Jennifer Aniston was waiting on the porch as I carried my shopping bags up the steps. I’d just come back from a trip to Target, which had involved a two-and-a-half-hour drive, both ways, the use of four different interstates, and an impressive amount of gas and time spent minding the lines. It had been worth it, though, as I’d finally found just the right shower caddy for my shower and had, for the first time in the two months since I’d moved into my new home, some hope in the matter of where to store my soap and shampoo and shaving cream and razor.
“Are you Jennifer Aniston?” I said to Jennifer Aniston while carrying my bags and shower caddy up the steps.
“Yes, hold on,” she said, her cell phone pressed to her right ear. She paused and the rays of the sun hit her just so that she glowed in the early-evening light. “He’s just arrived,” she said into the cell phone, “I’ll call you tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, or never. Okay.” She pressed a button on her cell phone and slid it into the pocket of her designer jeans. “Sorry about that. Hi, yes, I’m Jennifer Aniston. I’ve come to stay for awhile.”
In most instances I would’ve balked and asked questions, but I was developing a new philosophy on life that included notions of positivity, adventure, and the power of saying yes. Things had been rough, terribly rough, and I was in need of a change. So I walked past her and unlocked the front door.
Jennifer Aniston seemed entirely comfortable in my home, which was still littered with boxes and unshelved books. She took a seat in one of my green chairs in the living room and told me how comfortable she found it. She was lying, of course, as my green chairs are notoriously uncomfortable and known to create dangerous pains in the back and lumbar region.
“Would you like some water?” I said. “Beer, milk, an old fashioned?”
“A martini,” she said. “Blue cheese crumbles.”
Putting my bags to the side, along with my shower caddy, I opened my refrigerator and found it to be nearly empty. The contents included a rotten bag of salad mixings, half a stick of butter, a teapot of simple syrup, four bottles of Miller Lite, and a pot of leftover spaghetti. “You’ll have to forgive me,” I said, handing her one of the Miller Lites, “I’m all out of blue cheese.”
“That’s okay,” she said and popped open the beer and took a sip. “I used to drink these when I was a telemarketer.” She wiped the foam from her perfect lips and let out a contented sigh. “I’d get off the phone, head to this bar called Taylor’s, and knock back a couple before going home to my efficiency.”
“Probably seems like a lifetime ago,” I said, thinking about how I’d seen her face on a tabloid in the checkout line at Target. The cover had said she and her latest beau were on the outs because he wouldn’t give her the child she so desperately wanted.
“Four,” she said. “It seems like four lifetimes ago.”
While she drank the beer I took my new shower caddy upstairs to my bathroom. The shower itself was a horror show, a wreck of misplaced toiletries. My soap was a sudsy mess that teetered on the edge of one of the too-small ledges, the shampoo sat on the floor, my shaving cream and razor were pushed exhaustedly in a corner. I took the shower caddy from the Target bag and hung it over the neck of the shower. It fit snugly into place and I put my toiletries on its shelves. I stepped back and smiled for the first time in weeks.
“Would you look at that,” Jennifer Aniston said. She had snuck into the bathroom with her beer and was admiring my new shower caddy. “Everything fits just right.”
I said, “This has been the bane of my existence. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in I don’t know how long.”
“Why didn’t you just go to Target and get a shower caddy before?” she said. “That seems like the logical solution.”
“Target’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive,” I said. “It’s in the next state over.”
“That’s awful,” Jennifer Aniston said between drinks of beer. “My shower in my mansion is lined with secret compartments. All I have to do is say ‘shampoo’ and a compartment opens and there’s my shampoo.”
“That must be perfect,” I said.
“No,” she said, finishing that beer. “It’s awful. It’s all awful.”
After admiring my new shower caddy and shower system for a good, long time, Jennifer Aniston and I went back downstairs and made dinner. I heated up what was left of the spaghetti and she toasted some bread in the toaster oven. We had a few bites apiece before agreeing it was a terrible meal, and Jennifer Aniston was on her cell phone and calling up her personal chef from her mansion. He arrived in a tank-like vehicle with pictures of fine cuisine painted on the sides. When he jumped out of the tank-like vehicle’s hatch he was carrying silver plates filled with fine cuisine. We sat on the porch, Jennifer Aniston and me, and ate the fine cuisine and drank Miller Lites.
“I feel bad,” she said.
“Why would you ever feel bad?” I said. The fine cuisine was just about the most perfect meal I’d ever eaten and I couldn’t imagine ever being unhappy again with such fine cuisine.
“I caved,” she said. “When I left my mansion this morning I swore to myself I’d give up these comforts. I was going to live like a human being again and appreciate the simpler things in life.”
Nodding in agreement, I speared a piece of blackened cod with my fork and drug it through a smear of mango sauce. “My spaghetti’s terrible,” I said.
