Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Three nights...

Newport Theater Arts Center. Three nights.

First night. It was late November, 2001, and Sherryl was appearing in "Not Now, Darling" at the Newport Theater Arts Center. She'd invited me to the final dress rehearsal, to see the show without paying. I could bring a guest, she said. Who did I choose? Rosa. Rosa, because I didn't want her to think it was anything special. Rosa, because I wanted to be with her but couldn't tell her that. Rosa, because a free play was all she was after what she'd put me through.

Back then, I felt about Rosa the way you feel about a broken down car. You hate it for breaking down and yet you desperately wish it would work. You want it back but you're afraid to put more money into it because you're afraid it won't pay off.

We sat in the plush chairs in a rather empty house. The emptiness of the house seemed to bring us closer together - not something I particularly wanted. So, I talked to the other people there, making conversation with them so I wouldn't have to with her.

We saw the show. We walked outside. Out there, in the cold, I had a spiteful cigarette and waited for Sherryl to come out to congratulate her, though Rosa was cold. Then, I drove her home. This was back when she'd allow me to go to her home, back when she'd want me to go to her home. She invited me in but I begged off. I knew what she wanted. She wanted the night to go on. She didn't want it to end. I did, too, but I was afraid of what would happen. I was afraid of how much she would hurt me. I was afraid of hurting her again.

Second night. Less than a month later. Early December 2001. DeAnna and I went to see Sherryl in "Not Now, Darling" on a Saturday night. Before the show, we had walked around the paths behind the theater that overlooked Newport Beach and I didn't smoke. I wouldn't smoke. Not around DeAnna!

It was the night of the "Full Court Press", named so because after dating for nearly a month we had yet to kiss once. That night, I decided, we would kiss. I had to - I had to see some sign that she would rescue me from this aching loneliness, this terrible pain that had only one name: Rosa. If we kissed, I would know that she would save me from Rosa, from hurting Rosa or her hurting me. Anything other than that! And so we walked those paths and I tried to get my arms around her but she was too elusive.

After the show, we didn't wait for Sherryl to come out. DeAnna wanted to go get a drink and, I figured, the closer to drunk I get her the better. (Tim has speculated that I got out of there because I'd once been intimate with Sherryl, but I assure you this isn't the case.) We drove to Laguna Beach while, on the radio, commercials played for romantic Christmases. DeAnna said, "Fucking Christmas." Thoughts like these made me think a relationship with a Catholic would work.

We got our drink at a walk-up bar, the type that makes you think some mysterious stranger would be giving you a message on a matchbook. DeAnna liked that idea but, try as I might, I could find no matchbooks. Then, I drove her home. We sat in my Saturn behind her apartment. As I tried moving closer, she smeared my windshield. "Your windows are dirty," she said. Shortly after that, she was gone. I sat in my car, angry at myself and my failure. Then, I heard her call my name in the night but I was sure I was hallucinating it... so I drove home.

Third night. Last night. I went to the Newport Theater Arts Center last night because a director had asked me to come and audition for the male lead in the play "Something to Hide". Did I want to act? No. Not really. I've grown very tired of acting in the last few months. It burns my soul that I should do this alone - what's the point, after all? But, then, how often do directors ask you in person? So, I went.

I pulled up behind the theater early and, stepping out of my Honda Civic, walked the paths behind the theater. I took out a cigarette and lit it, seeing Rosa, seeing DeAnna. Both were there. Ghosts of mistakes. Ghosts of loves lost. Ghosts of pain. Yet, more than ghosts. I could smell Rosa's intoxicating scent, even over the cigarette smoke. She always wore the most heavenly fragrances. I could feel the longing for DeAnna, the perfection in her eyes. My last best chance for happiness here on earth. All of it. Gone.

And again, I felt loneliness. It's not intangible. You can feel it like a lead suit. Cold. Unforgiving. Immovable.

I put out my second cigarette and went inside, sure that I didn't want to do this.

There were three people standing in the hall, two man talking to each other and a woman. I didn't want to disturb the men so I asked the woman, "Excuse me, I'm looking for Teri..." I didn't get a chance to finish because 1) she recognized me and 2) it was Teri. Teri, the director, is an attractive woman in her late-forties (I'm guessing) who doesn't realize she looks like someone in an early 70's sitcom. I can see her visiting Mary Tyler Moore's apartment with Rhoda - I sweah to Gwad!

We were reading two scenes. The lead actress was there as was another actor auditioning. He was young, tall, handsome, thin - I hated him. He read first while I stood out in the hall. When my turn came up, I hadn't a clue as to how to do the scene. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. On top of that, I was supposed to be British and for the life of me I couldn't wrap my lips around this British accent - an accent I've been doing for over 20 years! Finishing, I looked at Teri. Teri looked at me. She clucked her tongue. "Okay..." she said in a slow, reserved, "How the hell do I get rid of him" fashion. "Well, go outside and get ready for the next scene."

I went out, told Josh, the other actor, to go in. Why go again, I wondered. I was sucking. I should leave. I'd made my wrong choice here - let's not give Teri the opportunity for just the same kind of mistake tonight!!

But then, as I listened to Josh, I noticed something. For all his looks, and height, and youth, and lack of fat... he was missing something: a British accent. He sounded Norwegian! And this second scene was one in which I'd have to be bitter and cruel and spiteful and just plain mean. In the mood I was in?! Hell, I thought, they could blindfold me and I could still pull it off!

Josh walked outside with a puzzled look on his face. I walked in and said, "Let's go."

And I got the part. Now, I have about six weeks of rehearsing in this tomb, in this graveyard, where the ghosts of loves both great and tragic reside. But then, the reside everywhere, don't they? Can I go anywhere without seeing Rosa on every corner, on every street? And though DeAnna is fading away with age, the are still places where she strides very solidly, even in ghost form.

So, then: March 26-April 25, Newport Theater Arts Center presents "Something to Hide", starring (among others) Me.

Hope you see it.

I'll show you the paths out back. We can have a smoke.

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