Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Director

Written by Emily Westerweller
The director was at the party before me. I was third to arrive, or maybe fourth, depending if you count my boyfriend who walked through the door first. I was behind him. He let go of my hand so he could open the door, then he handed the door to me, and I closed it.
The director was at the party before me. I was third to arrive, or maybe fourth, depending if you count my boyfriend who walked through the door first. I was behind him. He let go of my hand so he could open the door, then he handed the door to me, and I closed it.

I saw the director sitting at the table with his legs crossed. His eyes met my eyes, and I was first to look away. The host of the party was taking my coat off, and my boyfriend was handing the wine to the host’s wife. I saw the director watch me walk across the room and sit next to my boyfriend. My boyfriend put his hand on my knee. I saw the director look at the point on my leg where my boyfriend’s hand was. I watched him look down at his glass. A truck went by, and the apartment shook a little, and then it was still, like it had stirred and was now back to sleep.

I listened to the host talk about Paris, and I watched another guest sit next to the director. More people arrived after us and more people sat on the sofa. The host’s wife handed me a glass of red wine. It was more expensive than the wine my boyfriend brought, and it tasted better. I wondered if the wine was from the director. The host’s wife said that the director had brought it, so I knew I was right.

I watched the director talk to the woman at the table. She moved her glass to be closer to his glass, and she crossed her legs towards him. He talked to her, but he looked over at me. I wondered what she was saying to him and if they had met before or were meeting now for the first time. I wondered what I would say if I talked to him. I wondered how the hosts of the party knew a famous director.

I thought my boyfriend caught me looking at the director, so I smiled at my boyfriend. I ran my finger around my lips to make sure that none of the red wine had stayed there. I looked at my fingertips, and then I placed them on my boyfriend’s hand.

The host’s children ran into the room. They had their pajamas on and were like birds enjoying a few seconds of freedom before they went back to their cages. I watched them flutter around the room, taking laps around the sofa that my boyfriend and I were sitting on and stopping at the director’s chair. He knew the children, and he talked to them, and the children laughed. I wondered what he was saying to them to make them laugh.

My boyfriend and I had only raised our glasses above us, so we would not spill as the children ran by. But we didn’t know the children. Maybe if we had, we would have been more relaxed, like swimming in a pool that you know has been cleaned or returning to your own bed after being away and going straight to sleep.

The babysitter was running after them. She looked like she was trying to get a leash back on a dog as she scooped the girl in her right arm, her left arm outstretched towards the boy. She put her arms around them. They were back in their cage, and she took them out of the room.

The host apologized, and my boyfriend and I said that it was fine at the same moment, then we looked at each other, and I looked back at the director. His glass was empty. Only ice was left in his cup. I watched as he got up from the table with the woman he was talking to and went into the kitchen. My boyfriend noticed that I was watching the director. When the host and hostess were busy in conversation, my boyfriend leaned over to me and asked me how I thought the host knew the director. I gave him a look and moved my shoulders, the way you do when you don’t know something. I was surprised that he didn’t know since the host and hostess were more my boyfriend’s friends than they were mine. We stopped thinking about the director when the host’s friend asked us if we liked the Christmas tree. We said we did, but we admitted later that we didn’t. The homemade ornaments took away something, or perhaps we didn’t understand them because we didn’t have children.

The director came back to the room and headed towards where we were seated. He was cut off by a balding man, and I could hear him ask the director how long he had been in New York. The man read somewhere that the director had been living in Paris. I read that too. The director had his back to me, so I could not see him or hear what he was saying. Looking at the back of him began to remind me of looking at his shadow. His hair was long from the back and covered up his neck. His suit was dark brown corduroy and had to be tailored because of the way it fit him. I guessed his suit was vintage. My dress was vintage too; maybe that is what the director had been looking at. We had our clothes in common.

I wondered where the woman he had been talking to had gone. I saw the bathroom door was closed, so she must have been in there. She came out a few seconds later and went back to stand next to the director. I wondered if she was the director’s girlfriend. I was not sure why I had not thought that before. Maybe it was because earlier in the party she was talking to someone else across the room. Maybe they were one of those couples who go to parties to be with other people instead of each other. My boyfriend and I were not one of those couples. Not yet, but we had only been together for a year.

The director’s group gathered around him and they all moved closer to me. I heard the woman ask him about his next film. I knew then that she was not his girlfriend. A girlfriend would already know that and not be asking him about it in a public place. Then I wondered if she would become his girlfriend after tonight. I wondered if they would date and get married, and if their kids would play with the host’s kids. I imagined they were like one of those couples on the opposite sides of the street, and I wanted to be like a car that kept them on their corners.

Now that the director was not looking at me, I started to listen to the host’s conversation. The host was a writer on the director’s new film. He was telling my boyfriend that writing for the screen was easier than he thought it would be. I was bored. I started to think about my day. If I had known that such a famous director would be here, would I have still worn this dress? Would I have still gotten ready in the bathroom at work? Or would I have gone home, met my boyfriend, and walked to the party with him?

I wondered if the director is why the host had this party; so a room full of people would think that he was doing well for himself. He was trying to show my boyfriend that he was doing well for himself. I remembered that he was friends with my boyfriend, but not good enough friends for my boyfriend to know he had been working with the director.

I decided to go to the bathroom. I got up, and the party seemed a lot smaller then from that height. My boyfriend’s hand fell from my knee and I handed him my wine glass that he set on the table. The bathroom door was closed, so I waited in the hallway. In one of the rooms, there was a closed door with the TV glowing from the crack underneath, and I imagined that was where the kids were.

