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Where's Waldo, Anyway?
There’s red stripes on a white shirt, and white stripes on a red shirt. They are not the same and it’s not the question of zebras— it’s real. It’s my life. And it’s this goddamn wardrobe goblin’s fault that the white on red is missing. Who would ever wear red on white? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder could not even begin to capture the mania of swishing each shirt down the rack, over and over, thinking MAYBE it’s just hiding. My therapist says I need to learn to tolerate imperfections.
I’m late. And if I get fired after all these years of suiting up (IN THE WHITE ON RED!) there will be blood. Everyone’s blood. Red on white.
The wardrobe goblin shuffles in and murmurs something about me being out of my mind? Or the photographer thinks I’m out of my mind? That I’m a diva? I feel like I’m wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. Sorry, no really, I’m sorry. Have YOU been doing this for 28 years? And since my wife, Walda, doesn’t want to have kids (resentment), there will be no Waldo Jr. and the world will have to deal with it. Who knows how much time I have left?
“WHERE’S WALDO?” The photographer’s voice booms over the loudspeaker. The microphone screeches like a deafening technical difficulty. The crowd is too big out here to communicate naturally. No cell phone service either. Not with all the dinosaurs munching on the telephone wires.
Excuse me, yellow Brontosaurus. Pardon me, black, emaciated Pterodactyl. I’m dipping and dodging monstrous hooves that shake the earth as they come crashing down. WHY they picked DINOSAURS for this shoot is beyond me! Have they even seen Jurassic Park? The poor cow. I couldn’t watch after the poor cow. Movies do that. There’s secondhand embarrassment, but even worse, secondhand sorrow.
LATE! If I had a helicopter, maybe finding my place wouldn’t be such a nightmare. Excuse me, green T-Rex. Pardon me, gray, senile Stegosaurus.
Coming, coming, coming. I need some caffeine. Or maybe a bump of cocaine. This heat is drying me OUT. I got heat stroke last summer and threw up on Walda’s dresser. A nearly full tomato slice sat slushing around in the pink slime and goop. Walda thinks my job takes up all my time—like travel is a bad thing. When I took that trip to Venus last summer, she withheld sex for three weeks. When I was at a shoot in Thailand, she complained about me to my mother. I think the issue with heat stroke is that there is rarely anything one can do to prevent it. Just take it like a champ.
The chaos out here is—well, chaotic. We got people and dinosaurs and more people and hoops and hurdles and ponds and grass. Then you got your mounds of sand and gators and little rowboats with microraptors swinging their oars in unison down an artificial stream with engineered waves. No trees to shield me from the sun- just long dinosaur necks. I mistook the stench-control duster plane for a roar and collapsed into the fetal position. Even worse is the sound of all their teeth grinding together and it’s drilling a hole in my temporal lobe. The photographer with paralimbic damage shouts my name one last time: “WHERE THE HELL IS WALDO?” And you can hear his face turning a nice Heat Miser shade of red.
The wardrobe goblin had handed me a little doodle-map on a c***tail napkin directing me to my place. Apparently, the photographer drew it last night at one of the local pubs. You can tell how late it was into the night by the obscene images and the tremorring lines. Unprofessional. The map seems to indicate that I’m supposed to be partially concealed between a bouncy ball large enough for an Olympian goddess to tone her abs with and a purple diplodocus. I can see the diplodocus. 10th largest dinosaur to ever walk the earth. The estimated mass is 16.3 tons. It could eat a Waldo and a Walda and still be ravenous for more.
I have maybe another quarter mile to go. My black Oxfords don’t provide much support on this type of terrain. Not to mention that with every step they’re also being sucked into the tacky mud that has the consistency of fresh yams. I look up at the sky and see a pteranodon soaring black over the sun, creating a dinosaur shaped eclipse.
