The Disappearance of Howard
Racheline Maltese

Howard had come to the city of Los Angeles for many things, but abstinence was hardly one of them. He had expected refusal, certainly, in this dingy city of glittering stars. Such was the life of an actor.

At first, he didn’t know the right people to break into film, and he had expected that. He wasn’t even attractive enough to wait on the tables rich enough to ensure his rent got paid, and while he wouldn’t admit it, he had probably expected that too. Instead, Howard worked odd jobs, maybe washing dishes somewhere people in the business didn’t go or up at the counter in a perpetually empty bookshop at the Beverly Hills mall.

As time passed, he learnt to deny himself everything that was unrelated to the singular purpose of this chosen site for his chosen ambition. And so every meal, every expense, every utterance didn’t exist if it wasn’t for being famous, if it wasn’t for being something more in the city than just another loser actor too poor to leave and too scared to whore himself. It began as an exercise and became a compulsion.

Howard began to disappear. With no publicist, no manager and no agent to replace what he had once been with something, and preferably something marketable at that, translucency wasn’t as promising a concept as he had initially hoped.

By New Year’s Eve, Howard had been in Los Angeles for six months. It was unusually cold, even for a night between years, and no one had seemed to know what to wear to the party he seemed to know no one at. Some girl had invited him, and as she was here in Los Angeles to be a star on daddy’s money and naïveté--she had found, within an hour of their arrival, someone better looking, better connected, or just plain better at lying than Howard. And Howard, quite frankly, didn’t even care enough anymore to figure out which. He wondered, not for the first time, if it was time to start lying and saying he was a porn producer. He figured he’d at least get laid that way.

When the clock struck midnight, he sat on a couch with nothing to kiss beyond a bottle of cheap Italian beer, and he held out his hand to catch confetti in prayer and remembrance of a city that had abandoned him even as it made sure he was irrevocably trapped. Howard cursed the triangular flakes with sharp edges, black and white slivers of toothy plastic, for not passing right through him and to the floor of his fictional life in the fictional city of Los Angeles.

First published: November, 2003