How many times have you heard people say, I would give my arm to meet Oprah, I would give my first born for that sports car, or I would give up my fake tits to win the lottery? Well fake tits you can buy again, but it seems when people want something so bad that it consumes their life, they say they’d give up body parts in exchange for their wish. I never quite understood it until one summer I was in desperate need to get money to move to California the land of hopes and dreams.
I tried to get a summer job at an outdoor lounge but no one would hire me. I looked at my resume and head shot for the twentieth time. I was dumb founded. I comforted myself concluding either I was overqualified to pass cocktails or just too damn good looking. My obsession with California began seven years prior when I was a flight attendant living in Charleston, South Carolina. My roommate and I went to see the town psychic. It was our first time and we were a bit nervous to see what our futures held. I went in first to feel it out, I was always the dare devil of the group. The psychic was a nice Southern lady with blond curls wearing a purple linen dress. She spread out the tarot cards before me on a glass table. She told me many interesting things that hit home. She told me I was running in circles trying to take it to the next level of my life. I was satisfied with my job, yet felt stuck. I was meant for bigger things.
“What do you do?” She asked.
“I’m a flight attendant,” I said proudly as I looked her in her blue eyes.
“Well that won’t be your career forever.”
She told me I had great energy around me. I was meant to be seen in the public eye and become a household name. Did that mean I was to be married to a star or become one? She said my passion would be my success. What was my passion? I wondered as I looked around her small room filled with angels, crystals, and astrology books. I had so many passions. Was it dancing? No it was too late to become a professional ballet dancer and stripping wasn’t going to make me famous, Demi Moore already snagged up that role in Strip Tease. I loved to write, but when I thought of the public eye I thought of actresses or models. That was it … acting. Acting was something I always wanted to do since I was age three. My mom had to bribe me with a bean bag to sit down in front of our 19 inch television. I loved to imitate and repeat every word of every character in the movies I watched. The psychic ended with saying I would live in California with two kids and a husband. That night I cried myself to sleep. My sweet southern roommate tried to comfort me.
I turned over on my side as a million thoughts raced through my head. It was hard not to think I was meant to become a star. I was only twenty years old, I still had plenty of time to start, but I knew it had to be soon.
The psychic also told my roommate she would marry a foreign man in uniform. A week later we forgot about the psychic. A year later my roommate married a pilot friend from Europe who needed his papers. A year later I quit the airline after I was accepted into a New York City acting conservatory with a scholarship. While I absolutely adored New York and it’s ways, Cali always sat in the back of my mind. I felt like I was having some sort of affair. I kept saying I was leaving, but the more I said it the longer I stayed.
Time in New York is a difficult concept to grasp. I swear there is some preternatural force that causes time to impel faster than other places on earth. Years creep up on you without realizing how much time has passed until it is long gone. A day turns into the next week, that transcends into the following month, and before you know it, you are planning for the next year. That’s what happened to me. I planned on pursing Cali after I graduated acting school and had built up my resume a bit. I knew I needed a little bit of thicker skin and confidence in my craft. By struggling to keep up with New York prices and nightlife, my craft turned into serving drinks and consuming them. I was twenty three and single in the city. The longer I lived in Manhattan, the more there was to do. I would go to a meeting, hit the gym, one friend for lunch, gay boys for happy hour, not to mention work. Moving was a job in itself, work at night, audition in the day, go see a play, play with my friends.
I tried hobbies I never had any interest with until I moved to New York. I fought off adult drama, IRS audits, lawsuits, yearly checkups, break ups, identity theft, the list is never-ending. My roommate and best friend Carly planned the move with me for five years. Every year we daydreamed the same thing, our Thelma and Louise road trip. We’d video tape the whole trip, playing pranks on small town locals. It would be a girl’s version of Borat. Maybe we’d even rob a gas station in the middle of America for shits and giggles, just to say we did it. I wanted to live in Malibu, Carly chose Hollywood Hills, the one thing we did agree upon was not the valley. It was one thing to talk like a valley girl, or date a valley guy, but to be one? No way!
I wanted to be a surfer and I loved California men. The New York guys never really did it for me. I always heard east coasters talking down about Californians. “They are so superficial and too happy,” one lady said. She was a pale overweight lady in her thirties, but appeared to be in her late forties. I didn’t want to become bitter and pale like her. I thought about the Californians. They were a healthy bunch. Most were fit and tan. Is that superficial to be happy you’re healthy and good looking? If so sign me up, I wanted to join the club.
