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The Forgotten Gem
She walks past her star, not giving it a glance but still noting to herself that it is there and she is passing it. She holds her head up high and shakes her carefully-styled gray hair occasionally to let passersby know that she is aware of it and keeps it like this intentionally. Big reflecting sunglasses that might be seen on several fifteen-year-olds effectively hide the wrinkles so large that they make her eyes droop slightly. She's had Botox and other corrective procedures more times than she can count, but the only effect is to give her wrinkly, droopy, melted-plastic-like eyes.
Despite the star and the two-page filmography (single-spaced!) and the nineteen trophies, sixteen medals, and eight certificates sitting on a shelf in her living room, nobody she passes on the street gives her a second glance. She might see the occasional flash of recognition in an eye or two, but it's not for her, for who she is, but for what she is. The people she passes see her as another old woman who refuses to see the old. They come a dime a dozen here. Normally, this doesn't bother her, but -
She sees a boy, about fourteen or fifteen, who is wearing a shirt embossed with the logo of the latest hit movie - her latest hit movie. A minor role, to be sort, more like a cameo, but what a cameo! In the Sahara, on a camel, next to three of the recievers of the other stars on this sidewalk. The magazines had lauded her performance as "a charming three minutes," so why wouldn't this child reognize her?
She takes off her sunglasses. She unbuttons her coat. She stands straighter and swishes her hair once more. Then she steps into his path and says in the voice that people recognize (or used to recognize) more than that of FDR or Mr. Rogers, "Excuse me, young man, could you please tell me where I could find that Japanese restaurant - oh, what's its name?"
It was the same line, or almost the same, from the movie whose shirt the boy was wearing. It had been funny and "charming" because they were in the middle of the Sahara desert, and how could one find a Japanese restaurant in the Sahara? She had taken the role because of that line. The boy should surely realize who was speaking. It was the line that made the movie, featured prominently in the trailors.
"Um . . ." The boy looks her in the eye and then up at the sky, then down at the ground. He shrugs. "I don't know. I don't think there are any Japanese places around here. Maybe Chinese? There's one up the block a little -"
"Oh," she says, sighing a bit. The boy narrows his eyes and begins to continue on his way.
She decides to take one last chance. "Oh!" she calls, putting her hand to her forehead in the exact same fashion as the movie. "Have a safe trip! It's really quite hot outside!" Another clever line - it was the Sahara desert, of course it was hot! She should have gotten an award for supporting actress. She said the lines so well.
But the boy turns and gives her a strange look, and as he walks away again she clearly hears him mutter to himself, "Old biddy."
I think I'm in the mood for Chinese, she thinks, forgetting that the boy put the idea in her mind in the first place. She sets off for the place he mentioned. As she walks, heads turn, but she knows it's not because she's her. It's becasue her eyes are plastic and droopy and her outfit is not one you might see on a woman of her age and her coat is unbuttoned in thirty-degree weather. As she had once taken up a whole sidewalk or street or room with her charismatic personality, she now tries to make herself smaller, ashamed of her own age. Up the sidewalk she skulks, and she is glad to reach the door, where she might disappear entirely in the crowded restaurant.
But as she opens the door, she hears, "Hey! Lady! Have I seen you before?"
She wheels around. There, standing across the street, are two men. They are smiling and holding hands. She feels pangs both of disgust and jealousy. But she suppresses them. She knows what it's like to be called homophobic and homosexual simultaneously.
"Why, yes," she calls back immediately. "I -"
"Oh, I know, John," one of them says to the other. "She reminds me of my great-grandmother." Then, as if she hasn't heard him, he calls more loudly, "Sorry, ma'am! You reminded me of my great-grandmother. She died last week and now every - um, elderly woman reminds me of her. You should take that as a compliment; my great-grandmother was a fine woman. Smoked weed like a hipster, but she was a fine woman."
She feels numb. Her heart drops like a stone. But she can't help asking - "Was your great-grandmother in movies?"
Both of them laugh. "Lord, no!" the one who is not John says. "She'da been too stoned to do anything right!" They laugh again, and walk away.
She feels as though she might cry, but that would be to melodramatic. Picking herself up, she buttons her jacket, puts on her subglasses, swishes her hair, and walks into the Chinese restaurant for lunch.