Life's Little Choices

(April 12, 2002; yes, this is in screenplay format - it is, in fact, a screenplay. But not a very good one.)
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FADE IN:

INT. THE APARTMENT - HALLWAY
We flit through the apartment, which is littered with junk, past two open bedroom doors. One room is sloppy and lit brightly from the window in the northern wall, while the other is much neater and cozy, decorated with a hemp curtain and various murals, but quite dim. Heading through the living room -- whose tables are littered with drug paraphinalia and a few Maxims - we reach the kitchen.

We close on the faces of JAY and RY, who are washing dishes - Ry washing, Jay drying. JAY is staring out the window which faces a dirty, empty lot across the street.

JAY (V.O.)
You know, we're a really stupid society. We pass a guy muttering to himself on the street and cross to the other side; women are always scared that the guys who talk to God in the park are all rapists just waiting to grab them. But the really dangerous ones? We don't even notice, or worse, we like them.

RY lifts a large BUTCHER KNIFE from the soapy water, smiling cheerfully. It shines in the sunlight, his face reflected and brightened by its blade.

RY
(lightly)
Hey, do you think this baby could cleave through bone?

JAY
What? How would I know? Probably not.
(joking, but awkwardly)
Besides, wouldn't an axe work better?

RY
That's so cliche. Besides, everyone needs variety.

He smiles winningly, confident. He's cool and he knows it.

INT. THE APARTMENT -- BATHROOM -- A FEW MOMENTS LATER
JAY is brushing his teeth, peering critically at his face. He leans over to spit, glancing down at the sink.

His POV: A few drops of blood are pooling in the sink and dripping from the fixture onto the floor.

He leans out the door and calls:
Hey man, did you cut yourself shaving or something?

RY (O.C.)
No.

JAY
Ah, okay. Sorry.

Looking perplexed, he follows a trail - more like a few barely-noticeable spots - of blood to Ry's closed door, which we can see bears a WHITEBOARD covered in phone numbers and messages. His expression grows suspicious, and not just a little jealous as he lifts a finger to touch a new number (the name -Ariana' beneath it), but after a beat he shrugs and heads back to his room.

INT. THE APARTMENT - JAY'S ROOM
Jay is sitting on his bed amid his mess, staring out at the blank brick wall which is all that can be seen out his dusty window.

JAY (V.O)
Everyone likes to say that they hate judging people, but once we've gotten suspicious, we come to conclusions pretty damned fast. But never the right ones, and never at the right time. We're pretty big morons like that.

He frowns and walks over to the window.

EXT. THE APARTMENT - LOOKING IN
Jay groans, leaning his forehead against the screen.

JAY (V.O)
Nice view, huh?

He snorts aloud.

JAY (V.O.)
It's about the best you can get here on a university student's budget, unless you're one of those spoiled faux-French girlies Montreal seems to have so many of. Could be worse, though - you should see my buddy Mere's shack. Smells worse than our bathroom, which is nastier than I could possibly express, with the added bonus of roaches the size of rabbits. But anyway.

JAY
I'm way too jealous for my own good. But not getting laid in practically forever doesn't do much good for my ego, dammit... dammit, Ry...

INT. THE APARTMENT - JAY'S ROOM
Jay turns and leans to start digging through a pile of papers. After a few moments, the sounds of sex begin to bleed through the walls. He stops moving mid-rummage.

JAY
Oh, for fuck's sake.
(ironic tone)
Seriously.

He puts on a pair of HEADPHONES, but the sounds are far too loud to be drowned out by his music. Muttering, he grabs his phone and calls WINKY. The phone is picked up on the other end after the first ring.

WINKY'S MOM (on phone)
Colwell residence. Who might this be?

JAY
It's Jay, Mrs. Colwell. Could you put Winky on?

WINKY'S MOM (on phone)
And who may I say is speaking?

JAY
(making a face)
Jay, Mrs. Colwell. I call every day, remember? And have gone to school with your son for nearly a decade? And graduated with him? Yes?

WINKY'S MOM (on phone)
(shortly)
Yes, of course.
(calling away from phone)
Jacob!

Jay rolls his eyes at the ceiling. This obviously happens often. A long beat, then:

WINKY (on phone)
Jay! What's - uh, what's that noise?

Jay makes a bitter face, and begins playing with a RUBIX CUBE he pulls from a heap beside him.

JAY
Ry's enjoying his evening with that mock-French girl he met at Mere's birthday. That brainless one, the one who got pissed and danced nude, what's her name, uh...

WINKY (on phone)
May? The one with the piercings in all the wrong places?

