"Please move your chin a tiny bit to the left?"
He did. The slightest bit and it became perfect. The way the soft light hit his face and illuminated his eyes was like pure magic captured on film. I pressed the shutter button and the camera became my machine gun, capturing time's uniqueness into, well, not quite eternity, but whatever time these photos would last under best possible conditions.
"Thank you." I addressed to him. "Guys, it's a wrap! We are done!"
Cheers and applauds exploded from all corners of the studio. We've been shooting for the past 6 hours, including a small lunch break and most everyone was tired and ready to go home.
He lifted his helmet, shook his head in a funny improvised "relieving of spirits" and stroke an equally inspired pose, looking straight at me as I rushed right back to my camera's viewfinder, my finger pressing the shutter button. There was something raw and sensual in his manners and it was hard to decline everything that was so freely offered. He grinned and in a very theatrical gesture, took off the cape and threw it on the throne behind him. He bent a little over, facing my camera straight, as if through the lens he was actually looking straight into my soul and smiled.
He moved his lips but all I could hear was the shutter going crazy, non-stop, capturing about 10 frames a second. If he continued like this, I could literally make a small animated movie and add audio to it later. He winked at me and in the spark of that half a second; he was the other himself, the actor. Tom.
I stood up straight, looking at him in awe. He was already fooling around with an assistant. I brushed off the awkward sensation that wrapped itself around me as he silently addressed to me through my lens and tried to get busy wrapping up my gear; gathering my items always sort of helped me focus on the concrete things at hand in order to dust away the abstracts of thoughts and impressions. 4 bags, 3 cameras, 8 lenses, 10 SD cards, cords, portable flashes, note book, some scribbled notes and my most precious: my laptop.
As I glanced back one last time, he was mostly done for, ready to head off to the changing room. I looked at the table, remains of sandwiches, soft drinks and water bottles. It seemed I had put everything away and was ready to get going. The crew had invited me to have a small party dinner after work, but I kindly declined; being in his presence was becoming lesser and lesser bearable as the time dripped in the hourglass of my mandate with him. I thanked the heavens above for allowing me to concentrate on today's work without acting overly excessive or anything that would have potentially sprinkled clues about the powerful effect he had inspired me since the first second my eyes had met his and even less the devil's work in my heart!
Oddly enough, I was enchanted that this was my last day working with him for the next, perhaps, couple of months. I would have time to recuperate from my feelings and get back into my armor.
I took a deep breath, looked around. Everything seemed to go perfectly fine; assistants were taking care of the spotlights, makeup and hair artists were packing up, his personal agent was on the phone and most probably tweeting the promises of new photos to flood the Internet for the fans' biggest delight! And yet, I felt terribly guilty for just walking out on him, not even shaking hands a last time, as any civilized professional was expected to do.
I walked half the distance to the door only to better enjoy the torment in my heart as I dropped my stuff and turned around.
He was drinking a bottle of water as if he didn't drink water for the past five days, but it was rather normal; the spotlights' heat had a reputation of dehydrating models and he been there for quite some time.
"I ... uhm..."
I presented my hand.
"It was a pleasure working with you!"
He took my hand and playing the role, instead of shaking it, kissed the top of my fingers.
"But all the pleasure is truly mine."
Right then I could have just died. He smiled. With that insanely natural and warm smile of his which made everything be just perfect.
"Have a good evening, Tom!"
"Thank you! You too."
Well, that wasn't as difficult as I feared it would, and look at that! I am still breathing and walking.
I presumed he was already aware I wouldn't be attending the small farewell dinner because something in his eyes betrayed the superficial veil of courtesy. It was even more so noticeable in those last two words.
You know that very atrociously gripping poignant feeling you have when you realize in complete shock and horror that you have lost the medium on which you hide your most secret and devious secrets ?
You are on the deep blue sea, perfect, calm, a soft breeze playing in your hair, you had spent a wonderful day at work and you have memories to cheer you up until your last breath. You go through your gear; you want to download the files so you can start working on them going through a first triage, to get the best ones separated from the commonly boring ones. You look at your things and when you look up at the sky the perfect storm is about to explode at the great distance of two inches from your face.
Your first reaction is a sensation of chocking and gagging because you are on a luxury yacht in the middle of the fucking ocean and you don't know how the fuck to swim and you don't have one of those fucking little orange air blown safety boats. You, are totally, fucked. And the storm is now one inch away, promising something intense as the sea's soft blue waves are now viciously licking the boat's side, reaching out their tentacles to grab you for a little dip, way down below.
It took me over like a rogue wave; unexpected, immense, terrifying and inescapable.
Just like meeting him.
I was going through my small SD cards portfolio and the emptiness of slot number 3 washed over me like rain falling down on the Behring Sea; cold, very cold, freezing cold, bone chilling cold. The flavor of panic with unspoken and yet very well-known catastrophic consequences soon to be dealt with.
