Dogged Ma: Chapter Seven, Part One
“Mom, I’m telling you the truth. I was never engaged to Ned.” It was Wednesday afternoon, and I had just arrived home from work. My mother must have a sixth sense about these sort of things because she always managed to call me the minute I walked in the door. Of course, she refused to call me on my cell phone because she didn’t want to distract me from driving. Besides, she didn’t trust that my cell wouldn’t give me brain cancer. As a result, I had to rush to get the phone the minute I entered my place. As usual, I ended up wishing I had let the machine get it as my mother was venting her spleen about my supposed broken engagement.
“Mom, would I lie to you? I mean, out and out lie?” I infused my voice with as much indignation as I could muster, but it didn’t slow down that train. She berated me at the top of her lungs for making her the shame of the entire Taiwanese community. She told me she couldn’t even go to church on Sunday without everybody talking about her. She knew they were talking about her because they would suddenly hush up whenever she was around. And poor Pastor Wu! Did I even think about what I’d put him through? I had no idea what my supposed engagement had to do with her pastor, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. It turned out that the ‘close friends’ of Mr. and Mrs. Chang couldn’t wait to spread the word about how abominably I’d acted Saturday night. When they found out I broke off the engagement, well, they had a field day with that bit of information.
“Mom, I never was engaged to Ned,” I interrupted, feeling more frustrated by the minute. If I told her the truth, I’d have to suffer through a diatribe about ‘homosexuals’, but I didn’t know if it’d be any worse than the tongue-lashing which I was currently receiving. “It was a misunderstanding from the very start. Believe you me, you’d be the very first person I’d tell if I ever did something as stupid as get engaged again.” That made her switch tracks to how I would never keep myself a man with my negative attitude. I was tempted to tell her about Ted, but I knew that’d be the kiss of death as far as any hopes of having a normal relationship with Ted was concerned. Maybe I could mention that plenty of otherworldly beings seemed to want me. No, that might give her a heart attack. Just as I was about to make another snarky comment, my buzzer rang.
“Mom, someone’s at the door. I have to buzz them up.” It didn’t matter that I had no idea who was downstairs; I would rather face a burglar than my mother when she went into full wrath mode. God could take a few lessons from her. More squawking from the phone, and my buzzer rang again. “I gotta go. I’ll call you back.” I hung up the phone and pressed my intercom lever. “Hello?” I wasn’t totally stupid. I’d ascertain who it was before doing anything as rash as letting him/her up. Now that I was off the phone, it didn’t really matter who was on the other side.
“Hello? Sorry to bother, but I’m afraid I’ve been given a wrong address.” The voice was definitely masculine, but it was diffident in tone. British in pronunciation, and there was something very familiar about the voice. Something about the way he pronounced ‘address’. Suddenly, it hit me.
“You’re Alan Rickman.” Instantly, my stomach went aflutter. Alan Rickman was downstairs, talking to me. I was glad I hadn’t changed out of my black skirt and blouse. I scolded myself for thinking of such trivial thoughts when I had Alan Rickman on the other end of the intercom.
“Yes, I am. If you could just give me directions to the Guthrie, I’d be ever so grateful.”
“Hold on. I’ll be right down.” I let go of the lever and grabbed my purse before flying out the door. I could hear the phone ringing as I locked my door, but I ignored it. I knew it would be my mother, and I had much more important things with which to deal. When I reached the ground floor of my apartment, I saw Alan Rickman waiting patiently outside the door. He was wearing black slacks and a white button-down, looking damn good.
“Hi, I’m Margaret Wang.” I stuck out my hand, and he shook it with alacrity. “You’re Alan Rickman.” I was aware that I sounded like an idiot, but it wasn’t every day that I got to meet Alan Rickman in the flesh. Speaking of the flesh, he looked much better in person than on camera, if that were even possible.
“Yes, I am,” Alan said, smiling affably. “Look, I hate to be a bother, but I’ve got an appointment with the director of the Guthrie in—” He checked his watch. “Twenty minutes. I would hate to be late. The worst thing is that my driver took off before I could figure out where I was. It must be a conspiracy to make me late for my meeting.”
“I can take you there if you’d like,” I said, holding my breath. “It’s not very far.”
“That would be fantastic,” Alan said, looking relieved. “I can’t figure out for the life of me how my agent screwed things up so badly. Wait until I get a hold of her.” He was smiling as he spoke, his demeanor belying his words.
“This way,” I said, motioning to my car. “So, are you going to be performing at the Guthrie?” Please, please, please, I said inside, but managed to keep from begging out loud.
“Hopefully. I like your theatre very much, and they have been making overtures towards me for quite some years. The only thing I’m not sure of is the weather. I hear it can be a bit dodgy in the winter.”
