Each Tuesday, she posts a writing prompt. Participants play by the following rules:
- You must write your entry in 10 minutes. This encourages top-of-mind, primal thinking before the ego and judgmental brain kicks in. Just set a timer, make your kid count to 600 slowly, whatever. It’s an honor system. And I trust you.
- Keep to 150 words or less (I always run over a bit!)
- Post on your blog or in her comments so everyone can read it.
- Have fun!
I hadn’t seen him since high school, but it was inevitable we’d see one another again. Although it felt like we were in different universes, his younger sister had married my brother, so we continued to be connected. Here we were, now, at the wedding of my grown niece; and my husband and I were standing in the reception hall talking to her Uncle Phil and his wife.
Back in high school, Phil had been best friends with my boyfriend – like Phil, Dave had been a science and math geek, and I can’t remember how we met and got together, but Dave and Phil were on the stage crew. Even then, I was interested in working backstage in the theatre.
Dave wore thick glasses and had dark thick hair that flopped down over his eyes. He wanted to be an engineer. He was the stage manager for the Spring Senior Skit, and because we could stay late after rehearsal and neck in the backstage crew office, I agreed to run sound.
The skits featured recorded dialogue and snippets of popular songs, to punctuate the jokes performed by the school’s cool kids. A tape player, a microphone, and a handful of ding-dong bells, squeaky toys and ah-oo-gah horns were set on a table set up behind the mesh of the lockable tool cage backstage, and each skit had coordinated sound effects. Dave carefully taught me how to splice the tape with lengths of white blank tape and thread it through the player, so I could stop and then cue up the next bit to play. Dave’s stage manager desk was just beyond the cage, in the stage right wing. Phil was on stage crew, too and ran lights at the console also inside the cage. The three of us were connected by telephone-style headsets so Dave could cue us.
Dave took his job as stage manager seriously. He was brusque, focused, short, and nervous about making everything work right. When he drove me home after rehearsals, he pressured me for more intimacy, but I couldn’t bear the idea of my dad, staying up and watching the driveway, seeing our silhouettes in the car. Perhaps I secretly enjoyed Dave’s frustration.
I don’t know what got into me the night of the skit. I had my part down perfectly. I knew exactly what to do and felt confident. But just before the curtain opened, I picked up a spill of discarded tape from the trash can, dropped it on top of the tape player like a skein of spilled spaghetti, held a loop up in my fingers and, speaking into my headset, I wailed to my boyfriend beyond the cage mesh, “Dave, what should I do???”
I thought he’d laugh, but Dave recoiled and his face went white. His jaw clenched and his mouth looked ugly, angry. Like lightning, I grabbed the loose tape and threw it aside. “Just kidding!!” I shouted. The performers came laughing from the dressing room, ready to go on. He turned away; they went on, and I ran the skit perfectly. The audience laughed, and when the performers came off stage they included him in their congratulations.
Although I meant to apologize for it, Dave and I never spoke of my stunt with the tape. We went to the prom a month later. He spread a blanket in a field behind the seaside dunes after the dance and tried to convince me to fuck him, but I backed out at the last minute. Under the night sky, I felt alone and unwilling to surrender. Later that summer, he broke up with me and started seeing an actress at a summer stock company he was working for.
Phil kept in touch with me a few years past high school, and especially after his sister married my brother. Then we moved to different parts of the country – and, really, there wasn’t any other connection between us. But at my niece’s wedding, we saw one another again. And I remembered that he had been Dave’s best friend. And he’d been the third person on that headset. I thought of asking him if he remembered that time and my stupid joke, but then I watched him dance with his wife, his cheek pressed to hers, and I decided to shut up about our high school years.