JAY
No, that was Tuesday. This is... Lana. Yeah, that's it - "Lah-nuh." Cute, but that's about all. Always pretending she only speaks French. Fluff.

WINKY (on phone)
(laughing)
Right, loser! You're just jealous because that's as close to sex as you've gotten in.. how long?

JAY
Like your mom lets you do so much better! I'm sorry, but she's still a bitch, medication or not.

WINKY (on phone)
I know, I know. I bet they're placebo. But I've never let a challenge get in my way, if you see what I'm saying. Eh, eh? Anyway, want to escape the House of Love and grab a coffee?

JAY
Sure. I want to talk to you about Ry, anyway - I think there's something he's not telling me.

WINKY (on phone)
Did you two become a couple while I wasn't looking? Afraid he's got a new man - or several dozen women - on the side? Sorry buddy, but the rumours are true.

JAY
Oh, shut up. I'll explain when we're there.

The sex sounds give way to female screams, their cause being pleasure or pain not evident. Jay glances up and drops his cube, alarmed.

JAY
I'll call you back in a sec.

He hangs up and, grabbing the dumbbell lying by the door, runs to Ry's room. Standing before the closed door, he calls:

JAY
Lana! Are you all right?

A long beat, as all falls silent.

LANA (behind door)
Nous sommes bon - te toi!

Ry comes to the door a moment later, glowering.

RY
What the hell? Never heard a happy girl before, my friend? Maybe you should go find yourself a female, and not spend so much time listening to mine.

LANA (behind door)
Oui! Allons-y!

Ry SLAMS the door.

JAY
Sorry. Sorry, sorry!

Blushing furiously, he hurries back to his room and sits on his bed, obviously mortified. He puts the HEADPHONES on again, and the music drowns out the new silence.

INT. THE APARTMENT - RY'S ROOM
Ry and Lana lie side by side beneath the covers, not touching. Lana is looking at him, but he stares at the ceiling. The music fades.

LANA
Je t'aime.

RY
You're a sweet lady, Lan.

LANA
Merci, mon cher.

She smiles at him, obviously hoping for a reciprocation of her loving words. He smiles back, but it is false - too wide and too bright.

RY
So, would you like to come over again tomorrow?

Her face falls. She is about to reply when her eyes fall on something off-camera, and she pales.

A long beat.

LANA
Ry...?

He turns to follow her gaze silently, and grins.

FADE TO BLACK.

FADE IN:

EXT. MCGILL UNIVERSITY - THE NEXT DAY
Ry and Mere sit on their coats in the sunshine - he drinking up the light, she squinting behind sunglasses. He looks troubled; she wears an expression of perpetual cynicism.

JAY
I can't believe his bed is still in one piece. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

MERE
Ah, so whining because your roommate is far luckier in the physical sense of the word wasn't enough. All right, I'm listening.

Jay begins picking blades of grass and arranging them in careful GEOMETRIC PATTERNS.

JAY
There's something weird about him. Ry, I mean. Something's just not right, you know?

MERE
I know.

Jay glances up at her, stupefied.

JAY
What? Really?

MERE
Of course.

A beat, then she grins.

MERE
He's too cute to be real! He's really a robot from Pluto, or perhaps mass-manufactured by Hot Love Inc.!

Jay immediately drops his gaze back to his patterns, tearing at the grass more stubbornly.

JAY
If you're going to do that, why don't you go to class? I'm being serious, dammit.

MERE
Fine, anything to avoid class. If the problem isn't the fact that he's popular and your favourite date is in the Victoria's Secret catalog - last year's! - what is it?

Jay's grass-patterning ceases as he starts decorating his creation with petals plucked from a few buttercups. He doesn't look up.

MERE
Hurry up and whine, laddie, before I go in search of Hot Dave from Poli Sci.

JAY
(in a burst)
Okay, so last week I was walking with him to McDonald's and when he reached into his pocket to grab his wallet he got out this thing of white powder, then two days ago we were doing dishes and he, like, talked about cutting people up, then-

Mere raises an eyebrow, her usual smirk melting into a look of simple -I can't believe how stupid you are' seriousness.

MERE
So he's your usual drug-using, homicidal man, like all the other guys we know. Remember Leo at Caf- Biere on Rue Monde? He, like, makes Ry look like Mr. Rogers - on downers.

JAY
Just because Ry hasn't set a urinal on fire doesn't make him normal, it makes Leo a lunatic. Wasn't he the one who liked to paint himself with relish or something?

MERE
It wasn't relish, but something like that. Yuck. The neighborhood dogs must've loved him.

JAY
But there was this trail of blood, from the bathroom to his door, and he said he hadn't been bleeding, and...

