Friday, 27 June 2014

Why Not Me

I parked the car, eager to leave its stale embrace, and step out into the busy lot. The grey skies above made me reluctant, having forgotten to pack an umbrella, I was tempted to sit it out for a bit until things cleared up, though I was already running late.

Impatient, and excitable, I grabbed my bag from the boot, and dashed across the tarmac towards the reception, following the confusing sign-posts across the large car park towards a rather ramshackle hut.

To my surprise, and muted concern, the resort - from here - seemed like nothing more than a deserted air-strip, a few hangars and workshop-like barns dotted about the place. Somewhere you might imagine people would test-drive cars nowadays.

At the reception desk I was greeted with a glowing smile by a young man called Clark.

"Mr. Benson," he squeezed my hand to shake it eagerly, "it is an absolute pleasure to meet you. Did you have a good trip?"

"Yeah, it was all right, bit of traffic on the A22, but..." I tailed off, suddenly feeling like this was supposed to be part of it and I wasn't quite playing along.

"Well," he beamed, "I'm sure everything will be absolutely perfect from here on. Ah," his eyes discovered a short, neat young man standing just behind me, "here's your assistant, Mr. Kendrick."

Mr. Kendrick stepped forward, his face young and pale, his eyes wide and keen. "Sorry I'm late sir..."

"No, it was -" I began, but the expression on Kendrick's face suggested I change my tune; "That's quite all right."

"We'll take a car to the hotel, this way sir."

Kendrick lead me past the reception, down some steps and into - what looked like - a small parking garage. There was a discrete black car with tinted windows waiting, the driver stood by the door, holding it open, nodded his greeting.

I slid in and Kendrick followed.

As we drove he began listing a schedule to me, whilst reassuring me that everything was in hand, he offered me a drink, a virgin bloody Mary, which, when we reached out destination I was allowed to take with me.

A hotel bellhop got the car door for us, he smiled and wished me a good day, and Kendrick handed him a tip, which the bellhop thanked me for. I was ushered into the hotel lobby, Kendrick steered me away from the reception towards the elevator - having already checked in on my behalf earlier - and we emerged, after a quick ascent, in the exclusive penthouse suite.

Practically as soon as I stepped into the room, even before I'd had a chance to take in its luxuriant decor, a room service trolley had been wheeled in for me to enjoy a delicious brunch of eggs Florentine followed by Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries. I had a glass of champagne, which I drank standing on the balcony over-looking the city. The weather was cool and calm.

When I returned to my room a nervous looking young woman was standing next to Kendrick. She pushed a fallen length of hair back behind her ear and was introduced to me as Allie McCullough, a reporter for Marquee magazine.

She extends her arm, offering a hand, "It really is an absolute pleasure to meet you."

We talk for thirty minutes, I'm a little awkward myself, unsure of how to respond to some of her questions, but for the most part she's delightful and offers me all sorts of praise and compliments. At first I was bashful, blushing beetroot, but soon the wealth of compliments made me feel like, yes, I deserved them. Why not? It felt good, and she didn't seem sycophantic in her praise, just honest.

As our time together drew towards an end Kendrick stepped over and whispered for things to be brought to a close. I had a signing to attend, so it was back down in the elevator, into the car and off - a short drive - to a nearby record store, a large, yet cool, retailer that already had a queue snaking outside.

I was rushed in, to cheers and applause, down the aisles towards a small table that was set up with a large poster advertising my presence.

With coffee and cake at my side, and another assistant - a young woman by the name of Bea - I met hundreds of fans, people who were all smiles - some actually crying with joy - who just wanted to meet me, shake my hand, some asked for a hug, and everyone wanted a photo. It was overwhelming, and they shared their stories with me, how my work had changed their life, had spoken to them, made them realise something fundamental about themselves that - until then - they had never had a chance to really understand. It was humbling.

Afterwards I felt exhausted, even though I'd barely left my seat for two hours, and we drove to a charming little restaurant for lunch. A complimentary bottle of champagne was gifted by the manager, who said she was also a fan of my work and asked for an autograph.

We then went to a boutique fashion store so I could get a suit for a red carpet event I was due to attend that evening. I, at first, was apprehensive about being too extravagant with my choices but the manager of the store told me that it was all free as I was doing him a great service wearing it to the premiere that night.

"Just remember," he smiled, "to tell everyone where it came from!"

Then I got my hair done, a manicure, teeth whitening, everything.

And so that evening I went to the premiere of a new blockbuster film, but as I stepped out of the limo and walked the red carpet I was dazzled by a hundred camera flashes and the sound of people - both photographers and fans - screaming my name.

"Mr. Benson, sir, this way sir," the photographers seemed to shout in unison, making a little disorienting as to which way I should turn.

Kendrick had advised me to dictate, with my body language, as to which section I was posing for, though, he added, they'll probably keep snapping regardless of whether I was facing them or not.

I signed some autographs and then - nearer to the entrance - was a gathering of press, holding out microphones. I spoke to each one in turn, telling them about my clothes, my excitement to see the film, I didn't quite know what they wanted to hear so I just said how great everything was - which I guess was true - and then went into the packed auditorium to watch the film.

There was an afterparty, very elaborate, drinks and dancing. I didn't notice any other celebrities there, but people came up and told me they were producers and executives and all sorts, so that was pretty interesting to meet them and talk about their work. They all said how much they loved what I do.

Around midnight I was feeling quite tired, and, as if by magic, Kendrick was by my side helping me into the car so we could go back to the hotel.

Once I was back in my room, and on my own, I decided to have one last cheeky glass of champagne before bed. I stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy it, leaning woozily on the metal railing, soaking in the quiet ambience of the city at night, the distant twinkle of the stars, the murmur of traffic below.

As I lifted the glass to my mouth I fumbled my hold on it, sending it falling from the balcony where - a second later - it smashed on the top of a building that appeared to be across the street, but was - in fact - about a metre away, it then plummeted down thirty storeys in the blink of an eye, before crashing as gigantic shards of glass - towering over the miniature cars - on the street below.

I looked at the misproportioned carnage, too sleepy to care, they'll clean it up tomorrow.

Collapsing into bed I turned on the television, to act as some sort of lullabye, and the entertainment news was on, reporting from the evening's premiere, featuring my red carpet interview and some experts talking about my great outfit and how good I looked. When the piece ended it began all over again, playing on a loop as I drifted off to sleep.

The following morning I had breakfast in my room, read the paper, a large picture of me on the red carpet adorned the front page and there was a further feature in the celebrity section.

Kendrick came to let me know the car was ready, I finished my coffee, followed him down to the street and we rode back to the parking garage.

Leaving through the main reception, Clark, the young man at the desk, handed me a gift bag. I thanked him, shook Kendrick's hand, and walked back out into the confusing car park.

As I strolled back to my car I passed a woman glancing up and down from her booking form, she called over.

"Is that the main reception, mate?"

"Er, yes," I replied.

She didn't thank me, but she quickened her walk and hurried off to the reception excitedly. I slumped into my car, peered into my gift bag, which featured a DVD of the entertainment news report, a pristine copy of the newspaper and photo album of my day, along with some other knick knacks.

I started the engine, pulled out of the parking space, and drove back home.