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HIGH FIDELITY by D.V. De Vincentis, Steve Pink, & John Cusack based on the novel by Nick Hornby 9/11/98 London Draft Registered: WGAw FADE IN: INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT STEREO Not a minisystem, not a matching set, but coveted audiophile clutter of McIntosh and Nakamichi, each component from a different era, bought piece by piece in various nanoseconds of being flush. ROB (V.O.) What came first? The music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns and watching violent videos, we're scared that some sort of culture of violence is taking them over... RECORDS Big thin LPs. Fields of them. We move across them, slowly... they seem to come to rest in an end of a few books... but then the CD's start, and go on, faster and faster, forever then the singles, then the tapes... ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) But nobody worries about kids listening to thousands -- literally thousands -- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. It seems the records, tapes, and CD's will never end until... we come to ROB -- always a hair out of place, a face that grows on you. He sits in an oversized beanbag chair and addresses us, the wall of music behind him. ROB Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music? INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT A group of bags huddled next to the door. Not the go-on- vacation set, but the clothes-to-coffee-maker moving out variety. Rob stares at them, his face unreadable, his head gripped by a big pair Boudokan headphones. We hear what he is hearing, something foreboding and upbeat at the same time. LAURA, Rob's girlfriend, enters the room, and he immediately pulls the headphones off. She clocks him for a moment, catching him in what seems to be an old and repeated moment of nonpresence. She begins to heft the bags, Rob goes to her, a little tardy for his big goodbye. Laura begins to cry a bit. LAURA I don't really know what I'm doing. He smiles, and she doesn't. He adjusts. ROB You don't have to go this second. You can stay until whenever. LAURA We've done the hard part now. I might as well, you know... ROB Well stay for tonight, then. Laura shakes her head, lifts the last small bag, and backs out the door. A strap catches on a handle and the two of them wrestle with it a bit, while trying to keep the door open, until Laura awkwardly disappears from view and the door shuts behind Rob. He stays right there staring at the shut door for a long moment, listening to the fading sound of Laura and her dragging bags. STEREO Rob's left hand cranks the volume knob while his right switches the CD changer to something loud and adrenal. He addresses us again. ROB My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable break-ups, in chronological order are as follows: Alison Ashworth, Penny Hardwick, Jackie Allen, Charlie Nicholson, Sarah Kendrew. INT. APARTMENT STAIRWELL Laura drags her bags, banging down the stairs -- INT. ROB'S APARTMENT Rob moves around the apartment, seeming to expand physically, looking for change as he continues. ROB Those were the ones that really hurt. Can you see your name in that list, Laura? Maybe you'd sneak into the top ten, but there's no place for you in the top five. Sorry. Those places are reserved for the kind of humiliations and heartbreaks that you're just not capable of delivering. He adjusts the angle of the TV, stuffs a creepy family portrait into a drawer. ROB (CONT'D) That probably sounds crueler than it's meant to, but the fact is, we're too old to take each other miserable. Unhappiness used to mean something. Now it's just a drag like a cold or having no money. He moves through the living room to an open window facing the street. Looking down two stories, he sees Laura emerge from the building and drag her bags toward her car across the street. ROB (CONT'D) If you really wanted to mess me up, you should have got to me earlier. CUT TO: EXT. SUBURBAN PARK - DUSK - 1980 Rob and Alison sit on the bench, kissing awkwardly. ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) Which brings us to number one. Alison Ashworth. PARK BENCH - DUSK The same shot, the next night: new clothes, same clumsy make-out session. ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) My relationship with Alison Ashworth lasted six hours. PARK BENCH - DUSK ...Next night... ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) The two hours after school and before The Rockford Files, three days in a row. On the fourth afternoon. SAME PARK BENCH ...And the fourth night... ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) Kevin Bannister. Alison and another boy, KEVIN BANNISTER. Kissing. In the background, Rob approaches and stops. He implodes with self-consciousness and humiliation and attempts to affect a casual gait as he mopes away. ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) It would be nice to think that since I was fourteen, times have changed, relationships have become more sophisticated, females less cruel, skins thicker, but there still seems to be an element of that afternoon in everything that has happened to me since. All my other romantic stories seem to be a scrambled version of that first one. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT Rob sits in his chair, a cord leading from the stereo to headphones draped around his neck. Behind him is the wall of music. ROB Number two. Penny Hardwick. Penny was great-looking, and her top five recording artists were Carly Simon, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and Elton John... He lets the needle down on the turntable next to him. "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon begins to play as PRESENCE... EXT. HIGH SCHOOL LAWN - FLASHBACK - MOS ... and continues as SOUNDTRACK. PENNY, 16, is walking across the grass toward us. She's the clean, sporty, nice wholesome girl-next-door. She waves tp off-camera friends, smiling a winning smile. ROB (V.O.) Everybody liked her. She was nice. Nice manners. Nice grades. Nice- looking. INT. PENNY'S BEDROOM - NIGHT Penny and Rob sit on the edge of the bed, kissing. Rob moves his hand up toward the breast, but the hand then seems to have a new idea, and dives south to follow the thigh into Penny's skirt... ROB (V.O.) She was so nice, in fact, that she wouldn't let me put my hand underneath, or even on top of, her bra. ... when he contacts skin, Penny rolls like a gymnast away and off of the bed, out of frame. Rob looks away balefully. EXT. STREET - NIGHT "Nobody Does It Better" continues as Rob walks Penny to her front door. She is smiling, he seems distant. ROB (V.O.) Penny was nice, but I wasn't interested in nice, just breasts, and therefore she was no good to me. And so I was finished with her. She leans in to kiss him, and he shrugs her off. ROB What's the point? It never goes anywhere. Without looking at her, Rob turns and walks down the street, getting smaller. Penny watches for a while. CUT TO: INT. "EL" TRAIN CAR - MORNING - PRESENT Rob sways with the other commuters. ROB She cried, and I hated her for it, because she made me feel bad. I started dating a girl who everybody said would put out, and Penny went with this asshole Chris Thompson who told me that he had sex with her after something like three dates. How had Penny gone from a girl who wouldn't do anything to a girl who would do everything? A BUSINESSMAN looks up from his paper at Rob, then back down. EXT. CLARK STREET - DAY An old Chicago block of local merchants, on a busy street. Rob makes his way down the street, jangling a set of keys and talking to us. ROB My store's right up here. It's called The Record Exchange. It's carefully placed to attract the bare minimum of window shoppers. Rob arrives at a storefront, and begins unlocking a rusty gate with two locks and then a beaten-down door. ROB (CONT'D) I get by because of the people who make a special effort to shop here on Saturday young men, always young men, who spend a disproportionate amount of their time looking for deleted Smiths singles and "original not rereleased" underline Frank Zappa albums. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY In almost darkness. More light might penetrate the windows if there weren't so many record-release posters taped to them. A dusty narrow corridor clad in burlap and shag rug. On the walls are bagged 45's you will never hear unless you commit your life to the losing proposition of listening to every noodling of Jah Wobble and Glen Glenn and other people you've never heard of. But as Rob opens the door, enters, and flips a switch causing the fluorescents to sputter, we see in his eyes the reverence and earnestness of a football coach gazing across an empty field or a priest drawn at midnight to his empty church. ROB The fetish properties are not unlike porn. I would feel guilty taking their money if I wasn't, kind of, well, one of them. As he walks one of the two slim aisles toward the back, he stops on a dime, steps back and pulls a CD from the sea and replaces it almost the same position, but not quite -- meticulousness and pride in this gesture... After a moment the door creaks open behind Rob, admitting DICK, a nervous, forlorn but sweet and intelligent discophile with long greasy black hair, a Sonic Youth T-shirt, a monstrous pair of headphones, and a canvas record bag emblazoned with a label logo. ROB 'Morning, Dick. DICK Oh, hi. Hi, Rob. ROB Good weekend? DICK Yeah, OK. I found the first Licorice Comfits album at Vintage Vinyl. The one on Testament of Youth. Never released here. Japanese import only. ROB Great. DICK I'll tape it for you. ROB No, that's okay. Really. DICK 'Cause you like their second one, you said, Pop, Girls. etc. The one with Cheryl Ladd on the cover. You didn't see the cover though. ROB Yeah, I haven't really absorbed that one. DICK Well, I'll just make it for you. ROB (resigned) Okay. CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - LATER Dick is behind the counter, Rob in the aisles with a clipboard doing inventory. ROB (re: music) What's this? DICK The new Belle and Sebastian. Like it? The door flies open and BARRY, an acid-tongued post-punk rock misanthrope without quite enough intelligence to conceptualize his own rebellion, walks in. His teeth are clenched in air-guitar concentration and he's phonetically cranking a Clash riff: BARRY BAA! BA BA DANG! Dick shrinks back from him instinctively. He stops mid-step and cocks his ear at the music playing in the store. His face adopts an exaggerated grimace. BARRY (CONT'D) Holy Shiite! What the fuck's this? DICK It's the new -- ROB It's the record we've been listening to and enjoying, Barry. Barry moves in on the stereo behind the counter, and Dick gets out of his way. BARRY Well that's problematic because it sucks ass. He pops the CD out and frisbees it to Dick. BARRY (CONT'D) (re: the CD) Yours, I assume... Barry pulls a tape out of his jacket and jams it in. "How to Kill a Radio Consultant" by Public Enemy comes through at through the red levels. ROB (over the blare) TURN IT OFF, BARRY. BARRY IT WON'T GO ANY LOUDER. Barry walks in rhythm toward the stockroom and disappears. Rob goes behind the counter and stops the tape. Barry's head pops out of the stockroom. BARRY (CONT'D) What are you doing? ROB I don't want to hear Public Enemy right now. BARRY Public Enemy! All I'm trying to do is cheer us up. Go ahead and put on some old sad bastard music see if I care. ROB I don't want old sad bastard music either. I just want something I can ignore. BARRY But it's my new tape. My Monday morning tape. I made it last night just for today. ROB Yeah, well it's fucking Monday afternoon. You should get out of bed earlier. BARRY Don't you want to hear what's next? ROB What's next? BARRY Play it. ROB Say it. BARRY (sighs) "Little Latin Lupe Lu." Rob groans. DICK Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels? BARRY (defensive) No. The Righteous Brothers. DICK Oh well. Nevermind. Barry bristles and moves slowly in on Dick. BARRY What? DICK Nothing. BARRY No, not nothing. What's wrong with the Righteous Brothers? DICK Nothing. I just prefer the other one. BARRY Bullshit. ROB How can it be bullshit to state a preference? BARRY Since when did this shop become a fascist regime? ROB Since you brought that bullshit tape in. BARRY (sarcastic) Great. That's the fun of working in a record store. Playing crappy pap you don't want to listen to. I thought this tape was going to be, you know, a conversation stimulator. I was going to ask you for your top five records to play on a Monday morning and all that, and you just had to ruin it. ROB We'll do it next Monday. BARRY Well what's the point in that? From outside. HEAR THE SOUND OF SKATEBOARD WHEELS CLACKING AND SCRAPING, GETTING LOUDER. Rob, Dick and Barry stop fighting to listen, then each moves purposefully to a spot in the store. Dick to the register, Barry to the back, Rob next to the door, as if bracing for a street fight. The SOUND gets closer, then stops. The door swings open to admit VINCE and JUSTIN, two fifteen-year-old skate punks. Vince's hair is post-apocolyptically hacked to different lengths, Justin's in uniformly shaven with leopard spots dyed browse. Rob follows them, watching their every move. Dick counters from his perch, getting another angle. Barry cracks his knuckles threateningly. Vince and Justin do their best browser impersonations. Finally Justin plucks a CD, and the two move to the counter. ROB Hey. Didn't you steal that one already? DICK Can I help you? JUSTIN Just this. DICK That'll be fifteen-twenty-seven. Vince reaches into his deep pocket and pulls out a paper cup, with piece of paper attached that says "Please help me. I'm retarded." He pours a mass of change and crumpled singles onto the counter. Dick begins counting it out. VINCE Isn't your name Dick? DICK Yes. VINCE That sucks. Get it? Dick cracks a sad smile for a second. He bags the CD and Vince and Justin are off. Rob walks back through the stock room door. CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - STOCK ROOM - LATER Rob is on his knees, opening boxes with a razor knife. He talks to us as he works. ROB I'm sick of the sight of this place, to be honest. Some days I'm afraid -- Dick sticks his head in the door, looks at Rob, looks where Rob is looking (camera), and retreats back through the door. Rob continues. ROB I'm afraid I'll go berserk, rip the Elvis Costello mobile from the ceiling, throw the "Country Artists Male A-K" rack out onto the streets, go off to work in a Virgin Megastore and never come back -- He hears the bell on the front door RING, and he stops and listens, looks a bit worried. CUSTOMER (O.S.) I'm looking for a record for my daughter. For her birthday. "I Just Called To Say I Love You." Do you have it? BARRY (O.S.) Oh yeah. We got it. Rob relaxes and goes back to work. CUSTOMER (O.S.) Great. Can I have it then? BARRY (O.S.) No, you can't. Rob deflates, shaking his head. STORE FLOOR Barry leans back, elbows up on the counter behind him, talking to the CUSTOMER, a middle-aged graying man in a raincoat. CUSTOMER Why not? BARRY Because it's sentimental tacky crap, that's why not. Do we look like the kind of store that sells "I Just Called To Say I Loved You?" Go to the mall and stop wasting our time. CUSTOMER What's your problem? What did I... Why are you -- BARRY Do you even know your daughter? There is no way she likes that song. Or is she in a coma? The Customer throws up his hands and starts out of the store. CUSTOMER Okay, okay, buddy. I didn't know it was Pick On the Middle-Aged Square Guy Day. My apologies. I'll be on my way. He steps out of the door. BARRY B'Bye! Outside, anger catches up to the Customer. He turns and throws up a middle finger -- CUSTOMER FUCK YOU! -- and bolts. Barry smiles and turns to see ROB standing in the doorway of the stock room. He feigns applause. ROB Nice, Barry. BARRY Rob. Top five musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the '80's and '90's. Subquestion -- is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter-day sins? "Is it better to burn out than to fade away?" ROB You just drove a fucking customer away, Barry. BARRY We didn't even really have it. I happen to know for a fact that the only Stevie Wonder single we have is "Don't Drive Drunk." I was just goofing on the straight, and it never cost you a penny. ROB Not the point. BARRY Oh, so what's the point then? ROB I don't want you talking to our customers like that again. BARRY "Our customers?" You think that Mr. L.L. Bean out there is going to be a regular? Rob's face begins to redden with anger. ROB Barry, I'm fucking broke! I know we used to fuck with anyone who asked for anything we didn't like, but it's gotta stop. BARRY Bullshit. The guy was going to buy one record -- which we didn't even have -- and leave and never come back again anyway. Why not have a little fun? Big fucking deal. ROB What did he ever do to you? BARRY He offended me with his terrible taste. ROB It wasn't even his terrible taste. It was his daughter's. BARRY Oh, now you're defending that motherfucker? You're going soft in your old age, Rob. There was a time when you would have chased him out of the store and up the street. Now all of a sudden I'm offending your golf buddy. (sarcastic) You're right, Rob. I am so sorry. How are we ever going to make enough money to get you and Laura into the country club? Rob is red and seething. BARRY (CONT'D) And by the way, I tell you this for your own good: That's the worst sweater I've ever seen. I have never seen a sweater that bad worn by anyone I'm on speaking terms with. It's a disgrace to the human race. Rob springs on Barry, grabbing him by the lapels and jerking him up against the wall. Rob is so mad he can't say anything. DICK Hey, guys... Hey. Rob runs out of steam and drops Barry, who backpedals fast. BARRY (extremely shaken) What are you, some kind of fucking maniac? If this jacket's torn you're gonna pay big. Barry stomps out of the store. Rob turns and goes back to the stockroom, and sits on the stepladder. Dick appears in the doorway, terrified. DICK Are you all right? ROB Yeah. I'm sorry... Look Dick, Laura and I broke up. She's gone. And if we ever see Barry again maybe you can tell him that. DICK 'Course I will, Rob. No problem. No problem at all. I'll tell him next time I see him. Rob nods. Dick sets out into the uncharted conversational territory of interpersonal relationships. DICK (CONT'D) I've ah... got some other stuff to tell him anyway, so it's no problem. I'll just tell him about, you know, Laura, when I tell him the other stuff. ROB Fine. DICK I'll start with your news before I tell him mine, obviously. Mine isn't much, really, just about Marie LaSalle (flashes CD of pretty woman) playing at Lounge Ax tonight. I like her, you know, she's kind of Sheryl Crowish... but, you know, good. So I'll tell him before that. Good news and bad news kind of thing. Dick laughs nervously. DICK (CONT'D) Or rather, bad news and good news, because he likes this person playing tonight. I mean, he liked Laura too, I didn't mean that. And he likes you. It's just that -- ROB I understand, Dick. DICK Sure. 