We arrived early at the ArcLight in Hollywood. My husband and I were meeting our dear friends, two sisters we’ve known for over 35 years. These were the two pains in the asses who led me into this bog of blogging with their insistence. We’d been actresses together and friends off and on until recently when “on” became the only accepted norm.
It was the first time I’d being seeing Noodle, the affectionate name for Nancy, since she’d undergone a series of intensive surgeries meant to clear her of an invasive form of skin cancer. On her face. The agonizing process took days. The iPhone updates from Mimi, her devoted sister, were dramatic and graphic. I didn’t have to be there because I was. The endless waiting while someone you love is undergoing cutting, scraping, and suturing must have been another kind of agony. It’s the agony of empathy which is often heightened by imaginings and fears for a loved one. I wondered at the courage of everyone – the terrified patient and the terrified waiters. But I didn’t wonder at what Noodle might look like afterwards. Mimi’s calls were detailed and in her details, a picture materialized in my head. My horror at the image was calmed by the confidence I have in plastic surgery, the panacea to overcoming the reality of age for most of my aging friends…and me. And then there are the miracles they perform for those who have met with various and tragic facial and bodily injuries.
“Mady, she has no nose,” Mimi said, bracing her emotions.
“Listen,” I said, “there are magicians and there are plastic surgeons and I know one who’s both.”
It was with those and other running thoughts in mind that I waited for the arrival of Mimi and Noodle while keeping our places in line. How would I react if indeed I was about to see The Phantom of the Opera without her mask? Could I look her in the eyes when clearly my eyes wanted to wander to the wound? If I hugged her, would I hurt her? Would I say the right thing? Would I….
“There they are,” my husband said, looking in the direction of the parking structure at the far end of the ArcLight Plaza.
They approached. I gulped in anticipation. Mimi was the first to arrive to hugs. Right behind with some (I thought) trepidation, Noodle walked up to us with a beautiful smile and a face that showed little or no evidence of the impact it had just recently gone through.
“Noodle, you look amazing,” I cried out in relief.
“It’s make-up. Lots of make-up,” Noodle replied with humor and a smile.
I looked at Mimi behind me and she gave me that Mimi face of trust her, it’s make-up.
We chatted for a while until the line moved into the theater. As per Mimi’s prior warnings (as she was seeing it for the second time), I knew then that the Life of Pi was going to evoke all the emotions out of me that I’d expected Noodle’s face would.