Waiting for Dustin Hoffman

By Felice Prager

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When I was fifteen, I saw The Graduate with my best girlfriend, Terri, and together, we both fell in love with Dustin Hoffman. We made a vow that one of us would marry Dustin and live happily ever after in a huge mansion in Hollywood with a swimming pool, oversized closets, and maids. We knew from publicity that he was a New Yorker, but that was just a minor detail, and details could change. We were optimistic and in love; nothing else mattered. This was in 1967.

We knew Dustin was thirty and didn't see it as a problem. There were many women who married older men. Someday we would be 20 and he would be 35, and that didn't sound quite so bad. When we turned 50, he would be 65. Besides, we were very mature for our age.

Terri and I also swore we'd always be best friends and we wouldn't be jealous of each other. Whoever got Dustin was fine, just as long as it was one of us.

Terri and I cut school one day and stayed at the movies until 5 PM watching Dustin. By day's end, we knew the dialogue by heart. "Plastics!" we both said at the appropriate time. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?" we both said on cue and giggled.

I bought magazines and a construction worker's lunch box. I glued all of my magazine pictures of Dustin onto the lunchbox and covered it with shellac. I spilled some shellac on the carpet in my bedroom and disguised it by rearranging my furniture while my mother was at work. I carried my Dustin box wherever I went. I thought it made a statement about who I was.

Then we heard that Dustin was going to star in an Off-Broadway play called Jimmy Shine, and of course, we went to see it. Neither of us really paid much attention to the play. We were looking at Dustin's expressions. We were watching him move. We were in the same room as Dustin Hoffman. We were breathing air that might have gone through his lungs.

We left before the curtain calls, found the stage door, and planted ourselves right in front of it. We were the first ones there. A crowd formed around us. We became animals in order to keep our front spots. We were pushing people back. We were here first. I was pushing people with my Dustin lunchbox. We were elbowing strangers who kept pushing. One after another, theater people left, but there was no sign of Dustin Hoffman. Terri began to panic, "What if we're at the wrong door!" I began to hyperventilate, "What if he already left!"

Then the door opened and it was Dustin. He exited and he looked even better in person. I pushed my Playbill toward him. While signing my Playbill, my hand touched his. I had touched Dustin Hoffman. My skin had brushed his skin.

I didn't wash my hand for two weeks. I wore a glove long before Michael Jackson called himself the Gloved One. I took the glove off and stared at my fingers. My hand looked different now that it had touched Dustin. It looked older and more sophisticated.

At this time, I got my first job working part-time at an office. Instead of filing one day, I picked up the Manhattan directory. It was a few years old. For some reason, I decided to look up Dustin Hoffman.

It was there.

Dustin Hoffman was listed in the Manhattan phone book.
There was his name and his address and his telephone number.
I tore the page out of the phone book, went to the stock room phone, and dialed Dustin's number.
It rang a few times and then someone answered the phone.
"Hello," said the voice. It was Dustin Hoffman. I couldn't breathe.
"Hello," the voice at the other end of the phone repeated.
I hung up.
I was a mess. I had heard Dustin Hoffman on the phone. I had heard his voice. I had been electrically connected to him. I had been on the
phone with the movie star I would someday marry.
Then reality hit. I had just hung up on Dustin Hoffman.
I picked up the phone again. I had to apologize. I had to make it right.
I redialed Dustin's number.
He answered the phone. "Hello?"
I tried to hide my shaking voice to say hello this time, but when I opened my mouth, nothing came out.
"Hello!" he said again.
Now he was barking.
"Hello" he shouted.
"Who is it?" he yelled.
Then he slammed the phone down.
I was miserable
I'd made Dustin Hoffman angry. I'd ruined everything.
I couldn't do filing. I couldn't work. I made believe I didn't feel well and went home early.

I was on the phone all night with Terri. I repeated the details of the two phone calls. Terri was furious because I called him. She said she didn't have a chance to hear him. She said that since I broke the pact, all was fair in love and war.

She said that when she married Dustin Hoffman, she would never invite me to her mansion in Beverly Hills. I tried to calm her down. I didn't want my best friend to be so mad. I told her I had a better idea.

By 9 o'clock Monday morning, we were standing in front of Dustin Hoffman's brownstone apartment. We were in New York; we were cutting school again, but now that we were here, neither of us knew what to do next. There was a lot of giggling. There was a lot of discussion.

Finally, we got brave. We walked up the stairs. We were holding hands and moving very slowly. We entered the vestibule to Dustin Hoffman's building. On one wall were buzzers with names next to them. There it was: "Hoffman, D."

It was as simple and as innocuous as J. Smith or L. Jones.

We stood there giggling. Then Terri got brave and pushed the button beside Dustin's name. Then we ran. We ran back outside and down the stairs. We were laughing and hysterical and crying and we just ran. When we finally stopped, we looked at each other, turned, started to laugh, and, arm in arm, we marched back to Dustin's apartment.

We climbed the stairs once again, entered the vestibule, and bravely rang his buzzer. This time we waited. And we waited. No one was there.

We decided to get out of there. I put my hand on the label "D. Hoffman" for good luck. My nail accidentally slid under the label, and I peeled it off. I put my lips to the gummy label and kissed it. Then I put it in my pocket and we left.

Time moved on as it always does. Terri and I parted ways, and with it, my infatuation with Dustin Hoffman died. For that period in my life, I thought Dustin Hoffman was the reason I had to get up each day. With Terri gone, it was no longer important.

I think I remember hearing Dustin Hoffman in an interview mentioning that he no longer lived in New York, that for years he had sublet the apartment we once visited. He said nothing about the phone calls or the address label. He had no memory of a young girl's hand brushing his when he signed a Playbill.

Felice Prager is a freelance writer from Scottsdale, Arizona with credits in local, national, and international publications. In addition to writing, she also works with adults and children with moderate to severe learning disabilities as a multisensory educational therapist. For a sampling of her essays, please visit her website: Write Funny! - http://www.writefunny.com

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