Technically, I would have never mixed my professional cards with those on which I would have my hobby shots, but this one occurrence happened mostly because I wanted to share some fan work with fellow fans and
oh God! where the hell was my head!
As I was at the brink of having a heart attack, I found myself reciting not a rosary of prayers asking for help, but rather a rosary of passionate cursing, blaming the insanely stupid and carefree attitude I had, my recklessness in the matters of keeping a sharp eye on my things.
SD card Number 3 contained various folders of my hobby work, among which, photos of my BJD doll Sabik dressed as the God of Mischief, Loki, whose costume I had sewn and crafted based on the original one done for the actor, whom I just spent the day shooting. It also contained a very incriminating text file, a fan fiction, where the dear said God of Mischief and I had quite a passionate dally going on. If that file would fall between the wrong hands
oh dear! This is the only downside with professional careers, one cannot be honestly oneself. If we have inclinations for representatives of the fame and glory from the faraway lands of Hollywood, we had to cleverly hide it underneath layers of falseness, unless, of course, we wanted to trash our reputation and wreck the small chances we had of being afloat.
I suddenly understood how movie producers felt when their working laptops which contained ideas and movie scenarios were stolen.
I was merely starting to build myself a respectable reputation and an honorable name in the ferocious fields of commercial photography, my name was not yet known, but if the content of my card would find their way in the traitorous fields of the Internet, doom was pretty much knocking at my door. Is it true that you have a wild and untamed crush on your most popular client? Is it true that you fantasize about him in such torrid ways as described in your fiction?
Haha. Yes. I do. That is why I spend my time avoiding him. You wouldn't conceive the painstaking efforts I have to deploy to achieve this! It's almost ridiculous.
The best way to handle a crisis, even if I was neither British nor Japanese, was to make a boiling hot tea and let the wisdom of the sencha calm my nerves down, giving me just enough strength to gather some thoughts and come up with a plan! For a lost moment, I thought, I would have loved for Earl Bassett(1) or Burt Gummer(2) to be my uncles so I could call them up and ask for a plan. They dealt with monsters underneath the ground; I was about to battle for my life with the insidious crawling monster known by the sweet names of Rumors, at best, Career-Wrangler at worse.
But for now, what would Uncle Earl do? Go through every single pocket, fold, between two pages, hole, under, behind, beneath of every possible physical shape that my apartment and its contents held.
I sank in my office chair, about to burst into tears.
Hell of a plan!
If I called Tom's agent, and explained what happened, he'd call me an irresponsible and unprofessional fool, and my agency would fire me at the speed required to send a tweet. I couldn't possibly call the subject of my depraved fantasies either! Not after the caution I always used to be as minimally as possible in his presence! What a hypocrite I was! What would he think of me! Should I just wait for the scandal to explode and admit that I'm just yet another fan girl? Should I brush off the text as possibly not even mine? Or just a silly thing I did out of insomnia to kill the time? Sure enough, people would be prompt to analyze my skillful art of killing time! And what if I made a mountain out of a grain of sand? And why was I worrying about it so much?
All this is bloody ridiculous!
Oh Lord have mercy on me! Jesus... Odin... Allah... Buddha? Anyone! Really! Just save my life this one time and I will ... Okay I am not sure what I should do to be thankful, but, I'm sure I can come up with something! Just Give Me Back My Card! ... Pretty please?
I took a sip of my tea and I was about to swallow when the phone rang. Obviously, as my heart was pounding, the ring inspired my stress to aim for the sky and I choked.
"Hello?" I managed between two long and painful coughs. "Just a moment please!"
I took a deep breath, took another sip of tea to wash the first one down.
"Are you alright?" He asked very loud at the other end of the line.
"Yes. I mean no. I mean yes, I'm fine. I swallowed my tea the wrong way."
Because you just surprised the hell out of me!
"Tom. Tom, from the shoot earlier on?"
Of course, of course, it's you. Who else would it be!
Oh My God.
No. Wait. Wait a heart beating second! There were two Toms from the shoot earlier on; the actor and the photography intern. I prayed it was the second, but the voice couldn't possibly fool me. And yet. And yet, I had to blurt out the first stupid thing that crossed my lips.
He laughed out loud, visibly amused.
"The one with the costume on."
"Oh dear Lord." I whispered, and trying to give myself some courage, I continued. "Yes? How may I help you?"
"I found one of your SD cards as I was leaving the studio. I thought you might want to get it back."
Thank you Jesus! Thank you Odin! Thank you Allah! Thank you Buddha! I will totally go to each of your shrines and pray and deposit flowers and money!
"You found my SD card? Oh thank the heavens! I was looking all over for that blasted thing! Can I ask where you found it?"