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” I said dryly, opening the doors to my Saturn. Alan got in the proper side with little hesitation, then we were off. “I suspect you’re tired of hearing this, but you’re my favorite actor. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Oh yes? Thank you.” He nodded pleasantly, seemingly at ease. I wondered how safe it was for him to accept a ride with me without knowing who I was, and if he made a habit of it. I hoped not as I wouldn’t want anything horrible to happen to him. “Name three movies I’ve been in besides the Potter series.” I glanced over him and saw that he was smirking. I realized that he thought I was just a Johnny-come-lately when I said he was my favorite actor—hitching my wagon to his Snape star, so to speak—so I decided to prove to him my undying fandom. Taking a deep breath, I started.
I began with Die Hard in which he played the conniving pseudo-terrorist Hans Gruber. I noted that it was one of his finest performances; however, because of said performance, it was not believable that he would die at the hands of Bruce Willis. The January Man in which he played Ed, the painter, was not his finest piece of work. Scratch that. He’d done a brilliant job as usual, but the movie was, well, quite frankly, awful. I said it could have been redeemed if he’d ended up being the killer, which he asked me to explain. I pointed out that when he’s left behind with the intended victim while the other two tackle the killer, nothing would have been easier than for him to have turned out to be the murderer. He could have hired the pseudo-killer to distract the other two while he did his final job before skipping town. Alan loved the idea. Sense and Sensibility came next, in which he was the honorable Colonel Christopher Brandon. An adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, it proved once again that the Brits were far superior in staging period pieces than were the Americans. OK, the director was from Taiwan, but that’s quibbling. I would have preferred if Alan had ended up with Emma Thompson as Elinor, but who am I to argue with Austen?
“That’s pretty impressive,” Alan said when I finished. Not to be deterred, I rattled five or six more movies in which he’d starred along with his role and my brief assessment of the movie. To top it off, I mentioned the video in which he tangoed in the dead of night at a gas station with the lead singer of the group, Texas.
“I will freely admit I would have gladly exchanged places with her for those two minutes,” I said, risking a mildly risqué comment. I paused before adding, “Believe me now?” He laughed so I knew he wasn’t offended by my sass. It was strange how comfortable I felt with him when I usually didn’t like strangers. Then again, this was Alan Rickman, who was proving to be the exception to the rule.
We chatted about the weather and the night scene in Minneapolis. I played down the bad weather because really, we’d had unusually mild winters the past several years. Of course, what Minnesotans considered mild wasn’t the same as what the rest of the country meant by the word, but I didn’t mention that. Besides, we had sunshine almost all year round which made up for the long winters. At least, I thought so. Many of my fellow Minnesotans didn’t agree, but they weren’t born and raise here as I was. I loved the cold and the snow and everything about winter, even how long it was. Still, it wasn’t something a nonnative wanted to hear, so I kept it brief. I didn’t lie about it, mind you, but I didn’t dwell on it, either.
I told him about our music scene which was thriving. Theater was struggling here, but it was everywhere from what I’ve read. We had talent and desire, but very little funding. Still, I could usually find something of value if I had a hankering for theater on a weekend night. As for movies, we got the same ones as did the rest of the country, though we sometimes got them a week or month later than the East and West Coasts. The dining experience was good, if one knew where to go. Let’s face it: Minnesota was not a cultural Mecca, but it wasn’t a wasteland, either. My booster speech lasted until we reached the Guthrie, with Alan asking frequent questions.
“Here we go,” I said, smiling at Alan as I pulled up to the curb. “It was very nice meeting you, and not just because you’re Alan Rickman as I told you twice.” I held out my hand, and he shook it while looking at me for a minute.
“I don’t normally do this,” he said slowly, opening his door. “But I feel as if I know you, so it’s all right. How would you like to go to dinner tonight and perhaps show me the town? Mind you, I can’t stay out very late as I must get up before the crack of dawn to return to Los Angeles, but I would like to thank you for driving me here.”
“I would love that,” I said, struggling to keep my cool. Dinner with Alan Rickman? You had to be kidding me. I would give up my first child—scratch that.
“Fantastic,” Alan said, flashing his famous smile. “I have a few suggestions from friends about good spots in which to dine, if that’s all right with you.” I nodded dumbly, not knowing what to say at this point. He could suggest going to Hooters, and I’d be fine with it. “Well, I must be off. Here.” He pulled out a pen and a small notebook from God knows where and scribbled something on it. “My mobile number. Why don’t you give me yours as well? I’ll have a driver pick you up from your place, say, at six? I hope that’s not too early.”