'Course. Rob, look. Do you want to... talk about it, that kind of thing? Rob looks up at Dick, who is so nervous that his brow is wet. ROB No. Thanks though, Dick. Dick sighs with relief, and smiles his way out of the stock room. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB Number three in the top five break- ups was Charlie Nicholson, sophomore year of college. Some people never got over 'Nam, or the night their band opened for Nirvana. I guess I never really got over Charlie. CUT TO: EXT. COLLEGE QUAD - DAY - FLASHBACK About twenty feet away we see a tall, thin beauty, bleach- blonde hair cropped short in darling '80's new-wave asymmetry. She is speaking animatedly to a PAMPHLETEER, driving her points home with a forefinger. ROB (V.O.) She looked different. Dramatic. Exotic. She talked a lot, about remarkably interesting things like music, books, film, and politics... INT. CAFE - DAY A younger Rob sits amongst a group of STUDENTS who are engaged in a heated conversation. He is smiling, mouth closed, just happy to be there. Charlie sitting next to him, tousles his hair as she talks incessantly. ROB (V.O.) (over her talking) ...so we didn't have those terrible, strained sentences, that seemed to characterized most of my relationships. And she liked me. She liked me. She liked me. Charlie gives Rob a quick kiss and keeps talking... EXT. STREET - AFTERNOON Rob and Charlie walk arm in arm, Rob in cool clothes and sunglasses trying to look cool, Charlie making a point about something. Rob checks out how cool he looks with her as they walk by a store window REFLECTION. ROB (V.O.) We went out for two years, and for every single minute I felt as though I was standing on a dangerously narrow ledge. I couldn't get comfortable, couldn't ever stretch out and relax. Why would a girl -- no, a woman -- like Charlie go out with someone who only a few years ago sewed a Foghat patch on his jacket? I felt like all those people who suddenly shaved their heads and said they'd always been punks. I felt like a fraud. And I was depressed by the lack of flamboyance in my wardrobe... INT. CHARLIE'S APARTMENT - DAY The fabulous sophomore design student's studio apartment: White wood floor, white walls, overvarnished door, Doisneaux print on the wall, futon on the floor. Rob lies back on his elbows, watching Charlie in uncomfortable, worried awe. She stands, her back to him, wearing only her underwear and pulling on a T-shirt -- a heartbreaking image to look back on. ROB (V.O.) ...I worried about my abilities as a lover. I was intimidated by the other men in her design department, and became convinced that she was going to leave me for one of them. Charlie turns around and looks at Rob with naked ambivalence. ROB (V.O.) She left me for one of them. The dreaded Marco. EXT. CHARLIE'S APARTMENT - NIGHT It is RAINING like crazy, and Rob is shouting up at a lit window, maniacally gesturing. The curtains part and Charlie's figure appears, clad only in a sheet. Next to her is a tall, built, handsome man, MARCO, also in a sheet. Eventually he falls to his knees with a splash and buries his head in his hands. The light goes out. ROB (V.O.) And I lost it. I lost it all. Dignity, faith, fifteen pounds... EXT. STREET - NIGHT Rob wandering through the rain. ROB (V.O.) Any small idea of personal identity that I had acquired up to that point. INT. SOME RECORD STORE - DAY A younger and catatonic Rob listlessly sorts through a stack of records. ROB (V.O.) I came to three months later, and to my surprise had flunked out of school and started working in a record store. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob stands in front of his wall of music, shifting LPs around between the shelves and piles on the floor as he talks to us. ROB What I really learned from the Charlie Debacle is that you gotta punch your weight. Charlie was out of my Class: too pretty, too smart, too witty, too much. What am I? Average. A middleweight. Not the smartest guy in the world, but certainly not the dumbest. I've read books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Angela's Ashes, and Love in the Time of Cholera, and understood them, I think -- they're about girls, right? -- just kidding -- but I don't like them very much. My all time top five favorite books are Johnny Cash's autobiography, Snow Crash by Neil Stevenson, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Trouser Press Guides to Rock, and, I don't know, probably something by Kurt Vonnegut. I look through the New Yorker when my neighbor's done with it, and I'm not averse to going down to the Fine Arts to watch subtitles films, although on the whole I prefer American films. Top five being Blade Runner, Cool Hand Luke, the first two Godfathers which we'll count as one, Taxi Driver, and The Shining. I'm okay looking, average height, not skinny, not fat. My genius, if I can call it that, is to combine a whole load of averageness into one compact frame. You might say there were millions like me, but there aren't, really: Alot of guys have impeccable music taste but don't read, alot of guys read but are really fat, alot of guys are sympathetic to women but have stupid beards, alot of guys have a Woody Allen sense of humor but look like Woody Allen. Some drink too much, some drive like assholes, some get into fights, or show off money, or do drugs. I don't do any of these things, really. If I do okay with women it's not because of the virtues I have, but because of the ugly flaws I don't have... So. Charlie and I didn't match. After her I was determined to never get out of my league again. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob presses play on the answering machine. A pleasant, older female voice is heard. It's JANET, Laura's mother. JANET (on machine) Hello, you two. Laura, it's your mother. Your father's angina is a little rough today and I thought he'd like to talk to you. No big deal. I love you two. Bye. Beep. LIZ (on machine) Rob, it's Liz. Just calling to see, well, if you're okay. Give me a ring. I'm not taking sides. Yet. Lot's of love. Bye. He pulls an LP from a shelf, puts it on the turntable and sits back in his chair. EXT. LAKE MICHIGAN WATERFRONT - MOS - THE PAST The MUSIC becomes SOUNDTRACK to the following scenes. Rob and SARAH, a thin, modestly attractive young woman, SARAH, walk and talk. They seem to be emphatically complaining together. ROB (V.O.) Charlie and I didn't match. Marco and Charlie matched. Me and Sarah, number four on the all time break- ups list, matched. She wore more or less the same clothes as mine, had an acceptable working knowledge of music, and she had been dumped by some asshole named Michael. He was her moment, Charlie was mine. Sarah had sworn off men. I had sworn off women. It made sense to pool our loathing of the opposite sex, swear them off together, and get to share a bed with someone at the same time. INT. SARAH'S APARTMENT - MOS - NIGHT Rob and SARAH sit up in bed, staring at the television... ROB (V.O.) We were frightened of being left alone for the rest of our lives. Only people of a certain disposition are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at twenty- six. We were of that disposition. Everything seemed much later than it was. INT. SARAH'S KITCHEN - MOS - DAY ROB'S POV of Sarah, sitting across the table, mid-confession. ROB (V.O.) When she told me that she met someone else it made no sense. Her meeting someone else was contrary to the whole spirit of our arrangement. All we really had in common was that we were dumped by people, and that we were against dumping. We were violently anti- dump. So how come I got dumped? ROB IN HIS CHAIR The MUSIC becomes PRESENCE again, and Rob takes the needle off the record. ROB You run the risk of losing anyone who is worth spending time with. But I didn't know that at the time. All I saw was that I'd moved down a division and that it still hadn't worked out, and this seemed cause for a great deal of misery and self-pity. And that's when Laura came along. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob is surrounded by stacks of records on the floor. He looks to camera. ROB I'm reorganizing my records tonight. It's something I do in times of emotional distress. When Laura was here I had them in alphabetical order, before that, chronologically. Tonight, though, I'm trying to put them in the order in which I bought them. That way I can write my own autobiography without picking up a pen. Pull them all off the shelves, look for Revolver and go from there. I'll be able to see how I got from Deep Purple to The Soft Boys in twenty-five moves. What I really like about my new system is that it makes me more complicated than I am. To find anything you have to be me, or at the very least a doctor in Rob-ology. If you wanna find Landslide by Fleetwood Mac you have to know that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 and then didn't give it to them for personal reasons. But you don't know any of that, do you? You would have to ask me to -- The phone rings again. Rob picks it up. ROB (CONT'D) Yeah? MOM Hi, Rob. It's your mother. Rob deflates a bit. ROB Hi, Mom. MOM Everything all right? ROB Great. Super-fantastic. MOM How's the store? ROB So so. Up and down. MOM Your lucky Laura's doing so well. If it wasn't for her, I don't think either of us would ever sleep... Rob holds his lips together with thumb and forefinger, but succumbs -- ROB She left. She's gone. MOM What do you mean? Where did she go? ROB How would I know? Gone. Girlfriend. Leave. Not say where gone. Laura move out. MOM Well call her mother. ROB She just called. She doesn't even know. It's probably the last time I'll ever hear her voice. That's weird, isn't it? You spend Christmas at somebody's house, you know, and you worry about their operations and you see them in their bathrobe, and... I dunno... Silence. ROB (CONT'D) There'll be another mom and another Christmas. Right? Silence... More silence. ROB (CONT'D) Hello? Anybody there? The sound of SOFT CRYING ROB (CONT'D) I'm all right, if that's what's upsetting you. MOM You know that's not what's upsetting me. ROB Well it fucking should be, shouldn't it? MOM I knew this would happen. What are you going to do Rob? ROB I'm going to drink this bottle of wine watch TV and go to bed. Then tomorrow I'll get up and go to work. MOM And after that? ROB Meet a nice girl and have children. I promise the next time we talk I'll have it all sorted out. MOM I knew this was going to happen. ROB Then what are you getting so upset about? MOM What did Laura say? Do you know why she left? ROB It's got nothing to do with marriage, if that's what you're getting at. MOM So you say. I'd like to hear her side of it. ROB Mom! For the last fucking time, I'm telling you Laura didn't want to get married! She is not that kind of girl! To use a phrase. That's not what happens now. MOM Well I don't know what happens now, apart from you meet someone, you move in, she goes. You meet someone, you move in, she goes. Silence. Rob busted. ROB Shut up, Mom. Rob hangs up the phone. He fills up his glass again, takes a swig, and slumps into a chair. If there was any wind left in Rob, it just got knocked out. After a moment, he gets to his feet, grabs his jacket and heads out the door. CUT TO: EXT. LOUNGE AX CLUB - LINCOLN AVE. - NIGHT Rob comes down the street and gets in the short line to enter the club. From inside he hears a GUITAR, playing a tune that becomes familiar not only to Rob, but to us. When a strong, lilting female VOICE begins to sing, we hear what it is: "Baby I Love Your Way," by Peter Frampton. Rob smiles at first, but begins to darken as the verse continues. He steps out of line and leans against the outside wall, listening. Is he beginning to cry? Yes, he is... CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR ROB Peter. Frampton. That perm! "Show Me the Way"! A phenomenon based on a live album that was actually recorded in a studio! What is happening? I am getting misty, choked up at a song that I had the good sense at twelve to realize was so saccharine and stupid as to be inarticulatable, until Michael Bolton, that is. CUT BACK TO: EXT. LOUNGE AX CLUB - LINCOLN AVE. He looks around self-consciously, and paces a bit, deciding whether or not to stay. He takes a deep breath, and heads in the door. INT. LOUNGE AX - NIGHT As Rob enters he looks to the stage, where MARIE LASALLE is standing alone with her acoustic guitar, heading toward the song's finish. Rob's expression begins to shift from the melancholy to something else altogether. Marie is beautiful, and Marie has touched his heart. Rob navigates toward her though the small crowd as if pulled by something unseen. He addresses us over his shoulder. ROB Sentimental music makes you nostalgic and hopeful at the same time. Marie's the hopeful part. Laura's the nostalgia part. These things happen. They happen to men, at any rate. This is why I shouldn't be listening to pop music. As he gets closer to the stage -- DICK ROB! Rob looks over to see Dick sitting with Barry, a few feet away. He shakes it off and sits with them, extending a meaningful hand to Barry, who takes it. They turn back to the stage as Marie finishes the song. ROB I always hated this song. DICK Yeah. BARRY Yeah. ROB But now I kind of like it. Dick and Barry nod, then keep watching. All three of them are in their own private fantasies with Marie. DICK She shouldn't done it on "The Number Four With a Smile." BARRY Isn't her album called "Number Four With A Smile?" DICK That's what I said. BARRY No, no, no, you said "The Number Four With a Smile," and there's no "The" at the front of the title of the album. DICK It's a reference to a Chinese meal in Toronto and I think that there is a "The." But I could be wrong. BARRY You can be and are wrong. They drop it, so that their eyes can drift back to Marie. BARRY I wanna date a musician... ROB (nods in agreement) I wanna live with a musician. She'd write songs at home, ask me what she thought of them, maybe even include one of our private jokes in the liner notes. BARRY ...Maybe a picture of me in the liner notes... DICK Just in the background somewhere. MARIE as the song ends, and she smiles out over the room. The audience applauds. MARIE Thanks, you guys, I know I'm not supposed to like that song, but I do. I'm gonna take a break for a second. Anybody wants to buy one of my tapes, they're five bucks up here. One of my other personalities will be selling them. ROB, DICK, AND BARRY BARRY Let's go get one. ROB Let's not. DICK I want a tape. Barry and Dick stand and begin to move off... ROB I don't need to go up there right now. ... and they're gone. After a beat, Rob gets up and follows them. FOOT OF THE STAGE Dick and Barry wait nervously to buy a tape, Rob just behind them. Marie processes sales with polite monosyllables, until the three get up front. MARIE Enjoying yourselves? They dart eyes to each other, then nod. MARIE (CONT'D) Good. 