In Search of Liam

I'm not saying you have to search for Liam Neeson, in fact I'd personally prefer you not because I'm searching for him. I met him one night, circa holiday season 2012, and my knees buckled. I swooned. Every girl should meet a man who makes them swoon. Not because he was a big movie star. I’ve had more than my share of swoon-worthy movie stars. But because I got a fleeting glimpse of something I’d hadn’t seen in a while – a real man.  A man who brings home the bacon and fries it up in a pan. A man who never let’s her forget she’s a woman. You know what I'm talking about. 

The kind of man who opens a cab door for a woman then, instead of making her slide over, shuts the door, goes around the other side (the traffic side), and gets in. A man who instinctively rises from his seat when a woman approaches the table, who steps in when he sees a woman being manhandled. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t exactly manhandled as much as slightly pushed out of the way which makes it even more swoony that he stepped in. 

It started over egg nog. I went to a friend’s  (I’ll call him “A”) Christmas party. I’d known A for many years and his annual Christmas party became a sort of benchmark party for the holiday season. It started out small and as the years passed and A got bigger so did his party. But you could count on the original core group of gay men, and the stylish women who trailed them, to line up each year perched on top of his royal blue couch like the popular girls who sat on the benches that lined each side of the main hall in my high school. Perfect outfits. Poised. The effortless ease they showed navigating a crowded room of party-goers. I hung in the small office off the living room, preferring small spaces and corners, to the main stage.

There were two other things you could count on at A’s party: the brownies would get you stoned and the random interesting guest star would make an appearance. If Madonna was in town she’d come with her own posse of gay men, sit in the corner, and complain about the music. John Mayer came the year he was reclaiming his masculinity as a lumbersexual. One year I brought Susan Sarandon who spent some time talking to an older woman who looked similar to Monica Lewinsky. This woman was a big fan and Susan very gracious. We only learned at the end of the night that it was Monica Lewinsky. 

A loved everything about popular culture. It showed in his apartment. He even had his talk show set built to look like his apartment. And in a Norma Desmondian twist, even as he got big his apartment, like the talk show set, stayed small. It says everything about A.

I got there early and sat in the kitchen. I’d learned over the years that the kitchen was the one place you could both be at the party and a little removed from the party. I perched on the windowsill in his open kitchen. A perfect spot to view party guests coming and going, and it was where A kept the fancy brownies. I noticed his arrival by the way the sea of people parted as he walked into the room. Like Moses parting of the Red Sea. He came with a friend, a guy named Frank. I knew his name because I’d met him and his wife a few years earlier at Bungalow 8. We talked for a long time about nothing important and the three of us bonded. Frank was the kind of guy you didn’t forget. He had soap opera good looks and an easy smile. If you needed a drink one would appear, if you were looking for say your purse in a crowded nightclub booth he would find it. Frank was a fixer. He knew the bouncers at all the good clubs, the newest restaurants, and was am original member at Soho House. Apparently Frank knew Liam too.

Frank also had a good memory. 

“Hey, Carole, great to see you,” Frank said and hugged me like an old-time friend. That was Frank’s style, he was friendly and open as though he knew you for years. After a few minutes of chit chat Frank introduced me to Liam.

“Hello,” Liam said with an Irish accent. I often wondered why foreign accents made people seem more interesting. I took his hand awkwardly

“Hi.” I replied. “Nice to meet you. I met Frank and his wife last year. At a bar. You know, Bungalow 8.” I’m not sure why I said this or why I was still talking. In my head I was playing it cool. And I’m not sure why I was trying to play cool Liam wasn’t the first actor I’d ever spoken to. I thought about the brownie I was nibbling on.  Liam leaned down. “What was your name again?”

“Oh, sorry its Carole, yeah, its pretty noisy in here.” The height and bulk of his body was nearly overwhelming. I was tiny. I’d never felt so tiny. I suddenly loved being little, so little I could disappear behind him. I don’t remember what we were talking about because of the other man. The man who was making his way across the crowded room in a careless fashion and bumped me hard out of the way. I can’t tell you if this man was tall or short or blonde or a redhead. If he was wearing a red sequined blazer I could not tell you. All I could see was Liam. He put his oversized hand on my arm and I could hear in his deep Irish voice.

“Hey, if you don’t watch where you’re going I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” Liam said to the faceless guy. Was he talking about me – to the faceless nameless man who may or may not have been wearing a red sequin jacket? He was going to ask the guy to leave and it wasn’t even his apartment. Everything moved in that slow motion way like if it were a movie and I was underwater and everything was slow and quiet and then I burst to the surface and suddenly I could hear normally again.

“Oh, it’s fine. Really.” 

“No.” Who was I to disagree Liam was a movie star after all. And an action star.  He guided me over to a less crowded corner of the living room. We continued to talk. He mentioned his love of dogs, I mentioned my six year old Boxer, Margaret. And new puppy, Baby. He said he wanted a huge pack of dogs. I agreed! He talked about his holiday plans in Antigua casually mentioning his late wife Natasha and her love of the island. I mentioned my late husbands love of the sea. Just two people talking about holiday plans, widowhood, and dogs. I can’t recall if there was a lull in the conversation when he leaned in and asked if he could kiss me. It was a very strange question as we were standing in a room full of people and technically we had just met. I think I said, “Sure.” If there was mistle-toe above us I edited it out in my re-telling over the years. “That sounds lovely.” He bent down and kissed me. A nice sweet, longer than a hello, but not too long kind of kiss. Frank was suddenly next to us. Frank with his friendly open smile said, “Hey we should all go out one night.” Frank I could tell was the key to a second encounter. We all stood there for a minute and then got suctioned up into the vortex of the crowd. Liam sauntered off into the crowd and we never I never saw Liam again that night.

But this is partly a search for Liam Neeson but partly about inventing the perfect man. The truth is he’d had already had a lot to drink before the egg-nog, his saunter may have been more of a stumble. I’d nibbled on one of the brownies and awkwardly filled in the silence gaps in conversation. I couldn't understand much of what he said over the din of party noise and his Irish accent. I smiled. A lot. 

Liam was the fantasy of a widow who falls in love with a widower. Sleepless in Seattle but set in New York.  He is not only a widower, he is tall and strapping with a Hollywood size penis. He would always know to open a door and let me walk in first, to make sure I had a driver meet me at the airport, and that my health insurance was up to date.  

He would throw his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, he’d make the bed in the morning even on days when Lydia my housekeeper would come. He’d get up early, go for a run, and buy me a coffee from my favorite corner deli. It would be on my bedside table when I got up. He would leave notes in places he’d know I’d look. He’d remember to put down the toilet seat and wipe off the bathroom sink after he brushed his teeth, which were perfect. His breath smelled like baby breath in the morning even as he mounted me for vigorous morning sex. He would know he was always the big spoon. He would organize surprise weekends away. He’d wait patiently for me to get ready for dinner and then walk the dog when we returned drunk and tired. He’d call each morning just to say hello and send kissy face emojis randomly for no reason at all. He’d understand that a “Netflix and chill” night might involve binging an entire season of “Girls” or a documentary about female motorbike racers. Basically, he exemplified, in my mind, what might be missing in my life – testosterone. 

Stendhal, a 19th c. French philosopher, coined the term – crystallization -- the art of projecting virtues onto ones object of desire. A metamorphosis where by unattractive characteristics are crystallized in the mind of the admirer, as virtues.  Had I crystallized Liam Neeson?  Did I attach shiny sparkly attributes to him that he may or may not have had? He is a man who does this…A man who would never do that…In my crystallized version, standing in that crowded holiday party, Liam was the perfect man.

To be continued……

Joe Laresca