The city park was cold and lifeless, with frost covering the cobblestones, the dead grass, and the frozen mud. My breath clouded and curled around my head, looking like my soul escaping into the air. I sat on the frigid wooden bench and stared at the iPhone in my hand, willing it to ring.
It did not.
I sighed again and put my phone back in my jacket pocket. Silently, I formed a pistol with my empty hand, pointed my fingertips to my temple and pulled the trigger.
"Kpow.", I onomatopoeiad solemnly.
"I'm sorry, should I not be sitting here?"
I looked up, startled. There was a man sitting at the other end of the park bench; older, well-dressed and African-American. He had a pastrami on rye wrapped in wax paper in his right hand. I hadn't heard him sit down.
"Sorry." I mumbled, "I... I've got issues right now."
"Ah, issues.", the man replied, "Girl or money?"
He nodded. "Well, if you can keep your issues out of my sandwich, I'll do my best to keep my sandwich out of your issues."
"Right, right, of course." I brushed a hand through my hair and smiled to show I wasn't crazy. "You know, did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Samuel L. Jackson?"
The man raised a single grey eyebrow. "No.", he said slowly and deliberately, "I can safely say that no one has ever told me that."
"Wh- I mean..." I stammered, "I mean, it's not like a racial thing, I mean, like maybe it's just in this light..." He interrupted me.
"Oh, I have no doubt that I look and sound and even smell a very great deal like the award winning thespian Sam Jackson. But the reason that no one ever tells me that I look like Sam Jackson is because most people I talk to are generally aware that the reason I look like Sam Jackson is that I am, in fact, Samuel Leroy Jackson."
"You're Samuel L. Jackson?"
"Why the hell are you Samuel L. Jackson?"
"Well now, that's a question I don't get asked very often either."
"Wh- I- I mean", I stuttered, "Why the hell are you in Baltimore?"
"I'm filming a movie, dumbass." He gestured with his sandwich. "Unless you object, of course."
"No, no, obviously, by all means stimulate the local economy. It's just a little surreal for me, you know?"
"Surreal? What, like a Dali painting? I did not know that my very existence, sitting here on a park bench, minding my own damn business, eating a pastrami sandwich, was inherently surreal. What is it about me, exactly, that you find unrealistic?"
"Well, you know," I stammered, gesturing helplessly, "I just... I guess I just didn't expect there to be an A-list celebrity cameo in the shitty, low-budget romcom that is my life."
The movie star glanced around the park, as if looking for hidden cameras. "Oh, we're in a comedy?"
"I'm sure somebody somewhere is having a laugh at my expense.", I muttered.
"Ah," Samuel L Jackson said, "So we're at the bottom of Act Two, am I right?" He took a bite of his sandwich, and chewed for a few seconds as I gave him an uncomprehending look. He swallowed.
"You know anything about script writing?" I shook my head. "Well, most movie scripts - most works of fiction, really - follow a three act structure. In the first Act, you set up the hero, show what sort of challenges he faces, and you let him have a few initial victories. In Act Two, the hero is brought low - not necessarily by the villain, mind you, but by something internal... ignorance, hubris, doubt, selfishness, whatever. Then, in Act Three, something turns that around, the hero rises again, you have the climax of the film, and then everyone lives happily ever after."
"So how do I get from Act Two to Act Three?", I asked.
"Epiphany." he replied, "Either you see some simpler microcosm of your own problem that allows you to view it from another perspective, or somebody repeats some phrase from earlier in the film that now resonates with a different meaning, or some sage figure provides you with wisdom and guidance. Something like that."
"Well, you're obviously my sage figure, here. What should I do?"
"I don't know." He took another bite, and spoke with his mouth full. "Realize how much she means to you. The power was inside you the whole time. Believe in yourself. Whatever."
"Come on, that's all you've got?"
Mr. Jackson swallowed and slowly put his sandwich down. He looked suddenly stern, and I worried that I may have offended him. He stood, took two steps, and stood directly in front of me. Against the backdrop of a grey November sky, he looked ten feet tall. He glared down at me with a terrifying fury in his eyes, and inhaled sharply through his nose.
"BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, MOTHERFUCKER!"
His words rang and echoed through the empty park. Somewhere, a flock of birds took flight. I sat in stunned silence.
Samuel L. Jackson had just told me to believe in myself.
Samuel L. Jackson had just told me to believe in myself, and by God, I was going to do it.
I jumped to my feet, nodded once, and took off running in the direction of Emily's house. It wasn't until I hit the stairs that it occurred to me that I hadn't thanked the man or said goodbye.
I turned, but he was already gone.