the immediate unknown

How about we just have story time? A few anecdotes from the past few weeks. This is number one.


The weekend before last I went to Chicago (one of those things decided upon on a whim that turn out great), with Niko, on a double-decker MegaBus that was warm and smelled of French fries and body odor, to meet up with MB and Whitney and Jess. So Saturday night, after a long day of trekking around the city (beach, park, craft fair, salsa dancing, etc) we found ourselves, along with a couple of other friends, in a taco place, where we ate many chips and salsas and tacos and drank Mexican beer and everyone was basically trying not to fall asleep face-first into a bowl of habanero salsa (you know, at least aim for the pico de gallo.) We were in good moods, but it had been a long day on top of a long drive and everyone was beat.

Almost the whole crew (the next afternoon at the Zoo)

So we wandered out into the busy, warm night – by this point it was eleven pm or so – and as we paused on the curb, deciding what to do next, a couple of people walked up to us.

“Okay, this is going to sound strange,” the girl prefaced it. She was with a guy; they both looked like they were in their early twenties, wearing very normal-looking, non-offensive clothing, like sweaters and khakis. “We were wondering if you guys might be interested in being extras in a film. Free beer, free food. We’re submitting it to a bunch of film festivals.”

Before she could continue explaining, Whitney was already, from the back of the group, saying, “Yes. Yes. Let’s do it.” Everyone else looked a little more on the fence, I think they could tell, so they continued explaning – a lot of their planned extras had bailed on them, they’d be ready to start filming in thirty minutes, it was being done by local undergrads, they had tons of free beer, we’d just need to act like we were at a crowded house party which we essentially would be. The guy gave us his cell number and they told us the address of the apartment and the girl said, “It’s going to look a little shady from the outside but just give us a call and we’ll buzz you in!” and they headed off, presumably to recruit more people.

So naturally we went. A major point in their favor was that the guy had been wearing a walkie talkie on his belt, which for some reason seemed to add a major air of legitimacy to their enterprise. Another major point in their favor was that we had all just finished a couple of beers and/or margaritas inside.

This is the point in the story where the reader starts expecting some kind of insane twist, or at least something very exciting and dangerous to happen down the road, and this is also the point in the story where I’m going to warn you that actually nothing like that happens – except that now, one day, you might be able to watch an indie film called “The Immediate Unknown” and see all of us drinking lukewarm Rolling Rock in a very authentic shitty undergrad apartment.

It definitely did look very shady from the outside. The apartment was right across the street from a construction site (Google was putting up a new building) and there was a smeary glass door with a note taped to it, handwritten on a torn piece of notebook paper, that said something like, “If you’re looking for the Immediate Unknown, this is it.”

Another pair of people, two twenty-something girls, were arriving at the same time. They were kind of giggly and asked us if we were “here for the ‘Murder Party’ too.” They had this air that they genuinely expected something terrible might be awaiting them and they were awfully intrigued to find out what. We called up the Walkie-Talkie guy from earlier, and he buzzed us in, and we all trooped up these listing, gray-carpeted stairs together, to eventually pop up into the authentic shitty undergrad apartment. There were people milling around everywhere, and some expensive looking lights and cameras, and a very drunk enormously tall man who engaged us in humorous conversation, and a sagging orange couch covered in spare jackets and other articles of clothing, and piles of stray belongings everywhere. Also cases of cheap beer and a bowl of snacks. No music, which we all agreed was lame. We all had to sign waivers. “Do you really need our phone numbers and addresses?” I asked. The guy handing them out shrugged and said, “I need something, but it can be fake, doesn’t matter.” We pretended to be roommates and put the same fake address. And then we just hung out, for ages, drinking more and more cheap beer (which ensured that all of us visited the bathroom, which was actually the nicest, cleanest room there.)

Eventually they got their shit together and we all gathered up and ran this one scene repeatedly, in which the female lead pushes down a crowded staircase of party-goers, shoving her way between Jess and I and past Sam and Whitney, to come upon the male lead, engaged in intimate conversation with female lead’s best friend. At this point, female lead says, “I’m leaving now,” and presumably leaves (I couldn’t see exactly what happened at that point because I was just high enough up the stairs that they were, by then, blocked from view. Niko and Mirabeth were down there somewhere.) Meanwhile Jess and I and this small awkward boy we had just met had an animated, completely silent conversation, and everyone around us did the same, gesturing wildly with their cans of Rolling Rock, trying not to make a noise. And then we would run it again. And again. And then someone broke a damn light on this string of lights and we had to do it all again.

We escaped before they could trap us for a second scene, they were way too thorough these people, and left the apartment building feeling like we’d escaped – not from danger, but sheer boredom. I don’t envy actors. Somehow out in the street we felt utterly re-charged. It was 1:30 in the morning, but we were up for anything. We made our way to a bar and climbed up flight after flight of significantly more refined steps to the rooftop, where we danced and talked and looked out at the lit-up Chicago skyline. We’d been a part of the Immediate Unknown, and were on to the next one.


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