“I don't like nicknames. I never have. I was named David Scott Gerald, and called Scotty forever. Then in sixth grade, we moved, and I decided to put my foot down and make everyone call me David.”
David had a certain distinguishable air about him as he entered the party in a long gray winter coat, with a soft gray scarf looped around his neck that cascaded down the front. A top hat would have completed the picture. He was very tall and slim, and with all the gray of the coat and scarf, and the darkness of his black hair, and neatly trimmed beard, he could have been a character in a black-and-white movie, straight out of the 1930s or ’40s. The woman I was talking with and I turned toward him. “And where do you hail from?” she asked with a flourish of her arm. She stepped into his sphere, and engaged him in conversation. I paused momentarily outside the sphere, and then I wandered off, not feeling very engaging myself this particular New Year’s Eve.
It's not that terrible to feel not very engaging at a party on New Year’s Eve. Once I let go of any anticipation of having a great time, of being able to connect to all of the people there that I did not know, which was everyone, I could accept that I had no spark this evening, and was barely up to the effort of making conversation; then, I could allow myself to wander aimlessly through this beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills, where I was a guest of the beautiful hostess, whom I used to room with twenty years ago. I lowered my expectations for the evening, and shuffled through the multi-layered home with panoramic views on each side. One side held the skyline of Los Angeles, and the other side reached out over Hollywood and Beverly Hills to the ocean.
I didn't know anyone—except Susan, who had invited me. Susan looked beautiful, very pretty, as she has every time I've seen her in the past twenty years. This night she wore her hair in a bob. It was a new cut, disciplined and lying perfect to her perfect head, with a slight curl up in front of each ear, pressed against her perfect cheek. Her bangs were straight across, and the hue was a reddish, dark golden that brought out her green eyes even more. She wore a sleeveless black dress that graced her yoga-sculpted form, and fell just past her knees. It was tied in the back at the very bottom of the dress—sort of unique. Her heels were high, and she complained. “My feet hurt. I think low shoes are better. Why am I wearing these high heels?” And she bent over to pull off the shoes, rubbing each black nylon-encased foot. “Put on some house slippers, “someone suggested. “Right, with a pink puff right on top …” she says. And then someone says to her, “Henry is having fun. I've never actually seen him having so much fun.” Susan has lived with Henry for six years. Henry was dancing, flitting about, and talking to everyone. “Get Conan over here. I'll take him on,” he says repeatedly to a woman who works with Conan O'Brien.
Susan and I stand alone for a brief moment. “I've been depressed. I don't know. I don't know what's wrong. I just sit and stare, blah. I've just been really sad and depressed. I think maybe its menopause. Henry says, ‘you need help.’” She turns to greet other guests.
I sit next to a very thin woman. She has tucked away into a chair, studying her phone. Her hair is shiny and blonde, and is cut just past her chin. Her eyes are big and blue, and her face long and angular and flawless. She looks up as I plop down, and I murmur something about Happy New Year’s and how do you know Henry or Susan. She tells me she knows Henry from the gym, and that she is a business consultant for Boeing. She looks twenty-three. I say something like, “you look 23,” and she says, “I'm fifty-six. I work out a lot to stay in shape.” I say oh. She says she is preoccupied with something and would I excuse her. I say something like, “oh of course. Of course.” I pull to my feet and wander some more.
Susan and a heavy-set woman are talking outside on the patio. It is pretty warm out, for a December thirty-first evening in southern California, and many of the party guests have filtered to the outdoors. Again, I say something like Happy New Years as I look into the heavy-set woman's face. I feel comfortable because she is heavy-set. Her eyes are thick with dark eyeliner and mascara that are both smudged. She looks about my age. I feel even more comfortable. She asks me if I'm an actress. I say no. Susan says to the woman, “She used to be. She was very good.” “I know. I can tell,” the heavy set woman says as she peers back at me. “I can tell you would be a very honest, down-to-earth actress.” I immediately think that all of my makeup has worn off. I don't know what to say. I would have liked to have been a very good actress. My Achilles’ heel has been exposed. I feel vulnerable, but muster up enough to finally say, “That's nice of you. Thank you.” I'm uncomfortable. Susan introduces the heavy-set woman as the director of a handful of plays that Susan has been in.
The heavy-set woman complains that her back hurts, and she needs to sit down. I end up sitting next to her. She tells me about all of her cats. She tells me that they live in the backyard, and she has it set up very nice for them, but that her neighbor has pit bulls. “I live in a bad neighborhood, and my neighbors are gang bangers with pit bulls.” Then she tells me that she has binoculars and keeps track of people in her neighborhood. She says she watches everyone from behind her house windows. They don't know that she is watching, she says, and if she sees anything dangerous or illegal she calls the police. I tell her she should be careful. She says she is.
Sometime later, I find myself in front of David again. He is an actor and is working as a stand-in for a popular weekly TV show. “It’s not enough for me to live on though. If things don't get better I’m going to have to move to Cottonwood, Ariz., where my sister is.” “That's in a pretty area,” I say. “Pretty to visit,” he says pointedly. He is unhappy that he might have to move.
It's eleven p.m., and I tell someone I think I'm going to go home now. “Oh, don't go yet,” they say. “Don't you wanna wait ’til midnight?” “Okay,” I say, and stay for two more hours—wandering.