“No, not too early,” I echoed. “I can drive, if you’d like.”
“I’m provided with the service, so I might as well use it.” Alan handed me the piece of paper and a pen. I scribbled my cell phone number—and my name—on half the sheet and ripped the paper apart, giving the half with my name and number to him while carefully tucking the half with his name—as if I needed it!—and number into my purse. “I’ve really got to go. I’ll call after I’m through, but count on six, all right?” He smiled again and shut the door, walking briskly into the Guthrie. Yes, I admit I was watching his ass as he went in, so sue me. This was Alan Rickman, people. Try to keep up.
After making sure he was out of view, I pulled out the piece of paper and stared at his name and number. I knew I could probably sell both on eBay for a great deal of money, but I would never do that. I placed it back into my purse and took off, thinking of dinner that night. What was I going to wear? What was I going to say? What was I going to order? The last wasn’t worth worrying about as I had no idea where he was taking me. I worried about everything else, however, on the way home. I wanted to take a shower before I went and to wear something nice but not too nice. I had mix feelings about my anticipation as Alan was in a long-term relationship with someone. I shouldn’t be acting as if this were a date when I wasn’t sure what it was at all. I had to treat it as if were simply a ‘thank-you dinner’ which it was. I refused to consider any other possibility as I was not a home-wrecker. I might not necessarily believe in monogamy, but I certainly wasn’t going to mess with someone else’s.
The first thing I wanted to do when I got home was call Ned. Before I did, however, something hit me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it in the first place, but the excitement of seeing Alan Rickman in the flesh had been enough to make me temporarily lose my mind. Now that I wasn’t in his presence, I realized that his stumbling across my apartment was awfully serendipitous. I had to acknowledge that it most likely wasn’t coincidental at all. I had a feeling that God had His holy hand in this whole thing, which pissed me off no end. How the fuck was I supposed to enjoy tonight knowing that Alan was there under duress—even if he didn’t know it? What about my edict of not allowing God to arrange my life for His amusement? I should break the date with Alan for the principle of the matter. On the other hand, I was going to bear God’s baby. The least I could do for myself was to enjoy the perks in return.
“You think too much, Margaret,” God boomed, showing up in a flash and in the flesh. He had chosen to return to black, which suited Him best. Funny how Lucifer looked best in nothing but his white wings whereas God looked His best in black. I didn’t know what that meant, but I didn’t need to worry about it at the moment. Right now, I was pissed off at the deity standing in front of me, who looked more than a trifle smug.
“You! You did this, didn’t You? Even though I specifically told You not to interfere with my life, You just couldn’t resist, could You?” Even though I knew better than to try to physically harm God, I threw something at Him, anyway. Sure enough, He turned translucent, and the book went right through Him. He grinned at me, practically daring me to throw something else at Him. Wisely, I resisted because I wasn’t making an ass of myself again.
“You did well, little girl,” God said mockingly. He dropped the tone, however, as He added, “I admit, I sent him your way. The rest, however, was all you.”
“Yeah, right,” I muttered, turning my back on Him. My shoulders sagged as I realized that I’d never know again when something happened if it was because of me or because of Him. It was disheartening.
“Nobody knows, do they?” God asked, zipping over to the other side of the room so I was forced to see Him as he turned back to black. “You’re only becoming cognizant of something that is true for everybody.” It didn’t make me any happier to know that God was meddling in everybody’s life; I was essentially a selfish person who put myself before others. Another reason I never wanted children.
“How can I even be sure it’s him?” I asked, glaring at the Almighty, not ready to back down. “For all I know, he might be an apparition you conjured to keep me toeing the line.”
“You’re not exactly the subservient type,” God said dryly. “I just thought you deserved something nice, no more, no less. Accept it for what it is.” God shrugged, spreading His hands to show He meant no harm. “You have to stop looking for the cloud in every silver lining.”
“Fine, You made Your point,” I said, walking over to the couch and sitting down. I no longer had the spirit to argue with God, and I wanted nothing more than for Him to go away.
“Margaret, you’re taking this too much to heart,” God said gently, sitting besides me. It was unnerving to have Him that close in proximity. It was also unsettling to hear Him, well, not sarcastic for a moment, but I let it go. “Like most things in life, I simply provide the opportunities. It’s up to you what you do with them. In your place, some women would have given him the address and not followed up on it. It was your choice to offer him a ride, and it was your personality which intrigued him and spurred him to ask you to dinner. You have to know what you can and cannot do in order to properly assess when I deserve credit and when I don’t.” That made sense, though I didn’t bother to admit it out loud. “Chin up, little one. You have to get ready for your date with Alan. Wear the red Taiwanese dress. He’ll like that.”
