Fotonovel fires me too, and I hold my tears this time until I get to the stairwell where I run into Steve, one of the artists I have not dared to speak to. I blurt out that I’ve been fired and my tears show and he only looks at me. He doesn’t know what to say so I keep moving down the stairs and into the bright summer light of Sunset Boulevard.