Olivia de Havilland is Alive, Are You?
Very rarely do I move out of my comfort zone; very rarely do I move. So, when I told friends of my plan for the weekend, they were both surprised – and concerned.
On my website, ‘Conflict and Scotch’, I rarely receive any comments. Imagine my surprise when I read the following:
Until I stumbled on this blog last night, I’d mostly found only two kinds of writing about divorce online: grim/bitter, or self-help-y/cheerleading. When I came across “Fat Man in a Little Coat” (absolutely hilarious), I just kept reading post after post. And smiling. And then laughing until I snorted. The writing on this blog is SO funny, fearlessly honest, sharply observed, and at times poignant. I’ll keep reading -- and hope you’ll keep writing Mr. DeLuise because you’re incredibly talented. Thanks so much!!!
I was flattered by the comment, so replied via email to thank her for the kind words. She replied, and then it just continued. Her emails were hysterical as we danced across a variety of topics. It came to the point where I was disappointed if I did not receive an email at the end of the day, and excited when I found one in my inbox in the morning. We never spoke, never texted; just emails.
There were so many emails that we joked, to preserve the history, we should save the email strings to publish as a memoir. Turned out, she was also a writer, and this is what writers consider to be “jokes”.
After several months of email exchange, we decided to meet. She lives in Delaware, called some friends who had a townhouse, they generously offered me a place to stay. Dates were tossed around until we landed on one.
During the course of our emails, we touched on a few topics, so I had some gifts to bring. David Sedaris’ book ‘Calypso’, Jean Shepard’s ‘In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash’, and a copy of ‘The Missouri Review’ that published a few of my cartoons. I wrote an inscription in that last one but will get back to that in a bit.
She lives about three-and-a-half-hours from my house, so seemed odd to my friends. When one friend asked, ‘what are you doing this weekend?’ Sparkles replied, ‘he’s going to get hobbled’ (What Kathy Bates did to James Caan’s ankles in Misery).
I laughed, not only was it was funny, but because of what I wrote in my copy of ‘The Missouri Review’:
To My Biggest Fan. I just hope it turns out better than it did for James Caan in Misery.
I took the ride on Thursday and arrived at the townhouse late afternoon. Outside, I waited until a car crept along the parking lot, the driver obviously looking for house numbers. I waved, she pulled in and parked. We hugged at first meeting and, with months of email conversations behind us, I felt like I already knew her.
After some initial small talk, she said, “I made reservations at a steak house, and no arguments, it’s on me since you drove all the way down here.”
There was no argument from me; she had me at steak.
Dinner was nice, good conversation, filled in some of life not covered in emails. Back to the townhouse for more conversation and she edited a one-act play I was working on (again, a writer’s idea of fun is slightly different).
Friday morning, I woke up and had a text from Sparkles. It read, ‘Olivia de Havilland… ‘. Sparkles likes to be the first person to tell me when someone famous died, so I thought that was the reason for the text.
It wasn’t, she continued: ‘…is alive…are you?’.
Her concerned was funny since the woman I spent time with was far removed from Kathy Bates’ character. But, still appreciate the heads up.
We continued as tourists. The weather wasn’t the best, and she kept apologizing for the rain; I didn’t know she wielded such power to control the elements. Her driving was a bit suspect, however, we made a few wrong turns and ended up in more than one dead-end. Still, we were sight-seeing, that’s what happens.
On Saturday, we had breakfast with my friends who own the townhouse. Afterward, we took a drive (I drove). Spent the whole time in the car talking. Then hit some real tourist towns, and a walk on the beach for about two miles (insert montage here).
That night met my friends at a bar for more conversation. For a person I really didn’t know, turns out I knew pretty well. Our talks never lagged, and my friends liked her. Around eight, we left my friends at the bar (I vowed to return) and drove back to her car.
We walked across the parking lot toward her car, and I wondered what to do. I don’t think that ever changes, no matter how old or young you are. Do you kiss the girl?
We reached her car. She went in for the hug, I went in for the kiss. Unfortunately, we both went to our left. Our cheeks grazed, and my nose hit her ear.
I readjusted, and went straight in and this time stuck the landing (Russian judge gave us a 9.8)
The movie ending would be after a few minutes, she would get in her car, drive away, my reflection in her rear-view mirror. Music swells, screen fades to black.
That didn’t happen.
Instead I said, “This is awkward, but can I get a ride back to the bar?”
Which she did, music swells, fade to black.
I drove home the next day and realized something.
The weekend was like her driving, we were both on unfamiliar roads and neither of us knows where we will end up, but it will be fun taking the ride.