The Death of Reality TV (Story #33)

Matthew loved life. There were some hiccups early on, but as soon as his parents made enough money to buy him his film crew, things really couldn’t have gone better. Gabe, Masa, and Michael, his producer, director and DP respectively were amazing at what they did. They always seemed to catch Matthew at his best. They knew where to turn the cameras for best effect, when to angle the lighting to make Matthew seem like the good- looking hero he considered himself to be.

Of course, it was Mohammad, Matthew’s life-editor, who was most responsible for how Matthew’s story turned out day-to-day. No matter how good his crew was, there were always those times when the medium of film was just a little too honest for Matthew’s taste.  That’s when Mohammad had to do his magic.  Even when Matthew was distant with his kids or a bit selfish with Sharon, his first wife, he knew he could count on Mohammad to look for the best takes, and if no good takes existed on any given day, then Matthew knew Mohammad would splice in other scenes from his life when he wasn’t the bad guy.

So Matthew lived out his days with his crew at his side, happy and at peace until the day that it became clear that an ending was necessary. Mohammad, ever the editor, had been asking Matthew for years how he wanted to end his story—“just give me an idea, so I can start arcing the narrative in that direction,” Mohammad said countless times, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.  Matthew didn’t want to think of endings. He wanted everything to be open-ended. He’d always made Masa shoot him that way.  When, years before, Matthew’s first wife left him and asked for a divorce—a pretty final moment if there ever was one—Matthew made Masa cut all the footage he’d ever shot with Sharon and replace it with footage of Sarah, a smiling blond who liked the idea of being with someone who was rich enough to have his own life-crew. When Mohammad asked about the change-up, Matthew said that it was like an episode of Law & Order–his wives being like one of the ADA’s. “They come and go.  Who cares as long as someone is there to fill the position?”  The same was true of Matthew’s parents. When his mom died, Matthew had Mohammad cut the funeral stuff out and replace it with some footage showing Matthew at a séance speaking into a smoky mirror as if it were his mother. There were to be no endings in Matthew’s life-movie until, unfortunately, there had to be.

“Six months,” is what Dr. Song gave him—“give or take a few days,” the doctor said looking into the camera, all soap opera dramatic. Matthew turned on Michael and asked him leave, but Dr. Song told Matthew there was no way around this and that he should use the footage to set up a strong final scene. “You’ve lived an interesting life, so far,” Dr. Song said looking right into the camera.  “Why not end things in the same way?”

For his part, Matthew put on a brave face, but by the time he got home, he was contemplating suicide. In the end, he decided suicide was too sad a way to end his otherwise happy life, though. He thought he could let his disease take its course.  That was pretty tragic, too, and it sounded painful to boot.  But it was an honest, and honesty, Matthew thought, was good—at least he thought this until Michael pointed out that honesty didn’t always film well.

There had to be another way, Matthew told himself. An honest way but with drama mixed in, and it had to be something that didn’t take too much effort. After only a month of getting the news from Dr. Song, Matthew was already feeling light-headed, and then there was the nausea and the pot that helped him get through the nausea, all of which didn’t make an action-filled ending very believable.

Matthew spent the next month having meetings with his crew and having Masa draw up storyboard after storyboard, but nothing was right.  By the end of month two, Matthew couldn’t believe that he’d wasted so much time trying to build up to a final act worthy of his life story with nothing to show for it.

If this had happened earlier in Matthew’s life, he would’ve yelled, thrown fits and things. But the impending ending of his life-movie made Matthew softer, more generous.  In fact, by month three, he started thanking his crew publicly, which he’d never done before.

By month four, in moments of clarity between the hours of fevered hallucinations, he asked Michael’s camera how his crew had managed to live with him all that time? How did they manage to keep up the quality after all those years? Why didn’t they have their own crews?

On moth five, in quiet, well-lit moments, Matthew asked his crew about themselves, about their families and whether or not they were missed at home since they were always with him, always filming him. He realized it must have been difficult. His crew must have sacrificed so much. How was it, Matthew asked, that he’d never realized that before?

During his last month, he kept asking himself and the camera if he was a good man, and most times, waited to see if there was an answer. He kept repeating this question until he couldn’t.

The crew assumed the movie would end there, but then a twist to the plot occurred.  After hours of shivering silence, Matthew asked the camera and his still-smiling wife a different question: “Did you get the popcorn? Well did you,” he asked. And with that, Matthew’s life-movie was finally over.

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Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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