Message in a Bottle

I met Sony exec Jane* at Adat Shalom on a Friday night in the Spring of 1999.

Afterward, our Traveling Shabbat singles group arrived at some apartment where I got to talk to her more.

She was a smart brunette, like Rochelle and like my mom.

On our first date, I took her to A Walk on the Moon.

I laughed. I almost cried. I had a ball. Afterward, in the parking lot of the Beverly Center, we talked about work. I wrote on the other Hollywood. She confessed that she also worked for the dark side — something to do with gambling.

I said the National Film Board of Canada was flying me to Montreal for five days in June. She said she had a relation there. He might tell me where I could go for Shabbos. I must promise not to pervert him.

On our second date, a Sunday night, we went to dinner. Coming back to her place, I kissed her on the lips good night and said by accident, “Gut Shabbos.”

I’m not sure where that came from. She laughed. I was embarrassed.

On her birthday, I gave her a copy of the Nicholas Sparks novel, Message in a Bottle. I didn’t know what an execrable writer Sparks was nor had I read any reviews of the book. Just the notion of a message in a bottle spoke to me, I wasn’t sure why.

Profiles of me were published in Salon and the Los Angeles Times. I forwarded them to Jane. On our third date, she took me to a screening on the lot. It was a dark thriller (Arlington Road) and I hated it and I felt sad that Jane and I seemed disconnected that evening.

When I called her next, she didn’t call me back for a few days.

Early one Shabbos afternoon, she left me a phone message inviting me to go with her to the Hollywood Bowl that evening.

I was gone all day and didn’t get the message until it was too late. The next day, I went out and bought my first cell phone so I’d never again miss such a call.

Frustrated by our misconnections, I didn’t call her back for two weeks. I wanted to show how strong I was.

When we finally talked, the conversation was limp and we never went out again.

Tonight I Google Jane. She married a surgeon. She took her husband’s last name. She has children.

When I look at at her on Facebook, I can still hear her laugh.

This morning’s assignment in writing class is to describe the first story you ever heard.

I can’t think of anything. As I go back in my head, back through the mists of time, I remember my mother. She was frail, sick, dying, shielding me from my sister’s blows (I had broken into her perfume collection and mixed it with toothpaste and shoe polish and smeared it all over the bathroom). Mom was the archetype for women I’d love. The major themes for my writing were formed out of my brief fractured attachment to her.

I suck women dry. I never get enough attention. I don’t connect normally with people. Something went awry early on in my life. I’ve grown up to take all I can get in the moment knowing that the breast will soon run dry, that death was just around the corner.

A few year’s ago, I read my mother’s book, a collection of children’s stories on Christian themes. I sought in vain for a message for my life.

Many years ago, I asked my father, or was it my step-mother, no, I don’t think I asked anyone, just thought, why did mom not leave me a letter? A message in a bottle?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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