"You'd laugh. It was under your Dr.Pepper can!"
Note to self. Never ever ever put down a ridiculously small object on the same table as sandwiches and soft drinks. This might be the result of it.
"I could never thank you enough for the heads up! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
I was literally beaming with joy in the dark of my office corner. The computer's screen couldn't have been more luminous than my smile was.
"If you don't mind, can I come pick it up first thing in the morning, tomorrow?
"I am ... unavailable tomorrow morning. Are you available tonight?"
That awkward silence when you are facing the eye of the storm and decide to dive right into it, Billy Tyne(3) style.
"Of course! I'm calling a taxi and I'm at literally at your feet! ... I mean at your door!"
He burst into laughter.
"I see you are confusing the two of us."
"You impersonate him with such credibility; sometimes it's hard to make the difference. Sorry about that."
"No no, don't be sorry, that was quite charming! So, let me give your my address and directions to get here"
"Thank you so much!"
I scribbled down his address, his instructions and called a cab maybe less than 30 seconds after I hung up.
His temporary apartment was, of course, well located just a little outside the city's neuralgic center. The taxi driver was a nice old man who knew the place like the back of his hand and I got there faster than I thought I would. He didn't try to go around circles to get extra money, which half surprised me.
He dropped me off right in front of the glass doors of the apartment complex building, took the fair and wished me a good evening. I was about to ask him to wait for me, but, he seemed to know how these things really went on around here. At worst, taxis ran all night. He could do maybe 2 or 3 more clients by the time I would be done. At least, I figured that is what he thought.
I buzzed Tom's apartment number and his cheerful voice welcomed me.
"Ask the gentleman in the lobby how to get to my floor."
And here I was hoping I could maybe compose myself a figure by walking up an endless flight of stairs for maybe a minimum half an hour. Busted.
The security guard was a strong black man, completely bald, gifted with a most radiant who shared a contagiously welcoming smile as he saw me approach shyly to his counter.
"Good evening. I have an appointment with Mr. Hiddleston. He gave me his apartment number and told me I could ask you for further directions."
And suddenly I felt the need to explain myself.
"I was shooting with him earlier today and I forgot an SD card at the studio which he found and was kind enough to grab to give it back to me."
He smiled at me, and I could just about guess he was already briefed by Tom. I should have guessed it. That man is too much of a gentleman let any suspicious context slip in whatever punctuated his schedule may it be professional life or private, in this case, an odd mix of both.
"Take the corridor right behind me, there are 4 lifts. Take one on the left hand side, and push the button for the 17th floor. His door is at the end of the corridor, on your right hand side."
"Thank you so much!"
"Have a good evening Miss."
"Thank you, you too. But I'll be back shortly!"
He just smiled at me and got right back to his surveillance screens.
Maybe he used to see guests stay longer than a miserable 5 minutes to take back an item, say thank you and au-revoir.
I walked to the lift, left hand side, pushed the button and the two of them opened at the same time, making me jump of surprise. I really would need to learn to contain myself! Bloody Hell, this is only me picking up a damn SD card. Not meeting with the President of the United States of America for international security questions! Though, I thought, that would have been less stressful! And yet, I simply couldn't stop my heart from pounding so hard, as if it had for sole purpose to escape my chest and crash against the polished golden inside walls of the lift. Damn you traitorous suicidal bastard.
And the lift dinged its charming ding-ding-ding noise and the doors opened on a very silent and empty corridor of pale cream walls with the slightest burgundy lines at the calf and shoulder heights. The lights were dim, the carpet was red, the door stood there - at the end of the path, as a statement, it's color maybe 2 shades darker than the walls, just to naturally bring the attention upon it. It was there, blending in and yet standing out, so it couldn't be missed.
I tried to walk the slowest possible, but all too soon I reached the door.
Knock - knock - knock!
And a loud semi distant "I'm coming!"
And the door sprung open.
And I froze. And I wished my soul could escape my body right at that moment.
He was wearing a stormy-sea grey shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and I tried not to smile too much, as I felt a fire burning my cheeks.
"Please come in."
For a second, though, I would have preferred to stay there, at the door's entrance. This was all too real and all too impossible to be really real at the same time. Oddly, the first thing that came to mind was quantum physics theories about two conflicting states being plausible, but cleared as fact by a third party's observation. In this particular case, the source of the unbelievable state itself.
He slid a polite hand behind my shoulder and invited me in.
Oh that incredible moment when my body brushed his; made me wish I didn't have a human heart. He gently pushed me inside and I felt sorry when my camera's bag surely poked him in an uncanny manner.
"Sorry about that!" I quickly apologized. "I always bring my camera, in case I might have something interesting in sight"
"And that refers to me out of my costume, or the neighborhood?"
