1. Once upon a time, in Amherst, Massachusetts, there were two little children, Matt Gross and Uma Thurman. They were four years apart, and never met, as far as I can remember.
2. Matt’s little brother Stevie was good friends with Uma’s little brother, who went by Mipam or Max, depending on how much the other kids in the picturesque college town made fun of him. Steve and Mipam/Max would often play at the Thurmans’ enormous, ramshackle Victorian house, and once, when Matt went with his mom to pick Stevie up, he found the Thurman kids — there must have been half a dozen of them — playing video games on an Atari 2600. Matt wanted to play, too, but the Thurmans wouldn’t let him. In all probability, Matt was too shy to even ask to play. Uma may have been there.
3. Years passed. The Grosses moved to Brighton, England, then moved back. Stevie was still friends with Mipam/Max, but was also friends with a boy named Richard, whose dad was really, sickeningly, morbidly obese. In junior high, Matt was in Monsieur Luippold’s French class. This was in, like, 1988, not long after Dangerous Liaisons came out, and M. Luippold spent one day in class explaining how Uma had been in his class years before and how he was dumbstruck to watch the movie and see Uma’s breasts spill from her dress! Matt still hasn’t seen the movie, but after he left Amherst for Williamsburg, Va., he heard from old friends that M. Luippold was very sick, maybe with AIDS.
4. Sometime before Uma ran off to New York to become a model and then a world-famous and quirkily beautiful actress, her mom consulted Matt’s mom about Uma’s future. Should she let Uma run off to New York to strut the catwalk without finishing high school? she asked. No, said Matt’s mom. Uma went anyway. Think about it: If Matt’s mom had been more convincing, there might be no Uma.
5. Also sometime around then, Uma babysat for Matt’s little sister, Nell. This means that in all likelihood, Uma and Matt did meet, but if they did I can’t remember.
6. When Matt was living in Williamsburg, he learned that his friend David DiDonato had a “thing” for Uma. That’s when Matt started telling these anecdotes, fascinating David and a few others, but boring the majority of people who bothered to listen.
7. Skip ahead to 1997. Matt’s friend Wah-Ming was working in publishing in New York City. One day, Wah-Ming’s boss asked her to spend the weekend at her — the boss’s — apartment, watching over the building, which she owned. Down the hall, the boss told Wah-Ming, Uma Thurman was living with one of her brothers. Betting that brother was Mipam/Max, Matt and Wah-Ming hatched a plot to stick a note on Uma’s door that said: “Steve Gross says hi.” The scheme was abandoned due to sheer pointlessness.
8. 1998? 1999? Out of virtually nowhere, Matt ran into Ben Maraniss, a friend from way back in Amherst. (In 1983, Matt stayed at Ben’s house the night Nell was born.) Ben, a year older than Matt, was apparently the more Uma-observant of the two, because, as he told Matt at the close of 20th century, the now-incredibly-famous actress, who is beautiful in a way that sometimes isn’t beautiful at all, had been the most responsible person in the Thurman household back in the 1980s. Ben remembered watching this skinny kid Uma carry big bags of groceries home for her family, and her clothes never fit right and the house was a mess. Matt remembers only the Atari 2600 fiasco. Ben also had an Atari 2600, but he was much more willing to share. After this chance encounter, Matt later alienated Ben by asking him for too many details about his job and never buying him a promised drink.
9. Present day: Matt might someday tell Uma all these anecdotes, but do you think she’d really stick around till the end?