A Short Story by Du Kirpalani
As I drove down the wide lanes of Beverly Hills, my head grew two sizes larger. I couldn’t wait to baby sit the offspring of the huge actor who played Jerry Maguire in Jerry Maguire. I was truly a fan of his best work. Soon enough, I pulled into his magnificent driveway. The gates stared back, almost judging me in my 1999 Mitsubishi Mirage. Things are better now, today I drive a 1992 Lexus LS400. I rang the intercom and cleared my throat. A polite voice came on and asked, “Did you bring the chocolate milk?” My response was; “Yes, Nesquik and Ovaltine.” Each of the products rested in the passenger seat.
The gates opened and as I rolled in, a beautiful fountain at the entrance welcomed me. It was like going in for a first kiss with a second cousin. An over qualified valet (he was Caucasian) parked my car with me inside it. Moments later, I stood at the front entrance and as soon as I rang the bell, the doors jolted open. There he was; Mr. Tom Cruise the man himself, smiling up at me. “Hi, I’m Tom.” He firmly stated. I held out my hand, but before I could introduce myself he placed his hand over my mouth and shushed me. “No names man. It’s more fun this way.” On my curious expression, Tom Cruise erupted in his famous boyish cackle. Still nervous, I joined in. Tom stopped laughing suddenly, almost testing my loyalty. I stopped immediately. A pregnant pause later, Tom chuckled whole heartedly. I did the same. It was magic.
The superstar led me into his living room. Now let’s not worry about details of his house because I’d like to respect the privacy of his interiors. But as I stood over the Italian leather sofa with Tom Cruise, I had to ask what the hours and pay was? Tom paced in front of the coffee table and explained that the pay was a hundred bucks an hour for four hours, and would be filled will extreme awesome super excitement. Almost like working at a state zoo. He added that he expects my level best. Brain surgery or babysitting, this is how Tom Cruise rolls. I assured him that Suri was in responsible hands. “Suri?” He asked. “No, you’re baby sitting me.” Some more laughter proceeded and then Tom slapped his own hand like it had been a naughty boy. My response was to sit down and take deep breaths. He helped me regain composure by elbowing me, jokingly in the chest. When I finally settled down, Tom pushed a bottle of milk in front of me.
I was sort of intrigued, seduced even. Why did Tom Cruise need me to baby sit him? Not only did he do his own stunts, but Tom was and will always be a very powerful man. Tom could probably get Steven Spielberg’s assistant intern to baby sit him. Why me? So I asked him, in my head. “Tom Cruise, why me?” And Mr. Cruise answered, in his head. “Because in our last life, we shared a tree house.” His eyes said he wasn’t joking. So I poured my client a tall glass of cold milk (2% fat) and stirred in the Nesquik. Tom took a healthy swig and purposely left behind a chocolate mustache. Which I must add, made him look incredible. I then carefully dabbed his milk mustache with a napkin. Tom nodded approvingly. The job was mine.
Now, on his day off you would think an actor of his stature would like to take things easy. But no, Tom Cruise as always, took things to the limit. Before I knew it, I was sitting at the cockpit of his leather sofa and he was behind me making jet engine noises. I’m pretty sure he was humming the Top Gun theme song, but who could tell with all the wind in my face. It was awkward at first and just as I was getting used to being a co-pilot, Tom had me put on an emerald green, spaghetti strapped dress. To my surprise, it fit perfectly. I was confused as to which Tom Cruise movie this was from. Tom punched my arm, “That’s more than a dress, that’s an Audrey Hepburn movie.” I didn’t get it. “Help me, help you.” Tom added. Yes, it was that movie with the actress who has a crying fish face. We moved on to the next montage moment.
Sunglasses and all, Tom and I wore only white shirts and tighty-whities. That was an easy one, Rain Man. Tom insisted we’re going to kill Hitler. So we did. Although on this particular day in this home, Hitler was not the Austrian dictator fighting his gay urges but a stuffed unicorn with a very angry expression. We destroyed the evil creature using a combination of jujitsu and krav maga. The neighbors couldn’t hear the noise over my laughter. I’m not exaggerating, but it was starting to sound like Tom’s.
