So, I'm at rehearsal last night. It's my second rehearsal before performing - damn, I love taking advantage of Steve! I go through the play without a hitch - though there are some deadly pauses between my cues and when I say my lines, but oh well - and we get to the end.
At the end of this "show within a show", there's a scene that takes place after where we all congratulate each other. Pat on the back. "Good job." Blah. Blah. Blah. Now, I don't act with these kids - actually, no one does. They don't act! - so I don't know what to say. It's a lot of, "Great job, Big Guy." "See you at the bar later on." "Anyone got a smoke?"
Okay, I don't ask for a smoke. The point is that when Teresa (the mom) or Jeff (the other dad) do it, you can see this familial sense about them - as if they really were a mom and dad. That's probably because they really are a mom and dad! (No child between them, though.) Me? I'm like the oldest kid there. I don't know what I'm doing. So, my blabbering continues: "You were awesome, dude." "Which way to the can?"
But last night, one kid walked right up to me. It was Charlie. Well, actually, it was the kid who plays Charlie. And what a kid he is! I kid you not - this kid can act. First sign of this was when I noticed he always answered to the name "Charlie". (The joke would SO be on me if his real name was Charlie.) He buys into it, you know? It's not pretend for him. As I believe is the case with most talented actors, no matter the age, they believe in what's going on, they're invested, it's real.
So, last night, he walks up to me. "Great job, Charlie," I say. He answers, "Thanks, Dad." and I give him a hug.
What was that, I wonder for half a second. Simply, I was invested in the role. I was his dad.
That thought doesn't last, though. A voice in my head says, "But you're just acting. You'll never be a father. You'll never have a child. Rosa has a child. You don't. You lost your chance."
Shut up, I tell it. I don't need that right now.
"You're just acting. This isn't real."
It's all I get.
... It's all I get.
"All I get" is fading from my ears as I walk off stage. All I get? Well, shit. Then, I haven't done too bad a job. I mean, I'm working with these kids pretty well, playing around with them. Not once has my family fought or suffered. We're doing pretty well. If it's all I get, I've done a pretty good job with it.
The next scene called for me to walk out... kind of meander, actually. We're cleaning up after the play. There's cookies off-stage. Well, if we were really cleaning up, wouldn't we also clean up the snacks?
I grab a cookie and walk out. "Well, I guess that's everything," I say through a bite of chocolate chip.
Yep, that's who I'd be if I was a father. I'd eat cookies. I'd joke around. I'd probably forget my lines sometimes. And I'd always remember to say, "Great job."
I lost a lot when I lost Rosa and, perhaps, I'm starting to realize that she lost a lot as well. The question that still sits in my head is - I realize it. She doesn't. Who's better off?