The air had a heady humid feel as I pushed branches away to advance my steps. I was just walking. I had asked to be dropped off at the park after a nice lunch with friends. I was pleased that the trails were empty and wandered my way through trees and flowers in awe of so much natural allowed to flourish in my little city. Which was why I didn’t notice the foot sticking out of the side of the trail and tripped over it. I had assumed it was a branch or root and almost ignored the whole happenstance, had a grunt not also accompanied the action.
So I turned and stared in dumbfounded shock. “Are you Chris Evans?” I asked, surely seeing some bizarre illusion. Captain America couldn’t possibly…
“Yes.” he said. Chris was sitting, leaned against a tree, and touched his forehead with his hand. “Where am I? he asked looking around in obvious confusion.
“You are at the park, on the trails to be specific.” I said still filled with a sort of surreal astonishment. “Are you drunk?” I asked, keeping my tone as smooth as possible. This was a pretty fortunate random occurrence!
He shook his head, “Not anymore… And now I have a headache.” he got to his feet. “I don’t even remember how I got here.”
I smiled sympathetically, “You must have been drinking awfully early in the morning.” I couldn’t help but look at him everywhere. He was completely real. I had seen him in blue tights and a bald cap so many times, it was hard to think he truly existed at all. Yet here he was.
“I was.” he admitted. “I had a rough night.”
“I can’t offer you a ride home, I was dropped off. But… you can walk around the trails with me if you want.” I offered.
“You have any Advil?” he asked.
I did! I thought happily. “I do!” I said just as happily. He laughed at that for some reason, as I rummaged around in my little backpack.
“That is a snazzy little backpack.” he commented.
“I love it. It’s perfect for everything, I can even fit my chromebook in there for when I write.” I popped out three advil. He looked at me suspiciously and I looked at him balefully. “I hardly think I am going to spring roofies on you at this moment.” I said flatly.
He laughed, winced and grabbed his head. “That is not at all what I was thinking. You are giving me THREE extra strength advil.”
“Oh you can take it tough guy, once a month I take 4 twice in one day. You’ll thank me for it.”
He took the pills gingerly from my hand and took all three. I stared at him horrified. “What if you had started choking? What is wrong with you?”
“Then you would have given me mouth to mouth.” he said with a grin.
“Pffft, I have no idea what has been in your mouth while you were passed out in the forest. You’d have choked to death relying on that.”
He laughed, “Well, now I know better.”
I smiled, “So, I guess you want to walk with me?”
“I guess I do.” he admitted and we started walking.
“So what was so horrible that caused you to start drinking at like 10 in the morning?” I asked.
“Just… bam… right to it, huh? You aren’t even going to try to gain my trust?” he asked.
“I already have your trust.” I said.
“You are so sure about that?” Chris said.
“I think that out of the two of us, I need to worry about trusting you. You have a much better chance at overtaking me, then I can of you.” I pointed out.
“There are different kinds of attacks, you could listen to my story and spill it to the media.” he pointed out.
I nodded, “All right… you’re right.” I said. “But I still think you trust me anyway.”
“Why?” he insisted.
“You took three of those pills, they weren’t Advil by the way.” I said.
He faltered a moment in his step, “What were they?
“No name ibuprofen.” I smiled, again, completely safe. “Same thing.”
“I know that.” Chris said. “But I appreciate your honesty and your ability to be a smart ass.”
This time I laughed, “It’s not any easier to meet a famous person than it is to be one. Here I am just trying to see if some dude on the trail is all right and it turns out to be you. Someone that I am clearly going to want to get to know. But you might not want to get to know me. But you might feel that way simply because you are sick of being fawned over. But, that makes it more difficult for me to get to know you, because, I am pretty sure most girls would like to get to know you.”
“This is true.” he admitted.
“And I would look like one of those girls, because the truth is… I do want to get to know you. But, because of something I read about you more than because you are hot or whatever.” I said.
“Or whatever.” he smiled at me. “Go on.”
“I read you have anxiety and I knew that, because I can see it in your eyes in interviews. The same way I can see it in my eyes when I look in the mirror. And I thought, this guy is probably just really really smart and thinks things down to the very bottom of the pile until he just can’t get out of it. Then he thinks some more and wonders how or why he’s even thinking at all and then he starts to look at people and how they have become and what they are allowing to happen and how sep… ” he was staring at me and I felt afraid I had babbled too much. And then that made me feel sad, because I really didn’t want to have to worry…
“Don’t stop.” he said. “Just keep talking.”
“Uh, all right… ” I now felt awkward. “All right,” I said again, “My anxiety, for example, is right now I am feeling very self conscious. Like I went off on a tangent, but, you said you understood, so to show I am trustworthy I am going to trust that. That you don’t think I am overthinking anything too much. Because, sometimes,” I said still walking. “Sometimes I think that I irritate people because I see how they are doing things that hurt themselves, but they don’t want to hear about it but maybe I sometimes tell them anyway.”
Chris’ face was impassive as I talked, but we had stopped walking and his hand was clenched around my arm.
