Gavin Delanco wasn’t born with any sort of gift. He grew into it by pure chance. People first noticed the resemblance when Gavin was sixteen. Before then, nobody had really noticed Gavin at all. He took to the hallways of his school like a ghost. Girls did the walk-on-by, tight designers cradling magnificent legs, and Gavin would stare with irritated longing. Never quite managing to breathe through his nose. His ill fitting sweatpants chaffed against a dead giveaway, and the popular kids would call him out. Slam him against the wall, rap their notebooks against his measly, bewildered erection. He kept pictures of nude celebrities pinned along the inside of his locker. The promise of perfection kept him warm at nights, covered in soft folds of confused wishes.
Then, a young man named Castle Nash inadvertently managed to get his foot in the door. He was discovered on the Santa Monica Pier. Sitting on a bench, alone, drinking a cherry soda. Watching the sun set. A studio exec happened upon him, slipped Castle a business card, and the rest is just as the saying goes…
Although, it should be noted, history has a rich tradition of double dealing.
Castle Nash grew older. A young star rising in the sky of a celluloid city, even as Gavin’s body continued to contort to the every beck and call of his hormones. It was the mid 1990s, and America’s urgent need for a celebrity fix was picking up steam. A train set to fly right off its tracks, ushering a golden era of runaway idolatry.
Gavin hit sixteen years on the same day that Castle’s first major motion picture hit the theaters. The resemblance between the two was there all right. Subtle. Slight. Close to inconsequential. But as far as the world was concerned, Gavin didn’t exist; until he hit twenty-one, Castle’s twenty-first movie hit number one, and the both of them became dead ringers for each other.
The cross-pollination had become uncanny. Gavin lost his virginity to a Castle Nash fan. His next lay was the exact same movie, save for casting. All those years, nothing, and suddenly, Gavin was tabloid-fucking his way through more women than his West Coast counterpart could have ever hoped.
He left North Carolina courtesy of an Amtrak ticket to New York City, one way. Nothing but the clothes on his back and the contours of his face. Got an entry level job at Citibank. Rented a cheap studio, then rented every Castle Nash film on tape. Watched him move, act, interact and react. Gavin studied Castle with a lethal eye. Learned to imitate his style of speak, every possible mannerism, an arsenal of greatest hits.
He researched Castle’s biography on the rapidly expanding internet. Kept up to date on the various sightings, details, hairstyles of the young movie star. Went vegetarian, got cliff notes on the Kabala, and exchanged his shaggy blond hair for an edgier, porcupine do.
Gavin slowly became Castle’s insignificant other.
He couldn’t go to the same bar more than twice. Getting laid was contingent on habitual rotation. Pick and choose, taking steps to ensure nobody discovered who Gavin really was. A bar in Greenwich one night, a dive in Brooklyn the next. Sit and wait for a woman to make him for someone else. Modestly make believe he wasn’t Castle Nash, then admit to his lie with yet another one. Take the young lady back to her place and systematically remove her underwear with his clout.
For the first time in his life, Gavin was in possession of all he would ever need.
Gavin sat down at the bar.
Got the bartender’s attention. Ordered a drink. Waited.
It was an Irish tavern, The Bishop. Third Avenue, between Ninety-fifth and Ninety-fourth, about ten blocks or so north of the Upper East Side martini belt. A mix of young professionals and long-time residents, none of whom were looking for anything other than just right. Reasonable drink prices. Average fare as far as food went, just the basics; burgers, mozzarella sticks, stuffed peppers and shepherd’s pie. Bartenders straight from the old country. White dress shirts tucked into black slacks. Consummate in their execution, every bit ready to make this occupation their life’s work ‘til the day they died.
Gavin ordered another drink. Tugged at his sport coat, loosened his tie. His entire outfit lifted straight from an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
I prefer to dress this way when I’m out and about, Castle had replied to the reporter’s softball. I think you’re more likely to get noticed if you go casual. Celebrity under the radar, and all that jazz. You’d be amazed how easy it is to blend when you’re dressed to the nines.
Took less than an hour before a makeshift blonde approached him. Stunning eyes and a vacant smile. She wore a form-fitting black miniskirt. Her face was pale, thin and perfect, brimming with awe. Cosmopolitan in her right hand, like a red light at midnight.
“Excuse me…” she began. “I know this sounds stupid, but… are you Castle Nash?”
Gavin smiled, left side of his mouth slightly higher than the right. “Not really.”
“You are, aren’t you?”
He sighed, caught in the act. All the while smiling on. “Yeah… yeah, I guess I am.”
“Oh my GOD!” her eyes rolled back into her head. “I love your work. I mean, I absolutely love it! When you were in Charm Angels, I really, actually thought you were an actual angel!”
“Well, that’s all acting is, actually.” Gavin let his grin grow wide. “Have a seat.”
