My friend, Marlys, sets down her latte, turns her most penetrating gaze on me and asks, “What do you think of Jerome Simmons?”
“Never met the man. Why do you ask?” I’ve heard of him, for sure; patron of the arts, successful entrepreneur, etc. Just never met him.”
“ I sat next to him at a dinner party last weekend. I gather he’s lonely. His wife died four years ago. He implied he’s getting weary of going out on his own.”
“Hum,” I say. “How old is Mr. Simmons?”
“Oh, he might be around 70. But a young 70. Tall, slim and straight, silver hair. Think Ted Turner.”
“Hum,” I think. “I could see being the younger girlfriend to a Ted Turner,” I think.
“You have a lot in common.” Marlys takes another sip of her coffee, then adds, “He has a villa in Tuscany.”
Visions of sugar plums dance in my head. “He’s sounding more and more interesting. Handsome, cultured, villa in Tuscany. What’re you thinking?”
“You know the exhibit on Rembrandt’s works on paper? I think you and I should go to the opening together. He’ll be there. I’ll introduce you.”
Aren’t I lucky to have a cheerleader like Marlys on my side?
Three weeks later I slip into one of my favorite slinky black dresses, a light-weight wool that drapes softly over my curves. I pin my heirloom cameo at the bottom of the deeply v’ed neckline, hook the little matching gold-rimmed earrings onto my lobes and think, “There. I’m ready to meet Mr. Turner…..I mean, Mr. Simmons.”
Of course, Marlys knows lots of people at the opening. Well, so do I, for that matter. We’re all so busy waiting at the bar, tracking down the canapés and seeing and being seen that no one pays a heck of a lot of attention to the beautiful etchings of Dutch landscapes by Rembrandt. Besides, I’m feeling too curious about this Mr. Simmons to be much engaged in analyzing composition and printmaking techniques.
Marlys nudges me and says, “That’s him. He’s heading our way. Wait ‘til you see his Paul Newman blue eyes. You’ll die”
When I see him, I squelch an internal pouf of disappointment. He’s not tall at all. In fact, we’re almost eye to eye – although I’m wearing high heels. And he looks to me like he celebrated his 70th birthday quite some time ago.
Marlys introduces us, he turns to me and smiles. I ready myself for sophisticated banter. This is our conversation:
Jerome: “I spent the afternoon at the dentist.”
Marlys: “That’s not fun. What did he do?”
Jerome: “ He shot me full of that stuff, oh what is it, that stuff they put in your jaw?”
Marlys: (a helpful tone in her voice) “Oh, to deaden the pain?”
Jerome: “That’s it, that stuff that deadens the pain. What’s it called?”
Jerome: “That’s it. Novocain. My mouth is still numb.” (He turns to Marlys). Does it look swollen?”
Marlys: “No, not at all. You look fine. What did you have done?”
Jerome: “The dentist did that, oh what is that thing that dentists do?”
Georgia: “Fill a cavity?”
Jerome: “No, not that. It hurts. Miserable thing. What’s it called?”
Georgia: “Root canal?”
Jerome: “That’s it. Root canal. Miserable thing. Either of you ever had one done?”
Marlys and Georgia (in unison): “No.”
Jerome: “Hope you never do. Miserable thing. Think I’ll find some wine, deaden the pain from this – what did you call it?”
Georgia: “Root canal.”
He toddles off.
Marlys knows me too well. All she has to do is look at my face to know what I’m thinking, which is, “Ted Turner? I think not. He’s verging on doddering.”
She says, “He’s a sweet man. And there’s that villa in Tuscany.”
I respond with, “Looks to me like in a few years he’s going to need a nurse more than a girlfriend. That wouldn’t be fun.”
Marlys says, “You’re right, Georgia. That wouldn’t be you. But, I still think he looks like Ted Turner.”
I don’t say a thing, but I’m thinking, “Maybe he did, ten years ago.”
Then I turn my full attention to Rembrandt’s Hundred Guilder Print. Much more stimulating.