“And they know I am right. then they say stuff like… now that you have told me that i feel guilty for doing blah blah blah… and I just think, ok… but why are you mad at me? Don’t you want to feel better about yourself?”
He nodded, he looked like he wanted to say a million things, but he just nodded for me to continue.
“I know what it feels like to analyze stuff to death. And you know what? There is NOTHING wrong with it.” I said and touched his hand. “That’s starting to ache a bit.”
He released his hand immediately. “I’m so sorry. I was just… everything you said, I just kept listening and it does sound like me. Except… you do it better. You don’t judge it. Do you?”
“No, but yes too.” I said.
“Because you know others judge you.” he offered.
“Yes. And whether I like it or not, I have to get along with others to make my way.” I said.
“So now what? We know we are supposed to think for ourselves, but we are also clearly judged by others that can make or break us… now what?” he asked and I wondered if he didn’t think I had the answer.
“You have two choices, risk being judged or comply. When we do nothing at all, we are still complying,” I pointed out.
Chris’ lovely face split into the goofiest grin and I had to school a smile. “You know that’s what I do, don’t you?”
I shrugged a bit, “I suspected it when you asked me the question. But I also suspected that maybe if someone just presented the choices to you plain to be seen, you’d see them.”
“What do you do when presented with that logic.” Chris asked.
“I always go for my way. I do things how I do them and if you don’t like me that’s ok. I am not trying to hurt anyone, but I’ll be damned if I’ll live in a bubble.” I said firmly. “I love things, people, I feel everything as hard as I can and I don’t feel it all at the same time. I stay on the outside of the big picture as often as I can.”
“The Captain Amerinca way.” Chris nodded. That’s the only way.”
“That’s why you produce and direct your own movies.” I said. “That is a good thing. It’s amazing actually.”
“Which ones have you seen?” he asked.
“I have seen all your marvel stuff, including Fantastic 4.” He winced slightly, but I continued, “I have seen… the Losers.”
“That movie should have done better than it did.’ Chris said and I laughed.
“I totally agree. The elevator scene alone was worth the whole movie.” I said. “I laughed so hard, all I kept thinking was… yeah… I wouldn’t have gotten onto an elevator with that guy either.”
His laugh was so unexpected, I blinked in surprise. It was also exuberant and loud. It reminded me that no matter how many movies he had been in, he was just a person.
“So…” I said using this opportunity to switch gears. “Why were you propped against a tree hung over anyway?”
The large smile on his face froze, as if I had just taken a picture and then it fell. “Right… I had forgotten.”
“Is it something you could have just forgotten about, or is it something you have to deal with?” I asked.
He looked up at me and gave me a funny little, smirk… I guess? “I have to deal with it.”
“OK, so maybe I can help you think about what you have to deal with.” I suggested.
“You don’t really talk like a normal person,” Chris said, he seemed offended.
I had somehow offended him.
My guard went up, and my awareness tapped into high alert. “I know.” I said. And I did know… but then again, not too many people were raised the way I was, so for my brain to even exist is unthinkable. “I just really like getting to the bottom of things, Chris.” I said with as much earnest emotion as I could muster. Dealing with people was hard, but I continued with as much honesty as I could. “One of my strongest convictions is that you can trust me. That I can listen well enough and with the right questions… understand exactly what you are going through without judgment.”
“No one can do that.” he said. “No one.”
The challenge had been laid before me, as it often had and I took it happily. “Try me.” I said.
“No.” he shook his head, “Tell me something that will prove you will not judge where others would.”
This was an expected question. One of those impossible questions. But I had an answer, regardless. “A long time ago, I used to work for a young man, who shall remain nameless. I worked with him for some time. And one night, while we closed, we started talking. Very much like how you and I are now.” I pushed further into the forest, where the path did not lay and he followed me. “And in that conversation, he confided in me that he was attracted to little girls.”
Chris’ face melted from skeptical to horrified in a matter of moments. I could see him thinking about what I had just said. About what he had just asked of me. “How did you respond?” he said as if resolving that calm was the best response he could make.
“All the wrong ways. But for all the right reasons.” I said. “I paused… which was a big mistake. My next mistake was asking him if he’d acted on those feelings.” I felt troubled thinking of that memory. “It is not something I am proud of. I didn’t judge him per say, but he would never have seen in that way.”
“You were just incredibly shocked at the information.” he said.
I nodded, “That was it exactly. Like I was coming out of a car accident and telling everyone I was just going to walk home.”
Chris laughed, “That’s a pretty accurate statement. So he thought you were judging him?”
“Yeah.” I said a bit sullenly. “I don’t like to think about it. If I had a little more foresight, I could have helped someone that day.”
Chris stared at me and I took in his gaze, difficult as it was. It is always strenuous to hold another’s gaze. But after a long minute or so, he spoke, “Someone I love very dearly, is dying.”
“Why would you think I would judge you for that?” I asked in bemusement.
“Because I found out last night… and in a blind panic I ran out of the hospital and into the nearest bar… and now it’s 2:00pm and I am trying to pretend time and life does not exist.” Chris’ face was twisted in sorrow.
He hadn’t told me who the person was, so I wasn’t going to ask. But, I’d figure it out.
