Teaser 081: Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Jana
The calendar crashed into the holidays, the bogus, overt commercialization of Christmas pounding around me. Chuck sensed the change in me, the apprehension, the sheer disgust of it I never tried to hide. He wanted me to come over for Christmas and stay for dinner. I politely declined. “What are you gonna do, cuz? Sit around your apartment all day and mope around?”
“No, I'll probably take up my captain's perch, and mope in my chair bracketed by a pair of Pacifico bottles and toast the poor souls below.”
“You're incorrigible, Gregory.” Chuck shook his head vigorously.
“Set in my ways, yes. Listen, cuz, have a nice Christmas with your wife and friends and family and enjoy yourself and don't worry about me. I'll talk with you after.”
Chuck called me two days after Christmas and noted I was in better spirits. He also knew me pretty well. “So, cuz, when did the depression set in?”
“What are you talking about, Chuck?”
“Last week you didn't sound yourself. I know your history. Everyone on the set knew your history. It was never a big secret. 'Gregory is a manic-depressive.' Why can't you be straight with me?”
Silence. I thought about what to say. If Chuck is anything, he's as patient as I am, maybe more so, and I consider this high praise. “I had one depression episode a couple days before Christmas. It was no big deal. I was over it by the end of the day. Little Boy helped. He won't let me sit in bed all day. He whines at me, 'Get up you lazy bum. I don't have two hands to feed me.'”
Chuck laughed. “Why didn't you call me, cuz?”
“I can't talk to anyone, Chuck. I don't really want to see anyone, I want to be left alone, unless you want to come over and rub my back gently for a couple hours.”
“You need to be married, Gregory.”
“I'm impossible to live with.”
“No, you're not, but it's beside the point. You need to get up and out of your apartment. Get busy. You're only moping around.” He paused for a moment. “New Years Eve's coming up and you're going out with us, and I'm not taking no for an answer. You hear me, cuz?”
“Yeah, I hear you.”
“So don't disappear. Hang around your apartment and we'll come and get you in the afternoon and we'll spend the whole day and evening and into the New Year and party right!”
Maybe the spirit was leaking out into the mysterious ether some people talk about, because Esperanza called me the next day. She sensed something, too, though she left it mostly unspoken, but it was an unexpected pleasure to hear her voice, to listen to her laugh through the phone, to hear her speak about how much she missed me. Over the next few days to the end of the year, I tried to stay busy writing. John's office was closed. There was nothing to do for the movie. Everything was closed down for the holidays. I have to stay busy. The one thing which may have helped was a phone call, a nice long conversation with a cute little Mexican actress friend of mine, but she had already stopped calling me every week. I hadn't heard from her since the first Sunday in December and I had no way to reach her. Hmmm, abandoned?
Chuck called me a little after noon New Years Eve. “Put some clothes on, cuz, some of those nice duds you got with Drake, and I'm coming over to get you right now, so be ready!” We drove back to his house, where many of the bad boys were already gathered for a barbecue and drinks and partying. It was good seeing so many of them together again. It was a lot like old times, like what we used to do when we were shooting the movie, now almost two months passed. More people in the biz came and went over the course of the afternoon and early evening, some faces you would have recognized. I was beginning to understand how far Chuck's reach in the biz stretched. He knew a lot of people from the many movies he had worked, over thirty so far, and he was well respected by many. Chuck's reach was deep and I was greatly impressed. I told him so and he laughed boisterously.
About ten the whole party disbanded and most of us went to a private party at the residence of an actor you also would recognize. It was a superb party, about everything you could imagine at a party, and there were many guests. The party included the entire house and, yes, bedrooms were in use, with reasonable discretion. There was no big shower, though. I stated this observation to Chuck: there's no big shower like at Serena's.
“Would it surprise you, cuz,” Chuck said with a big smile, “I've been in the shower out at Serena's place? And with quite a few others?”
“You fucker, you! She wouldn't let me use the shower!”
“Doesn't surprise me, cuz. If I ever saw a woman who is in love with you and wants you only for herself, she would be Serena.”
“Ah, you don't know that, Chuck.”
“Oh, really? So, when she's on the set, all business, all serious, thinking about her next scene, and you come on the set and she immediately breaks out into her big smile when she sees you, you're gonna tell me this woman is not in love with you? And she does it every time?”
“She's a married woman, Chuck, not available in stores anywhere.”
Chuck laughed. “Doesn't matter, Gregory. Being in love with someone is not restricted to marriage status. You know it.”
