There are many thoughts that go through a person’s mind when they’ve just gotten divorced. Thoughts like, Where did I go wrong? How did we get here? What now? And… Dang, who have I always wanted to have sex with?
Let’s be honest, when you take that ring off and realize you are free as a bird, it doesn’t take long before you wonder what it would be like to take flight and pay a visit to someone else’s nest.
For some of us the last time we dated (if we ever dated) we were in high school. And, what did that look like really? A round of beer games, a few tequila shots and next thing you know you’re making out in the bushes at some Beverly Hills High party with some guy in a toga.
Okay, maybe that’s not your story but it sure is mine.
I never dated. Never. I had a boyfriend in college and a boyfriend out of college and that second boyfriend became my first husband and first ex-husband and, hopefully, if I continue to play my cards right, my only husband and ex-husband.
So, to say I was inexperienced at dating is an enormous understatement. Not to mention the fact that things had changed since the last time I was single. I had entered my 30s. I had a baby. I had a bladder that was still recovering from having had that baby and thought peeing when I laughed, jumped or sneezed was just hilarious.
And yet, I couldn’t wait to get out there. See what it was all about. See what I had been missing. See if my machine still worked.
But I didn’t want to just dip my toe in the pool with anyone. Noooo… I wanted that first post-divorce make-out person to be special. Poetic. Magic.
And that’s when it hit me. Like a sign. Seriously, it was an actual sign. A big billboard sign on Ventura Boulevard for The Lord of the Rings movie. And whose face was plastered on it… Viggo. That’s right, the king himself, Viggo Mortensen.
I had always had a crush on Viggo… long before he became a megastar. Yes, I crushed on him when he was a dirty, gross, unknown actor who made phenomenal choices in gritty movies like The Indian Runner and Carlito’s Way.
And now I had made my phenomenal choice … I wanted my first post-divorce date to be with the lord himself.
So, where is Viggo and how do I meet him? Perhaps I could’ve made a few calls to my big Hollywood agency who repped Viggo but that would be far too easy and… humiliating. I set out to find Viggo myself.
Keep in mind when reading this column, and any of my columns for that matter, that these moments I share with you are not my proudest moments. They are not my most well-thought-through moments. They are, in fact, those moments in my life that when I’m alone in the shower and recall them I scream out-loud, “NO! I DIDN’T REALLY DO THAT, DID I?” in complete horror of it all.
And so if you’ve had those moments too, congratulations. You are not alone. We understand each other. And if you have never had an ill-planned moment and are in fact perfect, then by all means stop reading my column and begin one of your own.
Okay, now what was actually scary is how quickly I found Viggo. In another life I could definitely have been a detective. But I suppose growing up in an alcoholic family is just as good training for that kind of work (Where’s mom? Where’s the car? Where’s my lunch for school?).
I learned much about Viggo. Much more than I ever really wanted to know. Like how he ate a dead squirrel once when he was preparing for a role. I had to believe he had brushed his teeth since that time and it would in no way affect our first kiss.
I also learned he was a poet. That’s right, my man knew how to write a ditty. And it just so happened he was going to be at a book signing at a little hole-in-the-wall shop not too far from where I lived. Can we say, “Who’s about to meet Viggo Mortensen?” Yes, we can.
The day of the book signing was a little hectic. Obviously, I didn’t want to bring my daughter who was 2 years old at the time with me. Introducing myself to Viggo over a baby bijorn might be a bit of a buzz kill.
So, I called up mom. Good ol’ grammie. I asked if she could watch my girl for a couple of hours while I went to a book signing. Of course, I didn’t mention the Viggo part because I knew hearing it all come out of my mouth would wake me up to the reality of how nuts this all was and no doubt would cause me to abandon my plan.
I couldn’t risk that. I was invested now. Determined. If for no other reason than to have a crazy-ass story to tell to my girlfriends the following week at dinner. They depended on me for the entertainment portion of the evening.
Next I had to think how I was going to approach the lord. I certainly couldn’t stand in line, get my book signed, and ask him on a date. And then it came to me. Pretend he’s not a star for a moment. Pretend he is just some guy at a bookstore at a poetry reading—like in college—the days at NYU! Of course, when you’d go to some event, mingle, grab a cup of coffee after and discuss philosophy and art and politics until the sun came up. Yeah… just pretend you’re in college.
I was all ready to head out the door, drop my girl off at grammies, and meet Viggo when mom had to cancel.
“WHAT?! No, mom, please! After this event Viggo leaves for Japan to promote The Lord of the Rings, c’mon!” (I didn’t actually say any of that aloud.)
Well, my good friend and neighbor who lived downstairs who I will call “Ethel” knew a little bit of my Viggo story. Always up for an adventure, she quickly said she would hang out in the children’s section of the bookstore with my daughter while I made my Viggo move. The store did have a fabulous children’s section and you can never have too many kid’s books so… oh, hell I went.
We arrived. Ethel and my girl curled up on the carpet reading their poem books while I headed to the back of the shop where Viggo was reading his poem book.
There he was. Looking really un-lord like, but far cleaner than I imagined. I don’t know why I expected him to have a vile of squirrel blood around his neck and a coonskin hat on, but instead his hair was short, he was clean shaven, and he wore a simple blue sweater and jeans.
But what was the most surprising… his poetry. It was wonderful. And for a brief moment I did feel like I was in a room on the fourth floor of an NYU building listening to a fellow student read his latest work.
When it was over he was immediately swarmed by the crowd. I stood back and patiently watched. It was finally clearing and I was just about to approach him when I heard—
It’s amazing how a mother can recognize her child’s call for her from a million miles away (or, in this case, just the other side of the carpet).
I was inches from Viggo and I turned and raced to my baby.
No emergency (settle down, folks, no one was harmed in the making of this column). Turns out my girl lost her pacifier. I took her in my arms, kissing her, and reached in my bag for one of the 10 other paci’s I always carried with me. I looked at Ethel and simply said, “Let’s get out of here.”
We went down the street where I treated Ethel to a great meal and read to my baby three children’s books I purchased.
I was so close to meeting Viggo, but as I sat there with my girl, reading about the baby and mama bunny, I suddenly couldn’t remember why this whole Viggo thing started in the first place.
I’m not in high school. I’m not in college. I’m not who I was. I’m a mother. And that’s what I wanted to be.
As we left the restaurant and headed up the street we passed the bookstore. From outside the glass window we saw Viggo sitting alone on a chair looking at a book. Completely alone.
Ethel nudged me, ”Go. Here’s your chance. It will only take two seconds. Just do it.”
I went inside and walked right up to Viggo Mortensen. Everything was really quiet.
“Hi… I’m Susan,“ I said.
“Hi, Susan,” he said.
“Hey, let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not you, and we’re just in a bookstore having just heard a really great writer read some of his poetry and now I’m giving you my number ’cause you’re cute and maybe you’ll call if you ever want to grab a cup of coffee sometime.”
I will never forget the smile on his face. I wrote my number on a piece of paper and handed it to him. He took it and gently folded it, placing it in his pocket. We kept smiling at each other, almost giggling before I finally turned around and walked out the door.
I won’t tell you if Viggo ever called, but I will tell you this. It was in that moment, that bookstore, that smile… that for the first time in maybe a lifetime I truly knew I was free.
Free… as a bird.