God disappeared, leaving me more befuddled than before He came. If He was talking about the dress I rarely wore, well, then He definitely considered it a date. The dress, given to me by my mother, was a traditional Taiwanese dress made from a rich, red silk. It was tight-fitting with slits up both sides. My mother hadn’t taken into account the fact that on my shapely body, the dress would be more revealing than repressive. Every time I wore it, I had men wanting to take me home. There was some truth in the belief that what was hidden was more alluring than what was right before the eyes. I didn’t think it appropriate to wear for dinner with Alan, but what did I know?
I went into the bedroom, panicking about the time. I looked at my clock and noticed that it was only four-thirty, which couldn’t be right as that was when I dropped Alan off at the Guthrie. It must have been His work again, and this time I was grateful for it. I still had mixed feelings about my encounter with Alan, but I knew I would have dinner with him regardless of how we’d met. It was only dinner, after all, so what could it hurt, right? I knew I was rationalizing, but I didn’t care. I was going to have dinner with Alan. I would have liked to wash my hair, but I didn’t have time. Fortunately, it was still clean from its washing three days ago—it was more for my comfort’s sake that I wanted to wash it than anything else. I didn’t think I should even bother with a shower—I wasn’t dirty as I had taken a bath last night.
I pulled out the dress which God had mentioned so casually and held it up to my body. The red of the dress and the black stitching of the vines and flowers were simply exquisite. I wasn’t sure I should wear it, but who was I to say no to God? Never mind that I tried to say no to Him several times about the impregnation—that didn’t count. I slipped out of my clothes and slid into the dress. There was no need to wear a bra underneath as the dress compressed everything. I slid on sheer hose, forgoing panties as well. I wanted as few lines as possible which was why I wore very expensive pantyhose. I twisted my hair up into a knot, securing it with a gold barrette my mother had brought me from her last trip to Taiwan. I was beginning to feel like a concubine, but the look was worth it.
Once I was through dressing, I carefully brushed on a light coat of mascara and powder. A bit of Diva by MAC for my lips, and I was done with my makeup. I added gold earrings along with the necklace Li Ling had given me. Any more would definitely be gilding the lily, but I had to admit I looked damn good. I preened as I peered into the mirror, pleased with what I saw. I rarely liked how I looked, so I was going to enjoy it to the fullest when I did. I patted my hair as a few tendrils coiled around my face. I wondered if I should bring condoms, but decided that would be tempting fate. My cell phone rang as I was primping, scaring me out of my skin.
“Hello?” I asked cautiously, wondering if it was Alan. Alas, it was only Ned.
“Girl, what are you doing tonight? Guess who’s going to be at the Nineties for one night only, a surprise appearance? Cyndi Lauper! I heard it from someone who heard it from someone who’d know. We have to go!”
“Ned, I’d love to,” I began, glancing at my clock. Five-fifteen. Almost Alan time. “I can’t, though.”
“You have a date!” Ned squealed, sounding for all the world like a teenage girl. “Who’s the lucky boy? Or should I say girl?”
“If I tell you, you wouldn’t believe me,” I said, hesitating. It wasn’t that I thought Ned would blab because he could keep his lips zipped if he had to; it’s just, well, I knew from experience how a joyful occasion sometimes lost its luster if shared. I didn’t want this to be one of those times.
“Girl, I met God, and I came out to my parents. There’s nothing you can say that will shock me.”
“Alan Rickman,” I blurted out, waiting for the inevitable response. What I got was silence. And more silence. And more. I got anxious. “Ned, are you there? I really should go because Alan’s going to be calling—”
“Alan Rickman?” Ned interrupted, finally grasping what I’d said. “The actor Alan Rickman? The one you have a huge crush on? The one who is old enough to be your father? That Alan Rickman?”
“Do you know of any other?”
“It’s His doing, isn’t it?” Ned asked reverently.
“Sort of. Look, I’ll talk to you later, OK?”
“Call me when you get home!” Ned was still yelling instructions to me as I hung up. My landline immediately rung after. Without thinking about it, I picked up.
“So, you cannot even call back your mother? That’s an ungrateful daughter for you.” Mom. I should have known. She’s one of the only people who ever call me on my landline. “Who was at your door? Was it so important that you had to hang up on me?” Oh, yeah, Mom. If you only knew.
“Look, Mom,” I began. Just then, my cell phone rang again. “I have to go. I’ll call you. I promise. Just not tonight.” I hung up on her again, knowing there would be hell to pay. To hang up once on her was unforgivable. Twice in one afternoon? I shuddered to think of how she’d punish me. I clicked on my cell phone. “Hello?”