I’ve gotten so many requests for the next chapter and you know me…I cave to peer pressure. I love, love, love hearing from you guys. Thanks for reading…if you’ve missed any of the story, you can read it all here.
By this time, the reality of our budding relationship had been pretty widely circulated through the cast and crew. But what exactly that reality was we hadn’t discussed. I hesitate to use this metaphor but it’s all I’ve got….because magnets don’t ever really sit down and talk about why they’re attracted. They just move until they can’t get any closer. Being around Kyle felt like breathing. I didn’t have a profound reason to keep breathing, except that it hurt when I stopped.
But the show was about to close and that meant that our relationship was going to have to be defined, regardless. There were not going to be any more excuses to brush past one another in the dark behind the stage, no more reasons to show up early for call. Curtain call came. Curtain call went. The set went down. The costumes were hung and put away. The stage door was locked. And the cast went out to celebrate and to say good-bye.
We all ended up at Old Chicago which is why, to this day, everyone who drives past an Old Chicago with me must endure the story of why Old Chicago is the best mediocre pizza and brew pub chain in the entire history of mediocre pizza and brew pub chains. We all ate and talked and laughed and it felt like no one wanted to leave. Kyle and I ended up crammed in a large booth with about six other people. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about or how long we had sat there before this sixteen-year-old kid in the cast (the one who had tried to kiss me when I drove him home from rehearsal one night) began tapping Kyle repeatedly on the shoulder and talking loudly in his ear.
“What, dude?” Kyle snapped finally.
“DID YOU ASK HER OUT YET?” he asked, in what I can only assume he thought was a covert whisper.
Kyle smiled. It was a smile I have seen hundreds of times now. The tight, zen-like smile of a man who wants to strangle you but has decided it’s better to smile instead. The entire table had grown quiet. "Thank you,” Kyle said. I don’t think it was an entirely sincere response.
He turned his head to look at me, next to him. “Will you go out with me?” he said, somewhere between sarcasm, exasperation, and deep anxiety.
And with all eyes on me, I tried my very best Sandy-in-the-black-leather-pants-from-the-end-of-Grease impression. “Sure,” I said, shrugging, not really looking at him, not really looking at anyone.
The rest of that meal is a mystery to me. I have no idea what I did or said, what I ate or didn’t eat.
And then I drove Kyle back to his campus dorm. I remember pulling into the parking lot and it was dark, late. And raining. We talked about his brother. He’d only been gone a few weeks at that point.
“I can’t sleep,” Kyle said into the silence. “I haven’t been sleeping.”
“When’s the last time you slept?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Five, six days…”
It was so quiet in the car with just the rain hitting the windshield. What I didn’t know until much, much later was that Kyle was living in a nightmare. That he was living with post-traumatic stress from childhood abuse and from being jumped and beaten up in an alley the previous year. That after his brother had died a month earlier, he had spiraled into a confusing, jumbled mess of drugs and alcohol. That only two weeks earlier, he had found his friend in a bathroom, unconscious and overdosed on crack cocaine. That he had driven his friend to the hospital where he never regained consciousness and later died. I didn’t know that he was so depressed he had stopped going to all of his classes at the film school. That he had no money for food and was essentially living off saltines and toaster strudel. All I knew was that he hadn’t been sleeping.
“I miss him. So much,” he said and his voice broke. I crawled across the seats and into his lap. We sat there in the dark car and we cried and I thought, I’m not brave enough to handle this. So we just sat there, two magnets, and he talked about Orion and how much he missed him. I thought about how I didn’t know anything about this nineteen year-old boy who was pouring his heart out to me and how had I gotten here and what was going to happen next. We kissed and we cried and we stayed there in the car for hours. I could tell he was dreading going inside alone, back to not sleeping, back to staring at the ceiling of his dorm room while the blue light of his stereo blinked into the darkness.
When we finally said ‘good night,’ he put up the hood of his sweatshirt and stepped out in the rain. And then he turned around and looked at me with the most honest, clear green eyes and said, like he’d been saying it for a hundred thousand years, “I love you.” Then there was a flash of surprise in his eyes. Like he hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Like it had slipped out. But it was too late.
I felt my heart squeeze. I stared back and all I could think was, Crap. Crap, crap, crap. What had I gotten myself into? He’s already telling me he loves me? Well, THIS is going nowhere good!
I smiled and told him ‘good night’ as politely as I could. Because telling someone you love them on the first date is foolish but loving them on the first date, that’s impossible…right?
TO BE CONTINUED