CELEBRITY – Part Two

BARNEY

Hey, don’t leave.

 

(Gets up, moves his things to her table.)

 

I think it’s better if I sit here and keep my voice down.—Stay, Gloria, please.

 

(She sits, looks down at her plate.)

 

It’s funny: you were on thousands of those posters–and now you don’t want a stranger like me to say anything about it.

 

(Directs himself forcefully to her.)

 

Why did you do it, Gloria? What lust for recognition took you over? Were you like the people on the talk shows? “We’ll be hearing from a woman who kept her baby in the microwave–and then tragedy struck when her boyfriend turned it on”? “And after that, a man who can only say his prayers while wearing a rubber wet suit full of applesauce”? Was that it–famous at any price?

 

GLORIA

No! It wasn’t that at all! I never wanted to be famous! Oh, sure, maybe as a child, when I took ballet from Madam Carmella at her Ecole de Danse in Jackson Heights–I had a fantasy of being up on my toes in front of the crowned heads of Europe–but not when I grew up and had a respectable job and wore tweed skirts!

 

BARNEY

I guess it’s not really . . .

 

GLORIA

Any of your business? No, it’s not!

BARNEY

If you do something public like that, do you keep the right to the same privacy us poor schnooks who are nobody have?

 

GLORIA

I’m not anymore anybody than anyone else.

 

BARNEY

(more kindly)

 

Gloria, I may not remember faces too quickly, but I’m a judge of character, and I would judge your character to be very fine. I noticed it on the poster–a fine person. One who I could trust if she recommended a particular hemorrhoid product. Am I being too forward in saying that?

GLORIA

(responding to his kindliness)

 

No. No, you’re not.–Look, I never should’ve done it. This guy . . . well, he convinced me to pose for the picture and to sign a release.

 

BARNEY

Yes, the streets of the city are paved with releases signed by women led astray by sharp operators.

GLORIA

He showed me an ad in a medical journal–12 tiny photos of people speaking sort of scientifically. I didn’t expect to be all over the place.

 

BARNEY

It was true, then? You were a . . . sufferer?

 

GLORIA

Well, yeah . . . no worse than the next person. I mean, I didn’t have the world’s most painful or anything. I never needed surgery, just as the ad said. But this guy–a friend, in fact, from a club–the Never Give Up Singles Club?–he had me go to this agency on Madison Avenue.

 

BARNEY

I’m curious: how did he bring the subject up?

 

GLORIA

He asked.

 

BARNEY

At the singles club. He said, “Hi, I’m Roger. Nice dress. Do you have hemorrhoids?”?

 

GLORIA

No.

(Embarrassed)

 

He saw it in my medicine cabinet. He claimed I left the medicine cabinet partway open, but I’m dubious about that. Anyway, he saw this . . . preparation in my medicine cabinet.

 

BARNEY

(insinuatingly)

He was in your apartment?

 

GLORIA

(defensively)

 

He was picking me up for a dinner date. We were going to an Ethiopian restaurant where you ate on top of a barrel, but we never got there. I decided I better eat American because of my stomach.

BARNEY

You had to be careful.

 

GLORIA

Well, no, not from the . . . Say . . .

 

BARNEY

Barney.

 

GLORIA

Barney, I thought I was helping him out, and it was right before the holidays, so $200 was useful.

 

BARNEY

Helping him out?

 

GLORIA

Yeah, I sort of liked him, and he had a new job at this ad agency . . .

 

BARNEY

You know, he sounds like kind of a tacky guy.

 

GLORIA

He was. But he was making something of himself–he went from the mailroom to helping on some accounts. He sort of–he manipulated me that way.

 

BARNEY

Gloria, time wounds all heels. What rock is he living under today?

 

GLORIA

I think he has his own agency.

BARNEY

But inside, I bet he’s hurting. Just imagine the burning coals of his private hell.

 

GLORIA

I don’t care. It was a long time ago.

 

BARNEY

One more instance of a man taking advantage of a woman. Please accept my apology on behalf of my fellow men.

 

GLORIA

(touched)

That’s very considerate of you.

 

BARNEY

When a woman shoots her boyfriend or pours gasoline on her husband and throws a match, I say to myself: “Before we criticize her, let’s find out what he did to deserve it.” Your story, for example.

