Sunday, August 11, 2002

Mugg & Bean, Sandton City

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Oooooh baby. I'm sizzling. Cooking. Burning up the pre-midnight oil. Been doing so since about seven o'clock when I got here. I'm talking about my screenplay. The one I've just spent three hours on tonight. And the progress I'm making on it over this long weekend.

Yesterday I broke its back by heading for the Grande Cafe in Rosebank. Whipped out my trusty Psion 5MX palmtop computer, and wrote for four hours straight, with only two pee breaks, and several pauses to send self-congratulatory SMSs to my three main filmmaking buddies.

Cracked the scene where Jules gets forced by his mother to do a tarot reading for the lady across the road, and Lesley-Anne -- their Christian cousin-by-marriage who lost her parents in the same car-crash that put her in a wheelchair, the cousin who has just come to stay with them since she's now an orphan -- displays her shock and horror at this terribly satanic thing Jules is doing. And Jules's brother catches her praying over her crucifix, and he warns her that his father doesn't like anti-semites.

And tonight I go into the actual tarot reading. The best thing for me is that I'm not writing on-the-nose. My script is rich with subtext. And I believe I'm fulfilling the fundamental rule of screenwriting. Each line must do two things at once -- it must further the action and deepen character.

But it's really hard to concentrate here in the Mugg & Bean. There's a table of matric students over against the opposite wall. An alarming display of young couples in make-believe-love. Eight 17-year-old girls. Eight 17-year-old boys. Very few pimples. Lots of money. (This is Sandton, the money capital of Africa.) They look so fresh. So commanding.

Two of the girls are exceptionally beautiful. No. Not beautiful. That will come later. They're breathtakingly pretty. One is blonde, and it's clear she's the one they all defer to and want to be. She wears green-rimmed spectacles and a white blouse. Her hand movements are not extravagant. She's not trying to control the table. It simply happens. The other is black-haired. Small. She's the one I'll marry. When she grows up.

They both remind me of my foray into Fournos Bakery in Rosebank yesterday.

I'm sure this guy's harmless, but with the four women standing behind me giggling as I sketch him, I'm almost certain he'll notice that something odd is happening. Then, if he comes up and sees the sketch, I might just find myself hearing Notre Dame's famous bells after being decked in the timpanum by Quasimodo's less-understanding brother.I'm waiting inside for Alistair to arrive with his "mine's bigger and better than yours" backgammon set. If there's one item I want most in the world, it's his backgammon set. I'm going to try to get him to change his will and leave the thing to me. Then I'll kill him. Anyway. I'm waiting for him, and I feel the need to juice out a quick sketch. There's a hunchbacked huge guy sitting outside, right against the window, and I have to capture him before he leaves.

So the pen comes out. The ink comes out. The book opens. And the table of four women beside me goes quiet. One of them giggles. I'm aware of having an audience. It doesn't normally happen. Mostly, when I sketch in coffee-shops, people are so predictably self-absorbed that I can sketch away with impunity. It's normally only the waiters who notice.

This time, all of the women notice me, and watch. I've been looking at them too. Two very young women. One intermediate. And a divorced mother with a Wonderbra and the top four buttons undone. With that crinkly, soft, delicious cleavage skin that only fifty-plus women can boast. Hmmm.

While I'm preparing my materials, they pay their bill, stand up, and all four of them stand behind me. I sketch the hunchback. He has the grace not to notice me. Which is a very good thing, since he's well over six foot tall (if he could stand straight), and he's very beefy. And my sketches are never very flattering. Which means I'm in danger of a flattening.

Oohs and aahs from my new entourage. Then three of them leave. And the cleavage queen comes round to the front of my table to chat. Blah blah yack yack. "Yeah, I sketch in coffee shops. No, I'm self taught. Though I did have a friend who's a damn good artist. Blah blah etcetera." And then I say, "Do you make art?"

"Well. Not really. But I do go for art lessons." And before I ask who her teacher is, I know. I know that she goes to Miriam Stern. Miriam and I haven't seen each other for ages. But we knew each other for a good while. And she taught me pretty much everything I needed to know in order to understand art and form my own opinions.

"So who's your teacher?" I ask.

"Miriam Stern," she says.

"I have two of her pieces in my home," I say. Then I introduce myself by extending my hand, saying, "I'm Roy."

"Renee," she says, and puts her soft hand in mine. I want to keep holding her. I want to take her home. I want her to have sex with me in her divorce-settlement Mercedes. I want her to remind me how gorgeous older women are. But I let her go. Even though the look in her eye says she's trying to figure out a way to get me into her Mercedes.

"Bye," she says.

"Bye," I say. And I stare at her rolling hips. In blue jeans. And I think of Miriam.

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