Mere reaches out and scatters Jay's careful design. He blanches, and she laughs.

MERE
I think exams are getting to you, buddy. I'm gonna go; it's almost time for Poli Sci, and there's Dave... anyway, call me tonight. Assuming your roommate doesn't hack you to bits for not taking out the trash, of course.

She stands and ruffles his hair as he stares at his feet silently, then walks into the nearest building. He glances up as soon as her back is turned.

Jay's POV: Mere has stopped between the set of doors leading into the building and is chatting with a man dressed in thrift store clothes and bearing what seems like far too many facial piercings.

JAY
How does she do that? How does everyone? Why does everyone hook up but me?

We pan out and up, so that we're treated to a view of dozens of students milling around Jay, whose green-shirted form all but vanishes against the grass.

JAY
Maybe Ry's not the problem, maybe I'm just jealous and pathetic.

INT. MONTAGE -- MCGILL UNIVERSITY
Jay walks up and down the halls, searching the expressions on those he passes - threatening, impassive, falsely cheerful. The faces swirl by, as if not tied to reality, the shots peppered with views of Jay's face, which grows ever more tense. The effect is surreal. He finally sits below a row of lockers, stills his expression, and drops his head between his knees.

EXT. MCGILL UNIVERSITY - THAT AFTERNOON
Jay is walking home, looking far happier. He is just exiting onto a street off of campus when:

LANA (O.C.)
Jay! -Ey, Monsieur Ruiner-du-Sexe!

Jay turns, his shoulders sagging as he colors.

His POV: Lana is walking briskly up the street toward us, her tiny shirt and short shorts concealing very little of her figure. She is more interested in prying information from Jay than getting to know him, clearly.

LANA
Allo, Jay.

She grows more serious, and when she continues, her voice has dropped from its usual breathy whisper.

LANA
Could I talk to you a minute? About Ry?

JAY
(stammering)
Uh, sure, Lana... sure. Okay

She gestures at a graffiti-covered bench just inside the gates. Jay trails behind her, then sits an uncomfortable distance from her - too close, but not close enough to seem intentionally daring. He watches his feet, waiting for her to speak. A beat.

LANA
Why did Ry stop, er, seeing me? Did he mention anything to you?

JAY
Sorry, we haven't talked since before, er, yeah. I could ask him to call you, I guess? Ry's kinda like that, though.

LANA
I thought he loved me... he's so cute, and so nice, Jay! One of those irresistible men... I always give in to irresistible men...

She sighs, but her half-grin says that irresistible men aren't so bad. Jay somehow looks even more awkward. It's obvious she's not referring to him.

JAY
I can't tell you if he loves you or not, Lana. But he's kind of weird, so maybe you should just find someone new...

LANA
Weird? Ah... maybe he broke up with me because of my discovery, then?

JAY
Discovery?

LANA
Oui... I didn't think too much of it at the time - he's fabulous in bed, he is -- but he has a gym bag with an arm in it in his room. He said it was a project for his biology class, but then he was all quiet - not like him, he's so much fun! - and after a while, I left. Then he called to say he didn't think we should see each other anymore. I couldn't believe it, and ran to my bathroom to cry and cry-

JAY
An arm? Like, a human arm?

Lana looks over at him, annoyed that he has dared cut off her grieving.

LANA
Yes. A hand, at least... I could just see a few fingers poking out. It was pretty messy, didn't match the rest of his room, which is so neat and tidy and nice to lie in...

JAY
And you didn't see anything wrong with that?

LANA
With his room? Oh. Non. Like I said, he said it was a project, and he's just so honest, Jay...

JAY
Right. Well, I've got to go.

He stands quickly, grabbing his bookbag. He walks away, calling over his shoulder:

JAY
I'll see about him calling you, I promise. See you later, Lana.

Lana waves, looking somewhat perplexed and unsure of why he has left so suddenly. Her false accent returns:

LANA
Au revoir!

EXT. EMPTY LOT - THAT EVENING AT DUSK
Ry is standing at the back of the lot across the street from his apartment, a SHOVEL in hand. He is tossing the final few layers of dirt over top of a large LUMP that fits into the surrounding landscape of grime and trash surprisingly well. He sings a few bars as he works:

RY
I said yep, what a concept, I could use a little fuel myself, and we could alllll use a little chaaaaange....

He goes through a few merry dance steps, hopping back and forth across the grave. He glances up.

Ry's POV: An elderly man is walking by the front of the lot, waving.

CLAUDE
Hello, Ry! Out for a stroll?

Ry waves back, his shovel perfectly visible in his other hand.

RY
Sure am, Claude! Beautiful day, huh?

