I’d be sitting in Starbucks grading papers and he’d walk in, take a look around the place, spot my phone sitting out on the table next to me—the case features a drawing of him as Steve Zissou—and come over, glowering, gesture to the phone and say “That’s unlicensed merchandise. You think you can use someone else’s likeness however you want? What if I put a picture of you on the bottoms of my shoes, then I’d be walking around trampling your face all day.” Then he’d crack a smile and laugh and sit down and we’d talk. He’d say he was in town because he’d never been to Yorktown before, that a couple times a year he chooses a town he’s never been to and visits.
“I just see all the sights,” he’d say, “I look for fun people and hang around.”
He’d ask what I was doing and I’d tell him grading papers and he’d say, “Let me have a crack at a couple of those,” and I’d slide some over and he’d read them and start marking them up. I’d be a little nervous, because what if what he writes on the papers is gibberish, or all wrong? But then I’d think, it’s Bill Murray! Roll with it!
After a while Bill Murray would say, “This is thirsty work. Know anywhere we can go get a real drink?” and I’d say, “Sure,” and I’d pack my stuff and we’d walk out into the parking lot of the Starbucks just as this beautiful, beautiful jet black 1969 Corvette Stingray pulled in, and the car would park and Bill Murray would say to me, “Watch this,” and he’d jog over to the car and strike up a conversation with the owner and after a couple minutes Bill Murray would reach into his pocket and pull out a huge, crumpled ball of money and he’d hand it to the driver and the driver would go back into the car and dig around and come out with the title and hand it and the keys to Bill Murray and then walk off, holding the crumpled ball of money in both hands, and Bill Murray would wave me over and when I started for the passenger side Bill Murray would say, “Not so fast,” and he’d throw me the keys and say, “You’re driving, chief.”
So I’d drive. And I’d be a little nervous but I think I’d find that when you’re with Bill Murray it’s hard to be nervous, he’s so at ease and moves through the world with such effortless charm. The world, when you’re hanging out with Bill Murray, seems like it’s there for your pleasure. We’d go to this bar and have a couple drinks—Bill Murray would drink much more than me but I wouldn’t feel like I had to catch up, it’d be comfortable—and I’d ask him to tell me stories about his time on SNL and he’d hesitate and say he’d rather hear about me and I’ll suggest we trade, a story for a story, and he’d agree to that. I’d tell him about the time I accidentally stroked the thigh of a woman I was tutoring and he’d tell me about Gilda Radner’s funeral and I’d think, Holy shit, why did I lead with that when he went with something so meaningful, but Bill Murray wouldn’t seem to mind, he’d just keep going. We’d talk about all his movies, and I’d admit I don’t really like Where the Buffalo Roam but love Larger Than Life and he’d ask me if I liked golf and I’d tell him I’d only played once and he’d say, “I’ll take you out some time, I bet you’re a natural,” and I’d think, Is he saying we’re going to spend time together beyond this? I hope he is I hope he is don’t act desperate be cool be cool be cool.
Would Bill Murray in real life have that kind of lingering sadness behind his eyes the way he does in his films? Yes, I’m sure he would. Would I ask him about the monologue at the end of Scrooged and admit that I, for a time, had it written down on a notecard that I carried around in my wallet? No, probably not. Probably not until we’d be friends for a while. Maybe I’d save that for if we ever spent the holidays together.
Eventually we’d get hungry and Bill Murray would say, “You know a place to get tacos?” and I’d say that I knew a fine place for tacos and we’d leave the bar. This time Bill Murray would want to drive, and I’d be a little worried because he’d really have put away quite a number of drinks but then I’d think, He actually doesn’t seem drunk at all, and I don’t want to piss him off, so I’d hand him the keys and get in the car.
But instead of driving off for tacos, we’d sit in the car for a bit. Chatting. Bill Murray would say he was having a good time hanging out with me and that he felt like we were really connecting and I’d squeak, “Me too!” and then Bill Murray would say he sometimes has a hard time connecting with people and I’d squeak, “Me too!” and then Bill Murray would say that is was difficult for him to make meaningful, long term friendships and I’d interrupt, finish his thought, say “Because what if that person suddenly vanishes from your life for some reason, what do you do then? That’s the scariest thing,” and Bill Murray would nod and squeak, “Me too.”
A moment would pass. Then Bill Murray would look deep into my eyes and ask me if I believed that human sexuality, attraction, was a strict binary or actually existed on a kind of continuum. He’d ask me this and I’d take a second to think about what he was saying and the bags under his eyes would quiver expectantly.
