Over the years, my partner and I had often fantasized about becoming supermarket novelists—you know, the ones who make help me with my college essay by weaving and reweaving the “same old” plot with different characters in different settings, over and over again. For almost two years, my partner and I had been toying with the idea of a mystery novel featuring a number of characters based, to varying degrees, on our friends. We had laughed through many a planning and plotting session in which we had strategized and characterized. And at one point, we had turned our friend Georgeanne into a wonderful character for the book. We named her Gloria Esposito and gave her both a penchant for the New Age and a passion for cats—not unlike her real-life counterpart. In the novel, though, she would ultimately inherit a fortune from a cat owner, change her name to Glory Fortuna and fly off to Ibiza where she would buy and renovate an old sun-coated seaside hotel with about eight ceilings fanned, mosquito netted and terra cotta tile balconied rooms and an awning draped piazza dining area where she would present fabulous dishes featuring local delicacies to celebrities traveling incognito after undergoing mysterious surgical procedures in Switzerland…and so on.
That summer afternoon, confronted with an assignment to write a character sketch, I decided to bring Gloria Esposito to life—on paper:
“Brooklyn born and Park Slope raised Gloria Esposito thought of herself as far more than the receptionist in the tiny, cramped West 96th Street practice of Walter A. Trowbridge, D.D.S. In fact, her chair-side manner was unsurpassed in the dental industry. Her smile was genuine as she set up appointments. Her nod was truly encouraging and supportive as she ushered patients into massive vinyl-covered chairs in cubicles lined with glass canisters full of sterilizing fluids and gleaming instruments. Hers was a nurturing sort of cluck as she opened drawers, selecting just the right quilted paper bibs and metal alligator clamps to attach around anxious necks. Her eye was empathetic and softened slightly as she backed out the door, indicating in her most mellow of tones that ‘the hygienist will be with you shortly.’ ‘I’m the yin in the whole dental experience,’ Gloria had been known to softly exhale. ‘Our patients need me to give them the healthy, natural anesthesia that the process of putting positive energy Out There can provide. Really, since I’ve been in the office, Walter’s spent about twelve per cent less on Novocain every month.’”