Jack Nicholson’s Red Glasses

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Jack Nicholson stands in his closet and it spreads far and wide, oak drowning the purple carpet. There are suits all around him. For days they go back, some Narnia for Joseph A. Bank fans. He’s in the accessories section — a few Kangol hats (a thrice tried phase), a Bo Sox hat he wore in The Departed, a couple hundred watches, a small army of sunglasses. Nicholson stands there, shirtless, scratching his stomach. His assistant, Kevin, is in front of him.

Are you sure you want to do this, sir?

You would question me, Kevin?

You’re the face of the Lakers, Mr. Nicholson.

I know what I am.

Just watch the game from home. I’ll order you up some of that pizza you love — what is it? Aldino’s? — and we’ll get some Amstel Lights and turn on the television and we can watch it together. We’ll turn on Coltrane like you like and mute the game.

Silence, Kevin. You are not paid for your advice. You are paid to do what I ask.

Nicholson slaps Kevin. It is a backhand and it echoes in the walls. Kevin takes the hit and his body gives some but he straightens.

Very well.

I am going to this game, Kevin. I will be seen. And when I’m seen how will I look?

You are going to look good.

And why am I going to look good.

Because your associate Kevin made sure of it.

That is correct. Now, will you, please, pull out some sunglasses options for me to choose from?

Kevin turns to the shelf that runs in between two rows of suits and pauses.

How are you feeling this evening?

Nicholson breathes long and deep and his breath — tobacco and lilac — fills the closet.

Bright. Festive. Party.

Understood.

Kevin turns holding up two different pairs of sunglasses.

One pair has blue frames and black lenses. The other has brown frames and red lenses.

Nicholson stands and ponders for a couple minutes, staring at his shirtless reflection in the lenses, his sad face glowing underneath the industrial lighting of the closet that he thought gave the space a more “Cribs-y” — his word — feel. He feels the purple carpeting soft and lush under his bare feet. He moves his toes in it and he drops his head to look at the violet ground. It reminds him of Staples. It reminds him of June, and how he wouldn’t see the purple and yellow run this year. That river was dammed up by injuries and a system coach not fit for the tinsel city.

He shakes his head and raises his eyes and the red lenses shout at him like Matrix pills. Like his life was about to change. A Clippers game? He pops his neck. A Clippers game. He raises his right hand and points at the reds.

Those.

Are you sure?

He slaps Kevin once more.

Good question, Kevin.

Kevin spits out blood onto the purple.

That’ll come out of your pay this month.

Nicholson puts on the glasses and turns around to look at himself in the mirror. The red frames make his world a kind of rosy and he smiles at himself.

You will be seen tonight, Jack, my boy. You will be seen. You will be seen on television and when they type your name they will only need one word. Not two. Not two.

Kevin is behind him, holding his face. Nicholson grabs a white undershirt from a drawer and pulls a dress shirt down from a hanger and begins to button it up.

Cheer up, Kevin. It’s the Playoffs.

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