People always say, “Waldo, you have it so easy. You’re basically a model who doesn’t have to work to be attractive.” First of all—rude. Second, I’m an actor. I have to be someone I’m not in every one of those pictures. They don’t want a grumpy, hungover, anxiety-ridden asshole. They want a dopey innocent bystander, waving at the camera like it’s the very first time he’s ever been in a picture. They want an ugly little shmuck with a tiny mischievous side, who just with one facial expression can say, “Oh shucks! You found me!”
I abruptly come to a halt, forced to stand on the sidelines of a spinosaurus race. 10 tons with crocodile snouts. The ref, who sits holier than thou in an umpire chair, blows his whistle at me and holds his hand out. Like a traffic cop. Telling me to wait a sec, buddy. I look around impatiently. Who knows what this photographer is capable of doing to me. To anyone. Clearly, he’s capable of staging an entire Dinosaur Olympics just for one lousy picture in the middle of one lousy hardcover book. The ref blows his whistle again, giving me the go-ahead. Each spinosaurus is glaring at me with enormous reptilian eyes. They’re all lined up with their sails rising and falling as they breathe. I run as fast as the mud will allow me without ripping my shoes off my chaffed feet.
I pant and reorient myself. I can see the diplodocus and the bouncy ball. They’re tucked away behind an old, bloated titanoceratops whose pores emit a foul stench. He smells like someone took a fat s*** in a public restroom, then attempted to hide the evidence by spraying Lysol every which way. I wave my arms in the direction I need him to move. He looks at me and yawns. This kind of rush and anxiety feels like needing a cigarette and this goddamn fatso is like the asshole who throws your pack off a bridge. I approach him cautiously. Could I crawl under him? Walk around him? Climb OVER him? I step to my right, hoping to worm my way in between his ass and a gigantoraptor wrestling ring. I’m not going to fit. To my left is his face and his knock-out gas breath. Not worth fainting and getting mud on my hat right before the shoot. If I were to crawl under, we would run into the same issue. Over is the only option.
I get a running head start and then leap onto his side, digging my nails into his scaly skin. He feels like Walda’s snakeskin skirt. When was the last time I ate? I’m so hungry I could eat a… dinosaur. Oh god no, they probably taste like what I imagine Rumplestiltskin must taste like. I scramble my way up to the top of his back and glance fearfully down at the ground far beneath me. I squeeze my eyes shut and let go. His scales provide friction against my khakis, and I can feel the fabric burning up and disintegrating. Screaming, I land feet first into a large and rather deep pool of watery dirt. The brown and lumpy mud-milkshake oozes into my socks. I grimace and march over to the black X between the bouncy ball and the diplodocus. I don’t bother wiping the greasy mess off my EXPENSIVE Berluti shoes. An attendant scurries towards me with a bottle of Givency cologne and a beach towel. He wipes me down and sprays me thrice. I take this opportunity to finally exhale.
The light from the camera crawls towards me as time slows down the impact of the flash, moving at the speed of starlight. My fingertips are tingling and I can feel a god-like presence in my chest. Everyone is looking for me. All eyes are searching for my little red hat. My heart has broken free from my anxious body and is swirling above my head and laughing at the dinosaurs, the tech crew, and the psychopathic photographer, because in this moment, it is all about me. They don’t mean a goddamn thing. The light is creeping closer. If I weren’t here right now, they would be out of jobs. They would be living under a freeway and slipping into the backs of nearby A.A. meetings. I give them their lives. I give Walda HER life. And these moments are how I am repaid. This feeling. This F***ING feeling. Where I’m lightheaded and my skin is covered in sequins. The light is moisturizing my face and soaring past me, catching every inch of the scene. No dinosaur goes unnoticed. No Waldo goes completely unnoticed. Temporary tattoos of tranquility are gently applied all up and down my arms and legs. Soft. Like a warm yellow light is engulfing every organ. And I get to do this over and over again. CLICK. At least once a week, I get high for free with the only consequence being that it doesn’t last forever.