“Yeah, I know it, but I don't want to talk about her.” I turned to look at this quite attractive woman who seemed alone and kept stealing glances at me, occasionally smiling discreetly. I nodded my head in her direction while Chuck was watching. “I want to talk about that woman. Who is she? Do you know her?”
Chuck looked to her and smiled. “Jana Kensington. She does set decoration and she's very good at it, especially period pieces. She was already booked when we shot or John would have signed her.” I looked back to him and his face turned to a certain slyness. “You got your eye on her?”
“And she seems to have her eye on me, too.” I started to move toward her as I turned to Chuck. “Cumon, cuz. Introduce us.”
Jana Kensington was tall for a woman, my height, and could be quite dominating in a group of people standing around. She was thin, not rail thin, because her body was well defined. Her face was delightful and when she smiled or laughed, her cheeks displayed two sexy, little dimples. Chuck introduced us but I wouldn't shake her hand. I wanted a hug and Chuck vouched for my hugging ability. I hugged her and whispered I wouldn't squeeze her hard because she was lacking some padding and I wouldn't want to break anything. She said she wasn't fragile. I wondered where I could find her significant other, and she said she preferred her independence. I asked if her independence meant at all times or did she ever consider sharing an evening with someone? She asked if I was trying to hit up on her. I only hit up on attractive women, the women to whom I am attracted like a magnet, the women who look at me and often smile back, only those women. She claimed I only caught her attention. I said she must have been looking very hard so I could catch her attention since I haven't done anything flamboyant, or would you disagree? We played cat and mouse like this for the next half-hour, until she suggested we slip away and take a short and slow walk around the house grounds.
Jana knew about The True Cross. She had spoken with John about working on it but she was already committed to another shoot. She had seen me in some of my appearances on local shows and she liked my attitude and what I projected as important to me. She admitted she shared a lot of those values and she had wanted to meet me for some time. “There are a lot of people in this business talking about you, watching you. You should be very careful, very wary. Some can hurt you, Gregory.” She reached out and touched my arm below my shoulder.
We stopped and I looked in her eyes. “Do I have to be careful about you hurting me?”
She glanced around my face. “I don't think I could hurt you if I tried.”
“Let's sit down here,” I suggested, glancing around the grass and ground below us. When she nodded, I sat down and crossed my legs and she sat down, her knees bent before my legs, and leaned against me. I slipped my arm loosely behind her back and we talked more about the business, about where she was from originally, which was Michigan, and where I was from, and we hit it off. I knew she liked me. Her hand would frequently rub over my thigh, or across my chest, or onto my shoulder, and she talked in a low tone, quiet, patient, sensual. I followed the pattern, low, quiet, patient, sensual. I wasn't the joker much, if at all. I neither wanted to be nor did I consider it appropriate. Jana was content to talk and to listen respectfully, to proceed slowly, methodically, patiently, to slowly slip into our own world. I had finished my beer but she wasn't drinking and had no desire to get something to drink. Neither did I. At one point, during a slight lull in our conversation, she leaned her head against my shoulder and I slipped my arm up to her opposite shoulder.
Thus began our negotiation about what might happen after the festivities wind down, should we simply go home separately to sleep alone? I certainly would have loved to engage in sex with Jana, but I didn't want to sleep alone this night. Her protests to the contrary—her contention we hardly knew each other—she didn't want to sleep alone this night either. After the countdown, which took place while we still sat on the grass outside the house, and we kissed to begin the new year, we walked back inside, her arm grasping my arm. We toasted with champagne with many of the others to the new year, drinking three or four glasses of champagne over the course of the next hour and a half, feeling pretty buzzed, but always with Jana's arm around mine or my arm around hers. Jana had offered her place where I should sleep this night, but I didn't consider it time to rush out. We mingled, as if to tell everyone, we're together now. Yes, we seemed to disappear for a while, but it's so we could have some privacy in order to get to know the other better. Now we're back, we'll celebrate the new year with you for a while, and we'll leave together. It seemed like this was the show Jana approved.
Her car and driver whisked us to her place in the hills north of town, a modest place by industry standards, but comfortable for her needs. We removed our clothes separately. I expressed the wish to simply sleep next to her, feel her soft and warm body next to mine. I had consumed far too much alcohol over the course of the day and evening, so I wasn't up to it. I think it surprised Jana. I think she was truly expecting me to insist on sex, right then. I told her even in the morning it would have to be what we both wanted and I couldn't guarantee I would have the energy and strength even after sleeping off the buzz. I said I didn't want to sleep alone and when Jana said she didn't want to sleep alone either, I wanted her and her body next to me. It's enough for now. I fell asleep with Jana lying almost completely on top of me.
- Just Desserts, Segment Nine “Post Partum” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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