'Cause I'm enjoying myself. ROB Good. Rob hands her a ten and she roots around in a duffel bag for change... ROB (CONT'D) So you live in Chicago now? MARIE Yup. Not far from here, actually. BARRY You like it? MARIE It's okay. Hey. You guys might be the sort to know. Are there any good record stores around here or do I have to go downtown? Barry and Dick do not try to control themselves. They point to Rob. DICK He's got one! BARRY On Clark Street! DICK A couple blocks! About six! BARRY We work there! DICK You'd love it! Marie laughs. MARIE What do you sell? BARRY A little of anything that matters. Rock, soul, R&B, punk rock, hip- hop, ska, new wave... MARIE Sounds great. The line behind them is moving in, and Marie smiles at them and turns to someone else. They scurry back toward their table. ROB What did you tell her about the shop for? BARRY I didn't know it was classified information. I mean, I know we don't have any customers, but I thought that was a bad thing, not, like, a business strategy. Rob looks over Barry at Marie. She catches his eye as she looks over the room. His eyes shoot to the floor. CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - STOCK ROOM - LATER Rob is going through a huge stack of used CD's, sorting them off into different bins, bouncing his head absently to the music -- the same song of Marie's that Rob had on when Laura called last night. BARRY (O.S.) ROB! PHONE! Rob reaches over and hits the SPEAKER button on the phone, still in the groove of sorting. ROB Rob here. LIZ (O.S.) Hey. It's Liz. ROB What's happenin'. LIZ You called this morning? ROB Yeah. I just wanted to thank you for that message last night. It made me feel like...like less of an asshole. LIZ How're you holding up? ROB Actually, I'm fine. I'm great. Last night I got to thinking, "you know what? Maybe it is time to move on. Maybe we're just not right for each other. Or maybe we are. But time will tell and at this point I'm going to be fine with whatever's meant to be." You know? LIZ Yeah. Like I said, I don't want to take sides. And I like Laura with you. She's more fun, more open. You guys are good together. I just wish you two could, I don't know. I don't think much of this Ian guy -- -- Dick bursts in, huge-faced -- DICK Rob. ROB Liz, hold on a second -- (turns to Dick) What? DICK Marie LaSalle is in the store! Here, she's here, and now! Rob freezes, he and Dick turn to the speaker, which cranks Marie's voice. Rob goes to the phone and picks up the handset. ROB Liz, can you hold for a second? He hits hold. ROB (to Dick) I'll be out there! Go! (picks up the phone) Hey, Liz, I gotta go... Tomorrow night? Great. Green Mill. Fine. Seven? Done. Thanks. Right. Bye. He hangs up fast, spins around to look in a cracked one- foot-square cracked mirror bearing the logo of Aerosmith that is mounted on the wall, and moves out into the FRONT ROOM and up the aisle fast toward the stereo where he turns Marie's music off. He takes a deep breath and looks up, meeting her eyes. ROB (CONT'D) Oh. Hi. Marie smiles. MARIE (re: music) Don't you like that? ROB No, no, I love, it's just, thinking you're, you must be so sick of it... Well. He reaches back and puts it back on. He cracks his face into a smile, then walks fast back to the stock room door. Marie watches him go. STOCK ROOM where as soon as he crosses the threshold his fist clench and he grimaces: ROB (CONT'D) WHAT FUCKING IAN GUY?!! Dick comes in -- DICK Rob --! ROB -- FUCK OFF! Dick backs out fast. Rob leans on a wall. Barry enters -- BARRY We're only on the fucking list for Marie's gig at the Pulaski Pub, that's all! All three of us. ROB That's fucking great, Barry. We can spend fifteen bucks on a cab to save five each. Fantastic, Barry! BARRY We can take your car. ROB It's not my car, now is it? It's Laura's car, and thus Laura has it. So it's an ass-bumping double- transferring bus ride through bumblefuck or a fat wad on a cab. Wow. Fucking great. Barry sighs, throws up his hands and heads out the door. BARRY Jaggoff... Barry exits. Rob seems to be having trouble staying on his feet. ROB Who the fuck is Ian?! CUT TO: INT. ROB'S BUILDING'S LOBBY - NIGHT Rob enters and walks to the mail table, looking like shit. He starts sifting through envelopes for his. ROB Laura doesn't know anybody called Ian. There's no Ian at her office. She has no friends named Ian. She has never met anyone called Ian in her whole life. Although there may have been one in college -- but I am almost certain that since 1989 she has lived in an Ian-less universe. He slows... and stops. His face gets a little paler as he lifts a letter up to his face. CLOSE-UP: LETTER A cable service bill to a Mr. I. Raymond. ROB as he looks at it, divining. ROB "I. Raymond." Ray. "I." IAN. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB Mr. I Raymond. "Ray" to his friends, and, more importantly, to his neighbors. The guy who up until about six weeks ago lived upstairs. I knew it was him the moment I saw the letter. I start to remember things now: His stupid clothing, his music -- Latin, Bulgarian, whatever fucking world music was trendy that week--stupid laugh, awful cooking smells. I can't remember anything good about him at all. I never liked him much then, and I fucking hate him now... I manage to block out the worst, most painful, most disturbing memory of him until I go to bed. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Darkness. We move silently through the rooms, and enter the bedroom... closer to the bed, we see Rob on his back, sheets held clenched up to his chin. He stares at the ceiling, sadly. JUMP CUT to almost the same shot, but it's Rob and Laura in the bed, semi-tangled. Laura has a book in her lap. A CREAKING is heard. Laura's eyes go to the ceiling, and Rob sits up at attention. They look up at the light fixture, which shakes a little faster, with the rhythm of the creaking. Someone is definitely having sex upstairs, and they are going for it. ROB Jeez. He goes on long enough. LAURA I should be so lucky. They turn to each other and laugh. JUMP CUT BACK to Rob lying still in bed, staring at the ceiling. ROB You are as abandoned and as noisy as any character in a porn film, Laura. You are Ian's plaything, responding to his touch with shrieks of orgasmic delight. No woman in the history of the world is having better sex than the sex you are having with Ian in my head. ROB'S IAN-LAURA SEX NIGHTMARE - QUICK CUTS Ian mercilessly savages Laura from behind, below, and above, champagne showers, toe-sucking, and animal screams -- BACK TO ROB IN BED, imploding with disgust and sorrow. Tears run down his cheeks into his ears. ROB Number five -- Jackie Allen. My break up with Jackie Allen had no effect on my life whatsoever. I just slotted her in to bump you out of position, Laura. Yes, you do in fact make it into the top five. Welcome. And just to remind you, the list is in chronological order, not in the order of pain and suffering. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Dick and Barry are stocking the racks. Rob stands at the register, rocking back and forth sort of like an idiot, to "Always and Forever" by the Commodores. He is a mess. FEMALE VOICE Hey. Rob looks up to see a nineteen or twenty-year-old GIRL standing in front of him. GIRL Do you have soul? Rob smiles bitterly at her, clearly having a different meaning in mind. ROB That all depends. She kind of backs away and goes back to browsing. The phone rings and Rob picks it up. ROB (CONT'D) Record Exchange... How many records... Right, well if you could bring them -- okay, well, where do you live? Right... how about now? I can come right over... (Rob scribbles) Okay. He hangs up and grabs his jacket. Dick emerges from the back. ROB (CONT'D) (to Dick) Some lady's got some singles to sell. I'll be back in a half-hour. Rob walks out. EXT./INT. FANCY LINCOLN PARK TOWNHOUSE - DAY Rob mounts the stairs and rings the doorbell. The door opens, revealing a too-tan WOMAN in her late forties, in designer jeans and a T-shirt bearing a rhinestone peace sign. She says nothing. ROB Hi. You called about the records? She turns and walks into the house, leaving the door open for him. He follows her in and through a fabulous first floor, packed with big-bucks bourgeois: Rugs, art, and antiques: She ushers Rob into a large study, and turns the light on. He misses a breath. The walls are lined with mahogany cases custom-built for CDs, albums, epicurean stereo components, a couple priceless vintage guitars -- every one of the thousands of items bear a little numbered sticker, like a museum. She points to several boxes on the floor, full of hundreds of singles. WOMAN Those. Rob steps into the room like an Undeserving, and carefully drops to his knees to examine the singles, each pristine in a plastic sleeve: the original God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols, original Otis Reddings, Elvis Presleys, James Browns, Jerry Lee Lewises, Beatles... on and on. The mother lode. Rob is doing the best to control the onset of hyperventilation. He dares a glance over his shoulder to her to see if this is a joke. WOMAN (CONT'D) What do you think? ROB It's the best collection I've ever seen. WOMAN Give me fifty bucks and they're all yours. Rob's face goes funny. He looks around for a hidden camera. ROB These are worth at least, I don't know -- WOMAN I know what they're worth. Give me fifty and get them out. ROB But you must have -- WOMAN I must have nothing. Their my husband's. ROB And you must not be getting along too well right now, huh? WOMAN He's in Jamaica with a twenty- three-year-old. A friend of my daughter's. He had the fucking nerve to call me and ask me to borrow some money and I told him to fuck off, so he asked me to sell his singles collection and send him a check for whatever I go, minus a ten percent commission. Which reminds me. Can you make sure you give me a five? I want to frame it and put it on the wall. ROB It must have taken him a long time to get them together. WOMAN Years. This collection is as close as he's ever come to an achievement. Rob looks back at the records but avoids the trance. ROB Look. Can I pay you properly? You don't have to tell him what you got. Send him forty-five bucks and blow the rest. Give it to charity. Or something. WOMAN That wasn't part of the deal. I want to be poisonous but fair. ROB (looking back at the records) Look... I... I'm sorry. I don't want to be any part of this. WOMAN Suit yourself. There are plenty of others who will. ROB That's why I'm trying to compromise. What about fifteen-hundred? They're worth five times that. WOMAN Sixty. ROB Thirteen hundred. WOMAN Seventy-five. ROB Eleven-hundred. That's my lowest offer. WOMAN And I won't take a penny over ninety. They start smiling at each other. WOMAN (CONT'D) With eleven hundred he could come home, and that's the last thing I want. ROB I'm sorry but I think you better talk to someone else. WOMAN Fine. Rob half stands, then drops again for one last lingering look. ROB Can I buy this Otis Redding single off you? WOMAN Sure. Ten cents. ROB Oh, come on! Let me give you ten dollars for this, and you can give the rest away for all I care. WOMAN Okay. Because you took the trouble to come up here. And because you've got principles. But that's it. I'm not selling them to you one by one. CUT TO: EXT. FANCY LINCOLN PARK TOWNHOUSE - DAY Rob comes down the stairs holding his single, and walks down the street talking to camera. ROB How come I end up siding with the bad guy, the man who ran off to Jamaica with some nymphette? I just got left for someone else, so why can't I bring myself to feel whatever it is his wife is feeling? All I can see is that guy's face when he gets that pathetic check in the mail for those records, and I can't help but feel desperately, painfully sorry for him. CUT TO: INT. GREEN MILL - NIGHT The bar where Al Capone used to party, and it looks about the same: colored lightbulbs, shadowboxes, deep plush booths and a stage for jazz. Rob slumps back in a booth, stirring a drink with his finger. After a beat, we hear a DOOR SLAM off camera, and Rob looks up with a bit of fear. Heavy footsteps get louder and closer, until a shadow shrouds Rob -- LIZ stands in front of him. LIZ MOTHERFUCKER. She is enormous, and she is mad as hell. Rob reflexively shrinks. ROB What's the -- hey, Liz -- LIZ -- No, no, no, don't even. I talked to Laura, Rob. I talked to her and she gave me a little background. And you're a fucking ASSHOLE. She turns and stomps toward the door. Rob gets up and follows. EXT. STREET - NIGHT Rob comes out of the club and follows Liz. She hears him and turns on him, punctuating with a finger in his chest. LIZ To think I sympathized with you for two seconds! Poor Rob! Laura left him out of nowhere for the schmuck upstairs. You let me believe that! ROB It's true! LIZ Rob! Two years ago you got Laura pregnant; you then proceeded to cheat on her! You borrowed money from her and never paid a dime back! And then, just a few weeks ago, you told her you were unhappy with her and were "kind of looking around for somebody else!" ROB Well she -- She turns again and keeps walking, holding a defiant middle finger over her shoulder as she fades down the street. INT. SUBWAY CAR - NIGHT Rob sits, rocking slightly with the movement of the train. He stares at an OLD COUPLE who do not speak to each other. ROB She's right, of course. I am a fucking asshole. I did and said those things. But before you judge, although you've probably already done so, go off for a minute and write down the top five worst things that you have done to your partner, even if -- especially if -- your partner doesn't know about them. Don't dress things up or try to explain them. Just write them down in the plainest language possible... A LONG BEAT, even five or ten seconds. ROB (CONT'D) Pencils down. Okay, so who's the asshole now? CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Saturday. For the first time we see the place kind of busy. Rob watches the room. Barry is toward the back, talking to a CUSTOMER. "Cruel to Be Kind" by Nick Lowe plays. BARRY It's almost impossible to find, especially on CD. Yet another cruel trick on all of the dumbasses who got rid of their turntables. But every other Echo and the Bunnymen album -- CUSTOMER I have all of the others. BARRY Oh really. Well what about the first Jesus and Mary Chain? CUSTOMER They always seemed... BARRY They always seemed what? They always seemed really great, is what they always seemed. They picked up where your precious Echo left off, and you're sitting here complaining about no more Echo albums. I can't believe that you don't own that record. That's insane. He plucks it from the rack, and sticks it in the Customer's hand, who regards it with a bit a of shame. CUSTOMER Well what about the new Echo -- BARRY Do not get ahead of yourself. DICK is listening to a female customer, but he doesn't hear her voice. CUSTOMER - DICK'S POV The army bag with a red cross on it. The ring-of-ivy tattoo around the wrist. The monkey boots. The eye shadow. DICK thinking, calculating... DICK The interesting thing about Green Day is that so much of their music is in truth directly influenced by, in my opinion, two bands. FEMALE CUSTOMER The Clash. DICK Correct. The Clash. But also the Stranglers. FEMALE CUSTOMER Who? DICK I think you would love the Stranglers... Dick pulls a Stranglers record and puts it on the stereo. Her brow furrows, and then she smiles. FEMALE CUSTOMER This sounds great. Dick smiles humbly. Two people in the store turn and approach. CUSTOMER Is this the new Green Day? BARRY still talking to his Customer, who now has several CD's in his hand. He looks at Barry with a mixture of hate and adoration. BARRY That is perverse. Do not tell anyone you don't own fucking Blonde on Blonde. What about Television? CUSTOMER I have a television. BARRY NO--! Barry adds more records to the Customer's stack. A FEW MINUTES LATER - ROB AND DICK stand behind the counter. Rob holds a CD in his hand, and surveys the roaming customers with a semi-serious air of authority. ROB I will now sell four copies of Cats and Dogs by the Royal Trux. DICK Do it. Do it. Rob pops the CD in and it begins to play... He stands there with his arms folded, waiting. After a moment, a Customer approaches. CUSTOMER (re: music) What is this? ROB It's the Royal Trux. CUSTOMER It's great. ROB I know. ROB'S POV of the room. Something has caught his eye: a cropped head with a leopard skin pattern surfaces and disappears, like Nessie. Rob's face gets hot and mad. He jumps out from behind the counter. ROB (CONT'D) Dick, ring the man up... He moves like a cat through the crowd. Justin sees him coming and counters around the middle island and heads for the door. Vince appears next to him, fiddling with his belt. He sees Rob now, and he and Justin bolt for the door. Rob doubles back. ROB (CONT'D) DICK! THE DOOR! Dick sees Vince and Justin too late. Rob is right behind them and as they get out the door, he reaches... and comes up with the back half of a skateboard. EXT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob emerges behind them, Vince's skateboard in hand. They have enough distance to bolt, but they can't leave that board behind. ROB Okay, fuckos. How much is this deck worth to you, and how many CD's did you rip off? Can you do the math? Justin pulls two CD's out and slides them over to Rob. ROB (CONT'D) (to Vince) And what about you, dork? Vince pulls about six, and puts them down in a neutral spot. Rob picks all of them up and starts looking through them. Dicks pokes his head out of the door. ROB (CONT'D) Dick, call the police, please. Vince and Justin look at each other. ROB (CONT'D) (looking through the CD's) Eno import. Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Break beats. Serge Gainsbourg. Ryuchi Sakamoto, Syd Barrett... What's going on here? Are you guys stealing for other people now? VINCE Naw. Those are for us. ROB Oh really. You two are slamming to Nico now? JUSTIN You're, like, so bigoted to look at us and, like, think you know what we listen to. VINCE You got the CD's so can I have my board back? ROB I think you have more. VINCE Well we don't. ROB I can't frisk you but the cops can. Justin reaches down again into his baggy shorts and comes up with a tattered old book, "How To Make A Record." He tosses it over. ROB (CONT'D) Jesus. That thing's been in the bargain bin for six months! Was it just your criminal nature or what? Hell, I would've given it to you for free. VINCE No, we... JUSTIN We don't know how it works. Nobody even knows, so we wanted to check it out in that mag. Rob snorts. JUSTIN Like, do you know how to actually make a CD? Rob can't resist edifying them -- the curse of the underappreciated expert. ROB Uh, yes I, like, do... It's simple. You make the tracks -- recording studio -- deliver them to the pressing plant where a master is cut, the master is then dubbed to submasters, which are the "mothers," as their called, for each press in the plant. You press the CD's or records, put in your cover art, and that's it. VINCE Records are those big round black things, right? ROB Fuck off. Rob turns to go back in the store. VINCE Hey, can I have my board? Rob drops it and enters the store. CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - NIGHT - QUICK CUTS: Barry emerges from the back wth three opened bottles of beer as the last customer goes out the door... The three lean against the bins, tired and smiling. BARRY (to Rob) What? ROB What do you mean, "what?" BARRY What are you snickering about? ROB I'm not snickering. I'm smiling. Because I'm happy. BARRY What am I missing? What do you have to be happy about? DICK Well we rang $900 today. ROB Yeah but more than that. I'm happy because I'm proud of us. Because although our talents are small and peculiar, we use them to their best advantage. Dick and Barry look at each other. They almost know how to take a compliment. EXT. RECORD STORE - NIGHT Rob, now alone, turns the sign from "open" to "closed" shuts the door behind him, and pulls the gate across. Laura appears from the next doorway. He jumps. ROB Shit! LAURA Hi. ROB Hi. LAURA I thought I could give you a lift back. ROB Are you coming home? LAURA Yes. Well, I'm coming over to your house to get some things. ROB My house? Laura turns and begins walking. Rob looks at camera. ROB First of all: The money. The money is easy to explain: She had it and I didn't, and she wanted to give it to me. If she hadn't, I would have gone under. I've never paid her back because I've never been able to, and just because she's took off and moved in with some Supertramp fan doesn't make me five grand richer. So that's the money -- Laura's CAR HORN is heard. He heads off. CUT TO: INT. LAURA'S CAR - NIGHT They move down the street, and it's a little tense. Laura pushes a tape into the stereo. Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" begins to play. Rob turns away from her and makes a face, but she knows he's making it. LAURA You can make all the faces you want. My car. My car stereo. My compilation tape. Rob tries not to speak, but -- ROB How can you like Art Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye? It's like saying you support the Israelis and the Palestinians. LAURA It's not like saying that at all, actually, Rob. Art Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye make pop records -- ROB -- Made. Made. Marvin Gaye is dead, his father shot him in -- LAURA -- whatever, and the Israelis and the Palestinians don't. Art Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye are not engaged in a bitter territorial dispute, and the Israelis and the Palestinians are. Art Garfunkel and Marvin Gaye -- ROB -- Alright, alright but -- LAURA -- and who says I like Marvin Gaye, anyway? He reels on her. ROB Hey! Marvin Gaye! "Got to Give It Up!" That's our song! Marvin Gaye is responsible for our entire relationship! LAURA Is that right? I'd like a word with him. ROB But don't you remember? LAURA I remember the song. I just couldn't remember who sang it. Rob shakes his head in disbelief. LAURA I can see why you prefer Gaye to Garfunkel. I get it, really. But there are so many other things to worry about. They're only records, and if one is better than the other, well, who cares, besides you and Barry and Dick? I mean really, who gives a flying fuck? Silence. ROB You used to care more about things like Marvin Gaye than you do now. When I first met you, and I made you that tape, you loved it. You said -- and I quote -- "It was so good it made you ashamed of your record collection." LAURA Well, I liked you. You were a deejay, and I thought you were hot, and I didn't have a boyfriend, and I wanted one. ROB So you weren't interested in music at all? LAURA Yeah, sure. More so then than I am now. That's life though, isn't it? The car slows, and Laura parks. ROB But Laura... that's me. That's all there is to me. There isn't anything else. If you've lost interest in that, you've lost interest in everything. LAURA You really believe that? Laura turns the engine off and unbuckles her seat belt. ROB Yes. Look at me. Look at our -- the apartment. What else do I have, other than records and CDs? LAURA And do you like it that way? ROB Not really. She half smiles. LAURA Let's go in. She gets out of the car. Rob turns to camera, speaking quietly and urgently. ROB Okay, Number two: The stuff I told her about being unhappy in the relationship, about half looking around for someone else: She tricked me into saying it. We were having this state of the union type conversation and she said, quite matter-of-factly, that we were pretty unhappy at the moment, and did I agree, and I said yes, and she asked whether I ever thought about meeting someone else. So I asked her if she ever thought about it, and she said of course, so I admitted that I daydream about it from time to time. Now I see that what we were really talking about was her and Ian, and she suckered me into absolving her. It was a sneaky lawyer's trick, and I fell for it, because she's much smarter than me. He scrambles out of the car. INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT The lock turns and Rob enters, holding the door for Laura who slips by, her coat in her hands. She glances down at the table by the door and sees Ian's envelope. ROB You can take it with you if you want. She slips it into her purse. He stands facing her for a moment, then crosses to her, takes her coat and tosses it on a chair. She opens the closet and takes out a big laundry sack. LAURA Have you tackled the Great Reorganization yet? ROB Don't you think there are more important things to talk about than my record collection? She begins putting books and other things into the bag... LAURA You bet. I've been saying that for years. Having no comeback, Rob goes for the moral high ground. ROB So. Where have you been staying for the last week? LAURA I think you know that. ROB Had to work it out for myself, though, didn't I? Laura looks suddenly tired and sad, and looks away. LAURA I'm sorry. I haven't been very fair to you. That's why I came here to the store this evening. I feel terrible, Rob. This is really hard, you know. ROB Good. (beat) So. Is it my job? LAURA What? Gimme a fucking break. Is that what you think? That your not big enough a deal for me? Jesus, gimme a little credit, Rob. ROB I don't know. It's one of the things I thought of. LAURA What were the others? ROB Just the obvious stuff. LAURA What's the obvious stuff? ROB I don't know. She stands and walks toward the bathroom. LAURA I guess it's not that obvious, then. ROB No. As soon as she shuts the door behind her, he turns to camera. ROB And number three: The Pregnancy. I didn't know she was pregnant. Of course I didn't. She hadn't told me because I had told her I was... sort of... seeing somebody else. We thought we were being very grown-up, but we were being preposterously naive, childish even, to think that one of us could fuck around and then own up to it while we were living together. So -- I didn't find out about it 'til way later. We were going through a good period and I made a crack about having kids and she burst into tears. I made her tell me what it was all about, and she did. I felt guilty and so I got angry. She told me that at the time I didn't look like a very good long-term bet. That it was a hard decision and she didn't see any point in consulting me about it... When the whole sorry tale comes out in a great big -- We hear the bathroom door open. LAURA (O.S.) What? ROB (covering) What, what? Laura comes out with a toiletry bag and places it by the door. LAURA Did you say something? ROB (CONT'D) No. So. Is it working out with Ian? LAURA Rob. Don't be childish. ROB Why is that childish? Your living with the guy! I'm just asking how it's going. LAURA I am not living with him. I've just been staying with him for a few days until I work out what I'm doing. Look, this has nothing to do with anyone else. You know that, don't you? I left because we weren't exactly getting along, and we weren't talking about it. And I suddenly realized that I like my job, and I like what my life is could be turning into, and that I'm getting to a point where I want to get my shit together and I can't really see that ever happening with you, and yeah, yeah, I sort of get interested in someone else, and that went further than it should have, so it seemed like a good time to go. But I have no idea what will happen with Ian in the long run. Probably nothing. ROB Well then why don't you quit it while you seem to not be ahead? Laura rolls her eyes and head off into the bedroom with the laundry bag. Rob turns back to camera. ROB -- When the whole sorry tale comes out in a great big lump like that, even the most shortsighted jerk, even the most self-deluding and self pitying of jilted, wounded lovers can see that there is some cause and effect going on here, that abortions and Ian and money and affairs all belong to, all deserve each other. Laura reappears, her bag half-filled with clothes, and goes to the book shelves next to the records. She starts topping off the bag with books. LAURA Look. Maybe you'll grow up and we'll get it together, you and me. Maybe I'll never see either of you again. I don't know. All I know is that it's not a good time to be living here. ROB So, what, you haven't definitely decide to dump me? There's still a chance we'll get back together? LAURA I don't know. ROB Well, if you don't know, there's a chance, right? It's like, if someone was in the hospital and he was seriously ill and the doctor said, I don't know if he's got a chance of survival or not, then that doesn't mean the patient's definitely going to die, now does it? It means he might live. Even if it's only a remote possibility. LAURA I suppose so. ROB So we have a chance of getting back together again. LAURA Oh, Rob, shut up. ROB Hey, I just want to know where I stand. What chance -- LAURA -- I don't fucking know what chance you fucking have! She abandons her attempt at packing. ROB Well if you could tell me roughly it would help. LAURA Okay, okay, we have a nine percent chance of getting back together. Does that clarify the situation? ROB Yeah. Great. LAURA (shaking her head) I'm too tired for this now. I know I'm asking a lot, but will you take off for a while so I can get my stuff packed up? I need to be able to think while I do it and I can't think while you're here. ROB No problem. If I can ask one question. LAURA Fine. One. ROB It sounds stupid. LAURA Nevermind. ROB You won't like it. LAURA Just ask it! ROB Is it better? LAURA Is what better? Better than what? ROB Well. Sex, I guess. Is sex with him better? LAURA Jesus Christ, Rob. Is that really what's bothering you? ROB Of course it is. LAURA You really think it would make a difference either way? ROB I don't know. LAURA Well the answer is that I don't know either. We haven't done it yet. ROB Never? LAURA I haven't felt like it. ROB But not even before, when he was living upstairs? LAURA No. I was living with you, remember? We've slept together but we haven't made love. Not yet. But I'll tell you one thing. The sleeping together is better. ROB (trying not to smile) The sleeping together is better but not the sex because you haven't done it was him yet. LAURA Will you please just go? INT. APARTMENT HALLWAY - NIGHT Rob shuts the door behind him and does a crazy Charleston/Cabbage-Patch/Boxstep/Touchdown dance of pure elation, then bounces down the stairs. CUT TO: EXT. STREET - NIGHT Rob bounces along, a smile wider than we have seen yet. Maybe even jumping to touch an awning. He lands and tells us: ROB I feel good! I feel great! I feel like a new man. I feel so much better, in fact -- INT. WEEDS BAR - NIGHT Rob moves through the room, still grinning a bit like a proud new father, toward the table where Barry, Dick, Marie and T-Bone sit, listening to a story T-Bone is telling. Marie turns to him. ROB Hi, Marie. MARIE Everything go alright? Rob glances at Barry, who averts his gaze. ROB She just wanted to pick up some stuff. No big thing. A relief, actually. MARIE God, I hate that time. That pick up stuff time. I just went through that before I came here. You know that song "Patsy Cline Times Two" I play? That's about me and my ex dividing up our record collections. ROB It's a great song. MARIE Thank you. Rob glances at T-Bone, his mind calculating the new info. ROB Is that why you came to Chicago in the first place? Because of, you know, dividing up your record collection and stuff? MARIE Yup. Marie slides closer, turning her back on the others. The loop is closed. ROB You share a place with T-Bone? MARIE No way! I'd cramp his style. And I wouldn't want to listen to all that stuff happening on the other side of the bedroom wall. I'm way to unattached for that. ROB I understand completely. SERIES OF CUTS - ELAPSED TIME Rob and Marie lean in to each other, everyone else out of focus. ROB (V.O.) Awhile back, Dick and Barry and I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... ROB AND MARIE - LATER MARIE Yeah, but if you heard this band called the Crumblers, you'd -- ROB What do you mean, the Crumblers? You know the Crumblers? Nobody's heard the Crumblers. Except me. MARIE Yeah, I know the Crumblers! I bought a used Blasters album in New York about ten years ago and somebody left a Crumblers single in it. My everything changed for a couple of weeks. Rob glows -- ROB (V.O.) Books, records, films -- these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the damn truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life. ROB AND MARIE ROB Yeah, but you know what's his best film and nobody's even seen it? MARIE The Conformist. ROB Exactly! Fucking ex-actly! MARIE (laughs) You haven't even seen it! ROB Nor have you! They just laugh and laugh -- ROB (V.O.) References, titles, lyrics, flew and met each other in mid-air embraces. The evening goes with breathtaking precision. INT. MARIE'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob and Marie are kissing standing up. MARIE Are you okay? ROB (nodding) Yes. You? MARIE For now. But I wouldn't be if I thought this was the end of the evening. ROB I'm sure it isn't. MARIE Good. In that case, I'll fix us something else to drink. You sticking to the whiskey or you want coffee? ROB Whiskey. Marie goes into the kitchen, and they keep talking around the corner. MARIE Tops off two whiskeys and starts into the other room where she sees Rob, standing and holding his jacket. ROB (CONT'D) I'd better go. I gotta get up early. Go over to my parents'. MARIE When I said before that I hoped it wasn't the end of the evening, I was, you know... talking about breakfast and stuff. She plants the whiskeys firmly on the coffee table. MARIE (CONT'D) I'd like it if you could stay the night. ROB (as if it is dawning on him) Oh, right. Alright. MARIE Jesus, so much for delicacy. I pegged you for a master of understatement, beating around the bush and all that buzz. ROB I use it but I don't understand it when other people use it. MARIE So you'll stay? ROB Yeah. MARIE Good. Marie picks up the drinks again and exits to the bedroom. Rob just stands there... and the LIGHTING CHANGES. ROB (to camera) Over nine million men in this country have slept with ten or more women. And do they all look like Richard Gere? Are they all as rich as Bill Gates? Charming as Oscar Wilde? Hell no. Nothing to do with any of that. Maybe fifty or so have one or more of these attributes, but that still leaves...well, about nine million, give or take fifty. And they're just men. Regular guys. We're just guys, because I, even I, am a member of this exclusive, nine million member club. In fact, Marie is my seventeenth lover. "How does he do it?" you ask. "He wears bad sweaters, he's grumpy, he's broke, he hangs out with the Musical Moron Twins, and he gets to go to bed with a recording artist who looks like Susan Dey-slash-Meg Ryan. What's going on? Listen up, because I think I can explain, with all modesty aside: I ask questions. That's it. That's my secret. It works precisely because that isn't how you're supposed to do it, if you listen to the collective male wisdom. There are still enough old-style, big-mouthed, egomaniacs running around to make someone like me appear to be refreshingly different. If you can't hack this simple strategy, there are some women out there, of course, who want to get pushed around, ignored and mowed over, but do you really want to be with them anyway? ... he goes through a door into the bedroom. Marie is taking off her earrings. ROB Would you like me to turn the lights out? Or would you like them on? MARIE God, you ask a lot of questions. INT. MARIE'S BEDROOM - MORNING Rob stares at the ceiling as Marie sleeps on next to him. ROB (V.O.) But in the morning we were just two people, slightly hung-over, who were not in love, sharing the same space. And I feel... Rob looks to the camera. ROB Sex is about the only grown-up thing that I know how to do; It's weird, then, that it's the only thing that can make me feel like a ten-year-old. CUT BACK TO: EXT. MARIE'S APARTMENT - MORNING The two of them come out of the building and into the street. ROB Which way are you going? MARIE (points left) That way. You? ROB (points right) That way. MARIE And so it is. I'll talk to you later. ROB I'll call you. MARIE (smiles) Right. