I’m in an airport for some undefined time, and Lauren Bacall’s death was just announced over airport CNN. One of my fans tweeted that it reminded him of Lee’s Lauren Bacollie in OOP, so you guys are getting this, typed on my phone.
I see it on the news in the hotel lobby as we’re eating dinner. It doesn’t mean anything to the other guys, of course. It wouldn’t mean anything to me if not for Lee. So I call him from the room once dinner’s over.
“Hi, handsome. What’s up?”
“Did you see? Lauren Bacollie died.”
He pauses long enough that I know it’s the first time he’s hearing it. “No, I’ve been in meetings all day. Still in one, actually.”
“Don’t be. It’s not more important than you.”
We’re silent again, and then I say, “I don’t even know what she was doing these last many years. But I liked the movies you made me watch.”
“I know.” He’s slightly distracted, or maybe thinking, like I am, about how people pass out of your life. Not that we knew her at all, though Lee once talked about writing to tell her he’d used her voice to seduce me.
And on cue, he says, “You okay, handsome?” And he says it in her voice, like he hasn’t done for years.
“Yeah.” I smile, because of the memories, but all the same there’s loss, too. “I don’t know why I called. It’s silly.”
“It’s not silly.” That he says immediately. “In a small way, she was part of our history.”
“I guess so.” I force a chuckle. “I never get too worked up about celebrity deaths. I just wanted to talk to you.”
“I’m glad you did. But you know, the parts of her she left us are still with us. They’re not gone. That goes for anyone. As long as we can still say,” and he does the voice again, “‘just put your lips together and blow,’ we remember her.”
I smile. “Thanks. I’m glad she’s part of our history.”
“There’s a reason I picked her voice to sound sexy.”
“Uh-huh.” I grin, stretching out. “I don’t think it’s fair that only you get to say that line.”
“Well, tiger,” he breathes into the phone, “practice for this weekend.”
We hang up and I lie back and think. Death is sometimes scary and often sad, and it makes us reach out for the ones we love, even when it happens to someone we only know through movies. It reminds us of the people who are important, spurs us to make sure that we, too, leave something worthwhile behind.
“You know how to whistle, don’t you?” I try. It sounds terrible, but I smile anyway.