“Your spaghetti was fine,” she lied. “I’m just weak.”
“You’re not weak,” I said, though I wasn’t sure if I believed what I was saying.
In the hours after dinner, as the sun set over the hills, we drove to the nearest gas station and bought more Miller Lites. We bought an ice chest, too, and two bags of ice, and we shoved those Miller Lites into the ice chest and into the ice. They got cold and we drank more of them and watched the red rim of the dying sun cover the hills.
We were silent, Jennifer Aniston and me, and the world was silent, too. Then her cell phone rang. She answered it with a grimace. “No,” she said into the cell phone. “It’s not true, it’s all garbage. We’re pursuing different interests. That’s all.” She clicked the button on her cell phone and drained a full bottle of Miller Lite. “Leeches,” she said.
“Was that your agent?” I said.
“The press,” she said. “They want to know about William and me.”
I’d seen this William, heard about him on the television. While unpacking my boxes the week before I’d seen a tabloid television show about stars and their personal lives and Jennifer Aniston and William, her beau, had been one of the leading stories.
“Will William give Jennifer Aniston the baby she so desperately wants?” the plastic-looking host asked us, the audience. “Will he give her his seed and make her barren womb a lush forest of procreation?”
When she’d asked this I instinctively looked up from my job and answered “I don’t know,” and had gone back to sorting my volumes of philosophy.
“Will Jennifer Aniston ever find true happiness?” the host asked. “Will she ever climb out of her pit of despair and longing?”
“I don’t know,” I said again, thumbing through a dog-eared copy of Das Kapital.
“Look,” the host said and I looked at the screen. It was filled with a video of Jennifer Aniston, elegant, radiant, strolling across a red carpet, William on her arm.
“See her hidden longing,” the host said.
I saw her hidden longing.
“See how she burns,” the host said.
I saw how she burned.
I looked at Jennifer Aniston, there on my porch, and saw how the burning had reduced to smoldering. “So,” I said to her, “what is the story with William and you?”
“You know,” she said and then stopped. She considered the question. Her brow furrowed. She opened her mouth. “I don’t necessarily know what the story is.”
“Sure,” I said. There were a lot of people in my life with whom I didn’t know what our story was. Stories were always developing, changing. I couldn’t, in that moment, put my finger on what my story was with anyone. “Say,” I said. “This is personal, but I should ask: do you want a baby?”
Jennifer Aniston sat down the Miller Lite she’d been nursing. She wiped the beer’s perspiration from her hands and worked her tongue in her cheeks. I could tell she was giving the question thought.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It seems like that’s the question everyone wants to ask. That’s the question they’ve been asking since I was with Brad Pitt. The question they’ve been asking for forever now.”
“To be honest,” I said, “it’s a simple question.”
“In a way,” she said, “I guess it is a simple question. Either you want to have a baby or you don’t. But in another way, it’s the least simple question a human being can answer. I can understand the concept of having a baby, of expelling it from my womb and taking it home and raising it, feeding it, wiping drool from its blubbery lips, of teaching it my values and caring for it and shepherding it into its own life. But is understanding the concept enough?”
“No,” I said, staring wide-eyed at Jennifer Aniston. “No, I reckon it’s not.”
“I don’t think so either,” she said. “Because if you have that baby, if you expel it from your womb, there’s not a whole lot of choice after that. The way I see it, you’ve been drafted into a whole different life, a whole other type of existence. You are stuck with that baby until you die or, god forbid, it dies. It’s not like a shower caddy,” she said.
I perked up at the thought of my new shower caddy resting so perfectly around the neck of my shower. “I don’t reckon it is,” I said. “If I grow tired of my shower caddy, god forbid, I can just haul it off to the garbage.”
“That’s right,” Jennifer Aniston said. “You can’t very well haul a baby off to the garbage.”
Jennifer Aniston and I stopped talking then and finished our Miller Lites. Once the sun had disappeared completely we went back into the house and made old fashioneds and got comfortable in my green chairs. She smiled and looked comfortable, but it was hard to believe what I was seeing was an accurate depiction of reality. Already my back was throbbing and my lumbar region knotting into angry fists.
“What would you like to do?” I said. “I have a radio. I could turn on the television or put on a movie.”
“Let’s watch a movie,” Jennifer Aniston said. “I’m in a real movie mood.”
“Good deal,” I said and turned on the television. The way my television and DVD player were set up I had to first turn on the television and then press the appropriate buttons to switch to the channel where my DVDs played. It was a quick process, but as soon as I’d turned on the TV one of those tabloid shows popped up on the screen. They were showing video of Jennifer Aniston and I hurried and tried to make it disappear, but Jennifer Aniston, sitting in my green chair, drinking an old fashioned, told me to let it play.
