A very chance meeting with a person from my very distant past. He’s a well-known actor for whom I worked as a temporary personal assistant. It was back in the time before medical school, when I was young and plotting my future. I was completing graduate school; working in the lab and making extra money doing temporary assignments. A production company had hired me for this assignment. I was fearless and knew the city well; could come up with most anything an actor would need.
I met him about two weeks before the event which would be televised nationally. I picked him up from the airport; we chatted about the city in the car as I drove to his hotel. He was polite and tired from a cross-country plane trip. He smiled easily behind aviator sun glasses and asked me where I was from. “I’m a local”, I said. “I live in the city and attend one of the universities.” “I’m a research scientist when I am not driving famous people around,” I laughed. This was a job; he was a person who needed an assistant.
The next two weeks had me doing thousands of little things that he needed, each task with the care and touches that marked my position. I watched rehearsals and listened to the instructions that he needed. I took copious notes, made lists and missed nothing. In the two weeks leading up to the production, I was at his side constantly but well behind the scenes absorbing the experience and listening to what he needed.
When the production wrapped, I was paid nicely and moved onto my next project happy to have this experience for my resume. I knew that I wasn’t cut out for “show business” but I enjoyed the pragmatic problem-solving that marked this job. From my work as a political campaign press secretary, I knew that I enjoyed working behind the scenes and far from the spotlight.
To this evening as he called to ask me to join him for a drink in the hotel bar. He found my contact information from a mutual friend and I accepted his invitation. I had spent the day working, arrived home with just enough time to change into one of my mini-dresses, put on a bit of make-up and head back downtown; my heart was happy that he thought enough of our meeting two days ago, to invite me for a quick drink.
“I just had to find out how you ended up here and in medicine”, he remarked after hugging me. You are just amazing he said. “That connection we had so many years ago is still there and you haven’t changed at all”. I am older and greyer. I have changed in a million ways. “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” The questions came rapid fire as he asked about my life.
“I don’t have men in my life”, I explained. “I am a solitary soul who is just trying to survive on her own,” I had to explain. “Why the ring?”, he asked. Oh, that infernal gold band from my late husband that marks my office. I should have left the thing at home but it has become my protection. “There is no one in your life?” he persisted. “You are beautiful and enchanting; no one special in your life is a tragedy”. I am neither beautiful nor enchanting.
I found it difficult to attempt to explain my solitary life. My solitude is my choice and quite necessary for me. Why was I explaining this to someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years? Yes, it was great to catch up and I hadn’t quite accepted that I was sitting in a downtown hotel lobby with a famous person having a Manhattan.
“Any man would be fortunate to have the warmth of your countenance and you on a daily basis,” he said with emphasis, to my amazement. “You are a fascinating woman who doesn’t come along very often,” he explained. “I knew that about you all those years ago and I have thought of you from time to time”. “You really don’t get it, do you?”
I was speechless and sat there, not knowing what to say but I am always thankful to those who allow me to be in their presence. I sat in a lobby bar with someone who could be with anyone but chose to have a drink with me, someone who isn’t even given a passing thought by most people. I needed to hear that someone found me beautiful for one short hour on a rainy March evening.