Dr Bart floats past, two nurses in pursuit.
Mother is reading Photoplay and wants me to know this; she sniffs and shifts in her seat. Then I see why – it has Ava on the cover in mink, meaning that I’m p.32, one column including headshot: ‘Trina Belmont Takes a Break’, between adverts for Drano and Mandel’s stilettos.
Stilettos. I think about borrowed heels. My first audition.
‘We need to see your upper torso,’ said the man behind his paper behind the bar.
‘So we know you’re not cheating us.’
Dr Bart reappears. I think about Ava in mink and part my lips, lift an eyebrow. A nurse sees me and gives a little heart shaped gasp; she looks better for it, as do I.
‘Would you come through?’ she says.
I smile the smile I honed in ‘Evergreen’ and follow her.
‘Lie down, Miss.’
I do as I’m told. Mother is talking but it’s two jigsaws at once –her voice and then that make-up girl on set that time, who’d talked about pomades and hair- loss. Why do I remember? I don’t know. I was tired then, too; I’d been stood on a plinth and given roller-skates to hold. Without a thought for why, I bared my teeth and plumped my lips. Then I was holding a cheetah cub, and the very liveness of this thing slapped me round – I didn’t knowwhat to do, to be with it – but I bared my teeth and plumped my lips. The photographer nodded, set up.
I never saw that photo and I doubt that it’s anywhere now.
Dr Bart arrives. He whispers to me from somewhere down his throat, about rest and dressings, dressings and rest. I’ve seen him before, buying groceries, with his wife, who was round and ashen and looked forgotten. I was unpacking the eggs when the studio called: Mr Braunstein was unhappy. ‘Stars don’t buy tuna-fish, not in slacks’, apparently. So Dr Bart had seen me, too.
Still, we all serve a purpose, don’t we? Years later, I’m in the chair, getting made up to be ‘Mother’ in ‘Fireside’. I remember Bart’s wife and her twilit eyes. But when I’m tilted upright, it’s not Mrs Bart that I see in the mirror. It’s Trina Belmont, who took a break – and still got old.