by Leslie Benigni, 3.24am Sept 10th 2021
“Now everyone please give a warm welcome to...Mary Sandoval!”
Anxiety meds, don’t fail me now.
I couldn’t hear my clunky heels over the amount of applause and see my way to the seat across from Oliver Jones because of the lights. The rehearsal had surmounted to nothing before this, but as tiny white pills to powder flowed in my bloodstream, I could feel the boxy flatness of prescribed calm wash over me. We shook hands, sat down, and went through the usual greetings on this show.
He dove right in: “Now you know what we’re here to talk about...”
Slightly chuckling, I nodded; audience resounded. Oliver turned to stare down the lens of the main camera, operated by a small trio of ballcap wearing men.
“For those of you that have been living under a rock, Ms. Sandoval--” He made a concentrated pause to turn back to me, audience laughed, and then back to the camera. “Has done what every teenager is thankful for: she’s cloned Adam Driver.” A picture of the actor popped up on the screen behind the space between us. “But they’re tiny. Little Adams running amuck across the nation, but it all started right here in NYC.”
Small nerves in my legs popped against the fighting numbness of the meds. Adam is going to come on virtually during your interview for one of the show’s classic Adam bits. That’s what I was told and I almost expected him to pop on too soon.
“So, tell us about how you’ve done it.”
I opened my mouth and inserted the lines rehearsed much like flashcards for Professor Gilmer’s midterms...
...It was only a joke. Nadia suggested it one night as our other three roommates were at some comedy club for an ex that one still had feelings for. Clone Adam Driver. Make his comforting, tall presence accessible to everyone. Sell them. Pay off tuition. Not be homeless in Central Park.
We laughed about it and while Nadia passed out, the thought didn’t leave me. Bitches were crazy about Adam...I was bitches. They did clone sheep through nucleus fusing of mammary glands and I wondered if I could do the same with the feline stem cells I was working on for my thesis...
But I didn’t say any of that. I didn’t say how much research I had done about nuclei, about the under-the-radar Adam and his upcoming theater performances, about his movie production schedules from IMDB: none of it. I said it was a complete accident when I caught some of his sweat on my skin from a melting July Broadway show autograph signing. Totally didn’t have a test tube or swab in my cardigan pocket, or anything. And the actual ‘mini’ part was a delightful accident, some off mutation in the DNA sequencing.
Like a sea monkey, he grew in the watery tube and climbed out himself, suit and all. I freaked out, naturally, but was also excited. I carried him in my pocket on the subway ride home, treasured him like a delicate seashell and waited until Nadia came back to show her. She fainted but when she came to, and I’m not even sure how the conversation got here, though it was naturally destined. I had to make more. Bitches were crazy about Adam, and I should know because I’m bitches.
“You’ve sold over a million mini-Adams? Is that correct?”
“Yeah.” I paused. “Well it’s probably even more by now, to be honest.”
He raised his bushy eyebrows and on the agreed cue he said, “And you’ve made millions from selling the Adams around New York? Did it all start out with the intention to sell the Adams?”
The screen between us changed to a jangling FaceTime call with the name: Adam Driver.
“Uh oh!” The audience laughed.
We answered the call as scheduled and there he was in his sphinx face glory, a splatter painted face of freckles.
Adam started with: “Oliver, what, what is this? You’ve called me back here and---YOU!”
I held up my hands, palms up in my best acted, surprised face.
He held up pieces of paper from where he was sitting, in some undisclosed location, no doubt. “We’re strangers—Oliver, I have somehow known you longer —I don’t know you, you don’t know me. Do you realize the extent of what people have made the mini–Adam Drivers do?” He threw a piece with each listing. “Thrown them off of bridges. Made TikToks? Made them dance tango. But you know what’s the worst of it?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Just owning them, owning mini-mes, owning ME. I can’t be owned. I’m no commodity to some teenage girls.”
He went off script. Oliver’s white knuckles clung on the edge of his desk. I didn’t know if he went method and I was supposed to go method...
“I hated this. Goodbye.” Gone. My breath instinctively grew deeper as a means to calm myself down. Thanks, body. While my head was blank, trying to process what just happened, something physically in my body tensed up. Then like coming up for air, I realized I was still.
“Mary? Mary? Well, I hate to kick you off...thank you for coming! And the rest of you: I’ll see YOU next week on Last Week with Oliver Jones!”
On the taxi ride home after some awkward apology from one of the show’s people, I kept thinking about before the click of the black screen. At a stoplight, I saw some teens along a fence running down the street dangling their mini-Adams by the wrist and other mini-Adams wandering listlessly through the piss and grit of the sidewalk. Before the click of the black screen, I thought I saw something in his eyes that made that last phrase of his ring true. Pain.