“Oh, cool!” The blonde pulled up a barstool. “I know I must seem like some kind of lame stalker, but I have seen ALL of your movies. ALL of them.”
“What’s your name?”
“Cindy…” Gavin put out his hand with the ease of a pro. “Call me Castle.”
“Castle,” she repeated with breathless wonder. Met his hand with a timid grasp. “Castle Nash.”
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Cindy put a hand to her breasts.
Nobody gets that lucky.
Three hours later, her bare naked thighs were wrapped around his face. Straddling. Arms raised above her head, hands clutching the curtains of a south side window. Gavin grabbed her ass, worked his tongue deep into her. Cindy cried out, yes, Castle, yes! GOD, YES! MY ANGEL, YES! Gavin kept on, all the time thinking he should have been someone famous, because if Cindy had anything to say about it, he was certainly worthy of it.
That all happened on a Tuesday.
Thursday night, Gavin moved on to greener pastures.
Had to, in fact. He’d pulled the Nash act twice at that other joint, and soon people would start to talk.
This new place was underground. A dimly lit dive bathed in yellow candlelight. The clientele was mostly Haitian. Corner jazz bands playing their standards. The mood was quiet and mellow, so Gavin thought he’d stay a while, see if anyone was ready to recognize.
The bartender wandered over. Dark skin. Shaved head, bulbous features; a sly and superior grin that made him look twice his size.
Served Gavin a Jameson’s. Castle’s drink of choice.
Gavin drank and watched the band. A slow, wandering rendition of God Bless the Child filled every corner of the bar, set his mind wandering. He waited, thought about a girl he once knew in passing. He thought about high school. Back when he was the invisible man in everyone’s life. Translucent. The son of bank manager nobody knew or cared about. Unexceptional in every possible way.
A gale of mad laughter burst out to his left.
Some unkempt kid with drunken eyes and a tattered, grey leather jacket was demonstrating a magic trick. He drew a shot glass into his small hands. Waved it around extravagantly, placed it on the bar, picked it up. The kid made a gesture, claimed he could make it disappear. Then he threw it against the wall. The glass shattered into countless, glistening shards. Cheers from the regulars around him, and even the bartender joined in. The kid ordered another drink. The bartender served him a bourbon, handed him a broom. The kid swept up the glass, sat down, and kept drinking.
Gavin turned his eyes away.
What a fucking loser.
The night pressed on, and Gavin sat with his whiskey, but no cigarettes, because Castle didn’t smoke.
Gavin had to pride himself on how cool he kept it when Katie Lynn walked through the door.
Inside, a pathetically naïve cry of pure elation rattled his body to the core.
Gavin still dreamed of her. Remembered her hallway smiles for other boys, legs crossed under a desk, red hair under gray morning skies, that one day he found it in him to ask for the time. She had answered through a mouthful of bagel, forgetting to wipe the cream cheese from her upper lip.
The time had been twelve-thirty.
Twelve-thirty on a Monday afternoon.
And in she walked. Into that cramped little wormhole. Far removed from his North Carolina history, Gavin was watching his past return, this time with fortune’s smile. Katie Lynn sat down at the far end, next to the kid. Her wildfire hair tied back in two separate pony tails. Satin blouse intentionally snuggling a pair of perfectly developed breasts. Form fitting jeans. She ordered a martini, pure class and elegance alongside the candles. Katie had always known how to carry herself. Gavin was mesmerized by her movements as he was with those eyes, playful and all-knowing, and to watch Katie Lynn take that drink down…
Gavin ordered another whiskey, prepared himself.
Sat and waited.
Katie Lynn struck up a conversation with the kid.
Gavin sat and waited.
The kid didn’t look much interested in Katie Lynn, and eventually, she would simply have to glance in his direction. Lay her eyes on Gavin, see the face of Castle Nash, and who could resist those eyes of his, splashed across countless screens?
His drink lost weight.
He ordered another one.
Katie Lynn kept chatting up the kid. Regulars crowding around, lot of interest resting at the end of the bar. No small surprise; Gavin had heard that Haitians were insatiable in their appetites. Culture, genetics, who the hell really knew? He watched and wondered from a distance. Stirred up all the wishes he could never leave behind, younger years spent confounded by what it took to capture the eyes of a Goddess, the sincerity of his heartache, it was all there in Katie Lynn’s smile…
But things were different now.
Gavin was different. Better.
He sat and waited.
Katie Lynn threw her head back, laughed uproariously at some off-color comment from the kid. She said something to him, and Gavin heard the word lucky somewhere in there.
He stayed put, in total agreement.
Only a matter of time now.
Edging on towards one in the morning, when it happened.
