Ryan Gosling barely even noticed as a rotten head of lettuce smashed into his face and slopped onto the ground. The taunting shouts of the neighborhood children fell on deaf ears. There was a time when this would have affected him, even wounded him, but it was such a common occurrence at this point that it hardly registered. Sometimes in the dark of night, he might sit and reflect on the path that had led him to this place, and he might determine what had gone wrong, even pinpoint the exact moment when he’d crossed some invisible threshold between up and coming heartthrob actor and bitter rejected runner up loser, but in the light of day he simply kept moving. The children faded into the background, their shrieking jeers falling away, but of course they would be replaced at any moment by more children. Another soggy head of lettuce, or perhaps a banana peel spotted with coffee grounds. One time an entire garbage can had been chucked in his face, and he’d had to go to the hospital. And so, as if he had somehow summoned them, a group of teenagers began to follow closely behind him whisper-chanting “Ug-ly! Ug-ly! Ug-ly!” Ryan Gosling’s shoulders tensed automatically and his hands clenched into fists. He closed his eyes and did his meditation before releasing the stress in one long exhalation and turned to face his tormenters.
“Guys,” he said in his fake American accent, “I get it. But I’m just trying to mind my own business. So we’ve all had our fun, but how about you leave me alone. I’m a human being, you know.”
“Yeah,” one of the teenagers said between smacks of gum, “but you’re not the SEXIEST human being. Bradley Cooper is!” The other teenagers tittered and punched each other in their shoulders.
“Well, technically he’s the sexiest man. There might be a woman who’s the sexiest human being.”
“That’s exactly what the second sexiest man alive would say,” one of the teenagers barked, and then hocked up a lougie and spit it in Ryan Gosling’s face. The teenagers ran off, laughing and carousing down the street.
Ryan Gosling wiped the spit from his face, and ducked into a dark, seedy bar. He needed a drink. The place was damp and quiet and mostly empty. Ryan took a stool by himself at the corner of the bar. The bartender asked what he wanted and he ordered a Canadian Club on the rocks. He could tell as the bartender poured his drink that she recognized who he was, and he saw the familiar shadow of pity and disdain cross her face, but like any bartender worth her salt, she knew to hold her tongue, and Ryan Gosling appreciated that. He left her an overly generous tip, although he would have done that anyway. He’d started leaving huge tips everywhere he went, trying to compensate for the hideousness of his looks. What had Cooper said in his interview? That some days he looked horrifying? Well, Mr. Cooper, if only you knew what it was like to look horrifying all of the time. Ryan Gosling threw back his drink and slapped his hand on the bar for another. “A second drink for second place,” he mumbled to himself, and one lone Native American tear rolled down his face.
“Hey!” a feeble voice punctuated the musty air. “I know you.” Ryan Gosling looked to the source and found an old man half-pickled in his drink. He had a watchcap pulled low over his brow, and his clothes were stained and torn. Before Ryan Gosling had a chance to respond, the man had already gotten up from his stool and sat himself down next to him. “You’re that guy,” the old man said, wobbling his finger in Ryan Gosling’s face, spilling more whiskey down his shirt. “Number 2!” Ryan Gosling didn’t say anything. “You’re like me now,” the man hissed. “You and me are the same.” Ryan Gosling slipped off his stool and stumbled as he ran out of the bar.
“YOU AND ME ARE THE SAME!” the old man shouted at him as he ran. “YOU’LL NEVER BE NUMBER ONE SEXIEST MAN IN THE WORLD!” The man’s voice echoed in Ryan Gosling’s head. He knew it would be there for the rest of his life. The sinister voice of 1989’s #2, Kevin Costner, forever inside of him, taunting him. Forever.