turned in my teasing comb and went back to high school
i'm sure it comes as little shock or surprise that i was one of the "drama kids" in high school. in fact, not only was i bit of a drama queen, but i also was deeply entrenched in the day-to-day life of the drama department; i was in one way or another involved in every single school play during my four year tenure as high school student. in my senior year i nabbed two leads and went out with a bang and a bow. and while i'm not one of the sadly naive folks who look back with nostalgia to my teen years as the "best years of my life," i do look back with an awful lot of fondness, and think of the freedom i had to let myself get wrapped up and carried away in all that drama
. believe you me, there was scandal, intrigue, and hijinks a-plenty
. man, those were good times. crazy, intense, exciting, ridiculous times.
so here i am, pushing thirty (oh, okay, fine, i'm techinically pushing twenty-nine, but it's racing towards me on the speedy wings of mere weeks, mere days--37 days to be exact), sitting at home on a saturday morning, doing a little writing, having a little coffee, surfing a little on the web. i manage to steer myself from the la times local section to the even more local small-town news site of my former hamlet, where i did the first spurt of actually "growing up" (though, as it is quite obvious to those who know me well, i did most of my "maturing" later, and elsewhere). a news item about vandals breaking in and destroying the sets and costumes of the fall play at my alma mater concluded with the uplifting note that the show must go on, and did, and that the final performance of the musical grease!
was to be held that night. well, i was on the phone in a flash to my once and always partner in crime: bunny.
we simply had to go. it had been over ten years since last i saw a school play, when i graciously went to support some younger friends in the year following my own graduation. i was absolutely dying with curiosity. not about the students, or the play, really. i mean, grease!
? that turkey? who are we kidding here? i was curious to see the object of my first thoroughly inappropriate crush.
in my senior year a new drama teacher had to come to town to take over the job from the previous drama teacher, who had, let's just say, crossed a few boundaries. i've hashed out those details here
before, so, with a two-year delay, i will now pick up the story where i left off. the new drama teacher was a young married man with a couple of young kids. he came in on the first day of school wearing a silk shirt and sporting his best new guy on the job attitude. i, in turn, was sporting my very best bad girl-hates the new guy attitude. it got ugly. i actually told him he could "kiss my ass" when he mentioned homework. this was advanced drama, after all, and i was a senior. homework my ass. so things were shaky at first.
at some point, however, things began to turn around. i actually liked this guy. he was funny, oddly charming, clever, and a good sport. i could trust him with things, like top secret info, my defection to the other side in the courtroom drama of his predecessor, and loads of everyday stuff, too. we had these journals we had to keep, and he would let us fold over pages and mark them "do not read" and he wouldn't read them; he trusted us, too. so i started to have more and more "do not read" segments in my journal. they were "do not read" because they were rather confessional.
i was confessing that i had feelings for him.
they say history repeats itself, right?
he and i spent a lot of time together, like after play rehearsals, at drama events, and after school. he'd give me rides home, he hired me to proofread and edit plays he was writing, and we'd wind up deep in conversation; he'd tell me how unhappy he was at home, and right afterwards he'd shake his head in astonishment, saying: "i can't believe i told you all that." we were close. we knew stuff about each other. we had each other's back. oh, and yeah, i had that crush on him. it was getting out of hand on my end.
one day, a group of freshman raided the stacks of journals, and all my "do not read" entries were torn open and passed around. what rumors i hadn't already started or heard escalated to a fever pitch. my teacher pulled bunny aside, panic in his eyes. "what do i do?" he asked her. "lindsay says she's in love with me!" i got called to the principal's office, where i lied to save face and to protect the truly innocent parties involved. no
, i told the principal. i didn't write that. they made it up. i don't feel that way. honest.
i was let off with a stern warning, and a reminder that we didn't want to go through what the school had just endured, and was enduring, with the drama teacher's infamous predecessor.
the thing was, nothing had happened. sure, we were too close for a seventeen-year old student and her drama teacher. sure, there was too much going on under the surface of our drama department. it was all we knew, and so we kept it going.
right after graduation some of the drama kids took a trip to new york. i fell madly in love with the city, and farther in love with him. my diary from that time is an embarrassing melange of overwrought teenage emotions. what the hell did i know? i was a never-been-kissed high school graduate. i remember standing next to him in the whipping wind at twilight at the top of the empire state building. i was so good at inventing romance. and of course, nothing ever happened. nothing ever did. but tell that too my heart. i would have dared you to. he knew. everyone knew. but nothing. my first inappropriate crush...
a few weeks after we got home i moved to new york. maybe in part to see if whatever magic i'd tapped in to on that trip could be sustained. it was, indeed, magical. new york remains firmly magical to me. he remained in his job at the high school, and turned the drama department into this amazing machine. a new principal, my former and favorite english teacher, took over. the school won awards, big ones at that. the curmudgeonly music director left and the new regime was in favor of musicals. the shows got bigger--i heard through the rumor mill--but i never went back, save for that one time to see just one play. i wrote him a letter around that time. i don't remember what it said, but he never wrote back.
i suppose i got over it. i got over it as much as anyone can get over their first major crush. i would often wonder how he was. i would, and still, often miss the carefree (and yet so serious) times of high school. i knew he'd divorced his wife, and remarried his student-teacher, a young woman only four years my senior. don't think it didn't occur to me that it could have been me. i wanted it to have been me.
during intermission, we spotted a little visual time capsule in the lobby display case; it was a series of photo collages, each of which were dedicated to one of the plays he'd directed in the past dozen years. right smack in the center was his first play with me in it, and pictures of people i haven't seen in years. it was so surreal to realize that in my own small way, i was a part of a history, a legacy. i found myself in a photo, standing immediately to his right. "i knew if i found him in a picture i'd find you," bunny laughed. "you were always right next to him." and she was right. that's exactly what i did. i remember so well what it felt like to be next to him.
after the show ended we lingered in the crowds near the stage to do a little meet and greet. after all, i'd come to see him, not the show. we stood at the lip of the stage and banged on it, shouting his last name. we may as well have been seventeen again. he didn't hear us. we finally motioned him over.
we kicked in to conversation like ten years had only been ten minutes. sure, there was major news to share--like his new wife, my and bunny's various accomplishments, and the intriguing fact that i work with his predecessor--but ultimately it was the same teasing and talking. he sat on the proscenium steps and i found myself smacking his arm or leg for emphasis. he needled, and i balked. none of us looked the same. none of us were the same.
except, deep down, we are. fundamentally, there are things you can never change about yourself. naturally, and despite the fact that i know i'd be unhappy in the role of his wife, i still wished it had been me. i think i always will.
but it's ten years later, and i've sincerely moved on. i can linger in the past, and delight in the present. saturday night i gave him my card, and he scrawled his number on a copy of the play program. over a decade ago he'd assured me we'd get together. we'd "do kawfee, and tawlk." we never did. and we parted saturday night with the same promise. i hope we keep it, i really do. there's so much i miss about then, and so much i love about now that i want to somehow bring together. he remembered things, details and incidents and names. i'd like to think he thought a little about that crazy, fateful, intense year that was his first and my last. i'd like to think he thought a little about me.
i guess in that respect, it was me. it was exactly the way it was supposed to be. and i know my stories are mine, just like my memories, but sometimes they involve other people, and i can't help but bring them in. they're a part of me, and always will be. so i hope i didn't say too much. but if there's one thing i've learned in the past ten or so years it's that there's nothing to saying how you feel if you're hiding behind folded pages labelled "do not read."