His success in life only came after a failed marriage, an affair, and a screenplay.
My first serious relationship after my divorce ended poorly, and I am incredibly grateful that it did.
She was twelve years younger, worked in the same office, and lived with her boyfriend. There were more red flags than in Tiananmen Square, but even if I noticed them, I honestly didn’t care.
My marriage had ended after my wife, the daughter of a swinger, slept with a married man. I was devastated, heartbroken, and had basically given up on ever finding love again.
That’s why I didn’t hesitate when my attractive, younger, very attached coworker made it clear that she wanted to be work friends with benefits. After being trapped in a frigid marriage with someone genetically destined to cheat on me, it was a mind-blowing experience to ignore the Catholic guilt, be the other man for a change, and discover that sex that broke the rules was way more satisfying than extremely infrequent married-life sex.
As an added bonus, I didn’t have to deal with the usual relationship nonsense that eventually drives couples apart. We kept our affair quiet, had more sex in eight months than I’d had in eight years of marriage, and went our separate ways at the end of our get togethers.
So you might understand why I was devastated when she told me that the guilt had finally gotten to her, and she needed to be loyal to the guy who had no idea she’d been cheating on him for almost a year.
I’d foolishly allowed myself to develop feelings for her, and our arrangement had been mutually beneficial, so I didn’t want it to end. As a result, I did what any other writer would do in such a situation: I wrote a screenplay about our relationship in hopes that the grand romantic gesture would send her running back to my bed.
Oh, you wrote about it, did you?
Writing something for my ex-wife had always worked well during our happier times, so I assumed it would work here, too. Writers are remarkably conceited, and I was confident my words would work their usual magic on this sweet, young thing who had always been overly impressed by the fact that I was an unsuccessful writer.
It did not go well, however.
She returned the screenplay with the dedication page torn out. Later, I was subjected to a furious rant about how wrong it was for me to turn our dirty, little secret into a sweet, uplifting screenplay. What if someone saw it and found out that she was a cheater?
She was livid and refused to speak to me for months.
I had no intention of ever showing the script to anyone. I’d written it to win her back, and that had failed miserably. Romantic comedies weren’t my thing, so I just assumed no one else would be interested in it. I put up the first ten pages as a writing sample on my screenwriting group’s website, and then forgot all about it.
Two years later, I received an email out of the blue. A fledgling production company in Atlanta had seen the writing sample, and wanted to know if they could read the rest of the screenplay.
At that point, the former flame and I were not on speaking terms. I had left that job the month before, and was struggling to get by on unemployment, which meant I couldn’t exactly turn down any interest in one of my scripts.
Besides, I wrote thrillers, horrors, and heist scripts. No one was going to want a sappy screenplay I’d written because I was horny and didn’t want the sex to stop. Best case scenario, they’d like my writing style and ask to read something else.
I was stunned when they offered to buy the screenplay and make it their first feature film. It was going to be a small budget indie with no-name actors, but there was a payday, and I would have a second produced screenplay under my belt.
Of course, that was when the Catholic guilt was resurrected. The screenplay was a work of fiction, but it was clearly about her and me. Certain events and conversations in the screenplay had actually taken place, and if the movie got made, some actor would be playing me on the big screen.
I had to take into account the effect it would have on my former lover. She hadn’t talked to me in ages, she’d broken my heart, and it wasn’t like we worked together anymore and I could easily take her aside to discuss the issue.
I knew she hated the screenplay and would be appalled by the idea of my being paid to turn the story of our breakup into a feature film.
While that probably should have deterred me from making the deal, it actually seemed like the proper revenge for her acting like I was dead to her. My ghost was about to haunt her from movie theaters all across America.
Even then, however, I was still hesitant to sell the screenplay. It seemed like a betrayal of trust.
The irony of it all was killing me.
That was when I remembered that I was single, unemployed, the mortgage was due, and I had no idea when I was going to find a new job. Even though it wasn’t a huge check, the money would buy me time to job hunt while keeping a roof over my head.
So I sold them the screenplay.
And then, a change in fortune for our protagonist
After that, my luck immediately changed for the better. I took a temp job, and was quickly offered a permanent position with the company. My new boss was very excited about my movie career, and used her connections to get me interviews on local radio and a late night TV show to discuss the movie and my hopes of having the premiere in Maine.
This new job also had an extremely attractive, much younger coworker, who lived with her boyfriend. She’d heard that my screenplay was being made into a movie, and asked if she could read it. Our long conversations about the affair depicted in the screenplay led to our falling into bed together, and that relationship lasted for almost three years.
That same young lady convinced me to start my blog when she left Maine to go to grad school. Shortly thereafter, I wrote a blog post that had 57,000 hits in one day and landed me on a morning radio show to discuss the phenomenon it had caused when it went viral.
After the radio interview, I sent an email about the experience to the host of the late night TV show on which I’d appeared to discuss my movie. He’d seen my viral post on Facebook, hadn’t realized that his former guest was the man behind it, and offered me a job writing for his show.
I met my current girlfriend (who is not living with another man!) via my blog, which most likely would not exist if I hadn’t written that silly screenplay in a desperate attempt to save a doomed relationship.
The movie based on that screenplay has never been released. However, those 110 pages were probably the most important I’ve ever written because they changed my life in so many ways.
Sometimes, a breakup is needed to get you out of a situation that clearly has no future. Other times, though, a breakup can shove you towards the future you deserve.
Author’s Note: If your curiosity has been piqued, you can find the trailer for the unreleased film on YouTube under The Retirement Party…
Photo: Ze’ev Barkan/Flickr