Originally posted November 26, 2010...
Part of what has always attracted me to the theatre, whether it’s writing a play or performing in one, is that awesome moment when the last line is spoken or sung, the lights fade, and there’s that incredible but oh so brief moment of silence. The performers have achieved their final beat, and the audience takes a moment to take in what they have just experienced, just before the lights come up and everybody claps, or boos, or turns their cellphones back on. That moment of taking in what you’ve just experienced is so awesome to me. And it almost never happens in real life.
My best friend Ryan might make the joke about now that I never have to tell anybody I’m gay because I start sentences with phrases like, “Part of what has always attracted me to the theatre…” He’d be right and I couldn’t fault him for that. He always gets good burns in at my expense, but I never mind it because it’s been that way since we became friends fifteen years ago. It boggles my mind that I’ve known anyone for fifteen years, not to mention that we’ve sustained a friendship through childhood, our teenage years, and whatever period of our lives this is supposed to be. And he just got engaged to be married which is just amazing. I love Dana, she’s the best thing that ever happened to him. To think that I have two great friends who will forevermore be a package deal is such a good feeling. But the proposal was the best part.
They drove through the Enchanted Forest, which is this thing they put on in Saskatoon every Christmas where a park gets covered in awesome Christmas lights and there are animatronic displays and Christmas music and all that good stuff. After that, Ryan drove Dana to Diefenbaker park, turned off the car, said some lovely things, and proposed. How perfect is that? A wintry night, a perfect setting, no goony ring in the dessert or horrifying profession of love on a stadium Jumbotron, just a perfect moment between two lovers. I don’t know how soon after they drove home, or thought about when and where they’d have wedding, or if a deer reared up and smashed their headlights with his cloven hooves, but in my imagining of the event they just sat together and took it all in. They were aware of the moment.
Dream: To be aware of the moment.
Goal: Achievable. Still reading? I hope so. I know “living in the moment” is a sanctimonious, overused, self-helpy, deep-in-the-recesses-of Oprah’s-pillowy-bosom idea, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I buy into all that sentimental stuff. It’s better than a kick in the sack.
Plans: Several. One has to work in order to allow these moments to occur, to sustain them as long as possible, to be aware that they are happening, and above all, to appreciate it. Like a good fart. Some tips.
Leave the party. That’s such a hard one for me. But there’s a moment in every party where it’s as good as it’s going to get. Conversation is flowing, people are laughing, if there’s booze you’ve had just enough, but not too much. Occasionally, I’ve been at a gathering when this has happened and suddenly thought, “This is it. This is the best this party is going to get.” The thought and action which follows should be, “Let’s get the hell out.” But of course you don’t do that. You naively think, “It can only get better! Let’s keep it up!” But then somebody has the extra drink that puts them over the edge. Somebody else tells a joke about Chinese people just as a Chinese person walks in the room. Somebody gets scratched by the host’s cat and is personally offended, the party drunk starts weeping on the stairs, it always happens. Best to hug and kiss and grab coats and leave, while everything is roses.
Don’t re-create. That’s such a hard one for me. I have this playlist on my iPod called “Car Dad” because when I was a kid and we went on car trips, our car had a cassette deck and Dad had a few mixtapes and that’s all we would listen to. I think it was even our Dad’s sister, my Aunt Judith, who made these tapes for him, but I don’t know why I think that. It’s not something Dad would take on of his own accord. Anyway, I remember the cramped back seat on trips to Mom’s cousins in Michigan, or Mom and Dad’s college friends in Georgia, or just the backed-up 401 on the way to Grandma’s, with the Moody Blues, and Jefferson Starship. Kim Mitchell, Gowan and Gino Vanelli. Funnily enough, both The Cars and The Doors. I hear these songs now and they’re so evocative of that time. I’ve downloaded as many as I can remember and put them on “Car Dad” and try to back there, but it’s impossible. It’s highly unlikely that my parents, my brother, and me will ever go on a long road trip together again. We live in different places, with different jobs and commitments. And it’s not that I want to squash all four of us in a blue Carolla with no air-conditioning for several days but… I don’t know. There was just something about it. And I can’t explain why “Car Dad” doesn’t always bring those feelings back and yet, if I hear one of those songs incidentally, like on the radio or in the mall and I’m not prepared for it, I’m liable to get a lump in my throat.
Be still. That’s such a hard one for me. I’m not sure you can prolong these moments of “taking it in” for much longer than it’s supposed to take, but there’s nothing to say you can’t sit with your emotions for just a moment before rushing on to the next thing. I’m being vague here, I know, but it’s so hard to explain. Like, for instance, here’s a tale. Jon doesn’t cry at movies. Not for as long as I’ve known him. And I certainly don’t cry at every movie; I can make it through Lethal Weapon pretty easily, but I’m not made of stone. We rented Charlotte’s Web and that scene in Charlotte’s Web comes, you know the one I mean, after the fair where Wilbur is heading back to the farm but Charlotte’s staying put because… and I was a wreck. And Jon looks over at me and says, “Are you okay? Is there something wrong?” Like we’re waiting for the bus and I decide to burst into tears. “It’s the movie, Jon!” I blubber, reaching for a kleenex and Jon looks from the tv and back to me and says, “This movie?”
Cut to a few years later and we’re having a fight. It’s hotter than hell and I’ve just worked a long shift and all I want to do is lie down for a nap, but I can’t because Jon decides instead of napping with me he’s going to thrash around in bed in the stifling heat saying, “Godammit! Godammit!” and re-moistening his supermoist washcloth. So I start in with the, “Are we not going to get five minutes of godamn sleep…” and he comes back with the, “I don’t know how you can sleep, this apartment is a fucking sauna…” and I’m like, “Well I can’t control the…” and he’s all, “It was never this hot when we lived in…” and I go, “So this is my fault…” and he goes, “You think this is easy…” So I’m like, “Oh HERE we go!” And he’s all, “You’ve got a solution to everything, don’t you?” And I’m all, “Don’t blame me for your childhood!” And he goes, “Sometimes I think you WANT me to fail!” It was epic. We were throwing in all the classic fight lines, even when they were irrelevant. So rather than resolve our differences, I grab a sweater dramatically (which was stupid as it was 200 degrees outside) and he says, “Where are you going?” And I toss back, “Out!” And he goes, “Well I’m coming with you.” We clearly don’t fight very much if we even storm off together.
We end up in a mall eating hamburgers and offering stiff apologies. I have a feeling we would have fought longer if it wasn’t so hot out. Impulsively, we bought two tickets to the only movie starting at the time, Toy Story 3, got some big, black 3D glasses and sat in the air-conditioned theatre to quietly sulk. Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but it packs a punch. So much so that I really, truly didn’t want to fight anymore by the time the movie ended. I leaned over, to genuinely apologize, but stopped short when I saw that behind those impressive 3D glasses, Jon was crying. I squeezed his hand and he squeezed back and we sat unmoved during the blessedly long closing credit sequence.
I know realistically you can’t hold onto these moments. They’re ephemeral, and it’s almost as if the instant you realize you’re in one, it’s gone. But sometimes you get to remember the past and anticipate the future all at once. Whether you’re watching a play, crying at a movie, or sitting in a parked car on a winter’s night, best to squeeze the hand of the one you love and just… take it in.