CLAUDE
Oui! It's the kind of day that makes you feel alive, it is! Have a bonne nuit, Ry! Oh, and would you tell your roommate that his music is keeping me up at night? He could stand to take a few lessons about kindness and consideration from you, my friend.

Ry nods, and Claude smiles brightly as he turns back to his shoveling, then continues walking. Apparently body-burying is nothing to get too concerned about, at least when it's Ry doing it.

INT. THE APARTMENT - KITCHEN
Jay stands at the window, staring out at Ry working. His face is ashen, and he trembles with shock.

JAY (V.O.)
Suspicious or not, no one ever likes to have such a large chunk of reality dropped on them, do they? Nah, reveling in ignorance is so much easier, and less scary...

JAY
Oh my god. Sweet fucking Jesus.

At this moment, Ry glances up.

EXT. EMPTY LOT
Ry's POV: The window that belongs to his apartment is occupied by a figure, though it is not easy to make out who it is. As we look, the figure vanishes.

Ry smiles, hiding his SHOVEL in the scraggly bushes to his right.

RY
Hmmm. It would appear that I have been caught red-handed...

He wipes a grimy forearm across his forehead, then saunters down the street.

INT. THE APARTMENT - JAY'S ROOM
Jay is lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, a bottle of beer in one hand. After a beat, he sits up abruptly and walks to his door, locks it, then returns to his former position.

MONTAGE
We are inside Jay's head as he imagines various scenes of murder. Flickering images of Ry slitting throats and stabbing screaming women are intermixed with images of him beckoning women toward his bed and causing screams of pleasure. The music is dark and haunting, but laced with an undertone of power. The scene ends with a lasting image of Ry, danging a pair of car keys in front of us, his handsome face twisted into a wide grin.

FADE TO BLACK.

FADE IN:

INT. THE APARTMENT - JAY'S ROOM
With a start, Jay sits up, instinctively taking a drink from his bottle. He shakes his head a few times, then:

JAY
Sweet fucking Jesus. Seriously.

He stands and moves to unlock his door, pausing in total silence to listen for signs of life in the apartment. Hearing none, he hurries out.

INT. CAF- BIERE - TWENTY MINUTES LATER
Jay sits at a small table in one corner of the unwholesome-looking cafe, leaning in close to confide in Winky, who wears an expression somewhere between incredulity, amusement, and nervousness.

WINKY
So what are you saying? That our local infamous sex machine is actually a murderer?

JAY
Maybe. I don't know. It sure looks like it, huh?

WINKY
It doesn't look like it that much, Jay. Yeah, the standing-in-a-lot-with-a-shovel thing is weird, but it doesn't mean he was burying a body, and you know that Lana has the brainpower of mulch. And not even good enriched mulch. Definitely not the mulch used on high-quality produce of any-

JAY
Winky! Dammit, why doesn't anyone take me seriously?

WINKY
Probably because your conspiracies are getting a little old, man. Ever since you moved into that apartment you've been acting funny... is it really that bad to live with a popular guy who everyone likes?

JAY
Yes! I mean... not because of that. Yeah, I'm jealous, but this goes beyond that. I mean, he had an ARM in his bag, an arm!

WINKY
Says Lah-nuh.

JAY
She doesn't have the imagination to invent an arm!

WINKY
Arms are pretty standard, you know. But then, other parts would be more invigorating... ooh, this has X-rated B-movie written all over it...

Jay slams his COFFEE CUP against the table. The other patrons don't even glance over.

JAY
Dammit! Why can't you just stop making stupid jokes for a minute and listen to what I'm saying, and actually think about it! I'm not just trying to be a jerk, I honestly think there's something wrong with him, and if you're not going to respect that, I'll leave.

WINKY
Whoa, whoa, man. Calm down, and quit sipping that coffee. I was just trying to lighten your mood a bit, you know? I'd say you could come stay at my place, but Mom's insisting on cleanliness, and guests apparently ruin her careful disinfecting. At this rate, I'll be wearing Kleenex boxes on my feet by next week.

JAY
That's all right. Maybe I'll stay at Mere's, even if it does smell like cat piss. I just can't decide if I should tell the police or anything...

WINKY
If you think he's actually killed someone, why wouldn't you? Even if you just prove you're a paranoid maniac, you're not going to get in trouble for it, and at least then you'll know.

JAY
Yeah, but he's my roommate, and we've been pretty good friends since I moved in. How would you feel if you found out your roommate tried to accuse you of murder?

WINKY
If I hadn't done it? Pissed as hell. If I had? Even more pissed as hell, plus homidical.

JAY
Thanks a lot.

