My guilt was still great—I couldn’t help it—, so I took some lilies to Sam’s office and left them outside the door that Monday morning, before he arrived. I knew that he would have a rough week ahead of him, and I certainly didn’t want him to know that the gesture was mine. Sam loved flowers—especially lilies—and I had inherited the adoration as well, stopping weekly at a corner store on Flatbush to take a bundle home. I never told him that he had influenced me in this way because it felt like it would give him some stupid, pointless victory. Even since our fallout, I would get my weekly replenishment. It was primarily out of habit, but also to remind me of Sam—of his teachings and of his threats, and of something so pure that a hardened heart could love.

“You’ll never shake that Catholic guilt, will you?” Joanie asked me at a recording session an hour later. “Stop pretending like you’re wearing some crown of thorns. Sam has his burdens, he can carry his cross. Besides, your burden right now is to get me an opening gig on someone’s tour. So, vamos, vamos!” Joanie had been getting a bit more aggressive with her requests of late, and rightfully: with a second EP approaching, interest from multiple labels, and hundreds of bloggers and critics kissing her feet, she was a few breaths away from the breaking point. I studied her quietly as she recorded a few lyrics. How confident she had grown in six short months. Not just as Saturant on stage, but as Joanie too. She trusted her gut, she stood taller, she dressed more simply, she spoke with conviction, she acted intentionally. Six months of positive reinforcement had given her a spine.

James and his husband Ken had me over for dinner to discuss a new pilot I had been helping negotiate. It was being produced by the CW, and for a veteran stage actor like James, it felt very young. He was closing on a lead villain role, encouraged largely by Ken to step out of his stuffy stage and BBC parts to pursue a new audience and network. Ken was a proponent of James leaving Sam for my guidance: “Eric, you’re a modern man. And we need modern dollars,” he said on multiple occasions. James confessed that they were hoping to start a family and buy a home in the West Village. Such burdens! Their priorities were as far from modern as I could imagine for myself in this city, but I was happy they saw me as a means to their end.

Alexa Gordon looks and dresses like a Middleton, and I knew when I signed her that she would do just fine for herself on Broadway. She was classically trained and still reeked of her Oxford roots. We had a couple options to explore: there was an offer for a lead part in an Off-Broadway play, but she was more focused on a supporting role under Chris Cooper in a buzzed-about Broadway bit. Alexa was going to have to gamble on the supporting part, though: timing would force her to reject the other offer before hearing anything. “You’re sure this is what you want?” I asked. “I think you need to take what you can get right now. You’re turning down silver and praying for gold.” “I’m in no hurry,” she said confidently. “I want to do roles that I want to do. I needn’t grab at the first thing I am offered. So… make some calls, darling Eric.” That confidence—and right out of the gate—would send her far. Also, the family money that allowed her this luxury.

In business, there’s a good result when you mix Midwest Nice with New York Forward: it’s a sincere curtness, no bullshit. I think that’s why Sam was largely threatened by my presence and ability to steal some clients from him. My gift was working the phones. You don’t need specialized training in talent management; it’s all from experience and interpersonal skills. When I called in to discuss Alexa’s audition with the casting director, he stopped me in my tracks: “No need today, Eric. Jessica Chastain took the part.” I could feel the stress building in my head, nervous that Alexa would be upset by something out of our control. Then, after a few more minutes, I had her all but signed away as an understudy. I phoned her agent and then we dialed her in: “It’s not gold, Eric, but that’s some brilliant silver lining. Thank you, let’s do it.” Phew. In a perfect world, my former boss would be proud of me.

At the end of my hectic work week, I received a vague text from Sam: “Can you come by my office? I have something to give you. Totally sincere, I swear.” I was just south of there, underground at the 23rd Street N/R subway, so I hiked back up past Madison Square Park to my former post. When I arrived, the door was ajar and the office completely dark. I turned on the lights and saw my old desk, bare except for an envelope and a vase of lilies. “Sam? Hello?” No reply. The lilies were wilting away. One petal had fallen onto the envelope, on which Sam had scribbled “Eddy. My Eddy.”

I looked around, still wondering why Sam had summoned me here. I slowly opened the envelope, glancing over my shoulder, entirely uncomfortable. Inside, a handwritten note: “When you have one thing, and it is taken from you, you are nothing. My advice: Never have just one thing. And if you do, play smarter than I. [Signed] Evan Samuel Goldstein”. Then the post script: “May this burden forever be one of your many things.” My heart skipped a beat and my head swelled with pain as I realized what this meant. I reached for my phone to call the police, just as dozens of people were doing the same outside of the 23rd Street N/R subway station. There, a helpless, defeated man had thrown himself in front of an oncoming R train, and it ripped him into a million goddamn pieces.


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