For the next four years I continued to tell my boss Vinny, this is it … I’m out of here for good. I’m moving to California this fall. He was immune to my threats. He’d roll his eyes and say, “Turner you are not going anywhere. Get back to work.” He told me I would be there till I was in my forties, until some sucker married me. He predicted years later I’d get a divorce and come back to the bar because I missed it. It was a scary thought that easily could come true. I had to prove him wrong.It was finally seven years after my first psychic prediction. I was now 27 and while I knew I looked 24 time was closing in on my move to Cali. I had built up some what of an acting resume and had written five feature scripts. I felt like it was Cali or bust. Carly was now living in Florida with her current boyfriend, but hated it there and was planning for Cali soon. I was fed up with New York. I was sick of thinking so fast, forgetting how to breath, not having time to date or even go out. After a week of hard work I had no energy left, and was over the whole scene. I wanted blond friendly guys with surf boards instead of ties. BBQ’s instead of obnoxious clubs. Surfing the Pacific ocean instead of surfing the net. Sunshine instead of rain, my car instead of the train. I had never felt so ready to move my whole life. There was just one little obstacle … money.
After I had a dental malpractice putting me fifteen grand in the hole I had bills higher than I could see. I was depressed I couldn’t get another summer job after searching for three months. Some nights at work I would secretly drink to numb the pain of serving drinks. If a customer was rude to me I would say, “Don’t be mean to me,” before running off into the bathroom to cry. One night in my deepest despair I walked into the bathroom to make a list. I couldn’t be in New York or wait on tables anymore, I needed a plan B.
1) Give up dreams for day job
2) Run away to Costa Rica or some far away land to forget about everything
3) Jump off bridge
4) Find a way to get money for Cali
I had to get to Cali. I cried to my laid back cute boss Trey. He had sandy blonde hair and blue eyes I could get lost in. “Don’t worry Turner you’ll be alright,” he said in his sexy southern accent. “Just don’t go jumping off any bridges.” He told me that he felt the same way sometimes and he just wanted to run away to an island too. Running off with Trey was a pleasant thought. Running off to California where there were a million Treys sounded even better. I vowed to myself that night I would prove everyone wrong. I was going to California.
For the next few days I drew up some business plans on how to make money that summer for my fall trip across country. I thought about becoming a nanny, but I couldn’t bear the thought of waking up at six in the morning to feed a brat, and they would get in the way of my acting auditions.
I thought about getting a day job, but had no voice because of my night job, and the day job would leave me no time for my writing. I didn’t want to work for someone, I needed to sell something. I had my screenplays, but couldn’t find the right people to read them. My customers begged me to read them, but they were brokers, doctors, and managers. I needed a producer. I needed California connections!
I figured sex sold, so I needed something where I could put my athletic body to use. After a few glasses of wine at a cafe I came up with the perfect plan. I would set up a lemonade stand and bake brownies. I could sell them in a bikini and heels down on Wall Street.
“You’re really going to do that?” Drew the bartender asked. He always analyzed everything, and he had an answer even if it wasn’t asked for.
“Yes,” I said proudly as I plumped up my chest in my tight work uniform. “I will even have a sign that says Cali or Bust!” I thought it was the cutest idea. Selling homemade lemonade to go to Cali. The businessmen would eat it up. I’d get tossed business cards and twenties all day long. I’d probably make the Daily News.
“If you put up that sign you won’t be making nothing,” Drew said bluntly.
“Why?” I asked. As if he knew anything about marketing.
“New York guys don’t like Californians. They wont’ help finance your trip. They’ll think you’re a stupid girl for wanting to leave New York.
It sounded true. Maybe I was putting in all my time and energy into a horrible decision. I had always learned my lessons the hard way. I took Drew’s advice and continued brainstorming strategies for my trip. I didn’t have much time to save up over ten grand, or much to sell.
“Just sell your eggs,” Natalie a funny waitress said. “You’ll get at least six thousand dollars.”
The thought of selling my unfertilized eggs unsettled in my stomach. Would it hurt? I always wanted a surrogate mother. Could they possibly sell half of my eggs and freeze the other half for when I found my prince in Cali? The thought crossed my mind, but I thought of the long term emotional effects. What if ten years later I wanted to meet my hatched egg. I wanted to see what kind of genes I carried. I imagined myself scoping out ever ten year old on the street thinking they were my own child.
