Teaser 131: Oscar Nominations and I Want Both


Serena called during this stay. It was unusual, not for her to call me because she would call faithfully every week, but it was usually on the weekend. “They released the Oscar nominations, Gregory.” She was excited. “They nominated you for best original screenplay. What do you think about that?”

“I have to go to the show now, don't I?” I asked, flat and uninspired.

“Aren't you excited?” Serena asked in disbelief.

“Not particularly. Did we get any more?”

“I'm disappointed in you, Gregory! Yes, we got four. What's wrong with you? Your nomination means others in the business think you are a real talent, something we've all known from the beginning. You should be proud.”

“What's going on?” Lena asked, sitting up from her prone position on the sofa.

“I appreciate the recognition, Serena. I will gladly be there and mingle and be nice and show my appreciation, but I never did any of it for awards. I did it because I was compelled at first, and then I worked hard on the movie for you and all the others. I was not going to let any of you down, no matter what it took, and it took a lot out of me. If I had it all over, I'd do it all again, and I wouldn't hesitate, even though I would know how difficult and hard it was. I'd still do it again...if only to see your smile every time we wrapped a scene. That's what kept me going...I miss your smile.”

There was a moment of silence. “I miss you.”

“I wish you were here, Serena...Can you hold for a second? I have a friend here who wants to know what's going on.”

“Gregory, please, it's not another woman, is it?”

“Her name is Magdalena and she is one of the best human beings I have ever met. Please don't get mad and hang up. I want to talk to you more. Give me a few seconds, okay?”

“All right.”

Before I could say anything, Lena asked, “Is that the love of your life from Hollywood?”

I cupped my hand over the phone and replied, “Yes.”

“Is it Serena?”

“Yes.”

“What's happening? What's going on?”

“Serena said they released the Oscar nominations and I received one for best screenplay.”

Lena threw her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. “See! Other people recognize your talent, Gregory!” Lena exclaimed. “It's not only me and I'll bet Serena thinks so, too.”

“She does.”

“What else?”

“We got four nominations. Let me find out the others.” I removed my hand from over the phone. “Did they nominate you, Serena?”

It was a second or two but Serena replied, “Yes. Best actress, but I have a lot of competition.”

“We all have a lot of competition. What else?”

“Carey for best director and...” Serena hesitated, “we received the nomination for best picture!”

“Are you excited, little girl?” I asked, warming up.

“Yes, and you should be, too.”

“We didn't get any minors? Not even best costumes? Hell, ours were authentic.”

“No minors,” Serena replied, a bit dejected. “Talk is the winner for best costumes is the French period piece.”

“The one with Malkovich?”

“That's the one.”

“Geez! How many French period pieces does he have to do? You'd think a regular Joe from Mount Vernon, Illinois would want to concentrate on, oh, heck, pictures based in America, but I guess it's hard to compete with those fluffed up hoop skirts. Christ! Design those costumes, shoot it in France, and you're guaranteed an Oscar for the clothes you wore. What crap!”

“You're sounding like your old self, Gregory. I was really worried about you for a while.”

“You could have come to see me. It's not like you couldn't afford it.”

“You'll be coming here soon. I'm looking forward to that, you know.”

“It's not the same, Serena, but it is better than not seeing you at all...You should know I'm not the same person when I'm with you than when I'm without you. Your presence, Serena, in the same room, I'm not the same. You always have my full attention.” I knew when I said it, Lena was right next to me listening and she would get the full gist, but what I said was reasonably true and I wasn't going to lie or be evasive in order to avoid hurt feelings.

Serena's response was lower in tone and I almost couldn't hear her when she said, “Maybe I should have come to see you. You didn't sound right for weeks, but you still managed to make me smile and laugh over the phone, except for the couple times when you didn't answer. Maybe I should have...”

“It's in the past, Serena,” I assured her. I waited a moment. “Do you still love me?”

“I always will love you.”

“Do you still want me?”

“There's no one else I want but you.”

“No one else sits in your seat, Serena, and I told you no one ever will.”

“What about Magdalena? She's probably sitting right next to you, isn't she?”

“Yes, but she's not sitting in your seat, Serena. No one is sitting there. I want you to sit there.”

“You know, Gregory, I'm quite aware of how you work these things,” Serena said, and I could tell from her tone she was feisty and a little upset. “If I was there with you, where would this Magdalena be sitting? And I would have to share you, wouldn't I?”

“But you're not here, Serena, so I'm not going to answer. Come here and make me answer.”

“You can be such a bastard, Gregory!” she said, with some real venom.

“And you're not married any more. The one tie which kept you from me, which kept you from being mine, which kept me from being yours, is now untied and no longer exists, but you're still not here, Serena.”

“I can't leave like that, Gregory,” Serena moaned. “This is my life and has been for years.”

“And if the life you lead can fill the hole in your heart because I'm not there, Serena, then it's the life for you. I won't interfere or intervene. It's your life.”

“You can come here.”

“It would kill me. That life would kill me! Here's how you would know. When I stop drinking beer and start drinking the hard stuff, and I would, because I would want to die. I would hear it from your lips, Serena. 'Just this once.'”

“Please don't do this to me,” Serena begged. She was hurt.