Three chocolate milks later, I was enthusiastically juggling bottles and sadly breaking many of them. Most of which were expensive liquors from across the globe but Tom didn’t care. Tom was an enlightened soul. He knew that money was an illusion and although it can’t buy you happiness, it can buy you things that make you happy. Much like the wheelchairs we raced in. Tom was faster than me and for some reason, wore a thick military jacket, a beard and yelled curse words at the Government. I went with it. I yelled, “Damn you Republicans, why are you such democrats!?”
Now everything was dandy up till this point. I got hammered after one Brown Russian (a White Russian with chocolate milk) Tom and I were soon standing on his roof staring down at a forty foot drop. If I remember correctly, my grandfather had two rules to live by;
Wait at least thirty minutes after eating before getting into a swimming pool. And two, don’t mix alcohol and rock climbing with Tom Cruise. Grandpa was senile when he came up with these two rules but they make complete sense today. Tom strapped me to a safety harness and then gave me some golden words of wisdom; “Think of yourself as a large tea bag.” I asked him which flavor and he replied, coffee.
As the tension grew, Tom belted out the Mission Impossible theme as I stepped over the ledge. Like they say on TV, my entire life flashed before me and then a miracle occurred. Kate’s 2012 Volvo pulled in. Tom yanked me down and we hid behind the railing. Unfortunately it was made out of transparent glass and from Katie’s point of view, we looked quite ridiculous.
“Tom and Tom’s friend! I can see you through the glass!” Yelled Kate. Damn she was good.
We slowly revealed ourselves, raising our hands in the air for the fun of it. Tom asked what she was doing back. Kate replied that she forgot her Armani sunglasses. Tom sighed, “They’re on the top of your head.” They were. After a heavy moment and without a word, Kate sauntered back to her Volvo and drove off. Tom winced. Our buzz was gone and activity time was over.
After I packed up Tom’s spelunking gear, I met him in the kitchen for some PB&J. As far as PB&J goes, this was Michelin star quality. I took the seat next to Tom, only something was wrong. Tom was hiding his face from me. “Tom?” No response. “Are you okay?” No response.
I heard a small whimper and it was evident that Tom Cruise was crying in his kitchen while eating a sandwich. I placed my hand on his arm and told him to let it out. He turned and flashed me his broadest smile. “Psych!”
Tom almost had me. Okay I’ll admit it, he had me. I knew the man could do any genre, but his comedic timing was out of this world. As we scarfed down the best PB&J, Tom opened up to me. He said that the truth is, he never cries. He has no reason to. “But what about the media Tom? Do they make you cry?” I asked. Tom admitted that their words do in fact hurt him. But not because of what they say about him, but what they say about the things and the people he cares about. Tom added that he allows himself to feel bad for five whole minutes. After which, he would get back to living. It made sense and I felt the need to high five him. Tom’s great. He didn’t leave me hanging and slapped my hand, hard and fast. It was extremely hard and hurt me for five minutes. After which, I got back to living.
As we cleared the dishes together, I started to ‘get’ Tom Cruise. He wasn’t a strange human being or anything like the person the media depicted. Tom was just in love with life and every moment of it. It was that simple. Before I knew it, the sun started to set and my four hours were up. I asked Tom if he wanted my services tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow or maybe later today. Tom said that it was a one time thing, nothing more. It kind of broke me inside when he added that it had been a wonderful day and to not screw it up. I offered to tell him my name, but he covered his ears and sang the French national anthem. I guess my feelings for Tom were stronger than his feelings for me. I felt like a teenaged girl who just got felt up at the drive in. Tom walked me to the door and I took midget steps to prolong the farewell. There we were, standing outside his mansion where we first met. Then, using his mind, Tom opened my car door. It was difficult to look him in the eye because I was afraid of what I might say. I had never felt more alone in my life.
Today, all I have are my memories with Tom and the Ralph’s receipt for the Ovaltine and Nesquik. Since that magical afternoon I haven’t seen Tom, but every once in a while I make myself a PB&J and an extra one to stare at. Thank you Tom. From the bottom of my heart, you will always be the best.