Hi, there. It’s been forever. We’re in a whole new year. Happy to be back with y’all. No excuses regarding my absence, dear reader. Life. But we’re back…
So, I haven’t shared a random memory with you in a while. (See past memories here and here.) The purpose was to share them during my morning commutes but these days my commute is largely from my room to my desk. Also, this particular memory came to me because I had a dream about it. Imagine that. And who knows why I was dreaming about events that happened moons and moons ago but c’est la vie.
Come back with me to 1993 (the 1900s, as the youts like to say), when I was wide-eyed freshman in high school. Not much has changed between 14 year old Square Peg vs the lady you have on your screen today, by the way, in that I loved the arts with a singular passion back then and I still do. Naturally, when our classes were invited to the auditorium to view previews of the Drama Department’s upcoming plays and musicals, it was always exciting. The spring musical was previewing this time, and moments after filing into our seats and my stomach catapulting gleefully as the curtains went up, we learned that it would be Fiddler on the Roof.
Can you picture my delighted-beyond-words face as I watched people I saw in my classes turn into these characters? It was breathtaking. It was unreal. How could a fellow teenager (Janet P from my English class, for example) become the mother of five children living in a small village called Anatevka? How? But that was acting. And boy, did they do it well. But that was the tip of the iceberg.
I saw him the first night I took myself to see the full musical at school. (Yes, I went more than once and yes, I’ve been taking myself solo to things from an early age, it seems.) He played Tevye, of course. The leading man. He stunned me. He was incredible. He was beautiful. It was entirely transformative for me. Not just the musical, the narrative, his acting, but I think that was the night live theater ranked itself very high on my list of favorite types of artistic expression. I thought my heart would drum itself out of my chest. The experience is one I won’t soon forget.
And I didn’t soon forget him. When I saw him out of makeup, tall and beautiful, I fell in love. Because: me. I asked Janet P in my English class (the Golde to his Tevye) what he was like. I swooned at the descriptions of “nice” and “cool.”
I bought him an award from Spencer’s Gifts that said Best Actor, reader. Janet P delivered it. We spoke on the phone and he said it was the most thoughtful thing he had ever received.
Let that sink in for all your crushy, 14 year old hearts.
When he graduated that year, he hugged me (because I was there to see him graduate naturally; you do that for the ones you love). The beauty of that hug lasted into infinity, which for a high-schooler, meant about a year. I saw him once again during my sophomore year; he visited my Film Study to discuss what it was like to be in a movie. (A role in The Pelican Brief to be specific; his role ended up on the cutting room floor but that didn’t stop me from vainly looking for him in scenes.) I played it cool, of course. But yeah, seeing him turned me into mush.
But we grow up, don’t we? And perhaps we get embarrassed when we remember the past? Like: wait, did I buy him an award?
Years later, I was working at my beloved Borders Books one afternoon at the front-end registers. I watch a tall, blonde man enter the store alongside an older man. They walk over to fiction and peer through the stacks. As I casually watch them, my fingers turn cold. My insides gel. Recognition. Here is The Actor. The boy I fell for all those years ago. I say a quick prayer and it is simple: don’t come to my register. But I’m the only one up there, aren’t I?
When he and who I assume his father approach my register, I smile quickly and silently begin ringing them up.
The Actor: You look so familiar to me. Have we met before?
Me (laughing nervously, says nothing)
The Actor: Did you go to school around here? You look so familiar.
Me (shrugging, muttering under her breath): Your total is…
I finish the sale, bid them a good day, finish my shift, run to the break room and collapse melodramatically onto the sofa. My co-workers were used to this, incidentally.
What times. The biggest and best thing from that random memory, above all, was remembering the love borne between myself and live theater that evening. I’ll never not feel a sense of wonder and elation at a show. Can’t beat that, even if you pretend you didn’t know one of the major players years later.