So, then, why didn't I go to the cast party?...
Stephanie was cleaning out her car, parked on the street in front of mine. She was making room to take people to the cast party.
I had told everyone that I couldn't go because I had to pick up my brother from the airport.
With the sun shining down on us and the beautiful Newport shore to my right, she leaned towards me and asked, conspiratorially, "Are you really heading to the airport or did you just say that to get out of going?"
I just smiled and said, "Weeelllll...."
"You should go," she said.
She was right, of course. The despair of isolation is a snake lunching on its own tail. I should have gone.
But I couldn't.
I didn't notice Claire at the first rehearsal, when we read the script and I began to catch a glimpse of what I was in for. I didn't notice her until over a week later. She came into rehearsal early. I was always there early because I work just up the street (so to speak). So, we sat there and talked.
You see, before that, I just thought she was another attractive girl. My prodigious years have taught me to discount looks for the most part. I've known too many beautiful idiots in my day.
But, as we spoke, well... I learned she wasn't an idiot... and I became interested.
So, weeks of rehearsal passed and I got to know her a bit better.
Then, a few days before we opened, I read the show's programs that had just come in from the printers. I read that Clair was 18 years old.
Okay! Okay! Yes, I felt like an old perv - an old idiot! Moreover, I was pretty damned mad. I haven't met someone who so got under my skin since DeAnna! (Though I dated Rosa just a year ago, I count her before DeAnna since, you know, we were married and all...) Now, this 18 year old was getting under my skin! It pissed me off! I was mad at the universe!
I reacted as best I could. I stayed away from her.
Then, she came to me and asked me to read something she'd written. It was the old, "I heard you're a writer. Could you read this for me and tell me what you think?" Sure. Twist my arm.
I was hoping it would suck. It would have helped to see something negative about her - even if it was as small and silly as poor grammar - so that, maybe, I would stop sighing so damned much! Much to my sadness and delight, though, it was written superbly, with mature, witty observations and concise points.
She had told me she was training to be a classical singer and when I finally heard her sing, she sang like an angel. A fucking angel!!
Things were just getting worse and worse.
Thankfully, though, the show was coming to an end. I started counting down. Between dealing with the Inspector's assholiness and Christi's unpredictability and Purcell's constant inquiries about the kissing scene and Howard Holt's vice-grip on my identity, I needed to be rid of this siren! This 18 year old siren!!!
And so it was that Saturday night, the cast went to a party at the Inspector's house. (Actually, it was at the home of the actor who played the Inspector, but you know that.) For a while, we sat outside, around a fire pit. I tried to stay away from there because the firelight only made her seem more beautiful. I tried looking up but only marveled at how the stars had put themselves back up in the sky after falling to the ground after losing Rosa. I went inside. Soon, Claire came in and, as Purcell had set up a karaoke machine (someone kill the inventor!), she began to sing from "Phantom of the Opera". The voice of an angel. Then, as other people sang, she sat across from me and I swear we began exchanging glances across the room... across a crowded room...
Okay. Look. I know my contact with reality is hardly on a first-name basis. Not only did losing Rosa drive me down a road called "Insanity" from which I've only begun the return trip but acting plays trick with my identity, rationality, and even my shoe size! But I swear she kept looking at me and smiling.
I backed up so far, I was halfway up the wall.
Then, Teri, our director, asked me to sing. Quickly, I had to choose a song. It couldn't be a love song - I'd sing it to her. And it couldn't be a loud song - I'd shatter their windows. I picked "Doctor, My Eyes". Eyes? Eyes? I could feel her eyes even as I knew there was no way she could be interested in me. (Stop it, Ken. Reality's going to stop returning phone calls!) I finished the song and it didn't take long for me to realize I should go. Actually, it took the next song, which was "Sweet Caroline". I put my hand up and said, "I'm leaving!" Claire said, "I should go, too."
You know how, sometimes, you scream out loud in your head? No? Well, I do. This was one of those times! Imagine, if you will, Ken walking Clair out to her car on a romantic evening. Now, imagine Ken making a complete and utter fool of himself. NO! DON'T WANT THAT! NOT AGAIN!
I'm not saying I ran out. I'm not saying that.
I was exhausted when I got home but I couldn't sleep. For the first time in years, an image of a woman flashed before my eyes and her name pounded in my ears to the beat of tribal drums and it wasn't ROSA.
It was CLAIRE!
This is why scotch is my friend. After a few glasses, I passed out on my sofa.
Sunday was closing day... and I got to the theater late... and slightly hung over. Walking in, the first person I saw was Claire.
It would not be a good day. I stayed far away from her, hiding away and telling my brain to shut the hell up. The sight of her set off a million explosions in my head. The sound of her voice made my ears melt. Every second near her made me want to kneel before her.
Get me the hell out of here, I kept thinking. Soon, the show was over and we began to strike the set. Wherever she was, I made sure I wasn't. Whatever she did, I did something else. I even started moving flats (big slaps of set, you might say) to stay away from her. No such luck - because as I held one, she turned a corner and appeared in front of me. She looked in my eyes, though she spoke to someone else. "You should do it," she was saying. "Life's too short. You never know when you'll have another chance."
No letter opener in my chest hurt so much. I needed to get the hell out.
I made ready my departure. One last thing remained, checking in our costumes, and our costumer arrived shortly. She joked about certain costume items she'd make sure no one took home. Like my smoking jacket, I said. "Yeah," Claire teased, "cause that was hot." She smiled at me and her eyes glittered and I could see us tossing witty banter back and forth with the stars above us and the world at our feet.
I had to leave. I made my excuses and bolted.
"Are you really heading to the airport or did you just say that to get out of going?" Stephanie asked me.
"You should go."
"It doesn't have anything to do with you."
"You should tell me."
"I just did," I replied with a smirk.
"Why you can't go, you moron."
"Tell you what," I said. "I'll email you."
So, I'm not sending this to her via email. Now, you all know.
I couldn't go to that party and look at Claire for one more minute without losing my sense of right and wrong and making a terrible mistake. And I don't feel bad about it because I didn't do the right thing. I did do the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing just ain't much fun, is all.