A green lantern hanging from a rafter that shields the balcony pulls me back into the conversation: percentage points, script approval, gross against net profits, terms that, even now, I still find strangely unfamiliar, and I’m staring into Roger’s flute of sake and the Oriental girl, inside, is writhing, kicking at the floor, moving in circles, sobbing, and the producer stands up, still talking to Roger, closes the door and smiles when I say, “I’m grateful.”
I call Matt. It takes the operator a swift seven minutes to connect me to the number. Matt’s fourth wife, Ursula, answers, sighing when I tell her who it is. I wait five minutes for her to come back and I’m imagining Matt standing next to Ursula in the kitchen of a house in Woodland Hills, head bowed down. Instead Ursula says, “He’s here,” and Matt’s voice comes over the line.
“Yeah, man, it’s me.”
Matt whistles. “Whoa.” Long pause. “Where are you?”
“Japan. Tokyo, I think.”
“Has it been … two, three years?”
“No, man, it hasn’t been … that long,” I say. “I don’t know.”
“Well, man, I heard you were, um, touring.”
“World Tour ‘84, man.”
“I heard something about that… .” His voice trails off.
Tense, awkward silence broken only by “yeah”s and “um”s.
“I saw the video,” he says.
“The one with Rebecca De Mornay?”
“Er, no, the one with the monkey.”
“Oh … yeah.”
“I heard the album,” Matt finally says.
“Did … you like it, man?” I ask.
“Are you kidding, man?” he says.
“Is that … good, man?” I ask.
“Great backup. Really tight.”
Another long silence.
“It’s, um, valid, man, valid,” Matt says. Pause. “The one about the car, man?” Pause. “I saw John Travolta buy a copy at Tower.”
“I’m, um, really gratified by your response, man,” I say. “Okay?”
“Are you, um, doing anything, like, now?” I ask.
“I’ve fooled around with some stuff,” Matt says. “Might be ready to go into the studio in a couple of months.”
“Ter-rif-ic,” I say.
“Have you … talked to Sam?” I ask.
“Just about … well, maybe it was a month ago? One of the lawyers? Ran into him somewhere. By accident.”
“Sam is … okay?”
Not sounding too sure, Matt says, “He’s great.”
“And … his lawyers?”
He answers by asking, “How’s Roger?”
“Roger is … Roger.”
“Out of rehab?”
“A long time ago.
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Matt sighs. “I know what you mean, man.”
“Well, man.” I breathe in, tense up—“I wonder if maybe you’d like to, oh I don’t know, if maybe you would like to get together and write some songs when I get finished with this tour, maybe record some stuff … man?”
Matt coughs, then after not too long says, “Oh man I don’t know y’know the old days are over man and I really don’t think so.”
“Well, f**k, it’s not like—” I stop in midsentence.
“You gotta move on.”
“I … I am, you know, but.” I start to kick my foot against a wall and my fingernails have somehow dug themselves so hard into the bandaged wound that it becomes spotted with red.
“It’s over, y’know, man?” Matt is saying.
“Am I, like, lying, man?”
I’m not saying anything, just blowing on my palm.
“I was watching some of those old movies that Nina and Dawn took in Monterey,” Matt is saying.
I’m trying not to listen, thinking Dawn?
“And the weirdest thing but also the grooviest thing is that Ed looked really good. He looked great, in fact. Tan and in good shape and I don’t know what happened.” Pause. “I don’t know what the f**k happened, man.”
“Who cares, man?”
“Yeah.” Matt sighs. “You’ve got a point.”
“Because I don’t care, man.”
“I guess I don’t care either, man.”