My Unscripted Life(7)

By: Lauren Morrill

“Welcome to props,” Ruth says. Her voice is completely matter-of-fact, even as she sweeps her hand across the rows of shelving like a sarcastic game-show hostess. Then she shuffles over to the work table and pulls a stack of papers from the top, thrusting them at me. “Prop lists for our first on-location shoot. Pull everything listed here and pack it in boxes. Carefully.” She gives me the evil eye, and it’s more than enough to make sure I handle everything on the list with all the delicacy of a curator at the Louvre. Before I can ask where to find boxes or if there are any other instructions, she mutters something into her headset, rolls her eyes, and disappears out the door.

After two hours of pulling glassware from shelves and packing it into big plastic trays, the kind you find in restaurants and catering trucks, I’m starting to get the hang of Ruth’s intricate system. I’ve been able to glean some of the finer details from her when she makes quick appearances in the prop room. I usually have time to get one question in, maybe two, before she starts muttering into her headset and disappears out the door again. But even without too much assistance, I’m starting to understand it, or at least fall into the flow.

Her inventories are all coded by scene and character. Everything I’m packing is marked “BG,” which I find out means “background,” which is what they call extras. The scenes are marked with roman numerals—we’re shooting the first two scenes next week—and they both take place in some kind of space where drinks will be served, though I’ve been given no details about the actual scene itself. It’s only my first day, but already production feels like putting together a thousand-piece puzzle when you’re only given just ten pieces at a time.

“Don’t forget the juice,” she says, pointing to a case of sparkling apple and grape juice bottles. At first I wonder if this is going to be a scene set in a kindergarten, but after a few minutes of staring at the amber colors of the juice and the various bar glasses, I realize that the liquids will be standing in for alcohol. See? I’m starting to get the hang of this props business.

As I resume stacking pint glasses into the racks, I try to imagine them in the scene, but I don’t even really know what the movie is about. I kind of thought my first day would be spent reading the script, but as I watch people dash around, their arms full of papers, cell phones and headsets glued to their ears, I realize how stupid that was. There’s no time for anything quite so leisurely as reading. And I definitely can’t ask Ruth. I’m pretty sure all I’d get is one giant eye roll. I guess I’ll figure it out once we start shooting next week. Or maybe I won’t figure it out until I see the thing in the theater. Or at the premiere. Do the interns get to go to the premiere? Probably not.

As soon as I fill a rack, I heft it, careful to lift with my knees (as Ruth barked at me during one of her lightning-fast appearances), and move it onto the top of a finished stack. I’m trying to keep the rattling of glass to a minimum. I don’t want to know what the punishment is for breaking something, but I’m sure it can’t be good.

The room has been mostly quiet. I’m tempted to pull out my phone, but I’m terrified someone will think I’m snapping a picture and have security toss me out into the parking lot. Ruth’s the only person who’s been in here with me, and that’s only sporadically. Otherwise it’s just me and the props. It’s only been two hours, but already I feel at home here. Which is how I can tell immediately when someone new has entered. Maybe it’s the lack of exasperated muttering or the fact that the echo of the new person’s steps is slower than Ruth’s hurried shuffling. And then the footsteps stop, and the back of my neck prickles and sends a little shiver up to my ears.

Somehow I know without turning around who it is.

“Uh, hair and makeup?”

The voice is deeper than I remember from our middle school dance parties, but it still matches all those soulful ballads and poppy hits. It’s him. For a moment, nothing seems real. Not the racks of props or the papers in my hand. And definitely not Milo Ritter, who is standing in front of me looking lost and more than a little annoyed.

His face is the same one that’s stared out at me from four album covers and countless magazines. I’ve seen those lips singing into the camera on TV and telling charming anecdotes on late-night talk shows. I’ve seen those dimples scroll by in GIFsets online and watched what must be hours of videos featuring those electric-blue eyes (not that I’d admit to still watching those). His face even stared out at me from my locker when I was in eighth grade, back when Milo had more of a long-haired-surfer vibe going on. I taped the picture up on the first day of eighth grade, just after his first album hit number one. I stared at it every time I opened my locker to find a textbook or hang my sweater, and it stayed there until just before winter break, when Aaron Eisenberg ripped it down, singsonging about how only losers listened to Milo Ritter. Even though the shaggy hair is gone, replaced by a closer-cropped do and the slightest hint of blond stubble, it’s still unmistakably him. If nothing else, those piercing blue eyes give him away.