 

GLORIA

(smiling)

I wouldn’t want to set him on fire.

 

(Seriously)

 

But I was angry! It was the worst time of my life.

 

BARNEY

Like a moth?

 

GLORIA

I beg your pardon?

 

BARNEY

A moth gets too close to a flame. A moment of glory, and then it burns to a crisp.

 

GLORIA

When it first came out, I thought: “Well, it’s out there–I can’t wish it away–at least now something is happening, now I’m someone people will notice.” I know the feeling you’re talking about, the people who go on those talk shows.

 

The feeling lasted less than an hour. I got calls from people I knew. Then people I didn’t know looked me up in the phone book. The boys in the mailroom made remarks. When I rode the subway, I looked down into a newspaper.

 

I changed jobs and apartment buildings. Finally I changed my name. Legally, there’s no Gloria Shulklepper. I wear my hair different. I work alone as a researcher. No one gets to know me.

 

BARNEY

That’s so sad. To deny your own existence. Hey, that’s how it is with pioneers.

 

GLORIA

Don’t make fun . . .

 

BARNEY

No! I have nothing but respect. You may have been responsible single-handedly for getting people to come out of the dark ages with their hemorrhoids.

 

GLORIA

Don’t . . .

 

BARNEY

(chuckling in spite of himself)

 

Ha!–I’m sorry . . . but it’s a little funny: if hemorrhoid sufferers had a sit-in, they’d use those doughnut-shaped pillows!

 

(Laughs, then stops himself.)

 

Sorry.

GLORIA

I never expected my life to be a bed of roses. I was raised to believe life is finding a particular bundle of miseries and settling down with them. But in no way was I prepared for the nightmare I lived through.

 

BARNEY

Weren’t there any consolations?

 

GLORIA

There’s one thing. What if the ad was in Time Magazine? My mother would’ve gotten calls from all over the world, not just the five boroughs.

 

Another consolation was, not everyone takes the subway. Every time a murder or purse snatching on the subway was in the news, I said a prayer of thanks: another couple hundred people would decide not to ride the subway, and they wouldn’t see my face on the wall.

 

I even tried psychotherapy. But it was some kind of Carl Rogers therapy–the therapist just repeats what you say.

 

BARNEY

He repeats what you say.

 

GLORIA

Yes, and that gives validation to your feelings.

 

BARNEY

It validates your feelings . . .

 

GLORIA

But I started to wonder if it was doing any good.

 

BARNEY

You didn’t know if it was good for you . . .

 

GLORIA

Stop!

 

BARNEY

You know what I hear as you tell me this? I hear someone who has a problem–not with hemorrhoids, but with confidence–with the ability to look a problem in the face and say: I may have a problem, but I won’t be a problem.

 

GLORIA

Huh?

 

BARNEY

(more intimately)

 

When I was a kid, I loved to paint in oils. One thing I never understood: they wouldn’t let us paint shadows black. We were supposed to look at the shadow and find its color–anything but black. At that age, I didn’t understand. I thought that shadows were black. I didn’t know how to find the color of a shadow. But now, Gloria, I think I do.

 

GLORIA

I’m not sure I . . .

 

BARNEY

Understand? Gloria, I’m a student–a student of how things happen in life, and whenever we’re touched by something important, we’re changed by it. That’s how life goes–change and growth. And I think I’ve been changed by our–our little encounter here.

 

GLORIA

That’s nice . . . I have too.

 

BARNEY

I’ve talked your ear off. Look: your liver’s gone cold.

 

 

GLORIA

(confidingly)

 

It wasn’t too good. And it’s a lot of saturated fat.

 

But you know something? I shouldn’t hide. I should laugh about it. The thing I dreaded most was just this: a stranger remembering–even a stranger who I might be, you know, interested—interested in talking to. Who would say, “Oh, I remember you,” and right away there’s a barrier and you never get to, like, really talk to each other.

 

Who knows what possibilities would be snuffed out, right there, like a candle flame in a stray breeze?–You’ve been very kind to listen.

 

BARNEY

Gloria, there’s people out there with terrible problems: they’re homeless, they hang their children on the clothesline. You’ve been suffering from an overdose of fame! That’s not so bad.

 

GLORIA

No, it isn’t, is it?

 

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