The jazz band had packed up. Sounds locked up with their instruments. Meager tips collected and counted, then right out the door. A splash of Caribbean music washed over the walls. The bar had grown bare, nothing but the regulars, that pathetic kid, and Katie Lynn. Everyone had descended into a sort of drunken ecstasy. Drinks consumed by the boatful, dangerous hopes bathed in the quiet reassurance of inoffensive, orange lights.
Yes, it was round about that time that she finally looked over.
Past the kid, down the bar, and right into Gavin’s eyes.
Deep into Gavin’s eyes.
Journey to the center of the earth.
This is going to happen, he thought, honestly worried there might be tears hanging from those words. Finally. Katie Lynn.
The years between that moment and his nonexistent days dissolved as she stood and made her way, a drunken sway to her hips, legs finding their point on the compass. The speakers and lights blended into everything, escorting this flawless scenario towards its natural, heavenly conclusion.
Perfect, man. Simply perfect.
Katie Lynn didn’t sit. Just stood.
Gavin gave her a look that had always killed in rehearsal.
The confidence of an angel, that was it.
He gazed into her eyes, preparing himself for nothing less than empire.
“Forgive me for asking, but… are you Castle Nash?”
Her voice hadn’t changed.
Long vowels still flattened by the short, southern drawl tracing the fringes of every syllable.
Gavin smiled, left side of his mouth slightly higher than the right: “Not really.”
“You are, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Oh…” Her head bobbed slightly under the influence of vodka and vermouth. She appeared to be preparing her next statement with expected care. Gavin watched her, waiting for his world to unfold inwards in a single, validating encounter.
“Well,” Katie Lynn managed, “I just wanted to tell you that your movies are awful.”
Gavin’s face changed, but not quite enough.
“Your movies are shit,” she told him. “It’s embarrassing, is what it is. And I have no…” She searched for the words…. “Respect. For you as a fellow actor. That’s all, really.”
Katie Lynn held fast for a moment, as though that might not be all, really.
She walked away.
Gavin stayed put, looking into a space once occupied by his past.
A new drink was placed in front of him, embarrassed ice cubes going to work.
“Tough break, son,” the bartender said.
“Huh?” Gavin was still grappling with what hadn’t happened.
“That one’s on me… Fucking Hollywood actresses, they all have a stick up their pussy.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, Katie Lynn. Give a woman a starring role, and she thinks she’s the center of the fucking universe.”
Gavin shook his head. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“That girl’s an actress, man.”
“She’s no actress… That’s Katie Lynn.”
“Yeah, the movie star.”
“My Katie Lynn.”
“I don’t know about yours…” The bartender abandoned his compassion for the sake of an ironic smile. “She seems to be working Lucky for all he’s worth.”
“The kid over there with the Jack Daniel’s.”
The bartender pointed yonder. Pointed right at the kid, that Lucky kid who could hardly manage to light his cigarette with those drunken fingers. Skinny little fucker, worn dress shoes, and a wine stain on his shirt.
A GODDAMN WINE STAIN ON HIS SHIRT!
And Katie Lynn was all over him. Leaning over, letting a sizable tit brush against his arm, fucking him with her eyes, catlike motions of her hands.
And Lucky wasn’t doing a thing about it.
Completely unresponsive, cold to the bone and his very soul, the ungrateful FUCKER.
And yes, when the fuck had Katie Lynn become a movie star? Gavin had missed it, somehow. Maybe she’d never been in a movie with Castle Nash, the only movies he ever bothered to watch. That had to be it. A small matter of six-million degrees of separation, bitten in the ass by his own body double.
That bastard Castle Nash had probably done it on purpose, Gavin fumed.
He turned to the barback mirror. Stared himself down, just to make sure he was even there. Katie Lynn’s laughter forced its way into his skull. He took down the rest of his drink. Ordered another one. That drink vanished faster than the previous one. He was losing it, whatever it was. His vision danced across the room, ganged up on itself. Another giggle from the lips of Katie Lynn. Gavin didn’t want to know what he had missed, loss and pain in a barstool seat, and he didn’t want to look.
So he did.
Sweet Katie Lynn.
Gavin watched her watch Lucky, and Lucky watch his drink.
The Haitians were all gathered around, enjoying the show.
“Goddamn,” Gavin said, louder than intended. “Goddamn, they’ve taken Katie Lynn away from me again.”
Everyone at the end of the bar turned to look at him.
Gavin shook his head, tried to clear it.
Even Lucky was watching now, suddenly interested, eyes treading water.
Whatever third-world mixtape had been playing, the music came to an abrupt halt.
Gavin stood up. Steadied himself on a nearby chair. Didn’t feel like a movie star. Didn’t feel like much of anything.
“Katie,” he said, struggling. Diverting energy from his mouth to his feet. “Katie, I’m in love with you.”
Katie Lynn favored him with an amused smile. “It think you’ve had a few too many, Castle.”
