Plot points may be revealed below.
Charissa is busy living the life of a struggling actress in the Big Apple: 4:30 am wakeup times; endless auditions; and of course, her survival job, handing out samples of a beverage she calls “Monkey Juice” at local markets.
Most days on the job are dreadful, but one particular time she hands a sample to a “little old man,” who instantly jumps into engaging conversation. His name is Milton. He was once an editor for Esquire; a charismatic Mad Men-type, lover of German poetry and Dallas BBQ. He invites Charissa over to his apartment for coffee. And—perhaps against her better instincts—she says “yes.”
She’s blown away when she arrives: the Manhattan high-rise view is nothing short of stunning. Milton had inherited $750,000 back in the 70s, and invested nearly all of it; he’s now a billionaire. The apartment is lovingly stuffed with books, records, and knockoff imitations of Rothko and Klimt – made by Milton himself (“Why bother paying for fancy art, when you can make it yourself?”)
Charissa meets up with her quirky new companion every couple of weeks. They go out to eat; Milton shares stories (sometimes for a second or third time), about his days at Yale, his friendships with actors and models, and old flames. Despite his technophobia (he scoffs at a gift of a cordless phone) and occasional displays of misogyny (he scolds Charissa for wearing pants to a country club), Charissa realizes they are the “luckiest, unlikeliest, freakiest, loveliest cheekiest, craziest pair of friends.”
One day, Charissa surprises Milton with a personal performance of one of his favorite songs, Schubert’s “Wanderer’s Nachtlied.” Deeply moved, Milton joins in singing, and shares more about his life: he was once married to a beautiful woman named Diane. Though they’re divorced, and she’s living in California with a terminal illness, the two have remained close. Charissa imagines what Milton might say to Diane in his mind: “I know I’ll lose some part of you today… but no matter how I try, I’ll never understand how to surrender all of the love left behind...”
Then, finally, Charissa gets the call she’s been waiting for: she’s been cast in a Broadway show. Overjoyed, she reaches out to Milton, inviting him to attend. He never replies. She calls again—still no response. Suddenly, she’s very worried. What if something catastrophic has happened?
Fearing the worst, she prepares to go find him, when her phone rings: it’s Milton. It turns out he’d been hit by a bus weeks earlier. He’s had to have a part of his leg amputated – but he’s okay. He didn’t tell her before, because he didn’t want her to worry.
In the final song, Charissa reminds us of what counts at the end of the day: “Tell the important people in your life how much you love them… don’t assume they know. Because whether your friends are 8, 80, or 208, no one knows how much time you have left to spend with them.”