This is the story of the clash of two dominant personalities, a vicious tycoon and a teenage intellectual rebel. This is a shortened version of the Hollywood screenplay SUNSET GIRL, which is being proposed for film production. (Copyright Philippines). This appeared in Daily Tribune in a 2-part series on July 31 and August 4, 2021.
eastwind journals, August 4, 2021 (archive tr149)
Terence, 76 years old, is a self-made tycoon. Head of a multi-billion conglomerate. His over-sized office has a glass wall-window overlooking the west side of Midtown Manhattan. His desk is as large as a pool table, glass and chrome, only one folder and a telephone on top, nothing else. He starts his day at 7 a.m. It is now sunset. There is a knock at the door. He is to interview a young girl for a secretarial position.
TERENCE – Hi Therese. Welcome. Sit down. Feel at home.
THERESE – I am at home.
TERENCE – I must tell you. I have a bad name of being vicious. Deep inside, I am really vicious. It’s my nature. Don’t be afraid.
THERESE – I am not afraid.
TERENCE – I like that for a change. Everybody here fears me. I am normally addressed as ‘sir’.
THERESE – Don’t you get tired of people at your feet? It’s about time you meet an equal.
TERENCE – Whoa. An equal. I could fire you this instant.
THERESE – Go ahead. You want me to go? (She stands up.)
TERENCE – Whoa. This is getting better. Sit down. And what is your position in this office?
THERESE – Assistant to the third assistant secretary. I was told you needed a ‘sunset girl’ to help you relax when the day is done. I’m good in relaxing people. And I hate office work. That’s the reason I took this job.
TERENCE – And you call us equals?
THERESE – Yes. The only difference is you’re rich and I am not. That’s to your advantage. But you’re are old and I am young. That’s to my advantage. Not really. We will both die one day. I might even die before you do. And our IQs are more or less the same. I have a slight edge.
TERENCE – It takes more than IQ to make a tycoon.
THERESE – I know. Your EQ is much lower than mine because you’re basically nasty, as you admit.
TERENCE – And what is your secret in relaxing people.
THERESE – I don’t know. I’m just me.
TERENCE – (Leafing through her biodata). Hmmm. 19 years old. Summa cum laude, Boston U. Top of the class. Banking and Finance. No work experience.
THERESE – Aside from sunset duty, I am a genius in finance. Wanna try me?
TERENCE – I have a dozen VPs who can do finance while sleeping.
THERESE – Then let’s stick to the sunset.
TERENCE – I hired you because you’re at the top of your class, and your personality test says you’re a sort-of intellectual rebel. I want a young bright kid I can talk to at the end of the day.
THERESE – About what precisely?
TERENCE – Anything. I need someone who thinks out-of-the-box, pure of heart and without scars.
THERESE – Terence, may I call you Terence?
TERENCE – You already did.
THERESE – You’re tired of yes people, your VPs, right?
TERENCE – Yes. Tell me your first impression of me.
THERESE – I don’t think you are really vicious, as you say. You’re pretending to be. Maybe you’re just insecure deep inside, which no one seems to discern.
TERENCE – Have you discerned it?
THERESE – I’m not sure. You did not mind my insolence. That’s the soft spot. But you were threatened by me as your equal, yet you welcomed it. Maybe you’re lonely.
TERENCE – Wait, you’re putting me on the defensive. You’re better than my shrinks.
THERESE – Then don’t be defensive. I’m not like your yes men. You have no hold on me. That’s a nice feeling for me, and for you also, isn’t it? You want me to defy you, I mean, for a change.
TERENCE – Do you feel my despair?
THERESE – Obvious from the minute I entered the room.
Therese stands up, goes to the mini-bar, puts brandy on two goblets and gets two glasses of iced water, puts them on a tray, and places it on Terence’s table.
THERESE – May I join you?
TERENCE – Stupid question. You brought two glasses.
THERESE – Your secretary told me what you drink.
Glasses clink. The ice is broken between the tycoon and the teenager. They approach the window and look at lesser skyscrapers silhouetted against the orange horizon.
TERENCE – Do you think I should buy Daily Globe? Let’s see what your summa cum laude brain will say.
THERESE – What for? You have everything. It’s just to satisfy your greed and your ego. Oops. What the heck. I won’t be polite, Terence. What do you want a newspaper for, to project your over-projected image? Power? Fame? You were on the cover of Time three months ago, and Fortune four months before that. You’ve been on the covers, what six times in the last, what four years?
