BY GLORIA MARIS He’s a musician and has worked as a musical director off-Broadway and in the Catskills. He appeared in a few episodes of a well-received cable sitcom, now off the air. He had a very brief speaking part (no close-up, but a credit in the end titles) in a film that won the Academy Award for best picture.
He’s a cruciverbalist, a person who constructs crossword puzzles.
He lives in New York, and we met during the fringe festival a few years ago. That year, there was a late-night cabaret of various acts — based on the vaudeville model — that would open shortly after most of the evening shows had ended. I was working the door, taking cover charges, when the cabaret organizer and emcee walked over and said, “Hey, Gloria, you like doing crossword puzzles. Here, someone wants you to give this a try.” I was confused, but door traffic had frequent lulls, and the ID-checking bouncer and I had run out of conversational topics, so I dug out a pen and worked on the crossword.
I’ve just remembered that, at some point that week during the cabaret, I took out a sharpie that I’d been using to mark drinkers’ hands and drew a fake tattoo on my arm. It was an anchor plus the name of a local filmmaker that I’d quit sleeping with, but who I still got along with really well, and who had showed up to the cabaret that night. When he saw it he laughed out loud, and I was happy to have entertained him. But I’m pretty certain that was a different night, and in any event this post isn’t about that filmmaker.
Though I’ll interject as a final aside that I believe it adds up to 4 men, now, that I’ve slept with who are in the IMDb. It’s mostly a coincidence.
Back to the crossword constructor. He was at the cabaret because he was providing piano accompaniment to one of the acts, a voice actor and friend he performs with from time to time. They have a few songs, stories, and jokes, an entertaining schtick that they can keep up for a good hour. I found him backstage after their show, and I handed him his completed crossword. I think we charmed each other.
They returned a couple of years later to do their act again for the cabaret, and the voice actor got to keep the hotel room they were supposed to share all to himself. After the show, the 3 of us shared a cab to the hotel, where the crossword constructor retrieved his bag, and then the 2 of us came back to my place. The next morning, we had breakfast at a local deli and wandered through one of the monthly city flea markets.
In between the 2 cabaret gigs, I had visited him in New York, where he works for a book publisher to pay his rent. We got Indian take-out for dinner, and we watched what we could see of the sunset from the fire escape outside his tiny apartment. We shared the morning crossword on the subway into town. As a rule, I hate sharing a crossword. I would rather relinquish the entire crossword to the other person than solve it with a buddy, even a close friend. Maybe I tolerated it with him because we had a goal: finish the crossword before we get to midtown Manhattan. Maybe I tolerated it because it was novel to let myself share a crossword with someone. Maybe I tolerated it because we were an excellent match. Maybe I would have been able to tolerate it for the very long term.
For a while, I would buy the newspapers where his crosswords appeared and then clip and mail the completed crosswords to him in New York.
Recently I finally got around to seeing the movie he’d had a speaking part in. I blame my delay in seeing the film, as well as my discontinuing doing his crosswords, squarely on law school. Its twin exigencies of no time and no money. I should get back in touch with him, but I can’t think of a way to do it that would leave us comfortable, or desirous. “Hey, last week I saw the movie you’re in. I know it’s been several years since the movie was released. They didn’t show your face but it sounded just like you. I know it’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen each other. I’m sorry I haven’t sent you any of your crosswords lately.” I don’t see him or his friend scheduled for the fringe festival’s late-night cabaret events this year.
Gloria Maris blogs at GLOMARIZATION