New Year’s parties can be so oppressive, I thought as I watched the bartender pour my whiskey. He was short, too short for me, and blonde, which isn’t normally my thing, but I was extremely attracted to him because he looked as miserable as I felt, and plus he was pouring me whiskey. He placed it down in front of me.
“Oh, thank you. Thanks very much,” I said, trying to linger in the moment, nursing every second I had of his eye contact. Alas, he moved right on to the sleek woman next me, a thin fashionista with Disney-long eye lashes.
“Do you have Skinny Girl?” she asked. I let out an audible “blahrg” and downed the rest of my drink.
No cabs. I started walking uptown. My ankles ached from the high heels you’re supposed to wear on New Year’s. At the beginning of the night, when you slip into them, you’re already plagued with the awareness that they’re gonna hurt like hell later. Who am I wearing these for? Certainly not myself. I walk with a sort of delayed gimp with them on; I don’t see how it’s sexy — maybe in a wounded deer kind of way. Growing angrier with myself, I popped off my heels and began to walk barefoot towards the B train.
I walked by couples making out, couples fighting, and then a fat man who said in a monotone voice as I passed, “Damn, baby you look so fine tonight.”
And isn’t that just the cycle of things? You love someone, then it gets ugly and you fight and muddy things and it’s never the same, then you’re alone on the street hitting on a girl as she walks by or at a bar fantasizing about the short blonde bartender you silently feel connected to. When am I going to meet a gentleman? Why can’t a night like this be more picturesque New York City, where I’m joking with some man that I’ve met tonight and we’re going to walk the length of Manhattan together and then have a sweet kiss and go to bed at dawn? I’d like that. I want a guy who’s in love with life, and this town, and me a little bit too.
A wave of dread washed over me thinking about the morning’s hangover and how I should have never left my apartment. The chances of meeting someone have only gotten more limited, and this is me at 23. Can you imagine 33? 43? Hopefully, I’ll be obsessed with meditation or some charity by then, and that’ll distract me from my failed pursuit of love.
The bottoms of my feet were black, and my tight dress kept riding up my crack. I was walking down a quiet street, my mind racing with negative thought after thought. Every thought was spawning a new cynical idea. Those thoughts would have sex together in turn producing another angrier, more resentful thought. I was getting jealous of the company my thoughts had together. Suddenly I heard honking, the incessant playful honking of an older car. I turned around to see a black limousine pulling up next to me. The window rolled down. At first I only heard laughing, a high-pitched charming squeal of laughter. Then he leaned out. It was Dudley Moore, but no… it was Arthur from the movie, Arthur. The original! 1981! Thank GOD. Wearing a tux, drunk and joyous with a drink of scotch in his hand, he called to me in his magnetizing, slurred, British accent.
“Good evening, I’m Arthur or hadn’t you noticed?” He laughed hard at this, the kind of laugh that you’re trying to hold in so it goes up into your nasal passage, then he spilled some scotch on his sleeve and sobered up.
“Well, come on. I’m here to take you home.” I stood frozen in astonishment. One of my all-time favorite characters from one of my favorite movies was inviting me into their limousine from the movie!
“I’d carry you, but…” his voice dropped to a charming whisper, “it’s much faster this way.”
I smiled, utterly ecstatic and wondering if I had died that night at the hands of the man who cat-called me, and this was my heaven. Arthur scooted to the next seat, and I slammed my door.
“Where to, miss?” the kind, mustachioed black driver said.
“Uh, 120th and Amsterdam,” I said.
“Right away,” he said reassuringly.
Arthur interjected, “Bitterman, go through the park. You know how I love the park.”
My head buzzed at that phrase. Not only is that a direct quote from the movie, but also it was one that stuck with me since I was a little girl. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was roll down the back seat window and stick my head out enjoying the air and scenery rushing by. I’d do it in the dead of winter. My mom would have to lock the windows. That line always made me reflect on those times I had my head stuck out the window like a dog. It brought me a nostalgic thrill to hear him say it sitting right there next to me.
We zoomed through the city faster than I’d ever gone before. The storefronts of fifth avenue were just smears of light unable to keep up with our limousine. Arthur poured himself more scotch.
“Would you like a drink?”
He handed me a matching glass.
“We must make a toast,” he said. I nodded. There was a beat of silence then he downed his scotch. I started laughing and then took a sip. “You must be wondering why I’m here. I’m wondering the same thing.” Another shriek of laughter erupted. “You’re unhappy,” he said in a more serious tone.
“Well, yes,” I said.
“And why’s that? You have everything going for you. You’re young, you’re pretty, and you’re in the best place on the planet!” I had never heard Arthur lecture someone like this before and decided I needed to take full advantage.
“But the world’s gone downhill since 1981,” I said “There are no charming, funny playboys like you, who aren’t completely vain losers. Every guy is completely in love with himself and worse in love with the internet and fingering his iPhone for God knows what. It’s like I’m being lied to even before they say anything because everyone is so preoccupied. There’s no living in the moment. There’s no talking from the heart. It’s all prepared, you know? Everyone is so conscious of how they’re portraying themselves. It’s like there are all only secrets now. It’s all just false advertising.”
“Well, this may not mean much coming from me,” Arthur responded, “but grow up.”
“Grow up?” I said, reacting to the irony of Arthur, the prototype man-child, telling someone else to grow up.
“You can’t compare me to any of this. There’s no need for all this dread. The world is beautiful, and it always will be. You worry about you, doing and being who you are, and the world will follow suit. It’s never perfect. I mean did you see Arthur 2: On the Rocks? That was horrible.” We both had a good laugh at this. That movie sucked my dick.
“We’re here, miss,” Bitterman said. We were right outside my apartment.
“My advice to you is just to be happy with what you have, and you’ll be grateful for how wonderfully imperfect everything is.”
“She’s ready,” Arthur said with the sweetest knowing smile I had ever seen. Bitterman got out and opened my door. I turned around to thank both of them, but they had disappeared. It seemed a bit of a knock off of Midnight in Paris, but it was still magical.
I curled up in bed that night, recounting every detail. The leathery smell of the limo, Arthur sitting directly next to me, stinking of alcohol and the lavender soap John Gielgud would use to wash his dick, so jolly and timeless.