“Look,” the plastic-looking host said to Jennifer Aniston and me. “Look at the pain etched on her face. Look at how years of loneliness have carved ditches out of her Hollywood veneer.”
I tried to stop myself, but I looked at the pain etched on Jennifer Aniston’s face on the television. Then I looked at Jennifer Aniston, in my green chair, drinking an old fashioned, and looked at the pain etched on her face. It was as if years of loneliness had carved ditches out of her Hollywood veneer.
The host said, “Already reports have William paired with an up-and-coming, considerably younger actress.”
“How about that?” Jennifer Aniston said in my green chair.
“I can turn it,” I said. “We don’t have to watch this.”
“Let’s watch,” she said.
“Look at the younger actress,” the host said, and I obeyed. It was a still photograph of a blonde-haired starlet emerging from the waves of an ocean. She was clad in a lime-green swimsuit and smiling the brightest smile I’d ever seen. Her skin was tanned bronze and her breasts large and impressive. “Notice her virility,” the host said. “Imagine her womb a thriving sea filled with life.”
I noticed her virility and imagined her womb a thriving sea filled with life.
“We’ve known each other a very short time,” Jennifer Aniston said to me from my green chair. “But will you be honest with me?”
I swallowed hard and watched as the television showed more pictures of the young starlet at the beach. She and William were splashing water at one another and grinning like they’d be in love forever. “Yes,” I said to Jennifer Aniston.
“Good,” she said, “because I appreciate honesty. I appreciate honesty more than most anything else.”
“Me, too,” I said, not sure if I was lying.
“All right,” she said, “then be honest. When you look at that girl, that young starlet, do you see what the host asked you to see?”
“Virility?” I asked. “Her womb a thriving sea filled with life?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
Jennifer Aniston narrowed her eyes and took a drink of her old fashioned. “So do I,” she said.
We watched the tabloid show for another four hours and drank another four old fashioneds apiece. We got drunk, Jennifer Aniston and I, and we didn’t talk anymore. We were both fixated on watching that young starlet and William run along the edge of the water and kiss at the most appropriate times. I could tell from the visuals that the two of them loved one another and that theirs was a love that was destined to last. The plastic-looking host swooned on the soundstage and seemed to be falling in love with their love and her very existence seemed to improve as they blossomed into a healthy, mutually admiring and sufficient partnership before our very eyes.
Finally, I had trouble keeping my eyes open and excused myself to my bedroom. I shucked my clothes into a pile by my hamper and retired to the bathroom. I turned on the hot water and stepped in under the spray. While my shower had never been anything to get excited about—the pressure was awful and the hot water heater had the potency of an old man—I had never been less happy with it in all the time I’d lived in that house. The way it spat lukewarm water at me served only to remind me how depressing my life had become. Even the presence of my new shower caddy and seeing how it held my soap and shampoo and shaving cream and razor did nothing for me.
I was just about to get out when Jennifer Aniston slipped open the shower curtain and joined me under the spray. She was nude and I could see how years with a Hollywood personal trainer had helped to sculpt a physique that most women would murder for. When she moved it was with an elegance I’d never otherwise witness, and when she kissed me it was a kiss unlike any I’d ever received.
We started to make love in the shower but the loss of heat was too great to finish. So we went into my bedroom and finished on top of the comforter. Jennifer Aniston lay below me and stroked my hair and told me she’d finally found home. She was ready to give it all up: the award shows, the movie sets, the interviews, the magazine spreads, the fundraisers and pressers, the whole nine yards. She said all she needed was me and a child of our own. “Please,” she said. “Give me what I’ve always wanted.”
It was no time at all before I was grunting and wheezing. I stroked her hair back and thought of my own shower with hidden compartments and on-demand shampoo. I thought of summoning a chef and seeing his tank-like vehicle climbing the hills and how he’d emerge with silver trays of fine cuisine. I thought of seeing myself on the tabloid covers as I stood in line at a nearby Target, my shopping cart filled to the brim with the most expensive shower caddies a man could buy.
I almost let go and gave Jennifer Aniston her wish. Almost. But as I neared that precipice, as she urged me to go on, a new thought supplanted the others. This was clearer, more vivid, so strong in fact that it moved me to tears. Jennifer Aniston saw the tears and stroked my hair and nodded as if to reassure.
“It’s going to be all right,” she said, and I said yes, it would be.
“It’s going to be a beautiful baby,” she said, and I said yes, the most beautiful baby.
In my mind though I was already sitting in a chair on a beach, sipping a cool drink, the Target cart full of shower caddies at my side, a whole world of cameramen focused on my every move, my love, my one true love, bounding out of the ocean, her lime-green swimsuit bursting at the seams, a whole world of life and light whispering yes, yes, forever and ever.