WINKY
I don't know, man. You're obviously very freaked out, and I probably would be too, but I think you might just be jealous of Lover Boy. Go to Mere's tonight, and think about it some more, all right?

JAY
Yeah, okay. Later.

Dropping a few coins on the table, Jay stands, bends over to arrange his empty cup and unused cutlery just-so, and leaves the caf- with a wave.

Winky shakes his head.

WINKY
That boy needs a woman.

INT. THE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM - THE NEXT DAY
Jay walks through the front door stealthily, obviously tense. He heads to the table in the living room and begins to scoop up some of the STUFF, sticking it in his bookbag. However, his nervousness makes him fumble, and he drops his PIPE three times before he manages to put it away. He mutters to himself.

Ry walks silently in from the hallway, his usual cheer fixed in place. Jay does not notice him until:

RY
And where were you last night, young man? Finally find a lady who succumbed to your boyish charms? It's about time!

Jay jumps, whirling around.

JAY No, I was at... at Mere's. I'm just...

He glances down, realizing how suspicious his actions look.

RY
Going somewhere? Taking a trip for the weekend or something, my friend? Perhaps I should let you borrow my car.

JAY
Your car?

RY
Yep, your buddy Ry came across a great deal on a -97 Mustang, and since you're such a wonderful guy, I would be happy to share it with you for a few days.

JAY
A deal? On a Mustang?

RY
Not too swift today, are we? Yes, a deal on a Mustang. One might say fate dropped it right in my lap. With a little prompting from my end, of course.

Jay begins backing toward the front door, his eyes never leaving Ry.

JAY
I.... saw you. Out in the lot. Yesterday. Was that... were you... what?

Reaching into his pocket, Ry pulls out a set of KEYS, which he tosses at Jay, who catches them after they bounce off of his body but just before they fall to the floor.

RY
Life is an adventure, my friend. The trick is knowing which strings you should leave alone, and which you have to pull, in order to get things moving like they should. You need to relax, man... here, fire this up in the hookah and sit a while before you head out on your trip. Everything's fine, right?

JAY
I don't think so, Ry. I want to know what you were burying out there.

Ry sits on their couch amid the piles of stuff, picking up a small hookah as he reclines. He lights it and puffs for a moment, then glances up, smiling.

RY
Do you want names, or just generalities? Details like gender, hair and eye colour, length of nails, what they were wearing? Or do you just want me to say that it was someone, and leave it at that? Or maybe just say it was nothing at all?

He inhales again, the cheerful bubbling of the water offsetting Jay's frantic breathing.

JAY
So you killed someone?

RY
Everyone is someone, even people like you who feel like nobody. I've killed quite a few someones, and they were all special. This one had a better car than most, though, one which should guide you on your journey. Women can't resist Mustangs.

JAY
(frantic)
Why would you kill someone? Why would you? Why?

RY
She broke up with me. Women should know better. Remember Ariana, from Safeway? She wanted Leo, that perverted bastard from the caf-. But she'll have a hard time finding him in his new home. A bit of my magic touch in his peanut butter, and all is well again. Here.

He holds the hookah out toward Jay, who stares at it as if it were an implement of destruction in and of itself.

JAY
No.... no, thanks. No. I think I'd better go.

RY
Certainly, my man... I shouldn't have kept you from your adventure for so long! The car's parked to your left when you leave the building. Have an excellent trip.

Jay stammers some sort of thanks, and all but flees the apartment. Ry continues sitting with his hookah, an expression of perfect contentment on his face.

EXT. RUE CLARKE, BY THE APARTMENT
Jay stands before the Mustang - jet black, with a flame pattern licking at its sides - staring as if transfixed.

JAY (V.O.)
Death. Murder. Revenge. Mustang... two options: risk joining Leo, or take the car and never look back. Or are those the only two options? I never was one for planning.

Finally, looking around himself once, he walks to the driver's side door, unlocks it, and gets inside the car. He bats at the dice hanging from the rearview mirror idly.

JAY
Ah, what the hell. Women DO like Mustangs...

Starting the ignition, he pulls away from the curb.

JAY (V.O.)
No one's moral all the time. Particularly those of us who are always behind -- and I'm not the popular murderer everyone loves, so I've got to take my luck where I can get it. I'll be back, and see about turning him in... but for now, I'm going to focus on more important things.

INT. THE APARTMENT - KITCHEN
Ry stands before the window, watching the Mustang depart. His grin widens, and he waves cheerfully. We pan out a bit, and notice that he's holding the butcher knife again. Its blade reflects the image of Lana, walking up the street toward the apartment.

FADE TO BLACK.