The airline allows me to board thirty minutes early. Hardly necessary, but easier than chancing it. Hanging out in public. Where naturally I act natural. Eventually, or sooner, someone notices. (“Isn’t that…you know?”) And I play it sorta approachable. Meaning scared shitless because one unwanted wink makes me a peacock.
I settle into a window seat, pretend to read Wired magazine, and I’m safe. Small chance anybody will call me out here.
The flight attendant serves me lemongrass tea. About a hundred travelers get on. Then there’s this very pretty girl sitting next to me, probably upgraded.
Much maneuvering stowing her stuff, wriggling her jacket off. Fresh faced. Beautiful dark red hair. No color job—none. Not looking at me.
But she’s trembling. Definitely trembling. Plane takes off; pilot comes on. About three hours to Kennedy. She’s still trembling.
“I don’t bite.”
She ignores me.
“I’m Martin Imhoff.”
She still ignores me.
“You know, the show Gangstas. I played Derek. Three years.”
She bites her lip and looks up. Big, wide, round brown eyes. Uh-oh. I’m slipping into gaga-land—staring at her. Embarrassing. Nonchalant pause and so what? I glance again: Long pale neck. Cupid mouth.
“What’s your name?” Causal, an honest how-do-you-do.
“You look like an Amber.” Whoa, does she blush! “That’s a compliment, Amber.”
“Yeah. You really don’t know Gangstas? It’s still on. Last year my homemade bomb bombed me.”
My attempted wit sounds stupid, but she almost smiles. Almost. “They promoted my death between seasons.”
“I never saw it. No cable.”
“Really.” So is she an actress? Fooling with me? “Amber, what do you do?”
“Museum gift shop.”
“What’s your ambition?”
“Nothing big. Maybe teaching.”
So I go into my thing about how healthy no do-or-die ambition is. Because otherwise you’re constantly, horribly anxious. Am I doing enough? Too much?
I find out she was visiting her sister. Lives with her mother. And isn’t into celebrities.
“I’m not a celebrity anymore.”
“You’ll get another show.”
“You think? Because I’m trying. Kissing up where I can. Searching for the right part. Nonstop what-ifs.”
“It’ll work out.” She’s sincere, so I gotta risk it. Because if she’s not impressed? We might get along with no acting. No acting. Imagine that.
But she won’t go out with me—too embarrassing. Me being a celebrity.
“But I’m not. Anymore. You’ve never heard of me.”
“Yeah, but I work at it.” Sweet grin.
“In Manhattan nobody recognizes me. I haven’t worked in a year, Amber. Come on. Name the restaurant, nightclub, whatever.”
“Latin dancing,” and do I have a pen?
“An iPhone.” I’m ready with it and she grins again.
“Now I remember. You’re the World’s Sexiest Man.”
“2005. Very definitely embarrassing.”