last sunday, i was brunching with salimah and a friend of hers at the one world when suddenly she looked over my head and said, 'oh my gosh!' i asked her what was going on, and she said, 'mackenzie astin is right behind you.' i turned to see him, but the sun was shining so brightly, i couldn't make his face out, even though he was probably 2 feet from me, at the most. he then turned and walked out of the restaurant, and as he went through the door, i managed to catch the side of his face and realized that, in fact, it was him.
a few minutes later, he was back in, standing by the counter waiting for the order he had apparently placed. i was feeling distracted by our disengaged waiter and was more than a bit annoyed that i kept having to ask him for things that he should have been giving us as a matter of course. i had just asked him for some straws when a hand appeared around my shoulder and gave them to me. i realized in that moment that mackenzie astin had just handed me straws, but it struck me as so odd that i didn't really react - just said thanks and then went on about the conversation i was having with salimah and her friend.
suddenly i found myself being preoccupied with wanting to talk to him. okay, so a bit of background is in order: i faithfully watched 'the facts of life' as a young girl and was still a fan when he appeared for, i believe, three seasons between 1985 and 1988, along with a very young george clooney. i was an oddly sensitive child, and from the first time i saw him on tv, i always thought that there was something different about him...like he was very sensitive, too - or maybe lonely or sad - although i wasn't sure. and then, in the late 90s when he reappeared into my landscape in 'dream for an insomniac,' i remember being struck by that same feeling.
okay, so i'm sitting there feeling like i should talk to him, so i decided to say something particularly cheesy, in the hopes that he would find it somehow amusing and/or that it would make his day that someone remembered back to his early career. so i leaned over and told him that i appreciated him in the facts of life, to which he smiled, introduced himself, and then struck up a several minute conversation (including a really beautiful anecdote about 'dream for an insomniac,' which i also brought up). at the end of the brief exchange, he told us that he had to go and bring some stuff to his stepmother who was waiting outside, said he'd be back to town in the spring and that he might see me again, and then he was off.
okay, now why am i writing all this down? in truth, the fact that i met him doesn't really impact me because he's a celebrity (although for about a day afterward, i was feeling that 'wasn't that cool?' vibe) but instead because of that un-nameable thing that i sensed about him almost 20 years ago. it's still there. something about him seems alone and perhaps a bit sad - lost - i don't know. but i feel like he needs a friend, someone to lift him up in a way. this may seem weird, but i nearly invited him over for dinner before he walked out. i thought better of it, but now i wish i hadn't.
salimah saw him again tonight, smoking alone in the dark. she said hello, but he didn't hear her, and when she passed that way again, he was gone.
i hope i see him again. who knows if he'd remember my name, but i feel like there's something i have to say to him. maybe it's something he needs to hear.