Walking down the street isn’t so bad. Correction: walking down the street isn’t so bad if you’re not a woman. Even being a not very attractive woman can be a challenge in order to accomplish what should be this simple task. And it is simple…again, if you’re a man. Joanna Galmont, a late twenties out-of-work actress who had recently sought refuge in the “safe space” of her hometown, where she could “rest and relax” as she waited out this strange phase of her life in the hope that acting offers would come again, was not a man. Though she had thought about going trans for the sake of seeming “chicer” and more alluring to casting directors trying desperately to adhere to the Hollywood trend of “inclusivity.” She supposed that while she was merely “garden variety” in a milieu like Los Angeles, in a town like Blandville (yes, it was really called that), she stood out like a lone stoplight in an abyssal desert.
The reason she hadn’t been getting the acting offers of late was due to the recent dermatological unveiling that she had a cancerous piece of skin on her face (oy vey, the fucking basal cells). Sizable enough that when it was excised, she was informed the healing time would take longer than Joanna would have liked. And it meant that a role she had just signed on to do (playing a zombie version of Patricia Krenwinkle in yet another Manson murders movie) was now pulled out from under her by a younger actress. They said they had a tight production schedule to adhere to, and couldn’t put things on hold even though they really loved her for the part and blah fucking blah. It was all placating white noise (and white people) in Hollywood. She knew the score. If you’re not supernaturally beautiful, then get the fuck out. So that was what she decided to do. While she could have stayed at her only sibling’s–who also still lived in town–house, she opted for her old room at her parents’ abode. She knew that she would only end up butting heads with Elaine, who had always resented her for getting out of Blandville, and in such a grandiose way. Things would be passive aggressive until they turned outright catty and she preferred to bypass the whole thing, especially since she was already feeling fragile.
Before even setting foot back in Blandville, she was sure to research the “best” dermatologist there (of which there were a scant few to choose from), opting for a Dr. Franchise. Again, things couldn’t be more oddly generic in Blandville–and a last name like “Franchise” fit right in with the town. She wanted to explain the situation to him, iterating that she was an actress (giving a false name wasn’t an option in this place, or this country called Big Brother), and she wanted as little “to-do” as possible made about who she was whenever she came into the office. Dr. Franchise promised her nothing but discretion. She could even sneak in through the back entrance if it made her feel more comfortable. That notion put her at ease. She was slated to come in twice a month for check-ups monitoring the progress of her healing and to ensure that the cancer didn’t spread to any other part of her face.
She found it quite cruel, really, that her moneymaker should be subjected to such unjust treatment when she hardly even went out in the sun. In fact, she made quite a point about rarely exposing herself to it. And even when she sat on her massive rooftop (complete with pool) overlooking Los Angeles, she was sure to wear an oversized hat and even more oversized sunglasses. Apparently, only a beekeeping ensemble would have worked. But that rooftop was gone now. Probably collecting cobwebs despite Pablo’s (her pool boy) assurance he would take especially good care of it while she was “on sabbatical.” Sure, she thought. He would probably be fucking a different girl up there on the chaise lounge every night. Or boy, for that matter. Orgies were bound to happen, too. L.A.’s motto, indeed, should be, “Orgies Happen” over, say, “Shit Happens.” In any case, she knew her house was going to be a free-for-all for her various servants left in charge of caring for it. One such servant that she left behind was her chauffeur, leaving her father the role instead. And Joanna even briefly thought he was up to the effortless task of doing it. Of driving her to the doctor’s office and just waiting in the parking lot. Everyone in California should be well-habituated to waiting in a parking lot. Or so Joanna believed.
But after her brief appointment, which amounted to all of fifteen minutes, she emerged to find that her father’s car was nowhere to be seen. Calling him did nothing, as the phone went straight to voicemail. After about ten minutes of no results as she traipsed through the blacktop in frantic search of his car, she decided, “Fuck this, I’ll just hoof it home.” Why not? Get your daily exercise and all that bullshit. Even though her usual actress’ exercise regimen consisted of far more intensive activities than walking. But she wasn’t really an actress at this point in time, now was she? Actresses are people who appear in movies and since she wasn’t–or couldn’t–why bother adhering to an actress’ physical routine? This was a rare opportunity. Not only to say no to working out, but to actually walk instead of being driven. Was she somewhat worried about her aging father’s sudden disappearance? Absolutely. But she couldn’t do anything to help him without 1) wheels and 2) him being reachable. So she walked. Like Jesus.
And, speaking of, it was about forty-five minutes later, which landed her practically all the way back to the house, that she drew closer to one of the many churches that populated Blandville. In the distance, she saw a rotund shape perched on a hill near the church sign that read, “Repent and Jesus Will Forgive.” Good to know. In any case, the figure seemed distant one second and then, all of the sudden, extremely up close and personal. He must have advanced during the brief blip when Joanna’s hair caught in her face and she lost sight of the silhouette. When it was right in her pathway, she could tell he was a Pacific Islander. Not that his ethnicity meant anything to Joanna, he merely seemed “out of the ordinary” for this overly “manicured” (read: white supremacist) type of town. In a confident voice, he said, “I saw you from over there and I just wanted to say you’re really pretty. Can I get your Instagram handle?”
Oh Lord. For one thing, was this town so hard up for attractive people that even a woman with visible bandages on her face could be harassed? And for another, it was like being in L.A. People asking for your Instagram before anything else. She returned, candidly yet politely, “Um, I’d prefer not to.”
Unoffended, he asked, “Why?”
“I’m asexual.” She then waved goodbye and told him to have a nice day. Telling boys she was asexual had long been Joanna’s go-to line. No matter what, it always seemed to throw men off long enough to forget about their original aim. And, in this instance, it also came across as endlessly ironic considering she was wearing a dress with a rainbow pattern. Guess this town was so provincial, he didn’t catch on that this was the universal code for “gay.” She liked to wear rainbows to confuse the average straight male about her own sexual orientation, banking on the fact that they would automatically assume she was a lesbian. It didn’t take long for her to realize that even if men did register the rainbow, it wouldn’t have stopped them from their pursuit. Men never pause to think about much of anything (or the effect their actions might have), so why would this be different?
She walked for about another five minutes when, finally, her phone rang. At last, her father had taken some initiative in trying to contact her. Of course, he would plead the “no reception” card, which made her think he might be into some shadier shit than she gave him credit for. Still, he somehow blamed the “miscommunication” (a.k.a. total lack of communication) on her. Like she should have been able to mind read his location, which he still never even confessed to.
After this light arguing on the phone, she agreed to meet him in the closest “notable area” she was coming upon in her long journey. So it was that, in the end, she was picked up in a junior high parking lot. How fucking apropos considering she had lost all of her agency in the wake of becoming just another facially maimed nobody in a God-fearing town.