How Titan Fell
As he answered the email,
tears burnt the corners of
It was the first 'fan' letter
he'd gotten in years.
It wasn't written by a fanatic,
stalker or other whack job but by a person who simply mentioned how much she
had enjoyed a role he'd played close to fifteen years ago.
No doubt, she'd probably seen a rerun or was provoked to recall the character and thought to drop him a line and wish him the best.
It was the kind of mail he ignored fifteen years ago when he believed himself a star, ready to conquer the box offices.
On his mirror was a photograph of himself from those days. He looked at it on occasion because he was standing with a man who had been his best friend. A man who died.
A man who died, and he didn't know of it; not for years.
It was, oddly, the only photograph he had of David.
He hadn't kept it because of David, he had kept it because he liked the way he had looked fifteen years ago.
David had been his friend since sixth grade. They were 'slackers' who could only
scrape into a community college, then work like hell to get the grades to allow them
to transfer to a 'name brand.'
They had studied hard together and both got into NYU. He'd gone into Acting and
David into social sciences. Later David would take a teaching degree.
During the first five years after graduation, he had travelled with various Shakespearian companies, then landed a role on a soap.
David had gotten a job at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, of all places.
With connection only a subway ride, and their visits to their parent's home in Upstate New York coinciding, their friendship remained.
Until he got the role referred to by the fan in her letter.
There are certain characters which capture the imagination.
David McCallum as Illya in Man From U.N.C.L.E.,
Leonard Nimroy as Spock.
And he, Heath Alexander Pine, as Ares, in Signs of the Zodiac.
Even now, so many years later, he can recall the excitement the show had caused, how his character became that moment's icon.
He had been invited everywhere, he had appeared at jam packed conventions, had a battalion of insane fans who worshipped Ares.
And it had gone to his head....
"Haley..." David always called him that, "be humble..."
He was making one of those artificial replies, his face slightly turned to David,
when a fan popped up, took the photo of he and David talking, and posted it
on the SoZ Web Site.
It was a great picture. It wasn't posed and wasn't awkward. He'd downloaded it
and printed a hard copy because he had loved the way he looked.
He was costumed as Ares and it suited him so perfectly.
Oh, yes, he had loved the way he looked, loved the character, loved everything in
that short block of time when it seemed he was going to be the next big thing.
It was not four hours after that photograph had been taken when David walked out of his life.
And it Went to His Head
Just as the photograph was taken, he had said,
"I don't expect you to understand.." in a smarmy accent, "...no one not in the industry can grasp the interplay and ..."
"Haley, you're acting like an A hole...."
"I'm an actor, David." He'd smiled.
"Haley, you can't treat people this way and expect them to take it...."
"Most of these so called 'people' (and he made the finger quotes) are certifiable.
They actually believe Ares is real and I'm just playing him for their benefit..."
"No, you aren't playing it. And you're not doing it for their benefit. You've spoken to
the waiter at the restaurant as if he was a slave, you've spoken to me as if I
should tongue clean your toes. It's gone to your head and you haven't made it yet...."
"Look around..." he said in a dreamy voice, "there are thousands of people here
who think I have..."
"You mean the (and David repeated the finger quotes) certifiable ones."
"I can't waste any more time with you, my fans are waiting." he had said with his
actor's smile, and strode away.
He didn't know or care when David left, where he went. He didn't notice, at first
that David did not contact him.
In fact, David never contacted him again, he had made no effort to contact David.
And one year became two. Signs of the Zodiac was cancelled.
SoZ was cancelled and he couldn't find other roles. Not in movies, not on T.V.
In desperation he wound up on a soap for a year. Then nothing.
Nothing but one offs in plays so far off Broadway they were in other states.
He is appearing in a play in Tulsa, where he didn't even receive top billing. He was to be at the theatre in three hours. He was on the 'Net to relax and saw the email.
He didn't recognise the name of the fan, and she wrote calmly, telling him how much she enjoyed his portrayal of Ares.
He was so lonely he began to write a tome, describing how much he'd loved the character, how he thought it would be his big break, and how it had gone to his head.
He cursed himself for treating his fans so badly, for behaving as a prima donna, and how if he could only go back in time...
Fan mail dropped when the show went off. He'd had once gotten five thousand messages in one day. One Day!
Sure, far too many to answer, and besides most of them were written by crazy people so who would waste a brain cell reading rubbish? But Five Thousand!
A year later he would receive no more than fifty messages a week, then 20...then nothing for months.
Five years after that photo was taken he had tried to contact David. But the
number he had was no longer David's. Further, his family had long moved away
so there was no vector.
He had tried Midwood High School but David had left that post years before and
they did not know where he had gone.
Finally, he did a Search. That's when he learned when and how David died.
All he had of David was that photograph
He walked from the computer and washed his face. He couldn't see himself in the mirror, because he had covered it with soap. He didn't want to see his face. Didn't want to see the passage of time, the change of hair style, the way he now held his mouth, he couldn't bear the sight of himself.
He washed his face to remove the tears and let the cold water cut emotion.
He returned the computer, edited the email, cutting it to a pleasant opening and friendly ending sentence and sent it.
The fan would receive what might seem to be a 'form letter', but there was no reason for him to expose his heart to a stranger in the printed word.
He shut the computer, pulled on his coat, and began to walk to the theatre.
No one recognised him, of course.