Do you think Wes Anderson has kids?
The guy is asking this other guy sitting across the room. He's not asking you. He has hardly acknowledged your existence, even though you've been sitting next to him since the beginning of the party. Well, maybe that's not true. It can't be true. He must have at least nodded hello when you sat down. In a room full of people you are the one physically closer to him. You're not friends but he knows who you are. You're quiet but not invisible. People have come over and talked to you, talked to him. He's been sitting there all night with his side almost touching your side.
And now he's asking his friend across the room about Wes Anderson and his family status.
You're not friends but he knows who you are. You're quiet but not invisible.
I mean, he must have kids, there are always kids in his movies, he says. What was that last one called?
The Grand Budapest Hotel, you say. It was amazing.
You want to say more about it, those sets, you think, that Courtesan au Chocolat pastry, all those great actors! But neither one of them responds.
Moonlight Kingdom, the other guy says.
Moonrise, you say, a little louder than before. Moonrise Kingdom. But neither one of them appears to hear you.
Yeah, Moonlight Kingdom, the guy sitting next to you says. That was a good one with the kids. So I think he must have kids.
And you want to say, it's a Salinger thing. Wes Anderson loves Salinger. You can just tell. Anyone could, really. You want to say it's so obvious that these are Salinger kids. Precocious, intelligent, weird, mature beyond their years: Salinger kids. Every Wes Anderson movie is full of precocious messed-up children going on adventures. It's so obvious. The Royal Tenenbaums? They are cousins to the Glass family. Kissing cousins. If you think about it, when Luke Wilson's character falls in love with his stepsister, it's really Wes Anderson's movies falling in love with J. D. Salinger's books. If anyone could ever do movie adaptations of J. D. Salinger's books, Wes Anderson would be the one—but he couldn't on account of Salinger being such a control freak of his work, so instead he made his own versions. And they are amazing, but it's all part of the same conversation. You put them all together, Salinger novels, short stories, Wes Anderson movies, and it's all the same world.
Precocious, intelligent, weird, mature beyond their years: Salinger kids.
The more you think about it, the more little details pop into your head. Tenenbaum. That was the name of a character in one of the Nine Stories, wasn't it? And that scene where Gwyneth Paltrow is in the bath for days, didn't Zooey spend most of the beginning of Franny and Zooey in the bathtub? And wouldn't Anjelica Huston make a perfect Mom Glass?
You get excited by all these details and you say: How about The Royal Tenenbaums?
But neither of them says anything or looks at you. And you can't figure out why. You don't know what made you invisible to them. You don't know either of them well or at all. You know their names and who they belong to, at the party, whose story they've come from and how they ended up here sitting next to you and across the room from you. You might even know where they live and what jobs they have and that they sort of like Wes Anderson movies, but not so much that they've given them as much thought as they deserve or require. And really, these things add to you not knowing them at all. And they obviously don't want to know anything about you. They care so little they don't even know you're alive. It bothers you, but it doesn't. Fuck them, really. Who cares.
But later when you google "Wes Anderson" and "Salinger" and find out how you were right, and you hate that you can't tell them and that they might never find out.
Ioanna Mavrou is a writer from Nicosia, Cyprus. Her short stories have appeared in Electric Literature, Okey-Panky, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She runs a tiny publishing house called Book Ex Machina and is the editor of Matchbook Stories: a literary magazine in matchbook form.
Illustrated by Caytlin Kuszewski