(Scary times….EEK! I have mentioned I am taking a writing workshop over the next few weeks. I figure I write anything here anyway, so I might as well drop in some of the work I am doing in there. I have this idea that I will one day perform one of my stories, at the MOTH, or another story-telling forum. What follows is a true story and an experiment in figuring out how to write it coherently and possibly also use it as a spoken word piece. You all can guess who the famous author is if you like!)
The moment he walked into the crowded kitchen I knew who he was. So tall, imposing, so bald. It was an incongruous setting, this kitchen in the San Fernando Valley the night before Thanksgiving. Why was he even here? When Ken walked in I understood. Probably a book tour. No one else recognized him, but when introduced my friend Gilmer was as instantly interested as I. She, the 6 book a week reader, me the recent widow, looking for distraction and relief any place I could find it. This party was not somewhere I would have usually been, but my son needed picking up from his day on the golf course. When this guy walked in, however, I decided to stay.
Gilmer and I peppered him with questions. His book, his story, his movies. Leaning against the counter in the kitchen, drinking wine and then more wine and then…another. Gilmer wandered away eventually, but I was fascinated. He suggested we move into another room and sit. I grabbed a plate of ribs and potato salad, more wine and went with him.
He was a brooder. He enjoyed brooding, his words. He would lie on the couch most of the day and brood. I laughed hard and long at him as he told me this. Being at this party was as strange for him as it felt for me. He didn’t drink. Vegetarian. A sad story of murder and loss that started him on his chosen writing path. A sober vegetarian anti-social brooder. My husband was a drinker, a big eater, definitely not vegetarian and the life of the party. This guy? It was as if he were under a microscope for me, a different species. I told him my story when prodded, as much as I could bear to tell, but kept it on him as much as I could. Which was not that hard, he could talk. For a brooder.
My son kept coming into the room and asking to go home. I kept putting him off, go away, dammit! At one point he pulled me away and explained to me that “the creepy guy was hitting on me”. I just laughed, right. That was impossible. The fact was that I was fascinated and completely distracted from the hell hole that was my life, the knowledge that tomorrow would be Thanksgiving and what the hell did I have to be thankful for and how the fuck was I going to get through it? This conversation was respite. My son must have come into the room 3 or 4 times, eyeing me from around the corner more often. Other people came in and sat and joined the conversation, or attempted to. But I was laser eyed, knowing this was my one shot at a conversation with him.
Finally, though, about the 5th time my son came in to interrupt, I knew it was time to go. Frankly, I was tired and I was losing interest and I still had to drive home. My driving limit of wine had been hit a few glasses before, and so it was time.
As I got up to leave he stopped me. Holding my arm he told me how pleasant it had been talking with me and how very much he would like to continue the conversation. He then asked me out to dinner.
What? I, uh…
I hadn’t been asked out on a date for over 20 years. This was it? This was how it was going to happen? I had just drunkenly told him the whole story of how my husband dropped dead only a few months ago! I was a wine fueled, bbq chicken eating mess, and he finds me fascinating enough to ask me to dinner?
I was gobsmacked and no longer had anything coherent to say to him. I mentioned that he could get my number from Ken, but at that point I knew he would never call. Until that very moment I had not really let my guard down, shown the mess that I felt I was. His asking me out broke that last barrier.
As my son and I left I told him he had been right, that he had asked me out. My son was pleased with himself and even happier when I assured him I would not be going out with the man.
The next day, at the annual Thanksgiving gathering that we attended and that this year felt so WRONG without Tom, I had a great story to tell, using all my powers of exaggeration and denial to make it funnier than it actually was.
It was a little funny, but it was also ludicrous, unexpected, and flattering .
And it gave me hope.