“I haven’t had anything,” Gavin told her, stumbling his way over red tiles dotted with cigarette burns. “And I’m not Castle Nash. We were in high school together. I asked you the time once. You were eating a bagel and smiling.”
“I’m Gavin Delanco.”
Katie shook her head, mouth ajar with a momentary plunge into confusion.
Here we go, Gavin thought, his entire body arguing over which direction to tilt. Honesty will win the day. Because then she would have to ask, Excuse me, but are you Gavin Delanco? And he would have to make do with the sly hesitation and reply that, yes. Yes, I am.
To which she would reply, Oh my god, I just loved you in Charm Angels, and the band would play on, all things following their predestined course, but instead, the sad truth of it all came crashing down, melting from the corners of Katie Lynn’s mouth, truly clueless as she asked, “Who the fuck is Gavin Delanco?”
He stifled a cry. “You had cream cheese on your upper lip. It was twelve-thirty…” He was by her side. “Twelve-thirty on a Monday afternoon.”
The Haitians all whispered amongst themselves.
Lucky remained the impartial observer.
“Nice try, Castle,” Katie Lynn said. “You’re just as bad an actor in person as you are on screen.
“Wait, that’s right!” one of the regulars exclaimed, pulling back graying dreadlocks to get a better look. “You’re Castle Nash! You were in that angel movie!”
Everyone started talking at once.
“Charm Angels, that’s the one!”
“I think you are the greatest, man!”
“That’s right, that’s right!”
“What is this Katie Lynn talking about?”
“Woman, have you lost your mind?”
“We love Castle Nash!”
Lucky was watching it all with quiet fascination.
“I am NOT Castle Nash!” Gavin insisted, frantic. “Look at my face, it’s not my face!”
Gavin tried to move his mouth around. Roll his eyes, stick his tongue out, mess his freshly gelled hair. After a full thirty seconds of this, the entire bar burst out laughing.
“Oh, MAN, Castle, you are a TRIP!”
“You can’t change your face, man!”
“You are who you are!”
“And we still love you, Castle!”
“I AM NOT CASTLE NASH!” Gavin screamed. He turned to Katie, tried as best he could to hold her close, not caring where his hands landed. “I love you, and I want you, even back in school, and I want you to come home with me tonight, to my shitty little apartment, and we don’t even have to fuck –”
Katie Lynn shoved him away, told him to keep his mitts to himself.
Gavin lunged forward, gave pure exposure another go.
Suddenly, he was covered in Haitians. A dark cloud surrounded him, and the regulars all pulled, pushed him towards the door, not caring if he was a star. Not caring that he really wasn’t. Just trying to get trouble out from underground. Gavin struggled, neck cracking as he looked over his shoulder.
Katie Lynn was standing, mouth wide open, witness to his abrupt exile.
Her hand was on Lucky’s shoulder.
Lucky’s cigarette was lying in the ashtray, long forgotten.
A fist sunk into Gavin’s stomach.
Made its home.
He folded like a cheap greeting card, shoved out the door and into the streets.
Fell to the curb.
“Sleep it off, man!”
They retreated down the stairs, under the yellow glow of a sign reading CREOLE NIGHTS.
Gavin remained down and out, rolled over on his back. It had rained at some point that night. Water rolled through the gutters, over his hands, down the street. Tourists pointed as they managed the sidewalks. One group of pre-frosh NYU students whispered something about Castle Nash.
Cars drove past. Taxies and the like. Limousines with sunglasses for windows.
It was late.
Gavin was plastered, thought he might have to call in sick tomorrow. It would be Friday anyway. Gateway to the weekend. The bars would be crowded to capacity. Lots of women, lots of action, lots of opportunities. Thousands of opportunities, spread all over the city like a plague, a cancerous chance at greatness on every barstool.
Gavin coughed, vomited into the streets.
The door to the bar opened.
Through his canted perspective, Gavin saw that Lucky kid step out into the wind. Strike a match, light a cigarette. He stood over Gavin’s body.
Gavin stared with heavenly conceit, unable to come to terms.
Lucky wasn’t saying anything.
Finally Gavin resorted to what was most simple: “Where are you going?”
“Home,” Lucky replied.
“Where’s Katie Lynn?”
“Inside, with the rest.”
Gavin did his best to keep breathing, but it wasn’t easy. “Why isn’t she with you?”
Lucky laughed, looked down along Macdougal Street. “I don’t fuck shadows,” he said.
Lucky walked away with pigeon-toed steps.
Gavin turned his eyes to the skies and watched the stars with a sick sort of wonder.
He laid there, waiting for the sound of Katie Lynn’s footsteps.
It was a brisk April night and everything on the streets crept silently towards some sort of warmth.
or for fucking free in digital
so long and thanks for all the pish.