I smiled and giggled. Honest answer would be: Primarily you, secondly the neighborhood, but I went with something less straight in your face fan-girl moment.
"The architecture around here is quite fascinating! Everything seems to be made of glass and chrome. It catches light, distorts it and gives back an abstract which is very... interesting."
If that didn't sound completely idiotic, the word needed a new definition.
He walked to the living room's coffee table, a rather thick transparent glass on antique dark varnished wooden legs, picked up the small object of my despair and doom and walked back to give it to me.
My salvation measured 2 and half by 3 point 2 centimeters and I could have just worshipped the two fingers strongly holding it in front of me. He smiled as he let it go and I quickly secured it in the zipped compartment of my camera's bag.
"Well, since you have brought your camera with you, I could show you something of interest."
"Come with me!"
His arm was already laid around my shoulders, a hand squeezing my left shoulder, as he directed me to the lift. I thought he would show me something downstairs, greet me good night and I would make a joke with the security guard, but then, he pushed the last button of the row, marked "Roof", and a slight wondering crossed my mind. He gently led me out to a smaller corridor, which we walked down to an emergency steel door, which itself led us to a small staircase.
"I think you will enjoy it even more if it's a surprise. Would you mind closing your eyes?"
I turned back to look at him. He grinned.
"I'll guide you, don't worry."
"Okay then. Bring it on!"
I turned towards the stair case and closed my eyes, not expecting to feel his hand suddenly on my eyes, while the other gracefully landed with soft affirmation on my side.
His voice, in the dark, was so much more inspiring of voluptuous thoughts than in any usual context and I had to reason myself not to burst into laughter and ruin the magic of the moment. I had a bad tendency to do that laugh aloud when I was nervous, or in the worse critical situations.
My right foot rose on the first step, landed safely and my brain agreed for the left to follow.
Soon enough though, we were at the top and he warned me that the door was just in front of me. The hand which was on my side opened it and I walked out into a crisp fresh summer evening's air.
"A few more steps and we are there."
I realized that I could have walked like that all night long with his hand closing my eyes and his body guiding mine. The idea both enchanted and frightened me. But suddenly he just stopped, took the camera bag off my shoulder, gently put it down on the floor and next thing I knew, he had both arms around me, gently pulling me closer to him.
"You can open your eyes now."
And I stood there, short of breath, short of heart beat, and for a moment, my mind completely empty of any thought. Pure Zen.
In front of us, but mostly above, the sky extended as an infinite sea of glittering lights, and this was not Hollywood magic and trickery. This was the real universe, as a dark silky fabric enhanced with millions and millions of rhinestones.
If I was short of thoughts, I was even more so of words. Even with some effort, I couldn't think of anything to say. The moment seemed too extraordinary to be true. I could feel his warm breath on my cheek, slowly sliding down my neck, and I imagined him smiling in contentment. He completely succeeded. No, not succeeded. Triumphed.
"You missed quite a lovely supper tonight."
I wanted to get head start with work and
And I was lying. I didn't assist the farewell dinner because I couldn't keep a straight face in his presence, and I somehow knew that randomness of life would have me seated right next to him, which would have resulted in a gathering of catastrophic chain of events, most probably starting with me spilling my drink on his shirt or yet, even more probably, on his pants. Some people read all too well in the body language of others, and my constant avoidance of him would have been all to clear.
"Where is Asgard?"
It escaped me before I could realize the silliness of it, but after a short consideration, his right arm stretched out and his finger pointed at something in distance.
"You see that bigger and brighter star there?"
I leaned my head so that my eyes were a little more in the same line as his finger.
Again a comment wrapped with epic.
I was still staring at a random bright point in the infinity when his warm breath moved closer to my ear.
"I quite enjoyed your fiction."
Oh Dear Lord in heaven and beyond. If my heart could have stopped beating now, I think I wouldn't have minded a great deal.
"I also tricked you. But it was the only way I could have a moment with you."
So, is this Tom, or is this Loki, holding me in his arms, under the starry universe?
"I have absolutely nothing planned tomorrow morning."
Hmmm. God of Mischief alright. We need to golden frame his credentials. He is very good at his job.
I vaguely remembered his lips as he spoke that thing which I didn't heard a couple hours ago. I tried to make out possible significance, without much success.
what happens next?"
Oh the insanely stupid things that comes out of my mouth tonight!
He didn't answer that. Not with words, that is.
He turned me around so that I would face him, his arms still holding me so dangerously close to him and obviously the following set of events were as clear as the night sky above us.
(1) Earl Bassett is played by Fred Ward
(2) Burt Gummer is played by Michael Gross in Tremors, directed by Ron Underwood
(3) Captain Billy Tyne interpreted by George Clooney in The Perfect Storm, directed by Wolfgang Petersen