“You did the right thing.” I said without a moment’s hesitation.
He looked at me like I had just hit him with a dead baby. “How can you say that? I got DRUNK after learning news… that… ” he rubbed his eyes with his fists. “Well, I really should have stayed with my family.”
“In the state you were in?” I scoffed lightly. “You’d have done no one any good anyway and the pressure would have likely set you off.”
I was really seeing the actor in this guy with each new expression that was plastered on his face, “I should have been there.” he said.
I felt the sadness of his words. “You think you have lost something.”
“Yes.” he said. “I missed the opportunity to BE with my family.” he emphasized be, he even did a hand gesture.
“If I may be so bold as to give you another perspective?” I suggested carefully.
Again his face shifted, but this time a smile came forth. “I would love nothing better, to be honest.”
“An opportunity is nothing you can lose. It is only something you can not take advantage of.” I said and frowned. “That was worded terribly…”
“I see what you are saying actually.” Chris said. “But I still feel like I’ve lost something.”
“Why? If you didn’t have it without the situation and it was going to pass, what have you lost?” I asked.
“An experience.” he said.
“One you wanted, not the one you got. So what you have lost is something that you… ” I gestured my hand for him to continue.
“…that I wanted.” he conceded. “So, you are saying I missed the opportunity and received another one in its place. So, nothing has been lost… just different.”
“Yeah!” I said happily. “I am not saying you have to be happy about the experience you had, but you must have gotten SOMETHING from it.”
Chris let out a long and tired sigh.
I patted his back. “You’ll never run again, I bet.” I suggested.
Chris nodded in agreement, “This is true. I will never do that again.”
“In fact, you may want to consider heading back there now…” I touched his arm gingerly.
He looked at me, “I probably should.”
“Come on, let’s walk back to the main entrance. You have a cell phone on you?” I asked turning around and starting back.
He pulled a phone from his front pants pockets. “Never leave home without it.”
“Perfect. You can call yourself a cab.” It wouldn’t take us long to get back, we had walked so slowly out here.
“Hey, thanks for everything. I was really lucky to run into you.” he admitted.
I smiled warmly at him, “You really were.” I could already see the gate to the main entrance. “I hope you find the peace you are looking at Chris. Losing someone you love is probably the worst feeling in the world.”
Chris nodded, his face remained impassive, but I could see tears building in his eyes. I hooked my arm through his and we walked through the entrance together.
He held up his phone, “Need to share a cab?”
I shook my head, “Nah… I can walk home.”
He looked slightly crestfallen and I had to admit that made me feel nice. He had probably been with some of the most incredibly beautiful and amazing women in the world and here he was… saddened to part ways with a stranger.
“I’d like to talk to you again.” he said after making his call to the cab company.
“Why? Your life is full enough isn’t it?” I waved my hand. “Let’s just get what we get from this afternoon and run with it. I am not going to LA anytime soon… what are we going to do? Email each other?”
Chris furrowed his brow, “But…”
I took both of his hands in mine, “I know… I got all into your head and made you feel understood. It’s what I do. But trust me… I am not a commitment you need in your life right now. You need to get back to your family and just learn from all of this. That’s what I am going to do.”
“Are you rejecting me?” Chris said with a smile.
“Yes.” I said straight face. “What woman in her right mind would strike up a relationship with a drunk in a forest?”
Chris cracked up and shook his head, his cab was pulling into the parking lot. He sighed, “My ride is here.”
“It was an immense pleasure meeting you.” I said and shook his hand. “I can’t wait to see your next film.”
“Can I at least hug you?” he asked.
I blushed, like a bloody school girl. “Well… of course.” I said trying to act as cool as I could.
He put his arms around me and crushed me to his body. It was extremely surprising which is why I squeaked. I managed to get my mind working and put my arms around him to hug him back.
He held me like that for a long time. When he pulled back he was crying. “I don’t want to lose her.” he said.
The cab honked twice and I waved at it and gave it the ‘one minute’ gesture.
“Hey,” I said, pulling a tissue from my back pack and dabbing his eyes. “no one wants to lose anyone ever… but it’s a part of life. You are going to feel awful for a while… just make sure you go to your family and get some support.”
He nodded. I put my backpack down by his feet and sprinted toward the cab, waving him down.
“I don’t got all day lady,” he said, rolling down his window.
“Just give him a minute, he’s had a rough day.” I said.
Cab driver shrugged, “I’ll start the metre.”
I snorted, “Thanks for your compassion.” I turned back and sprinted back to Chris. “Let’s get you back.”
He picked up my back pack and handed it to me. “Thanks for everything.” he said, gave me a quick hug, trotted off and got into the cab. He drove away waving from the back seat.
I sighed a little sadly, but, due to my own testimony, I had lost nothing. Just gained an experience.
I fished around in my back pack for my ipod, to listen to music on my walk back. “Crap, don’t tell me I have lost it.” I groaned to myself.
A moment later a text came in on my phone from an unknown number and it said, “I guess we’ll have to meet again so you can get your ipod back. – Chris”
That little bum had stolen my ipod! I laughed out loud and shook my head. The walk home felt like a dream.