“No there is no way I can do that,” I told Natalie.
“But you’ll be helping out someone who needs it. Won’t that make you feel good?”
“No I don’t think so.”
I thought back to health class. Wasn’t there a body part I had two of but didn’t need?
“Hey Trey,” I said as I ran up to him with my tray full of martinis. “What’s that body part you don’t need?”
He thought long and hard for a minute. It was adorable when he tried to think.
“Well I think you need all of them.”
“Yes, but don’t I have an extra body part? Is it the liver?”
“No unfortunately not. We only got one of those. I think it’s your kidney or something.”
That was it, the kidney. I heard they didn’t do much but we had two of them. Some people needed them and were on waiting lists. For all I knew this extra kidney was a part of the extra ten pounds I carried. I happily skipped around waiting on tables for the rest of the night. I was going to sell my kidney to go to Cali!
I figured I would get at least five to ten grand out of it. I couldn’t wait to tell Drew the good news of my new game plan.
“You’re not selling your kidney. Don’t be stupid it’s illegal,” he as he rolled his eyes at me.
“I don’t care. I’ll sell it on the black market. I’m going to LA!”
“You know my buddy Chris? He only has one kidney. Maybe he’ll buy it from you,” he joked as he shook up a mojito.
It was true, I knew Chris and he was born with only one kidney. He was just about fifteen years older than me. Maybe he could buy it temporarily. I’d write him out a contract selling him my kidney and when he died I could get my kidney back. That might work, but I needed to investigate more about this body part, and how I was to sell it if Chris passed on my offer.
I stayed up until 6 am the next morning surfing the next. I found out all types of useful facts on the kidney. The kidney worked with my liver. It was located in my back so that’s where I would have the scar. While it was illegal in the United States I found there was a trend to sell them in Israel. They paid more than I even expected. There was a secret facility that they put you up in for recovery. I saved the article under my favorites file on my computer and dozed off contentedly to sleep. I told Drew the next day about my findings on the internet.
“If I go out there in August, I’ll be healed up and ready for LA in October,” I said as I watched Drew make a fancy martini.
“Great now I can introduce you as my other friend with one kidney,” he said without looking up.
“Drew I’m really doing this. You only live once, and I need to be in LA. If it takes selling a kidney to do it, I’ll do it,” I said as I pounded tray down on the counter.
Drew started laughing. “What if they ask you to toss in a few fingers for a couple thousand bucks? Will you do that too?” He tucked a few fingers back and taunted me saying, “Hi, I’m Emily. I’m missing some fingers and a kidney but I’m a really good actress.”
“Well it will show how serious I am about making it!”
“You think you are just going to go to Israel and they are going to take out your kidney, give you a check and a big hug? No way. You’re nuts, I’m not letting you do it.”
Drew convinced me if I went there alone there was no telling what they’d do to me. Once I was under anesthesia they could take all my good body parts and toss away the rest. That wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was possible. The next few weeks I asked my doctor friends about the kidney and the scars. They all told me not to do it. I was listening to my Ipod on my way through midtown traffic crying when I saw my boss Vinny.
He pulled my arm to stop me and asked, “What’s wrong?”
I began to ramble on as tears poured down my face. “I couldn’t get a summer job. I have to sell my kidney.”
“Yes, it’s the only way.”
“Don’t worry you are not going to sell your kidney. Sell your ass, you have a lot more of it,” he said as he patted my head and walked off.
He didn’t know I planned to go the following month and I had a note written in case I never returned. I cried even harder walking down Park Avenue all the way to work.
“Don’t worry it will all come together,” Drew said as he poured me a bloody Mary. “Something will come up. Just give it time.” He told me if I sold my kidney I wouldn’t be able to drink. A week later I got a job at one of the best steakhouses in the city. The hours were easy and the money was great.
“Aren’t you happy you didn’t sell your kidney?” Drew asked with a smile.
Yes I was, because while I was willing to give up a body part for California, I wasn’t willing to give up drinking anytime soon. I ended up choosing Costa Rica over California to write and to heal my voice in solitude. Drew joked if I went to Costa Rica alone I’ll probably get my kidney’s stolen. While California is still on my to do list, selling my body parts is not. Someday I hope to make it to Cali in one piece.