Later, Emily watched Jimmy, who was wrapped up in a point he was making: “…You’ve got to be able to give yourself to whatever it is, use that … thing that distinguishes you from everybody else. If you don’t, it’s like having a great library and never reading any of the books, and suddenly you’re old and you can’t figure out why you feel so empty.”
“Where do you get things like that?” said Emily. “You’re still a kid. What do you know about emptiness?”
“He knows,” said Tom. “In a lot of ways—he hates to admit it—he is James Dean. I really don’t see why you don’t think he’d be right for your movie.
She felt blind anger. Why is he saying that? The whole thing had been dispensed with. Now he was bringing it up again. The boy was dead wrong. So was Tom for that matter. Goddammit.
She looked up and saw Jimmy watching her. “What are you staring at?”
“You’ve already delayed acting on your idea for three years,” said Tom. “He may not like playing James Dean, but that’s what he does. What’s wrong with you?” There was no criticism in his eyes, only an air of trying to remember something he’d forgotten. “He may not look like Dean—here, in this light—but when he does his thing and it’s put on film by pros, he’s unreal.”
When Emily didn’t answer, he looked at Jimmy again. “For Pete’s sake, show her.”
Jimmy sighed heavily. “What would you expect James Dean to be like? Here, now, in this room?” He was shaking his head slightly. He gazed at Emily from what seemed to be the beginnings of a trance.
“How the hell would I know?”
She felt a sharp chill as Jimmy leaned in toward her.
He spoke quietly. “You’d find somebody who was smart, compassionate, selfish, volatile ...” He grinned as if they’d known each other forever and shared a wonderful secret. His voice had changed timbre; his words seemed to be coming from a different part of him, tumbling out in an adenoidal mumble. “He got close to you, whether you were in the front row or the balcony. He was hostile, egotistical, confrontational—”
She gaped at him. Even though his face didn’t match up feature-for-feature with James Dean’s (how would she know?), every nuance evoked him.
He inspected her carefully. “There was sexual content in his every motion, every look.” He pulled back slightly. “He was exasperating, lonesome, taciturn, just about impossible to carry on a conversation with, garrulous at times, gifted with infectious laughter.” He grinned broadly and laughed a sudden staccato sequence of high-pitched guffaws that made Tom burst into laughter. “He was infuriating, sensitive, delicate, breakable, easy to get along with if you agreed with him about the inevitability of his getting his way.”
He sprang up suddenly, like a cat. “He was an athlete, too. When he came into a room, he had enough momentum to walk up a wall. He was a show-off ”—he turned away—“who was just as much James Dean from the back as he was from the front.”
He lifted his shoulders very slightly and, without the slightest self-consciousness, cocked his head in a way that recalled from the visuals compartment of Emily’s brain most of the publicity photographs of James Dean. “He was outrageous and he made you crazy, like any exhibitionist does, but he was an artist at being James Dean.” He turned back to her and sat down again, staring intently into her eyes.
“And so am I. I’ve got a world-class collection of insecurities, but not a single one about doing James Dean.” He swatted at the air like he was after a fly. “The prick.”
Without the smallest apparent effort he had transformed himself into the essence of James Dean.
Tom grinned. “What do you think? Emily? What do you think?”
“Jesus,” she said finally. “Jesus.” After another long moment, she said it again: “Jesus … God.” She stared at Jimmy as her brain did a speed check of its hundred billion neurons, looking for any reference point at all. “You’ve got the part.”
Her timid side reflected: if that means anything.
Jimmy had kept his guarded eyes on her. She was especially beautiful that evening. She’d had her shiny chestnut-brown hair cut to a medium-long length recently and although it couldn’t be called stylish, it framed her face nicely and drew attention to her beautiful eyes.
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