Monday, August 4, 2008

The Story of Us: Part Two - The Slap

If you have not read the first part of this story, you can do so by clicking this link.

When I told Marcy that I was going to write out the story of how we met and got engaged, the only thing that she asked was that I change some of the names to protect the innocent (or in this case, the not-so-innocent). I have done that. For example, Marcy shall now be known as “Sweet Pants” and I shall refer to myself as “Captain Excalibur”.

I am sorry; Sweet Pants just informed me that is not what she was talking about. She was talking about Monica. Monica (made up name) was a girl that came to Howard Payne the same year that Marcy did and in many respects it was Monica that brought us together. But I am getting there…

Shortly after my first encounter with Marcy, I was walking toward the cafeteria which was on the bottom floor of the only girls’ dormitory on campus. (It is a small school.) I saw a friend and fellow theater nerd named Julie standing outside the back of the dorm and I waved a greeting. Then I saw Marcy. Although in truth, I saw the smoke from her cigarette first. There she stood, puffing on the business end of Marlboro Light and glaring defiantly at all of the other girls who were passing by and giving her double-takes.

Marcy was the only person I had ever known who smoked openly on campus. All of the rest of us smokers had the decency to at least sneak off to the park. I had to admit that I admired her tenacity, but her attitude was still so rotten, I couldn’t imagine spending any time with her.

My junior year was the first year that I was allowed to move off campus and I was rooming with a theater tech named Steve. For that reason, I had very little time to be on campus. Marcy became friends with Julie and since Julie and I ran in similar circles, I incidentally encountered Marcy from time to time. The best that I can say is that Marcy and I were aware of each other.

The first show that we were to perform that year was a fall musical production of “The Music Man”. Just being a Theatre major did not guarantee anyone a role. Everyone had to audition. The auditions were held in the evening. Everyone was asked to gather in the audience and after some words from the director, we would go downstairs and come back up to the stage when called to sing our song and read our lines.

When I got to the theatre that night I gathered to talk and laugh with the theatre friends of mine. Sitting all alone in the audience was Marcy. She was sitting in the front row with her arms crossed, looking sour and sullen. I recognized her expression immediately for what it was: nerves.

Some people react to nerves by fighting them. They pace nervously, break out in sweats, cross their arms, frown in concentration. That is the way Marcy deals with nervousness. I deal with nervousness by ignoring the symptoms and pretending that everything is cool. For some reason that I cannot explain, I felt a real connection to Marcy at that moment. I knew that she would never admit to being nervous, but I thought a bit of levity might be in order.

In true braggadocio form, I leapt down the steps on the front of the stage toward her. She looked up at me with suspicion arching her brow.

“So,” I said dramatically, “have you had a tour of the theatre?”

She glared at me but said nothing. Obviously, she did not understand the reference, or she thought I might actually be serious. I was now standing directly in front of her and the tension stood between us like an invisible wall. I was regretting approaching her and was looking for some small talk to help play me off stage.

“You don’t look like you are having any fun,” I said.

“Oh, I am just having tons,” she retorted.

“You look like it,” I smiled. “I mean, snap out of it before you have too much fun.” It was stupid and generic, but there it was.

She frowned and with the best sarcastic wilt she could muster, she said, “I am so excited I can’t stand it. I wish somebody would slap me.”

So I did.

Let me be clear. The year before, I had taken a class in stage combat and pantomime. A good friend of mine named Jeff and I used to practice stage combat moves on one another. We would often throw each other across the stage. We would take dramatic falls down stairs and tumbles into walls, all in the name of fake drama. And yes, we also practiced stage punches and stage slaps. When Marcy said to slap her, the impulse for a funny moment was so strong, my hand was up and descending before I really understood the decision that I had made.

Now a good stage slap takes both the slapper and the slappee working in unison. In a stage slap, the one being slapped stars moving before the blow lands. It looks real enough but contact is never made. Marcy would have known this had she hung around us theater geeks long enough, but she didn’t know the game. My open palm flew slowly toward her face, which never moved. The blow landed with no force whatsoever. The sound was dull and lifeless.

The two of us just stared at each other for a second and then Marcy’s face broke open into a smile so warm and genuine it transformed her face from something scared and maybe a little angry to something truly and remarkably pretty. It was a smile that deserved to be answered and so I did answer it. We both started laughing and, in that moment, the ice between us was broken.

“You slapped me,” she said with mock incredulity.

“You said to!” I retorted and then I sat down next to her and we began to chat about how much she hated auditioning and several other subjects that I don’t remember. What I do remember is thinking just how pretty she was and wondering stupidly why I had not noticed it before…

Okay, it looks like I have run out of space. I am trying to keep these little stories short and sweet, so we will call that the end of this chapter. I know that I did not get to Monica yet, but she is the star of my next chapter, I assure you.

1 comment:

knighton said...

And? Where is part three? The story MUST go on!