“Well,” I’d say. “I think maybe it’s a continuum, although if we’re being honest—”
“We’re always honest with each other,” Bill Murray would say. “That’s what I like about us.”
I’d think that was weird, but I’d try to push ahead, telling him I supposed it was possible that sexual attraction existed on more of a continuum than as a binary but that the idea made me uncomfortable for reasons I didn’t understand or wasn’t proud of. Then Bill Murray would ask me If I’d ever read any Georges Bataille, and I’d tell him I had, and he’d ask me if I agreed with Bataille that sexual experience and exploration led to freedom of the spirit and at the same time he’d reach over and place his hand on my thigh, high up the leg, and he’d squeeze.
I’d think, What the hell? I’d think, What if this isn’t really Bill Murray, what if this is some lonesome deviant cashing in on an uncanny resemblance? He’d squeeze my thigh again, harder this time, like my leg was his property, and I’d think, No, this must be the real Bill Murray, oh heavens. He’d close his eyes and lean in to kiss me. I wouldn’t know what to do—kiss him back? Reject him? Is this a joke? Some kind of test?
Suddenly, a flash of light. Another. Bill Murray would open his eyes and I’d turn and see a lone paparazzo outside the passenger side window, snapping pictures of us, Bill Murray’s hand clamped on my upper thigh. Bill Murray would scream, and the paparazzo would jump on a motorcycle and roar off, and Bill Murray would start the car and tear after him.
“Sons of bitches are everywhere!” Bill Murray would shout. “We gotta get that camera. We can’t—I have children, you know? All I need is my ex-wife… just hold on, okay? You buckled in?”
I would be buckled in, and terrified. We’d chase the motorcycle across lanes and up and down back roads, blow through red lights and swerve crazily through intersections. A couple of times we’d almost have him, the bike would dip too far to one side like the paparazzo was going to wipe out and then he’d miraculously correct himself and go off-road, zipping through someone’s front lawn, and Bill Murray would have to swing the Stingray through an alleyway and obliterate trashcans or parts of fences to keep up.
At some point Bill Murray would say, “Remind me to ask you later if you have any favorite surrealist painters,” while swinging the car into a tightly controlled donut to keep up with the paparazzo, who’ll take to doubling back through some intersections to lose us.
Eventually the paparazzo will ditch the bike in front of an apartment building and run through the front door into the lobby and Bill Murray will pull the car up and leap out and run after him. I’ll follow but a little behind, just a beat maybe, but by the time I catch up and push through the door into the lobby Bill Murray will already be crouched over the corpse of the paparazzo, blood already pooling on the floor and streaking Bill Murray’s face. Bill Murray will have a huge, ornate dagger—like something you’d use in a ritual sacrifice—clutched in one hand. Blood all over that, too.
I’ll gasp, freeze. Bill Murray will turn to me. The sadness in his eyes will have vanished, replaced by a kind of… hunger, but not a hunger you or I will ever know. It’ll be the kind of hunger that only a tiger or a shark or some other great beast knows, the hunger of the void, a hunger that only grows stronger and more desperate with each feeding. Bill Murray will wipe some of the paparazzo’s blood out of his eyes and laugh.
“Juicy bastard, wasn’t he? Like when you slap a big fat mosquito in the middle of July. Only you feel bad about the mosquito.” Then he’ll step towards me and hold out the dagger, offer me the hilt. It’ll be made of polished ivory or something, studded with a perfectly sculpted little human skull.
“I need you to squeeze this with your dominant hand,” he’ll say. “My prints are all over it, get yours on there and then we’re brothers, man. Brothers for life. Also, do you know where we can buy some bleach and a pretty big plastic tarp?”
“I know,” Bill Murray will say. “I don’t usually play villains so it freaks people out when they see my wild side. Take a deep breath, then take this dagger and get your prints on it. This is important, okay? I let you drive my car, remember? I’m not framing you, if that’s what you’re worried about. But we need both sets of prints on this dagger so neither of us can ever go to the cops. I’ve got similar deals with George Clooney, George Wendt, and George Clinton. All guys named George, before now. Isn’t that weird?”
But I’ll still be frozen. Put my prints on the hilt of that dagger and I’m an accessory, don’t and risk blowing things with Bill Murray in a pretty profound way. We’ll never play golf together. It is weird he has murder-secrecy pacts with three different guys named George. But not that weird, I guess. There are a lot of Georges in the world.
Finally, Bill Murray will say, “Okay. How about this… this is important to me, okay? So how about this… you put your prints on this dagger and I’ll make you a deal. I’ll star in Ghostbusters 3. How about that?”
And damn me, damn me to hell, if that was on the table, if that was the offer he made, I think I’d probably take it.