TERENCE – Seven times. You’ve been reading up on me. So, what do I do?
THERESE – Stop acquiring. Stop merging. Stop this obsession for your empire, like morphine to an addict. You need to detoxify.
TERENCE – You know we have been talking for 30 minutes and for the first time, you’re changing me, my life.
THERESE – Sunset girls do that. I can see through you. You are naked to me, Terence. All this velvet under your feet is nothing to you. You hide your fears well to your staff.
TERENCE – I have seen three shrinks in the last two months.
Terence breaks down without shame, shedding tears for the first time in a long while. Therese gets the bottle of brandy and fills the two goblets to the brim.
THERESE – Yup, that’s the first step. Tears. Very medicinal.
TERENCE – This is not the way to drink brandy, Therese.
THERESE – Oops. Sorry.
Therese goes to the bar and pours tequila into two goblets. They gulp it instantly.
THERESE – Shrinks can’t help you, Terence. They just want your money.
TERENCE – So what do I do. C’mon sunset girl. (Pause) Wait. More tequila.
She takes the bottle of tequila and fills the goblets. They are emptied instantly. She pours again. But just as Terence is about to have a second gulp, Therese pulls the glass away.
THERESE – Wait wait wait. Look at me. (He looks.) Get rid of your empire. Give it away. That’s the only way you get out of your rut.
TERENCE – My empire a rut? You’re kidding.
THERESE – Yes, your empire a rut and you’re drowning in it.
There is silence. Terence yanks the glass from Therese and both down the tequila.
THERESE – I mean, you’re in the pre-departure area. Have you ever thought of death?
TERENCE – That has been haunting me for years.
THERESE – Give your empire way. ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his immortal soul,’ Mark Chapter 8 Verse 6. Two key words, Terence – ‘profit’ and ‘immortal’. Mark puts it in corporate jargon – profit. And he compares your puny empire to the infinity of your soul – immortal.
TERENCE – Okay. I have just made a decision. Maybe I can put up a foundation to rescue the homeless, and write off the bad loans on mortgaged houses, how about that?
Therese pours more tequila. They down it in two seconds.
THERESE – Anything, as long as it’s not for you. It has to be for others. That’s the secret – love. Write off loans selectively, only for the poorer guys. Let’s say a prayer. (Terence falls to knees.) No, don’t kneel. Slouch in your chair and swing it to the sunset. (Both facing the sunset.) Okay, now, I will pray for both of us. Lord, teach us, Terence and I, how to give to others. Especially Terence, Lord, since he has so much to give.
TERENCE – That’s it. Finished?
THERESE – Finished. You don’t have to elaborate. He knows. I have to go. It’s late, and I feel whoozy.
TERENCE – Can I take you home?
THERESE – No. I live three blocks away. (She pours more tequila.) I want to walk home in the cold air after this nice talk with you. I enjoyed it terribly. For the road? (They empty the glasses.) I’m not coming back. I gave you your sunset.
TERENCE – Help me throw my empire away.
THERESE – I am not good at that. Ask Him. (pointing a finger up. She heads for the door.)
TERENCE – Wait, wait.
Terence is frantic writing a cheque. He folds a crumpled cheque and slips it into her cleavage, almost stumbling into her.
THERESE – Watch it.
TERENCE – (Raising both hands.) No touch, Therese.
THERESE – I’m going. Thanks for the company. It fired me up. Wow, it’s been a long time.
TERENCE – Read the cheque, damn it.
THERESE – (Stops at the door and reads it). You’re kidding. I can’t take this.
TERENCE – You’re doing me a favor. Take the damn cheque.
THERESE – (Sobs and leaves). I won’t be back.
TERENCE – Hell, drop in sometime?
With the money, Therese bought a modest beach house in Long Island and a second-hand Benz. Terence was envious and bought a nearby beach house.
THERESE – Are you following me?
TERENCE – Nope. I’m following Him.
THERESE – Oh. How nice. So, we’re both headed His way.
The tycoon and the teenager watched a thousand sunsets together over Tequila. True enough, Therese died after a year. Terence had to stay behind to throw his vast empire away for the Lord. Everyone thought he was mad, except the Lord, of course.