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Empty. Dick prices records out on the floor. Rob leans against the register. Barry sits on a stool next to him. They're top-fiving it. Rob's heart isn't in it. ROB Okay. Top five side one track ones. Number one... "Janie Jones," the Clash, from The Clash. BARRY Ehh. ROB "Thunder Road," Bruce Springsteen, from Born to Run. "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana, Nevermind. BARRY Oh no, Rob, that's not obvious enough. Not at all. Dick, did you hear that? ROB Shut up. "Let's Get It On," Marvin Gaye, from Let's Get It On. "Airbag," Radiohead, from OK Computer. BARRY (sarcastic) Ooh! A kind of recent record! Rob's sly declaration of new classic-status slipped into a list of old classics! Nice! "Let's Get It On?" Couldn't you make it more obvious than that? DICK Rob. Phone. (whispers) It's Laura. Rob springs to his feet, takes the phone and walks to the end of the cord. Deep breath. ROB Hi. LAURA - INTERCUT LAURA Hi. I've been looking for an envelope of my receipts from last month and I'm thinking I didn't take them with me. Have you seen them around? ROB I'll look for 'em. How you doing? LAURA I'm sorry to call, but I need that stuff... ROB Fine, I'm sure it's in the file at home. I'll call you when I find it, and then we'll talk. LAURA We'll talk some other time. ROB Great... That's great. Rob comes back to the counter and hangs up the phone. BARRY Rob! What about the Beatles? What about the fucking Rolling Stones? What about fucking... fucking... Beethoven? Track one side one of the Fifth Symphony? You shouldn't be allowed to run a record shop. You shouldn't be allowed to -- SFX: BARRY'S VOICE FADES OUT. Rob's mouth slacks and he stares off. ROB (V.O.) There's something different about the sound of her voice... And what did she mean last night, she hasn't slept with him yet. Yet. What does "yet" mean, anyway? "I haven't seen... Evil Dead II yet." What does that mean? It means you're going to go, doesn't it? SFX: BACK TO THE ROOM. BARRY -- You're like a little squirrel of music, storing away dead little nuts of old garbage music, musical lint, old shit, shit, shit -- ROB -- Barry, if I were to say to you I haven't seen Evil Dead II yet, what would that mean? Barry just looks at Rob. He pulls out a Game Boy and begins playing. ROB (CONT'D) Just... come on, what would it mean to you? That sentence? "I haven't seen Evil Dead II yet?" BARRY To me, it would mean that you're a liar. You saw it twice. Once with Laura -- oops -- once with me and Dick. We had that conversation about the possibilities of the guy making ammo off-screen in the Fourteenth Century. ROB Yeah, yeah, I know. But say I hadn't seen it and I said to you, "I haven't seen Evil Dead II yet," what would you think? Barry shuts off the Game Boy. BARRY I'd think you were a cinematic idiot. And I'd feel sorry for you. ROB No, but would you think, from that one sentence. That I was going to see it? BARRY I'm sorry, Rob, but I'm struggling here. I don't understand any part of this conversation. You're asking me what I would think if you told me that you hadn't seen a film that you've seen. What am I supposed to say? ROB Just listen to me. If I said to you -- BARRY "-- I haven't seen Evil Dead II yet," yeah, yeah, I hear you -- ROB Would you... would you get the impression that I wanted to see it? BARRY Well... you couldn't have been desperate to see it, otherwise you'd have already gone... Rob brightens. Barry finally considers. BARRY ...But the word "yet..." Yeah, you know what, I'd get the impression that you wanted to see it. Otherwise you'd say you didn't really want to. ROB But in your opinion, would I definitely go? BARRY How the fuck am I supposed to know that? You might get sick of people telling you you've really gotta go see the movie. Rob darkens. ROB Why would they care? BARRY Because it's a brilliant film. It's funny, violent, and the soundtrack kicks fucking ass. They look at each other for a strange moment. BARRY (CONT'D) I never thought I would say this, but can I go work now? ROB Let's pack it up. We haven't had a customer in four hours. Barry stands. BARRY Fine by me. I still want pay to 7 o'clock. ROB Ha. DICK I can't go to the club tonight, guys. BARRY Why? Dick smiles sheepishly. BARRY Who are you going to see? DICK Nobody. Barry's eyes widen. BARRY Rob, looky looky. Dick! Are you getting some?! Silence. BARRY (CONT'D) Un-fucking-believable. Dick's out on a hot date, Rob's boning Marie LaSalle, and the best-looking and most intelligent of all of us isn't getting anything at all. ROB How do you know about that? BARRY Oh come on, Rob. What am I, an idiot? I'm more bothered by Dick's thing. How did this happen, Dick? What rational explanation can there possibly be? What's her name? Barry is going a little hard. Dick shrinks back. DICK Anna. BARRY Anna who? Anna Green Gables? Anna Conda? DICK Anna Moss. BARRY Anna Moss. Mossy. The Mossy Thing. The Swamp Thing. Is she all green and furry? ROB Shut the fuck up, Barry. BARRY Yeah, you would say that, wouldn't you? You two have to stick together now. Boners United. United in getting some. Barry picks up his bag and heads for the door. ROB Don't be sad, Barry. You'll find true love someday. BARRY Suck my ass. ROB Terrific. Rob looks to Dick, who looks guilty. ROB Don't worry about it, Dick. Barry's an asshole. DICK Yeah... Well... I'll see you tomorrow, Rob. Dick exits. Rob watches the door close behind him, and looks out over the empty store. He TALKS TO CAMERA as he goes to the light switches and begins shutting them off, one by one... ROB Why does it bother Barry that much that Dick is seeing someone? He's worried about how his life is turning out, and he's lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all. ...until all the lights are out. Rob's silhouette slips out the door. EXT. STREET - NIGHT A downpour is on. Rob has himself wedged into a phone booth, the little kind. ROB (into phone) Hi. It's me... I'm right outside... I know... I know... I figured I could just walk you to the train and you could go... home. Or whatever it is... No! Of course not -- okay. I'll be right here. EXT. OFFICE BUILDING Rob stands under the overhang, watching Laura walk the long hallway from the elevators to the door. ROB (V.O.) Laura looks different. Less stress-out, more in control. Something has happened, maybe something real, or maybe something in her head. Whatever it is, you can see that she thinks she's started out on some new stage in her life. She hasn't. I'm not going to let her. She emerges from doors, says something to him and they start walking, sharing her umbrella. INT. OLDE TOWNE ALE HOUSE - NIGHT Rob and Laura have just sat down in a booth. LAURA So, how are you? ROB Have you slept with him yet? LAURA I told you I slept with him. ROB No, not -- I mean have you, you know -- LAURA Is that why you wanted to see me? ROB I guess. LAURA Oh, Rob. What do you want me to say? ROB I want you to say that you haven't, and I want it to be the truth. She looks past him. LAURA I can't do that. She starts to say something else but Rob is up and out. EXT. STREET - NIGHT Rob pushes through the rush hour raincoats, seeming to be the only one going his way. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob is soaking, slumped in his chair, his headphones on and the stereo lit up behind him. He talks a little loud, due to the headphones. ROB Tonight we're gonna figure out the five best angry songs about women. Let's go... He holds up a stack of records and CDs. ROB (CONT'D) You kind of have to start with Elvis Costello, but where? "Motel Matches?" "I Want You?" "I Hope You're Happy Now?" "Green Shirt?" His records should be sealed in cases that say "in case of vicious betrayal, smash glass." "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," sure, but by Robert Johnson or by Nirvana? Maybe a Liz Phair track. There are a couple to get angry at instead of being angry with. Some devil's advocate stuff. The Silver Jews could be good when you're ready to start putting it all behind you... But I think we're getting ahead of ourselves there. Ah. Dylan. Bob fucking Dylan. Now Bob Dylan would -- The phone rings. He pulls off his headphones and picks it up but says nothing. LAURA (O.S.) You must have known it would happen. You couldn't have been entirely unprepared. Like you said, I've been living with the guy. We were bound to get around to it sometime. She laughs a bit nervously. LAURA (O.S.)(CONT'D) (machine) And anyway, I keep trying to tell you, that's not really the point, is it? The point is we got ourselves into an awful mess, Rob... Are you there? What are you thinking? ROB (barely a whisper) Nothing. LAURA (O.S.) We can meet for another drink if you want. So I can explain it better. I owe you that much. ROB Look, I gotta go. I work too, you know. LAURA (O.S.) Will you call me? ROB I don't have your number. LAURA (O.S.) Call me at work. We can arrange to meet properly. I don't want this to be the last conversation we have. I know what you're like. ROB You do, huh. He hangs up and stares at the wall for awhile. He gets a beer from the fridge and sits back down. He picks up the phone and dials. ROB (CONT'D) Yes, a residence, a Mr. Ian Raymond, North Side... thank you. He writes down a number and hangs up, then looks to camera. ROB You know the worst thing about being rejected? The complete lack of control due to loss of control. He picks up the phone and dials, while continuing to talk to us -- ROB If I could only control the when and how of being dumped by somebody then it wouldn't seem as bad. But then, of course -- He hangs up quickly -- ROB -- it wouldn't be rejection, would it? It would be mutual consent. It would be musical differences. I would be pursuing a solo career. CUT TO: EXT. IAN'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob is tucked into a phone booth across the street. He can see the silhouettes of Laura and Ian in the window. He picks up the phone, drops a quarter, and hits the numbers hard as he dials... a muffled male "hello?" is heard and Rob hangs up. He does it again. And again. And again. Until -- INT. IAN'S APARTMENT - INTERCUT Still an unpacked box or two, but it's set up: a framed "Woodstock - The Movie" poster, stacks of new fiction, a bread maker -- you get the idea. Ian is shorter than Laura, scruffier than Rob, and looks not unlike Leo Sayer/Steve Guttenberg. He stares at Laura with amused exasperation. She picks up the phone -- LAURA Hello. ROB It's me. LAURA I figured it was. (re: traffic noise) Where are you? ROB I think the big question here is where are you, if you don't mind my saying so, and I think I know where you are. You're running. On the run. You're running from a point that everyone hits in any relationship, and you're just going to hit it again with Ian but it's going to be with a World Music bunny-rabbit- looking earth-shoe-wearing "Doctor- Who"-watching twit who doesn't really understand you, not the way that I do and will more in the future, and you'll have just wasted more time and arrive in the exact same place that you're in now, only later. And with... him. LAURA I'm not -- hold on... She walks into another room, shutting the door behind her. On a bookshelf is a picture of a younger Ian in a tunic, emoting on some college stage. She turns it face down. LAURA I'm not in love with Ian, okay? She wanders over to the window, looking out absently. She sees Rob down there at the phone booth. ROB Are you still in love with me? LAURA Jesus. I do not know. I'll talk to you later. ROB Think about what I said. I mean, if you want to experiment, or whatever -- LAURA (indignant) I'm not experimenting. Why don't you go experiment. ROB I don't want to. Don't need to. I love you. LAURA You don't ever think about other people? ROB No... not really... I mean, I think about it... but no, I don't really think about it. IAN (O.S.) (through the door) Laura? Are you okay? LAURA (covering the mouthpiece, to Ian) I am fine... (to Rob) I gotta go. Goodbye. She clicks the phone off. The door cracks and Ian sticks his head in. IAN Are you sure you're okay? She moves past him back into the apartment. LAURA Yeah, I'm fine. I'm off the phone. IAN You look upset. LAURA I'm upset, but I'm fine. IAN Maybe I should talk to him. LAURA Mmmm, no. Not a good idea. IAN Conflict resolution is my job, Laura. LAURA Nothing to resolve, Ian. Let's get a drink. She grabs her coat and opens the door. The phone begins to ring. LAURA (CONT'D) (waving toward the door) C'mon, c'mon. EXT. IAN'S APARTMENT Rob stands on the sidewalk in the rain, Ian's building behind him and down a few doors. ROB I wish I could be one of those guys who doesn't call, the kind of guy that gets broken up with and appears not to give a shit. He doesn't make an ass out of himself, or frighten anybody, and this week I've done both of those things. One day Laura's sorry and guilty, and the next she's scared and angry, and I'm entirely responsible for the transformation, and it doesn't do my case any good at all. I'd stop if I could but I -- His head turns at the sharp SOUND of a door opening -- Ian and Laura are coming out of the building. He jumps behind a tree, peering around it as they fade down the street. INT. GREEN MILL - NIGHT Rob sits alone, nursing a scotch. Rob looks up into the mirror behind the bar and sees an older woman, MRS. ASHWORTH, sitting alone a few stools down. ROB Do I know you? ALISON'S MOM I don't know. Rob remembers, and his gaze has a new found seriousness. ROB You're Mrs. Ashworth. I'm Rob. An old boyfriend of you're daughter's. Alison's Mom's brow furrows and her face darkens. ROB Alison's. ALISON'S MOM Really. ROB Long time ago. I was just thinking about her. I was her first boyfriend. ALISON'S MOM What did you say your name was? ROB Rob. Rob Gordon. Circa junior high... ALISON'S MOM I hate to quibble with you Rob, but she married her first boyfriend. Kevin Bannister. ROB You gotta be kidding me. ALISON'S MOM That's right. Kevin. She's Kevin Bannister. She lives in Australia. She doesn't seem to happy that Alison lives in Australia. Rob is thrilled. ROB Really? Married Kevin? Her junior high sweetheart... What chance would I have had against that? None, no chance. That's just fate. ALISON'S MOM I beg your pardon? ROB Technically, I'm number one. I went out with her a week before Kevin did. Her first boyfriend. Me. She stands. ALISON'S MOM Well Rob, I'll tell her you said hello. If she remembers you. Alison's Mom strolls out. ROB (calling after her) I think she will. But it's okay if she doesn't. I'm fine now. Rob turns to the bartender, smiling giddily. EXT. STREET - NIGHT Rob walks through Uptown toward the train. ROB And suddenly I am fine. For the moment there is not one extra pound on my chest. This is fate. Alison married Kevin. You get it? That's fate. That's got nothing to do with me, that is beyond my control, beyond my fault... CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob into camera, digging through a box, fishing through pictures and letters, concert tickets and other mementos. He begins to assemble a small pile of pictures of women. ROB I want to see the others on the Big Top Five. Penny, who wouldn't let me touch her and then went and had sex with that bastard Chris Thompson. Sarah, my partner in rejection who rejected me, and Charlie, who I have to thank for everything: my great job, my sexual self- confidence, the works. There's this Springsteen song, "Bobby Jean," off Born in the USA. About a girl who's left town years before and he's pissed off because he didn't know about it, and he wanted to say goodbye, tell her that he missed her, and wish her good luck. Well, I'd like my life to be like a Springsteen song. Just once. I know I'm not born to run, and it's clear that Halsted Street is nothing like Thunder Road, but feelings can't be that different, can they? I'd like to call up all those people and ask them how they are and whether they've forgiven me, and tell them that I have forgiven them. And say good luck, goodbye. No hard feelings. And then they'd feel good and I'd feel good. We'd all feel good. I'd feel clean, and calm, and ready to start again. That'd be good. Great even. CUT BACK TO: INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob holds an old crumpled address book in one hand and the phone in the other. ROB Penny Hardwick? This is Rob Gordon... From High school... Yeah. EXT. MOVIE THEATER - NIGHT Rob and Penny walk out of the theater mid-conversation. They look happy as they walk down the street. ROB (V.O.) Penny is as beautiful as she was in high school when I broke it off with her because she wouldn't sleep with me. In fact she's even more beautiful, and really grown into herself. INT. RESTAURANT - NIGHT A mid-scale trattoria. Rob and Penny sit at table laughing and talking. If we didn't know better we might think there is chemistry. ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) She tells me about her life, and I get it. And I tell about mine, and she's interested. CLOSE-UP -- ROB TALKING ROB (V.O.)(CONT'D) And then, with no real explanation, I just launch into it: I tell her about Laura and Ian, and Charlie and Marco, and about Alison Ashworth and Kevin Bannister... ROB ...and you wanted to sleep with Chris Thompson instead of me, and... and I thought you could help me understand why it keeps happening, why I'm doomed to be left, doomed to be rejected and... He slows to a stop. We see Penny as she goes from happy to livid. PENNY Rob. I was crazy about you. I wanted to sleep with you, one day, but not when I was sixteen. When you broke up with me -- when you broke up with me -- because I was, to use your charming expression, tight, I cried and cried and I hated you. And then that little shitbag asked me out, and I was too tired to fight him off, and it wasn't rape because I said okay, but it wasn't far off. And I didn't have sex with anyone else until after college because I hated it so much. And now you want to have a chat about rejection? Well, fuck you, Rob. Penny stands and leaves. Rob just sits. ROB (cheerful) So that's another one I don't have to worry about. I should have done this years ago. Rob indicates to an off-screen waiter. ROB Check... ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB Sarah's easy to find. She still sends me Christmas cards with her address and phone number on them. They never say anything else, except for "Merry Christmas, Love Sarah." I send her equally blank ones back. INT. APARTMENT BUILDING HALLWAY - NIGHT - ROB'S POV of a door opening, revealing Sarah, a few years older but still pretty in her mousey way. She looks at Rob with a bit too much in her eyes. INT. CARMEN'S PIZZA - NIGHT Rob and Sarah face each other over a half-eaten pizza. SARAH I can't believe I left you for him... Crazy. Sarah looks down at her plate, shaking her head, blushing. Rob looks uncomfortable. This is more than he was looking for. ROB Well... probably seemed like a good idea at the time. She looks up again... SARAH Probably. I can't remember why, though. ...and back down again. ROB (V.O.) I haven't got the heart for the rejection conversation. There are no hard feelings here, and I am glad that she ditched me, and not the other way around. INT./EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING HALLWAY - NIGHT Sarah, in the doorway, smiles painfully. It's clear she doesn't want to shut the door, but she does. Rob turns and walks down the hall toward the door to the street as he talks TO CAMERA. ROB I could've ended up having sex back there. And what better way to exorcize rejection demons than to screw the person who rejected you, right? But you wouldn't be sleeping with a person. You'd be sleeping with a whole sad single-person culture. It'd be like sleeping with Talia Shire in "Rocky" if you weren't Rocky. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT CLOSE-UP: PHONE BOOK as Rob's finger moves down the column, then stops. Rob looks up with a little shock, almost recoiling from the phone book. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB Charlie's in the fucking phone book. She has come to assume such an importance, I feel she should be living on Mars. She's an extraterrestrial, a ghost, a myth, not a person with an answering machine, in the phone book... I call and hang up on her voice mail a couple of times, then I leave my name and number and throw in a "long time-no-see..." I don't hear anything back from her for a few days. Now that's more like it, if you're talking about rejection: someone who won't even return your phone messages a decade after she rejected you. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob hears the door open as he stocks shelves, and turns. It's Ian. Rob reacts, gunfighter eyes. ROB Can I help you? IAN Hello, Rob. Remember me? I'm Ray. Ian. Rob says nothing. IAN I thought maybe we should talk. Sort a few things out? Rob is disoriented on the way to angry. Dick and Barry's ears perk up. ROB What needs sorting out? IAN Come on, Rob. My relationship with Laura has obviously disturbed you a great deal. ROB Funnily enough I haven't been too thrilled about it. IAN We are not talking jokey understatement here, Rob. We're talking actionable harassment. Ten phone calls a night, hanging around outside my house... ROB Yeah, well, I've stopped all that now. IAN We've noticed and we're glad. But, you know... how are we going to make peace here? We want to make things easier for you. What can we do? Obviously I know how special Laura is, and I know things can't be good for you at the moment. I'd hate it if I lost her. But I'd like to think that if she decided she didn't want to see me anymore, I'd respect that decision. Do you see what I'm saying? ROB Yeah. IAN Good. So shall we leave it at that then? ROB I dunno. IAN Think about it, Rob. CUT TO FANTASY #1: Rob looking sure of himself, righteous. IAN (CONT'D) Good. So shall we leave it at that then? ROB I've already left it, you pathetic rebound fuck! Now get your patchouli stink out of my store. Ian leaves, rattled. CUT TO FANTASY #2 Same thing. IAN Good. So shall we leave it at that then? ROB We won't leave it, Ian. Not ever. Rob springs toward Ian, but Barry blocks his way. Dick helps hold Rob back. DICK Don't do it, Rob! BARRY He's not worth it! Rob reaches a pointed finger over Barry's shoulder. ROB Leave town. Leave the country, you little bitch, because you're gonna look back on walks by the house and ten phone calls a night as a golden age. Get ready, mutherfucker. Ian trips backward and scurries out the door. CUT TO FANTASY #3 Rob, Dick, and Barry just beating the living shit out of Ian, Rodney King style. Ian lies on the floor trying to cover himself. Dick, already out of breath, breaks from the pack and jerks the air conditioner from the wall and hefts it over his head, preparing for the death blow. CUT BACK TO REALITY IAN So shall we leave it at that then? ROB I dunno. IAN Think about it, Rob. Ian walks out. Rob looks spent. He shuffles toward the back of the store. INT. RECORD STORE - BACK ROOM - DAY Rob is laying on his back, staring at the ceiling. Dick sticks his head in the door. DICK Phone, Rob. Somebody named Charlie. Rob pulls the phone into the bathroom and shuts the door. BATHROOM Rob curls up with the phone. ROB Hello? INT. CHARLIE'S HOUSE - INTERCUT Charlie looks even better than when we saw her in college. CHARLIE Rob, hi, so sorry I missed your call. In LA on business. You know how it gets. ROB Yeah, sure... CHARLIE Good. Great. Yeah... Wow. Rob Gordon. Seems like a 100 million years ago now. ROB Yeah. A billion. Right... How are you? CHARLIE Fantastic but I'm a little busy right now. Listen. Do you want to come to dinner Saturday? I'm having some friends over and I need a spare man. Are you a spare man? ROB Uh...yes, at the moment. CHARLIE Great. Gotta go. See you then. INT. CHARLIE'S DINING ROOM - SERIES OF SHOTS OVER THE COURSE OF DINNER A sexy version of a hip wine commercial: a small mid- thirties crowd of successful, beautiful people. Rob sits at the table silently as the other guests talk and eat. Rob's central activities are working his way through maybe a few too many wines making sure his cigarette smoke doesn't get in anyone's face. His eyes occasionally dart around the table, but he says nothing to anyone. CUT TO: INT. CHARLIE'S LIVING ROOM - LATER Rob is a little too settled into the couch, somewhat bleary. Everyone gone but the two of them, Charlie plops down into a chair across from Rob. ROB Hey Charlie. CHARLIE Hey Rob. ROB Why did you break up with me for Marco? CHARLIE (on her feet) Fuck! I knew it! You're going through one of those what-does-it- all-mean things. ROB Huh? CHARLIE There's been a rash of them, recently. I find it a little unnerving. In fact Marco called a few months back, and he wanted to see me, and rehash the past as they say, and I wasn't really up for it. Do all men go through this? ROB (CONT'D) C'mon, just answer the question. You can say what you like. What the hell? Charlie looks off at a corner of the ceiling, musters a look of "contemplation." CHARLIE It's all kind of lost in the... in the dense mists of time now... It wasn't that I really liked Marco more. In fact I thought you were more, shall we say, attractive than him. It was just that he knew he was good-looking and you didn't, and that made a difference somehow. You used to act as if I was weird for wanting to spend time with you, and that got kind of beat, if you know what I mean. Your self-image started to rub off on me and I ended up thinking that I was strange. And I knew that you were kind and thoughtful... you made me laugh, and I dug the way you got consumed by things you loved... and Marco seemed a bit more, I don't know, glamorous? More sure of himself? (pause) Less hard work, because I felt like I was dragging you around, sort of. (pause) A little sunnier. Sparkier. (pause) I don't know. You know what people are like at that age. They make very superficial judgements. Do you think that's superficial? He was a clown, if it's any consolation. ROB Did you tell that to Marco when he did his what-does-it-all-mean thing with you? CHARLIE Oh God, no. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB I wanted the works and I got it. None of Alison Ashworth's fate, none of Sarah's rewriting of history, and no reminder that I'd got all the rejection stuff a little backward, like I did about Penny. Just a perfectly clear explanation of why some people have it and some don't. All I've learned from Charlie is that maybe my one talent, my genius for being normal, is a little overrated. CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob enters the already open store, in a bad mood, to find Barry putting up a poster. It reads: "BARRYTOWN/appearing Saturday night/Bucktown Pub" BARRY Hey. ROB What the fuck is that? BARRY My band. ROB What band? BARRY The band that found me and asked me to join. ROB You are not in a band, Barry. You are not a musician. And no posters. BARRY Thanks for your support, Rob. Really appreciate it. ROB Barrytown. Barrytown? Is there no end to your arrogance? BARRY I didn't make up the name. It's the Steely Dan song. And it was in The Commitments. ROB You can't be called Barry and sing in a group called Barrytown. BARRY They were fucking called that before I was in it, okay? It wasn't my idea. ROB That's why you got the gig, isn't it? Barry says nothing. ROB (CONT'D) Isn't it? BARRY That was one of the reasons they asked me to join originally, yes. But -- ROB Great! That's fucking great! They only asked you to sing because of your name! You can stick it above the browser racks over there. BARRY How many tickets can I put you down for? ROB None. Christ! BARRY You're not even coming? ROB Of course I'm not coming. Do I look like I'd want to listen to some terrible experimental racket played in some hideous cave? Where is it? (looks at the poster) The fucking Bucktown Pub? Ha! BARRY So much for friends, then. You're a bitter bastard, Rob, you know that? ROB Bitter? Because I'm not in Barrytown? You should be shot like a lame horse, you jerk. (re: the poster) Just keep that out of my window. INT. ROB'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob opens the door to find Laura filling a duffel bag in the living room. LAURA I called and called but you were out. I thought I'd be gone before you got back. ROB Is that the last of it? LAURA Yep. I might have missed some stuff. I'm so used to some things being here that I don't even notice them. ROB Those look heavy. Where's Ian? LAURA He's at home. Listen, I can't believe he went to the store. I'm mortified, actually. I'm really sorry. He had no right to do that, and I told him so. ROB It was kind of funny. They smile. LAURA I'm sure. ROB You still together? Going all right? LAURA I don't really want to talk about it, to be honest. ROB That bad, eh? LAURA You know what I mean. Rob flops onto the couch and surveys the room. ROB It's a dump, isn't it? Laura sits down, on the other side of the couch. LAURA Fix it up. It'll make you feel better. ROB I'll bet you can't remember what you were doing here, can you? I mean, how much are you making now? Sixty? Seventy? And you were living in this shitty place. LAURA You know I didn't mind. And it's not as if Ray's place is any better. ROB I'm sorry, but can we get this straight? What is his fucking name, Ian or Ray? What do you call him? LAURA Ray. I hate Ian. ROB I hate him too. So I just call him "Mavis." Or "Sissyboy." Or "Mavis the Sissyboy." Laura starts laughing, laying on the couch on her back, very close to Rob. Rob leans in, sort of looking down into her eyes. ROB This is where you're supposed to say that you haven't laughed this much in ages, and then you see the error of your ways. LAURA You make me laugh much more than Ray does, if that's what you're getting at. But I already knew you could make me laugh. It's everything else I don't know about. ROB You know I'm a good person. LAURA Mmm hmm. ROB You know that I can cook my ass off when I feel like it. LAURA Oh ho, so very infrequently. He moves a little closer. ROB You know my favorite beverage is your bath water. She laughs. He moves in, not really trying to kiss her but leaving the door open for her... She almost goes for it, but instead gets to her feet. LAURA Time to go. She goes to her bags. Rob points to a pile of CDs. ROB Don't forget your CDs. LAURA Those aren't mine. ROB Sure they are. LAURA They're not really, though, are they? I know you bought them for me, and that was really sweet of you, but that was when you were trying to turn me into you. I can't take them, I know they'd just sit around staring at me, and I'd feel embarrassed by them and... they don't fit in with the rest of what's mine, do you understand? That Sting record you bought for me... that was a present for me. I like Sting and you hate him. But the rest of this stuff... (bending down to the pile) Who the hell is Nick Lowe? Or Gram Parsons? Or the Boredoms? I don't know these people. I... ROB Okay, okay. I get the picture. LAURA I'm sorry to go on about it. But, I don't know, there's a lesson here somewhere, and I want to make sure you get it. ROB I got it. You like Sting but you don't like Gram Parsons, because you've never heard of him. LAURA You're being deliberately obtuse. ROB I guess I am. LAURA Well, think about it. She hefts the duffel bag, opens the door and exits. ROB Fuck. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to the camera. ROB What's the point in thinking about it? If I ever have another relationship, I'll buy her, whoever she is, stuff that she oughta like but doesn't know about -- that's what new boyfriends are for. And hopefully I won't borrow money from her, or have an affair, and she won't need to have an abortion or run away with the neighborhood, and then there won't be anything to think about. Laura didn't run off with Ian because I bought her CDs she wasn't that keen on, and to pretend otherwise is just... just... psychowank. If she thinks that, then she's missing the Brazilian rainforest for the twigs. If I can't buy the Plastic People of the Universe's first album for new girlfriends, then I might as well give up, because I'm not sure I know how to do anything else. CUT TO: EXT. STREET - MORNING Rob walks toward the record store, and looks into a Starbuck's window he passes. He stops for a second, seeing Ian at the counter, chatting merrily with the espresso jockey. Rob keeps walking. INT. RECORD STORE - BACK ROOM - DAY Rob tosses his coat down and picks up the phone and dials... LAURA (O.S.) (muffled, almost a whisper) Hello. ROB Hey, how ya doin'? No answer. ROB (CONT'D) Guess who I just saw, right by my store? Ian. In Starbuck's. Neat, huh? LAURA (O.S.) I can't talk right now. ROB God, that's a cold and a half. Maybe you should bet back in bed. No response. ROB (CONT'D) Are you alright? LAURA (O.S.) Pigsty. ROB Don't worry about it. Just get into bed. Worry about that when you're better. LAURA (O.S.) Pig died. ROB Who the fuck's Pig? LAURA (O.S.) (louder) My dad died. My dad, my dad. She hangs up. FRONT ROOM Rob comes out of the back, in a daze. Dick and Barry notice. BARRY What's up? ROB Laura. Her dad died. BARRY Ooh. Drag. Barry goes back to his comic book and burrito. DICK I'm sorry, Rob, that's, it's -- ROB You're a horrible person, Barry. I mean it. Barry looks up at him, shrugs, then gets an idea. BARRY (CONT'D) Hey. Top five songs about death. A Laura's Dad Tribute list. Nobody can help thinking about it. BARRY (CONT'D) Okay, okay -- "Leader of the Pack." The guy fucking cracks up on a cycle and dies right? "Dead Man's Curve," Jan and Dean... DICK Did you know that after that song was recorded, Jan himself crashed his -- BARRY -- It was Dean, you fucking idiot. ROB It was Jan, and it was a long time after-- BARRY Whatever. Okay. "Tell Laura I Love Her." That'd bring the house down. Laura's mom could sing it. ROB Fuck off, Barry. BARRY I'd want "One Step Beyond" by Madness. And "You Can't Always Get What You Want." ROB Because it's in The Big Chill. BARRY Haven't seen it. ROB Liar. We saw it in the Lawrence Kasdan double-bill