“You need to change the bulb,” he said. The floor lamp across the room was flickering.
“Just ignore it,” I said. The light blinked a few more times, then stopped.
My guest was an actor. Greek lineage, Mediterranean good looks, my type. I forget who drummed him up for me. He had taken the last train from Grand Central to Connecticut, where I was living in a detached studio on my parents’ property, so we both knew he was there to spend the night, even though I had only met him on the phone earlier in the day.
We were drinking a bottle of brandy from my grandfather’s liquor collection, one of the things Grandpa had bequeathed to his son, my dad. The champagnes and wines had long since turned to dreck, but there was still a lot of fine booze from the 30’s and 40’s stored in our garage. For example, there were cases of fantastic bourbon in brown bottles labeled “For Medicinal Purposes Only” – issued by the government during Prohibition.
At this time, I was helping myself to the stash. Drinking was one way of dramatizing my heartache. The love of my life (or, my life up until age 27) had fallen for someone else. I’d tried hard to get him back without success. I wrote a mocking song about him for my second album, and that certainly didn’t work either. I was alone with my anguish. One of the reasons I’d moved back to my parents’, besides to save money, was to lick my wounds in solitude and also to write a lot of songs about heartache.
But sometimes I got horny. Here in the quiet, safe ‘burbs, there were no suitable sex objects I could espy besides delivery boys. (I tried one. He did not deliver.) My friends in the city kept a lookout for me and passed on recommendations. One friend even opened up her little black book and asked me if I wanted Warren Beatty or Michael. J. Pollard. Without saying which one I chose (duh), the result was a new rule: do not date actors.
Actors seem out of phase. They can be right before your eyes but you’re aware of a second image slightly overlapping the other, an image of the character they’re playing. There’s an uncertainty about whom you’re dealing with. Sometimes you feel like you’re there to help them with their lines.
Desperate times demand stupid moves, and so here I sat with an actor on my couch. And now another lamp, on the table beside him, started flickering. “What is it with your light bulbs?” he asked.
Instead of answering him, I addressed the room: “Okay, I know you’re here. You can stop annoying us.”
The actor looked at me with a touch of fear. I was talking to somebody who wasn’t there. Maybe I was delusional. Maybe he had made a mistake by coming. Tough luck, the trains had stopped running.
Whatever the case, I seemed to have an uncanny ability to make bulbs stop flickering, because table lamp was back to normal.
I knew what was really going on: Grandpa didn’t like this guy. My actor didn’t know that he’d just gotten a bad review.
It wasn’t the first or the last occasion that my grandfather would meddle in my sorry affairs. He would make his point by doing something creepy, thus conveying his opinion that these were not appropriate men for me. I agreed with him. No one would ever measure up to the one who broke my heart. I was exploring my freedom to self-destruct. And Grandpa was in the way.
Delaying the inevitable, when I would lead the actor from couch to mattress, I offered to read his Tarot cards. I’d just begun learning how to predict the future and I needed the practice. I asked the actor if he had any questions. Without hesitating, he wanted to know, “Will I become a famous actor?”
I know it was a bit cruel, but I told him what the cards unequivocally said: “No.”
From my point of view, Grandpa had already put a damper on the evening. From the actor’s point of view, after my Tarot reading, the evening was beyond damp: it had drowned.
About 30 years after I put him on the morning train back to New York, I searched for the actor’s credits on Imdb. Minor roles, mostly in TV, petered out around 1997. Guess he didn’t make it.
It’s good to know when it’s better not to know.
(To be continued.)
- I am a restless writer of fiction, film, and music. I scripted such films as 9 and ½ Weeks, Sommersby, Impromptu (personal favorite), What Lies Beneath, and All I Wanna Do which I also directed. Both my documentaries, Marjoe and Thoth, won Academy Awards. Formerly a recording artist, I continue to write music, posting songs on my website. I live in New York with my husband James Lapine. My new novel, the paranormal thriller Jane Was Here, was published in 2011.