The bathroom door opened and a girl in a yellow dress walked out. I had not noticed her at the party until now and she smiled at me. She looked like she was the only one at the party under thirty as well, and we had that in common. I walked into the bathroom and shut the party out. I looked into the bathroom mirror and checked for wine around my lips. I looked at my face under the bright light and checked for circles under my eyes. I put lipstick on, but I knew it would just end up as a ring on the top of my wine glass.

I heard footsteps outside the door, so I hurried up. I could see the dark shadow of one set of feet, and I wondered if they were my boyfriend’s. I opened the door. The director was there in the hallway. He moved closer to me, and I did not back away. He said he had been watching me watch him. I figured that is how it must have been. He was looking at me because I was looking at him. He seemed shyer than I thought he would be. His voice was softer. This seemed like a bold move for him to make. I told him I was sorry. He asked me why. He moved closer to me, and he pressed his lips against mine. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, he was shutting the bathroom door. I looked at the closed door. The hallway was dark. I was afraid to turn around. I wondered if anyone saw me, and if maybe, from certain angles, you could see the hallway from the sofa.

I turned around, saw that no one was looking and stepped out of the hallway. I went back to my place on the sofa. The girl in the yellow dress smiled at me like we were now old friends. The lady that had been talking to the director also looked at me. I tried to figure out if she was suspicious, but I thought she was just looking for the director.

The host and hostess called everyone to the table. They said there were place cards. The director was out of the bathroom. My name was next to both my boyfriend’s name and the director’s name. I took my seat between them. I could feel the director looking at me. My boyfriend was talking to the host’s wife about his book, so when he was not looking, I looked back at the director. I pretended for a minute that I was the director’s girlfriend, and I started to feel like a queen at the table instead of a guest. The woman that had been talking to the director was watching us from across the table.

He asked me my name. He was ignoring the host who was next to him at the end of the table. I told him my name, and he told me his. He asked me what I do, and I told him. I told him that these questions were one-sided because everyone at the table knew his name and what he did. I told him to tell me something I didn’t know about him. He told me he drinks whiskey and he only listens to vinyl. He owns the entire Bob Dylan collection. He told me he is afraid of flying. I told him that I am more afraid of boats. I don’t like the motion, and he does. He told me he just got back from Paris yesterday.

He asked me where I live. I told him I live two blocks away from the party. He lives four blocks away. We are neighbors. He asked me if I live on the top floor. I said that I live on the third floor of five. He said he always has to live on the top floor because nothing keeps him up at night more than footsteps above his head.

The director and I talked like we were the only ones at the table. My boyfriend tried to join the conversation, but we did not let him. The girl in the yellow dress was talking to the host. I didn’t want my food to leave my plate because I did not want to get up from the table. We had to eventually and I slowly rose like the sun trying to break through the cloudy sky. The director stayed in his seat. My boyfriend took my hand and led me away from the table.

We were back in the living room. I was sitting on the sofa again. The host was bringing out coffees, and I knew the party was almost over. I decided to go to the bathroom. The director followed me. We were in the bathroom together, and he closed the door. He kissed me and I let him. I kissed him back. He was tender when he kissed me, and he held my head. Then he took my hand and led me out of the bathroom. We went down the hallway and past the living room. I was surprised that no one saw us pass by. I was on the street. The director was holding my hand and kissing me again. I pretended for a moment that I was in one of his movies set in New York. I pretended for a moment I was not walking away from my life that was still at the party. My heart was beating in a way I did not know it was capable of and I could barely hear my footsteps over its drumbeat.

We walked the four blocks to his apartment. We went up the stairs. He led me in, and shut the door. I looked around. It was just how I imagined his apartment to be. Half of it was his workspace, half of it a loft full of mid-century furnishings. He handed me a drink and I set it on his desk. I saw props I recognized from some of his movies. I thought about seeing his last movie with my boyfriend. Our backs were pressed against the red chairs that force you to sit upright. I had hoped the boy and girl would end up together in the film, and they did. I looked at some of the drawings of the set of his new film. The ice from my drink had melted and was like a lake in the bottom of my glass.

He was close to me, and he kissed me. My dress fell to the floor, and we were in bed. I wondered if I was going to be good at this, and then I thought about my boyfriend still at the party. I am already in this, I decided, so we finished. We dressed, and he kissed me again. I told him we should go back to the party.

We walked back the four blocks to the party. He held my hand, but we let go when we reached their block. We walked in the door together and this time everyone saw. This time the woman that had been talking to the director looked at me with suspicion. Even the woman in the yellow dress looked at me differently. Not the host and hostess, they waved. Then I got the courage to look at my boyfriend. He was not looking at me like he suspected anything. He put his hand back on my knee, and we continued like it was the beginning of the party and not the end. The director watched us from across the room.

The party was over, and we put our coats on. I kissed the host and hostess goodbye. Most of the other guests had already gone. I saw the director watching me, but I could not look back at him. I walked back out the door with my boyfriend, just like the way we came in.

We walked the two blocks home, half the way to the director’s house. He asked me where I went. I told him that the director and I just walked around. I told him that he showed me some of the drawings of the new movie set the host was working on. He said that he thought the director might like me, and I suggested he liked the woman he was talking to all night.

I took off my dress again and hung it up. I went into the shower and washed the director off me. When I was clean, I started to worry that I washed him off for good. I started to worry that I was ordinary again. On Monday, I would be back at work and it would be like this never happened.
Illustration by Nick Z.

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