with Body Heat. BARRY Oh. Right. But I'd forgotten about that. I wasn't biting the idea. ROB Not really. The phone RINGS. Rob picks it up. ROB (CONT'D) Record Exchange. INTERCUT - IAN'S APARTMENT Laura is curled up on the couch. Dick and Barry keep listing. LAURA I'm sorry. ROB No, no. When are you going home? LAURA In a minute. When I get it together. BARRY (to Dick) What about Sabbath? Or Nirvana? They're into death. Rob tries to signal to them to shut up but they don't see him. He moves as far away as the cord will let me. ROB Can I do anything? DICK "Abraham, Martin, and John." That's a nice one. BARRY "Somebody's Gonna Die" by Blitz. "Bella Lugosi's Dead," Bauhaus. It's got that creepy Halloween feeling. LAURA No. No. Mom wants you to come to the funeral. It's on Friday. ROB Me? LAURA My dad liked you. And Mom never told him we'd split, because he wasn't up to it and... oh, I don't know. I don't really understand it. I think she thinks he'll be able to see what's going on. It's like... (small laugh) He's been through so much, what with dying and everything, that she doesn't want to upset him any more than she has to. ROB Do you want me to be there? LAURA I don't care. As long as you don't expect me to hold your hand. Rob is silent. LAURA (CONT'D) Look, are you coming or not? ROB Yes, of course. LAURA Liz'll give you a lift. She knows where to go and everything... I don't have time to talk, Rob. I've got too much to do. ROB Sure. I'll see you on Friday. She hangs up. BARRY (to the tune of "Candle In the Wind") "Goodbye Laura's dad/blah blah la di da di da/ (belting it out) Seems to me/you lived your life/like a dentist in the wind.../ Rob stomps toward Barry, who jumps over the counter to keep singing -- INT. LIZ'S CAR - DAY THUNDERCLAPS and RAIN. Rob is in a somber suit, looking through the windshield wipers as Liz drives. ROB So the minister says nice things, and then, what, we all troop outside and they bury him? LIZ It's a crematorium. ROB You're kidding. A crematorium? Jesus. LIZ What difference does it make? ROB Is Ray going? LIZ No. They don't know him. And Ken liked you. Rob, Ken didn't die for your benefit, you know. It's like everybody's a supporting actor in the film of your life story. ROB Isn't that how it is for everybody? INT. CHAPEL TWO Liz and Rob sit in the back of the dark, smallish nondenominational room. At the front is a coffin, resting on a stand. Laura, her younger sister JO, and her mother sit in the front row, listening to the MINISTER. MINISTER ...Now and forever, Amen. He nods "offstage," and a muffled mechanical noise is heard. The coffin begins to lower through a trap door beneath it. A low, baleful human HOWL is heard, starting quietly but gaining in volume. ROB (V.O.) I hear something in Laura's voice, but I know what it is, and at that moment I want to go to her and offer to become a different person, to remove all trace of what is me, as long as she will let me look after her and try to make her feel better... INT. CHAPEL PARLOR Rob stays back, watching mourners approach Laura and her mother, hugging them. After awhile, Laura sees Rob through the throng, hanging back. She breaks through and to him, holding him close for a long time... ROB (V.O.) ...And when she let's go of me, I feel I don't need to become a different person. It's happened already. INT. LAURA'S PARENTS' HOUSE - AFTERNOON A cozy old Victorian house, full of things -- furniture, paintings, ornaments, plants -- which don't go together but which have obviously been chosen with care and taste. Rob and Liz stand, drinking wine. Jo approaches them. LIZ (to Jo) How are you? JO I'm all right, I suppose. And Mom's not too bad. But Laura... I dunno. LIZ She's had a pretty rough few weeks already, without this. It's hard when you're putting all of your efforts into one part of your life and it doesn't work out. She glances at Rob, embarrassed. ROB (sincere) Don't mind me. No problem. Just pretend you're talking about somebody else. Jo smiles, Liz gives him a look. LIZ We are talking about somebody else. Laura. Laura and Ray, actually. Rob begins to turn red. Anger, sorrow, everything else building. ROB Enough, Liz. LIZ Enough of what? ROB (getting louder) I know I can't speak now because Laura's father died, and I just have to take it because otherwise I'm a bad guy, with the emphasis on guy, self-centered. Well, I'm fucking not, not all the time, anyway, I'm really sorry Jo. (lowering his voice) But you know, Liz... I can either stick up for myself or believe everything you say about me and end up hating myself. And maybe you think I should, but it's not much of a life, you know? LIZ Maybe I've been a little unfair. But is this really the time? ROB Only because it's never the time. I can't go on apologizing my whole life, you know? LIZ If by "we" you are referring to men, then I have to say that just the once would do. Rob looks around the room, beginning to hyperventilate and near tears. He sees Laura in a corner of the room surrounded by four or five mourners. He crosses to them and breaks through to her. ROB I'm sorry. He breaks away from her and slips out the front door. EXT. SUBURBAN STREET - AFTERNOON So darkened by weather that it is almost night, raining torrents and big sheets. Rob emerges from the front door of Laura's parents' house and begins walking down the street, hands thrust into his pockets. The rain almost immediately soaks him. EXT. ANOTHER STREET In the distance, Rob runs toward us. As he gets to us we move with him down the street. He is drenched. We hear the rain, and his ragged breath. Headlights appear behind him and backlight him, getting brighter as the sound of an engine gets louder. Rob takes a look over his shoulder, looks desperately left and right, and vaults himself over a small brick wall and into a flower bed, landing on his back in the black wet earth. The big drops of rain splash mud on his face, and he burrows deeper into the dirt and flowers with his back, panting and staring up at the sky. Off-camera the car engine catches up, and a door opens and shuts. He sighs and shuts his eyes... He opens his eyes again, to see Laura's face, wet as well, staring down at him. It is difficult to distinguish rain from tears. LAURA Are you going to lie in that flower bed all night? ROB Uh... No. But Rob keeps lying there. Laura pulls herself to a sitting position on the wall just above him. LAURA You're soaking. ROB Mmnn. LAURA You're also an idiot. Rob pulls his muddy self to his feet and sits on the wall next to her. ROB I can see why you say that. Look, I'm sorry. I really am. The last thing I wanted was... that's why I left, because... I lost it, and I didn't want to blow my top in there, and... look, the reason I fucked everything up was because I was scared. I just wanted you to know, that's all. LAURA Thank you. I appreciate it. I can't reciprocate. ROB What do you mean? LAURA I didn't mess things up because I was scared. I slept with Ray because I was sick of you. And I needed something to snap me out of it. ROB Sure, I understand. Look, I don't want to take up any more of your time. You get back, and I'll wait here for a bus. LAURA I don't want to go back. ROB What do you want to do? LAURA C'mon. They swing their legs over the wall and walk to Laura's VW. INT. LAURA'S CAR - NIGHT They drive sort of aimlessly through Laura's old neighborhood. Laura sees something on her left, and makes a sudden turn up a narrow road through some overgrown trees. They come to a stop in a formerly paved clearing, looking out on a field with an old abandoned school on the other side. Laura shuts down the engine. ROB When are you going back? LAURA I don't know. Sometime. Later. Listen, Rob, would you have sex with me? ROB What? LAURA I want to feel something else than this. It's either that or I go home and put my hand in the fire. Unless you want to stub cigarettes out on my arm. ROB I've only got a couple left. I'm saving them for later. LAURA It'll have to be sex, then. She pulls herself over him, staddling him in the passenger seat and kissing his neck. She pauses and regards him from above. LAURA Hello. It doesn't seem so long ago that I looked at you from here. ROB Hi. LAURA I knew there was a reason I wore a skirt today. Laura reaches down and unzips his pants, as they keep kissing. ROB You know, with Ray... LAURA Oh, Rob, we're not going to go through that again. ROB No, no. It's not... are you still on the pill? LAURA Yes, of course. There's nothing to worry about. ROB I didn't mean that. I mean... was that all you used? Laura looks at him, motionless, then begins to cry. ROB (CONT'D) Look, we can do other things. LAURA I lived with you. You were my partner just a few weeks ago and now you're worried I might kill you, and you're entitled to worry. Isn't that a terrible thing? Isn't that sad? She rolls off of him into her seat. They sit there in silence, watching the rain run down the windshield. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB Later, I wonder if I was really worried about where Ian has been. I have no idea where he's been, and that gives me every right to insist on protection. But in truth, it was the power that interested me more than the fear. I wanted to hurt her, on this day of all days, just because it's the first time since she's left that I've been able to. INT. BAR - LATER Rob and Laura lean back in a booth, facing each other. We get that feeling that not another word has been spoken since we last saw them. ROB Laura... LAURA I'm too tired not to go out with you. Rob leans forward. ROB So if you had a bit more energy we'd stay split. But things being how they are, what with you wiped out, you'd like us to get back together. LAURA (nodding) Everything's too hard. Maybe another time I would have the guts to be on my own, but not now I don't. ROB What about Ian? LAURA Ray's a disaster. I don't know what that was all about, except that sometimes you need someone to lob into the middle of a bad relationship like a hand grenade, I guess, and blow it all apart. ROB Mission accomplished. LAURA I know it's not very romantic, but there will be romance again at some stage, I'm sure. I just... I need you, Rob. That's it. And we know each other and we care for each other, and you've made it clear that you want me back, so... She looks up at him. LAURA (CONT'D) Let's go home. Okay? ROB Okay. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB But wouldn't you know it? Suddenly I feel panicky, and sick, and I want to run around and sleep with female recording artists... CUT TO: INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT - MORNING Post-lovemaking. Rob and Laura lie on their backs. ROB C'mon. I want to know. LAURA Want to know what, exactly? ROB What it was like. LAURA It was like sex. What else could it be like? ROB Was it like good sex or was it like bad sex? LAURA What's the difference? ROB You know the difference. LAURA Look, we're okay now. We just had a nice time. Let's leave it at that. ROB Okay, that's cool, okay. But the nice time we just had... was it nicer, as nice, or less nice than the nice times you were having a couple of weeks ago? Laura is silent. ROB (CONT'D) Oh, c'mon, Laura. Just say something. Lie, if you want. It'd stop me asking you questions and it'd make me feel better. LAURA Well I was gonna lie and now I can't, because you'd know I was lying. ROB Well why the fuck would you want to lie, anyway? LAURA To make you feel better. ROB Oh, great... Rob begins to get out of bed. She grabs his hand and pulls him back down. LAURA Look, Rob. If great sex was an important as you think it is, and if I was having great sex with him, then we wouldn't be lying here now. And that is my last word on the subject, okay? ROB Okay. She pulls him close and they lie there, the matter seemingly settled. LAURA I wish your penis was as big as his, though. He turns slowly to her. A giggle from her turns into a laugh, then a howl, a roar -- EXT. LAKEFRONT - TWILIGHT Rob and Laura walk the cement breakfront. LAURA ... Like Mexico. Or Jamaica. Or New York, even. ROB Hey, great idea. What I'll do is, tomorrow I'll get a hold of a box full of mint Elvis Presley 78s on the Sub label, and I'll pay for it that way. LAURA I'll pay for you. Even though you owe me money. We have to do something with the money I earn. I need to. I deserve it. You can just think of it as winning the lottery. ROB Fantastic. The Girlfriend Lottery. LAURA Money does not matter. I do not care how much you earn. I'd just like you to be a little happier in your work, but beyond that you can do what you like. ROB But it wasn't supposed to be like this. When I met you we were the same people and now we're not, and... LAURA How? How were we the same people? ROB Well, you were the kind of person who came to the Artful Dodger and I was the kind of person who deejayed at the Artful Dodger. You wore jeans and T-shirts, and so did I. And I still do, and you don't. LAURA Because I'm not allowed to. I still do, after work. So, what? Should we just break up? Is that what you're saying? Because if you are, I'm going to run out of patience. ROB No, but... LAURA But what? ROB But why doesn't it matter that we're not the same people we used to be? LAURA You haven't changed so much as a pair of socks in the years I've known you. If we've grown apart, then I'm the one who's done the growing, and all I've done is change jobs. ROB And hairstyles and clothes and attitude and friends and... LAURA I can't go to work with my hair dyed pink. And I can afford to go shopping more now, and I've met a couple people I like over the last year or so. ROB You're tougher. LAURA More confident, maybe. ROB Harder. LAURA Less neurotic. Are you intending to stay the same for the rest of your life? ROB I'm alright. LAURA Yeah, you're alright. But you're certainly not happy. So what happens if you get happy? And yes I know that's the title of an Elvis Costello album, I use the reference deliberately to catch your attention. Should we split up because I'm used to you being miserable? What happens if you, I don't know, start you're own record label, and it's a success? Time for a new girlfriend? ROB You're being stupid. LAURA How? What would be the difference between you having a record label and me going from legal aid to private practice? Rob is silent. LAURA All I'm saying is, you have to allow for things to happen to people, most of all to yourself. Otherwise, what's the use? ROB No use. INT./EXT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob comes out of the stock room and walks toward the counter where Dick and Barry stare at the tape deck like two concerned doctors, listening to a song that is raw and moody and lyrical -- Minor Threat meets Brian Eno, if that's possible. Rob joins them in contemplation. ROB What is this. DICK It's Vince and Justin. ROB Who's that? BARRY The little skate-fuckers. ROB No way. BARRY Yes way. It's really... Rob and Dick look at him, ready to pounce -- BARRY (CONT'D) (pained to say it) It's really fucking good. Dick and Barry look to Rob, who continues to just listen... He takes a deep breath and walks to the front door and out, seemingly with a mission. Vince and Justin are doing noisy skate tricks against the curb across the street. When they see Rob they stop, get ready to flee. He walks across to them. Dick comes out and hovers in the background. ROB Your tape. It's good. They mumble thanks. ROB (CONT'D) It's rough. But it shows promise. We record a couple of songs right, in a studio. I'll take care of the rest. I'll put out your record. Any profits after recouping expenses get split down the middle, between us and you guys. VINCE Wait a minute. Island Records charged U2 a million five against their overhead for one plane ride. ROB We're not there yet, Justin. VINCE I'm Vince. ROB Whatever. He begins to move toward the store. Vince and Justin look at each other. Rob gets to the door but stops and turns. ROB (CONT'D) Hey. What's the name of your band? JUSTIN The Kinky Wizards. ROB What? VINCE We saw this ad in the personals for two swingers lookin' for a Renaissance fair. ROB Nice. VINCE What's the name of your label? Rob looks at them. Then at Dick. Then through the window at Barry, inside looking out. Then at his own reflection in the window. Then back at them. ROB Broken Records. Welcome aboard. Rob walks back inside. He seems to be shaking a little. BARRY What the fuck is that? ROB What? BARRY I heard you, man. Don't give me that "what" shit. You just told them that you're gonna put out a record with them. ROB So? You even said they're good. BARRY HELLO. DO YOU SEE ANYONE ELSE around here with a band, Mr. Branson? Mr. Phil Spector? Rob waves him off and disappears into the stock room. Laura enters. LAURA Hey, Barry. BARRY Oh, hi. LAURA Where's Rob? BARRY The Malcolm McClaren of Clark Street is in his executive suite. Do you have an appointment? LAURA What are you talking about? BARRY Just that Rob seems to think it would be wiser to start a record label by putting out a record with business-crippling Nazi Youth shoplifters than with someone he knows in his bitter jealous heart is a musical visionary. That's all. Laura puts it together, and smiles. She goes to the back and crack the door, finding Rob sitting on a box, thinking. ROB Hi. LAURA Hi. What are you doing? ROB Nothing. LAURA Wanna go to dinner? ROB Where? LAURA At Paul and Miranda's. Paul from work. ROB Oh. Well. We don't really get along. Paul and I. LAURA I know. But you've never met. It just seems like a stone unturned in your relationship with him. ROB Ha. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB We're at a point where I can't really walk away from gauntlets she might throw down, and so I go. And wouldn't you know it, I sort of fall in love with Paul and Miranda -- with what they have, and the way they treat each other, and the way they make me feel as if I'm the new center of their world. I think they're great, and I want to see them twice a week, every week, for the rest of my life. Only right at the end of the evening do I realize I've been set up. INT. PAUL AND MIRANDA'S LIVING ROOM - LATER After dinner. Rob ambles in from the dining room. Laura close behind. He looks through the bookshelves until he finds a meager little grouping of CDs. He moves up to them and scans the titles: Tina Turner. Billy Joel. Kate Bush. Pink Floyd. Simply Red. The Beatles. The Windham Hill Sampler... PAUL Lame, right? Rob turns around to see PAUL behind him. ROB Oh, I don't know. The Beatles are okay. Paul laughs. PAUL We're kinda out of date. ROB Hey, to each his own, I say. PAUL Maybe we can come by your store and you can hook us up. ROB Sure, sure. Any time. LAURA Better hurry, though, Paul. Rob started a record label, so he's gonna be in the shop less and less. Rob looks at her. CUT TO: INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT - NIGHT as they come in the door. LAURA ..."To each his own!" Unbelievable! You! Rob Gordon said that. You even sounded like you meant it. They throw their jackets over a chair. Rob turns on the CD player and "Call Me A Liar" by Palace begins to play. ROB (smiling) You did that deliberately. You knew all along I'd like them. It was a trick. LAURA I tricked you into meeting some people you'd think were great. I thought it would be fun to introduce you to someone with a Tina Turner album and then see whether you still felt the same way. She moves to Rob and wraps her arms around him. They look deeply at each other. She breaks away from him and walks into the bedroom. He turns off the stereo and follows her. EXT. CLARK STREET - MORNING Rob walks to work, drinking his coffee. He stops and backs up a few feet, and stares at a poster on a plywood board-up. "'I SOLD MY MOM'S WHEELCHAIR'/the debut single from The Kinky Wizards/on Broken Records/Record release party July 20 at The Artful Dodger/Featuring the triumphant return of DJ ROB GORDON/"Dance Music For Old People" Rob scowls, and storms off. INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT - NIGHT Rob paces, Laura sits on the couch, smiling. LAURA I called Dan Koretzky because he -- ROB Has Drag City Records, I know, I know. You told Dan Koretzky about this? LAURA Yeah, and he said it's a good way to break out a record. Especially for what he said, and I quote, "would be a highly anticipated event, locally." He helped me put out a press release. ROB WHAT? LAURA Just local, of course. ROB And the "triumphant return of DJ Rob Gordon?" "Triumphant?" "Return?" LAURA I had that idea when I was living with Ian and it was such a good idea that I was annoyed we weren't together anymore. It might even be why I came back. ROB You had no right. Supposing I was doing something that couldn't be cancelled? LAURA What do you ever do that can't be cancelled? ROB That's not the point. I mean, what if the single isn't done in time? LAURA Barry said its done. ROB Barry? Barry knows about this? LAURA Yeah. His band is playing a set. Rob wheels on her. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob and Barry. ROB Like fuck you are. BARRY Laura said we could. If we helped out with the posters and stuff. And we did. And we are. ROB I'll give you 10% of the door if you don't play. BARRY We're getting that anyway. ROB What is she doing? Okay, 20%. BARRY No. We need the gig. ROB 110%. That's my final offer. I'm not kidding. That's how much it means to me not to hear you play. BARRY We're not as bad as you think, Rob. ROB You couldn't be. Look, Barry. There's going to be people from Laura's work there, people who own dogs and babies and Tina Turner albums. How are you going to cope with them? BARRY We're not called Barrytown anymore, by the by. They got sick of the Barry/Barrytown thing. We're called SDM. Sonic Death Monkey. ROB Sonic Death Monkey. BARRY What do you think? Dick likes it. ROB Barry, you're over thirty years old. You owe it to yourself and your friends and to your parents not to sing in a group called Sonic Death Monkey. BARRY I owe it to myself to go right to the edge, Rob, and this group does exactly that. Over the edge, in fact. ROB You'll be going over the fucking edge if you come anywhere near me next Friday night. BARRY That's what we want. Reaction. And if Laura's bourgeois lawyer friends can't take it, then fuck 'em. Let 'em riot, we can handle it. We'll be ready. Barry wanders off laughing. CUT TO: INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT - DAY Rob and Laura. LAURA They'll go on early. Nobody will even be there yet and I told them they can't play for more than a half hour. ROB It's no joke. I'm responsible for what happens, you know. Embarrassment aside, there's a lot of money and effort in this, at least by my standards. I have to put down a deposit for the room. I have to pay the pressing plant for the records, sleeve them, sticker them -- LAURA We took care of that. Rob's brow furrows. LAURA (CONT'D) Barry and Dick and me. Look in the bedroom. Rob goes to the bedroom door and opens it. It's sort of like Christmas: hundreds of Kinky Wizards CD singles, painstakingly packaged and stacked on the bed. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB I suddenly feel choked up. It's not the money, it's the way she's thought of everything: one morning I woke up to find her going through my records, pulling out things that she remembered me playing when I deejayed and putting them into the little carrying cases that I used to use and put away in a closet somewhere years ago. She knew I needed a kick in the ass. She also knew how happy I was when I used to deejay. From which every angle I examine it, it still looks as though she's done all of this because she loves me. CUT BACK TO: INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT Rob turns from the bedroom and goes to Laura, putting his arms around her. ROB I'm sorry I've been acting like a jerk. I do appreciate what you've done for me, and I know you've done it for the best possible reasons, and I do love you, even though I act like I don't. LAURA That's okay. You seem pissed off all the time, though. ROB I know. I don't get it. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB But if I had to take a wild guess, I'd say that I'm pissed because I know I'm stuck with Laura, bound to her, and I don't like it. That dreamy anticipation you have when you're fifteen or twenty or thirty even, that the most perfect person in the world might walk into your store or office or friend's party at any moment... That's all gone, I think, and that's enough to piss anybody off. Laura is who I am now, and it's no good pretending otherwise... CUT TO: INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob is standing shelves. A very pretty young woman, CAROLINE, comes through the door and looks around. She sees Rob. CAROLINE Excuse me? Rob looks up and takes her in like a dish in a window. ROB May I help you? CAROLINE I'm looking for Deejay Rob Gordon. ROB Uh. That's me. CAROLINE I'm Caroline Fortis from The Reader. I want to do a story on you. ROB Right. Why? CAROLINE Well, I used to go to the Dodger on your nights, and I saw you're doing it again and that your putting out a record, and it's sort of a then- and-now story against the backdrop of the Chicago music scene with the emphasis on now. ROB Oh. Okay. CAROLINE I thought I would ask you a few questions if that's okay. ROB Huh. You used to come to the club? I shouldn't have let you in. You must have only been about sixteen. Rob realizes what he must be sounding like. He blushes and retreats. ROB What I mean is, I didn't mean you look young. You don't. You don't look old either. You look just as old as you are. A bit younger maybe, but not a lot. Not much. Just right. CAROLINE So. Is now a good time? Rob looks around: there is absolutely nothing going on in the store. He nods. She pulls out a pad and pencil. CAROLINE Right. So. You must have an enormous record collection. ROB Yeah. I could show it to you if you want to come over and see it. He winces immediately. CAROLINE Yeah, well... Let's see... What are you're all-time top five records? ROB Pardon me? CAROLINE Your desert island top-five. ROB Oh boy... In the club, or at home? CAROLINE Is there a difference? ROB (a little too shrill) OF COURSE... Well yeah, a bit. "Sin City" by the Flying Burrito Brothers is an all-time top five, but I wouldn't play it at the club. It's a country-rock ballad. Everybody'd go home. CAROLINE Nevermind. Any five. So four more. ROB What do you mean, four more? CAROLINE Well if one of them is this "Sin City" thing -- ROB Can I go home and work this out and let you know? In a week or so? CAROLINE Look if you can't think of anything, it doesn't matter. I'll do one. My five favorite from the old days at the Dodger. Rob is aghast, humiliated, quietly outraged. ROB Oh, I'm sure I can manage something... "Sin City." "New Rose," by The Damned. "Hit It and Quit It" by Funkadelic. "Shipbuilding," Elvis Costello, Japanese import, no horns, or different horns, anyway... um... "Mystery Train" by Elvis Presley... And... "Spaced Cowboy" by Sly and the Family Stone. A bit controversial, I know, but... CAROLINE Fine. That's great. ROB Is that it? CAROLINE Well, I wouldn't mind a quick chat, if you got the time. ROB Sure, but is that it for the list? CAROLINE That's five. So. Why did you decide to deejay again? ROB Well it was a friend's idea, really, and the record release party seemed like a good place to do it. So... (looking over her pad at the list) I should really put a James Brown in there -- CAROLINE Nice friend. ROB Yeah. CAROLINE What's his name? ROB Who? Oh. My friend. My friend is Laura. A girl. A friend who's a girl. CAROLINE "Music for Old People." What does that mean? ROB Look, I'm sorry about this, but I'd like "the Upsetter" by Lee "Scratch" Perry, in there. Instead of "Sin City." She scribbles and writes. CAROLINE Okay. "Dance Music For Old People?" ROB Oh, you know... a lot of people aren't too old for clubs but they're too old for acid jazz and garage and ambient and all that. They want to hear old funk and Stax and New Wave and Old School Hip Hop and some new stuff all together and there's nowhere for them. CAROLINE And the new label? And the Kinky Wizards? ROB Oh, well, the Kinky Wizards are -- you know what? Why don't I just make you a tape? CAROLINE Would you? Really? Wow. I could have deejay Rob Gordon play in my own home. ROB Haha. Right. It's no problem. I love making tapes. CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to hold the attention. Then you have to take it up a notch, but not blow your wad, so maybe cool it off a notch, and you can't put the same artist twice on the tape, except if some subtle point or lesson or theme involved, and even then not the two of them in a row, and you can't woo somebody with Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and then bash their head off with something like GBH's "City Baby Attacked by Rats," and... oh, there are a lot of rules. Anyway, I worked hard at this one. INT. ROB AND LAURA'S APARTMENT - DAY Rob sits Indian-style on the floor in front of the stereo. He has a pad of paper with scrawled titles and cross-outs, and is surrounded by piles of CDs and records. LAURA Who's that for? Rob winces, turns. He's busted. ROB This? Oh, just that woman who interviewed me for The Reader. Carol? Caroline? Something like that. Laura turns and walks out of the room. INT. RECORD STORE - DAY Rob is tucked into the corner, on the phone. ROB Hi, Caroline... Oh, it's Rob. Yeah, listen, I have a new list for you and -- Oh. Yes. Of course... Well maybe next week they could print a, uh, retraction. Or a correction. Because the list I have now it really much more -- right. Okay. Anyway, I have your tape. That's right. Shall I mail it to you? Or... would you like to have a drink? CUT TO: ROB IN HIS CHAIR Rob to camera. ROB How are you not going to fall for someone who wants to interview you? Now Caroline is all I can think about. And in the daydreams I imagine every detail, the entire story of our future relationship, until suddenly I realize that there's nothing left to actually, like, happen. I've done it all, lived through it all in my head. I know the whole plot, the ending, and the good parts. Now I'd have to watch it all over again in real time, and where's the fun in that? And fucking--when is it all going to stop? Am I going to jump from rock to rock for the rest of my life until there aren't any rocks left? Am I going to bolt every time I get itchy feet? Because I get them about once a quarter, along with the store's tax bill. I've been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old and, frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains. You know what's wrong with Laura, what my problem is? What's wrong with Laura is that I'll never see her for the first or second or third time. That's all. Fuck it. I'll probably mail the tape. Probably. CUT TO: INT. NORTH SIDE TAVERN - DAY Rob sits at a table in the bar, nervous. He watches the door, sits up straight when it opens, and follows someone with his eyes, all the way to his table. She sits. It's Laura. LAURA A drinking lunch on a school day. What a nice surprise. Rob says nothing. LAURA (CONT'D) Are you worried about tomorrow night? ROB Not really. He plays with his drink. LAURA Are you going to talk to me, or shall I get my paper out? ROB I'm going to talk to you. LAURA Right. He plays with his drink some more. LAURA (CONT'D) What are you going to talk to me about? ROB I'm going to talk to you about whether you want to get married or not. To me. LAURA Ha ha ha. Hoo hoo hoo. ROB I mean it. LAURA I know. ROB Oh, well thanks a fucking bunch. LAURA I'm sorry. But two days ago you were in love with that girl who interviewed you for The Reader, weren't you? ROB Not in love, exactly, but... LAURA Well forgive me if I don't think of you as the world's safest bet. ROB Would you marry me if I was? LAURA No. Probably not. ROB Right. Okay, then. Shall we go? LAURA Don't sulk. What brought all this on? ROB I don't know. LAURA Very persuasive. ROB Are you persuadable? LAURA No. I don't think so. I'm just curious about how one goes from making tapes for one person to marriage proposals to another in two days. Fair enough? ROB Fair enough. LAURA So? ROB I'm just sick of thinking about it all the time. LAURA About what? ROB This stuff. Love and marriage. I want to think about something else. LAURA I've changed my mind. That's the most romantic thing I've ever heard. I do. I will. ROB Shut up. I'm only trying to explain. LAURA I mean, maybe you're right. But were you really expecting me to say yes? ROB I dunno. Didn't think about it, really. It was the asking that was the important thing. LAURA Well, you've asked. She leans over and takes his hands in hers, smiles at him. LAURA (CONT'D) Thank you. INT. ARTFUL DODGER - NIGHT TWO TURNTABLES with the mixer in the middle. "Just Begun" by Jimmy Castor spins on turntable #1. A hand reaches in, and begins to draw the slides down, quieting the music. Rob looks up from behind the deejay table, set up amongst the instruments. The place is packed with people, and everyone seems to be having a great time. Almost everyone -- Rob sees Barry, who pretends to nod off when Rob catches his eye, and Justin, who looks back at him and mocks a bulimic act. Rob gives him the finger. He sees Laura, and she beams at him. He comes to the front of the stage, and taps a microphone. ROB Uh, thanks for uh, coming out tonight. I hope you have a good time. And I hope you like the record. The one by the Kinky Wizards. The record that we're having this record release party for. (hoots from the crowd) Thanks. Listen to it first, though. (laughs) Okay. We'll get to that later. Right now, I'd like to introduce... (mumbles) Sonic Death Monkey. Good-natured applause. Rob steps down and bee-lines to Laura. Barry and his crew mount the stage. Rob takes a big gulp of beer. ROB (CONT'D) (to Laura) I'm an idiot. I should have played the record first. This place is about to get burned down. LAURA It's gonna be fine. These people are ready for anything. BARRY (dubious) Yeah, well... Barry stands in front of the mic, surveying the crowd with a smile. He and the band all wear suits and ties. BARRY (CONT'D) Thanks for the enthusiastic intro, Rob. We're not called Sonic Death Monkey anymore, though, ladies and gentlemen. We might be on the verge of becoming the Atavistics, but we haven't decided yet. But tonight, we are... BARRY JIVE AND THE UPTOWN FIVE! ONE TWO THREE -- And they launch into Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up," almost flawlessly faithful to the original. Barry is transformed -- shuffling footwork, a wide smile, and when the intro winds up, an almost perfect falsetto. The crowd goes nuts, filling the floor. Rob is stunned, begins to smile. Laura takes his hand and leads him out into the crowd... THE END.