The Happiest Day

Words by: Bryan Hoadley
Art by: Adrienne Aw

The taxi fills with sunlight. I’ve never been to this city before, but as I look out the window, I instinctively know I’m in LA. The car pulls up in front of a bright white hotel with large circular pillars and gleaming windows. 

“Ms Davis is waiting for you in the foyer,” says a suited employee while ushering me inside. My chest tightens in anticipation. Hollywood, Davis — this can only mean one thing. 

And there she is in the foyer, curly hair as perfect as it was in the 1980s, arms wide open ready to meet me. 

“Bryan! I’m glad you won the competition, and so look forward to our lunch together.” 

I’m star-struck; my mind goes into overdrive. What will we talk about? Her 1988 Academy award? Or maybe the film Thelma and Louise and her crucial role in launching the career of fellow cast member Brad Pitt? Perhaps even archery and her near run to the Sydney Olympics? Which of her four marriages will I be bold enough to ask about? 

Before I can get a word in, Geena Davis looks down to me. 

“We’ll just wait for Jeff and then go through to lunch.” 

Surely she doesn’t mean Goldblum — they’ve been divorced for over 30 years. I decide to politely remind Geena of her marital status just as Jeff Goldblum sashays in. He sweeps her into an enthusiastic embrace and proceeds to grasp my hand, giving me a warm smile. Is it a warm smile? Or does it seem slightly disingenuous? I’m forced to shake my hand a little from the firmness of his grip. 

“Sorry little bud, did I hurt you there? You know, usually our contest winners are a little bigger than you,” he says while flashing me that smile again. 

Christ, is Dr Ian Malcolm an arsehole? 

At lunch, Goldblum continues to be a dick. He asks me about the shirt I’m wearing. I explain that it was an op-shop find. I tell them I try to be sustainable by mainly shopping second hand. Goldblum obviously disapproves — he’s wearing what appears to be some kind of gold bejewelled Prada flight suit. It’s an outfit you can only get away with when you’re the most fashionable man in Hollywood. 

“Sustainable, huh? I wouldn’t have thought someone who took a 28-hour return flight for a mere lunch date would be interested in sustainability.”

Goldblum’s a certifiable prick. I look over at Geena smirking — this isn’t happy at all. 

My mind would often wander while I worked, because trying to conjure up happy fantasies was a great way to pass the time. Meeting Geena Davis was probably one of a thousand fictional encounters I had on the job, but for some reason everything about that day has stuck with me. It’s what pops into my head everytime I’m asked to think of a happy memory. 

I’m 21 years old again, and coming off the back of a ten-hour shift where I spent my time printing labels on enema bags — this also sounds made up, but it’s honestly how I spent most of my early twenties. The work is repetitive and dull and involves me sitting with my head over paint fumes for most of the day. The factory I work in must be kept at an uncomfortable 16 degrees, and the gown, hair net and goggles I’m stuck in always seem to itch no matter the position. On a good day, I’ll label over three thousand bags. It gives me a sore shoulder. It’s usually pretty grim. But today feels different; it’s the last week in February and, from my workstation, I can see a sliver of sunlight through the warehouse door. It’s pristine outside.

When I finally get out of the warehouse at 5:30pm, I sit in my Honda Civic and bake myself in the boiling car until some warmth returns to my body. My car is a mid-’90s model, meaning it only has a tape deck, but thanks to some magical contraption I can play my iPhone through the speaker. I put on an old favourite — The Stone Roses — knowing if I start the album as I leave, I’ll be on the last track by the time I reach my destination. I’m going away to the beach with friends for the weekend and can’t wait. Work has been tough, but I’ve paid my dues for the week. I’m finally free. 

I think in actual fact there wasn’t anything special about that holiday. I ate, drank and laughed with friends. What stuck with me, however, was the time I had alone in the car, high on the joy of anticipation. In that one specific moment, life could have been anything. I was happy to be on the road in the evening warmth, and for once, all of life’s external noise was silent. I’m not sure it has been ever since. 

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