“I want to see you soon,” I said, making amends. “I will be in California soon. It will be like there was no time when we were apart. It will always be this way with us. I haven't given up. I won't give up on you. I still want you more than anyone else. I will always want you more than anyone else. You know! I want the one who resides in the space between your ears. The one who has slowly revealed herself over days and weeks and months, the one I call little Serena. Remember her? She's the one I want.” I waited a moment and delivered the final blow, from the old Gregory, the one who had some wit. “She comes in a package deal. I get you and her all for the same admittance fee, which is nominal and hardly worth mentioning.”

Serena laughed. I was back. She was back. “Now you're going to make it hard for me to wait for you, Gregory,” she said and I could hear her warmth returning, “but I will. I will because I love you and I want you and I want to see you and hold you and all of that. Don't wait too long, dear. You can stay with me. I would love that.”

“Let me get what I need to get in order here, Serena. I will call you soon. I promise. It will be a matter of days, so hold on, okay?”

“Okay. By this weekend?”

“Yes.”

I set the phone on the table and looked to Lena. “Please come and sit on my lap, Lena. I want to talk with you and I want to do so while I can touch you and hold you and you can do the same.”

Lena hesitated and I could see a disappointment, a hurt on her face I had never seen before. “You said-”

“I know what I said, Lena. You will make it harder for me to talk to you now if you don't sit on my lap. Please.”

Lena let out a deep breath, but she lifted, turned and scooted onto my lap while I helped guide her. When she sat down, with her head above mine, I looked into her eyes and waited for hers to lock onto mine. When they did I slipped my arms around her bare waist and held her close. It took a few moments but her arms slowly lifted and her right arm drifted around my neck while her left hand reached my cheek and gently rubbed over it. “I'm not the one you want, am I?” she asked me calmly.

“Oh, I didn't say that, far from it.”

“But Serena's the one you want more than anyone else,” Lena countered. “That's what you said.”

“Remember when you said I should get married?”

“Yes.”

“But you never offered to marry me, Lena. Why didn't you even suggest it?”

Lena turned away. “I don't want to be married, Gregory. Not to you or anyone.” She turned back to look in my eyes. “I want to be free to do as I want, to come and go as I want.”

“And you want to come here often, as often as possible, with me. True?”

“Yes.”

“And you know I never send you away. You leave because you have to. True?”

“Yes.”

“Would you leave me if you had to share me?”

Lena closed her eyes. When she did, I could see the track of a tear run out from the bottom of her left eye to the bridge of her nose, before she removed her left hand from my cheek and rubbed it away. Slowly, haltingly, she replied, “I don't know how to answer, Gregory. I don't know how I could share you.”

“You won't marry me to ensure you won't have to share me, but you're not sure if you could share me, so you would leave me. What other choice would you have, Lena?”

Another tear appeared but Lena ignored it as she looked straight into my eyes. “Would you want me to leave?”

“Would it make you happy?”

“No!” Lena shouted loudly.

“Because it does make you happy when you're with me and you know it makes me happy when you're with me, too. True?”

“Yes.”

“And you could not be happy with me and make me happy if there was someone else present?”

“I don't know.”

“You do too know. You know you can make me happy no matter who else is present. You know I can make you happy no matter who else is present. Who else is there doesn't matter.”

Lena looked at me defiantly. “I don't know that, Gregory. No one else has ever been with us. I don't know how I would respond to that change.”

“Well, you might have to put some clothes on.”

Lena smiled. “Would that make you happy?”

“Not necessarily.” I laughed and she laughed with me. “But you might not. I walk around sometimes with no clothes on, too. I like the freedom.”

“That's what I like. The freedom to do as I want.”

“What if you could have this freedom but still have to share me?”

“How would I share you?”

“There's only two things you would have to share. My attention and my sexuality. I can't give everyone my full attention and I can only have sex with one at a time.”

“You told Serena she always has your full attention.”

“It was embellishment, Lena. Serena never needs my full attention. She needs my attention when she craves it. You are the same. You never need my full attention. You need my attention when you crave it, and you get it then, do you not?”

“Yes.”

“I can make you happy, Lena. I can make Serena happy, too. You can make me happy. Serena can make me happy. If you both cannot bring yourselves to the prospect of sharing all of our lives, then we will all be unhappy, because you will force me to choose, and I will choose neither of you. Do not make me choose, Lena! If you want to leave because you cannot bring yourself to live like that, I can't stop you. It's your choice. Make me choose and we'll all be unhappy. This to me, though, is the fairest choice to make if I have to make it and I will.”

Until this phone call, with Magdalena sitting beside me on the sofa naked and content, I had never considered anyone else but Serena. I remembered what I had said to Greta, but I never considered she would even push it. I thought she would drop out, and, to be honest, I expected Greta to drop out. She was way too young, but Magdalena was not. Lena was thirty-nine years old and soon to be forty. She was not too young. She would be in her sixties once my life expectancy reached its limit, but it's significantly different than forty-something. Hey, I think about these things. They fucking matter to me. Commitments are serious things. You better think of all the possibilities. You have the brain. If you tell me you can't, you're only a lazy fuck. Maybe that special someone ought to keep looking for somebody special, since it ain't you.


- Just Desserts, Segment SixteenBack in the Saddle” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com