I discovered one of life’s basic truths shortly after I returned to school with my arm in a cast in the ninth grade. And that is, it’s pretty hard to type with your arm bent at a 45 degree angle and encased in heavy plaster (no fiberglass in those days). I did sit there for 1 whole class before I realized I would have to try and transfer to something a little more cripple friendly. Since my “accident” had happened on the third day of school my freshman year, it was still early enough in the semester I could probably swing it, if I could find something that wouldn’t have already built up a backlog of homework.
I spoke to a counselor, and was given several options, but only 1 appealed to me even a little bit–it was a first period drama class. I’d never even thought about something of that nature prior to falling on my butt and breaking my arm.
Still, it was either that, or something truly horrible like economics, or government. I’d had my fill of government in the 8th grade, and had no interest in experiencing it again.
My antipathy toward econ went without saying–you would have had to pay me to take that darn class. So drama it was.
It was so interesting once I got in there, too. I’d always felt like a bad fit for school, and sometimes even to life in general. But the people I met there were so much like me, in the sense that they were all pretty different, and in some cases, way different than everyone else. I loved it immediately, even before I did a single scene. There were a few of the really popular kids in the class (mostly girls, and one football player), but most of them were, well…geeks. Like me. Yet within the class, everyone treated everyone else the same.
I was introduced, and sent into a smaller group with about 6 people, and shortly after that was assigned a partner for my first scene–a girl named Angie. She was one of the popular girls, and was extremely pretty, had a great figure, and wore expensive-looking clothes. Of course, I was immediately intimidated. Not just by how she looked, but also by how she seemed. I was this really poor kid with his arm in a cast to the shoulder. I wore bad clothes, and had scraggly longish brown hair.
Then we got our scene–it was from the play The Fantasticks, and was only a couple pages long, about three minutes total. We went over into a corner to do a read-through, and to my surprise, she was nice, or nice to me at least. I had never so much as spoken to anyone who looked like her before, and had not expected her to be friendly, or to go out of her way to make me feel comfortable, which she did.
We read through the scene, and when we got to the last couple of lines, I was shocked and horrified to see the last two words on the script, written in italics: they kiss.
They do? I had never kissed anyone but relatives, and the thought of even so much as pecking a “rad” looking girl like Angie nearly sent me into a Scarlet O’hara-like swoon.
“Um, uh….do you, think…I mean…do we have to do this? Like…..kiss?” I managed to stammer out.
“I think so,” she said. “Makes me kinda nervous. I’ve never kissed anybody. Like, a guy.”
How was this even possible? It was true she was 14, like me, but she was beautiful, and she must have had guys lining up outside her door every morning. And the thought she would just blurt something like that out was…strange to me.
“Neither have I,” I said. And then, realizing what it sounded like, “I mean, not that I wanted to kiss a guy, but well….” and I just trailed off.
She smiled. “I know what you meant. Anyway, we’ll see if we have to do it.”
So we practiced a few more times, and then class was over for the day. It made me feel a little better that six other people had been assigned the same scene, too. But not that much better. I might actually have to kiss her. It was terrifying.
It took me almost a week to learn the lines in the scene, and I found out that not only might I have to kiss Angie, but I also had to dance with her. It just kept getting worse and worse. But I did learn my lines, and Angie and I practiced every day. The dancing was bad enough, brief as it was. But I got through it, was able to play it for a little humor, thanks to the cast on my arm.
That Friday, we had to do the scene on stage in front of the class for the first time–we were the first of all the people doing the scene. I was scared absolutely out of my mind. I think my face was almost as red as the Adidas t-shirt I was wearing. But we got up there, and the teacher said to run through the entire scene, with blocking, and the little bit of music we had for the brief dance. “The kiss, too,” he said.
Well, that question was answered.
Now, I can appreciate that he was just giving us the hardest thing to do first, so everything else would be easy by comparison. Then, all I wanted to do was puke in the mop bucket next to the stage door.
“Well, let’s give it a shot.” Angie said.
So we got on the stage, and went through the scene. And under red and blue gel lights, with my arm in a heavy plaster cast, I had my first dance, and my first kiss, with a girl I barely new. I don’t remember that much about it, other than her lips tasted faintly of mint.
In the movies, Angie and I would have gotten together–the nerd and the beauty. But it didn’t happen like that. We never even did another scene together, and we never really even became close friends. She always said hi if we passed in the hall, but that was about it.
I’m glad that I broke my arm that morning, though, when I think about it. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not taken that class. I still have my inhibitions, of course, but nothing like I did before I took drama. Mr Hollingsworth changed my life, and, for that matter, ended up getting me a prom date, and my first girlfriend.
After that first semester, I was able to talk my guy friends into taking the class, and then it was even more awesome. I think it changed their lives a little bit, too. Though Ben didn’t like it much, he still took it–but only for a year. The Laird brothers stayed with me the whole time, until I graduated (well, Ravi, anyway. We graduated two years before his brother).
I still like to perform, too. Seems I can’t keep myself from at least trying to do it–probably much to the annoyance of my friends, at times. I can’t help it. It got into my blood, and I can’t get it out.