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Loving a Character
He was my friend. A few inches taller than me, strong arms, nice voice. He had that stupid hair that he always flipped out of his face and it looked like he had a twitch. I made fun of him for it. Our director said he had to cut it before the show. When he did, I decided I had liked it better long.
I never told him that my second favorite scene was the one after I—or “Maria”—found out that he—“Tony”—killed Bernardo. When I had just sung “I Feel Pretty”, a song I came in loving and stepped out hating, I got to have a mental freak out onstage. And then he climbed through the “window”. It really was a hollow square of hanging plastic, but it was supposed to be a window.
I stage slapped him after he gave what I called his “super ADD/schizo monologue”. He said “I only came to tell you so I could go to the police” and then I interrupted him with a “No!” Whenever I cried that “no”, it never sounded like my voice. I was trying to cry, but tears never came. It was the weirdest part of the scene, but also my favorite part.
“Whatever you want, I’ll do” he said, coming to me and kneeling.
“Stay. Stay with me,” I said in my awful, Puerto Rican accent.
And then, he would open his arms and I would fall into them. I would grip his arm, pinching the fabric of his shirt, burying my face in his chest. He smelled like Axe, a smell I actually liked.
“I love you so much,” he would say. It always sounded strange.
“Tighter,” I would mumble because it was so awkward to say.
He always held me tighter then, even though it was just acting and he didn’t have to. I didn’t like him, but it always felt good to be in his arms. I got so into the part one night, I almost cried there in his embrace. It felt safe and I didn’t want to let go.
“…we’re really together now.” That was my cue line to break away from him.
“But it’s not us,” I said, pausing. “It’s everything around us.”
Then he said some crap about getting away and stood up, sitting on a chair instead of the ground where I was. I laid my head on his lap and I heard the cue note. He sang.
There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
I came in not really knowing or liking this song and in the end, it became my favorite. I sang the next verse, holding his hand and pulling him upstage with me. We faced each other, we sang together. He pushed some hair behind my ear and ran his and down my arm. I hooked my finger through one of his belt loops and pulled myself closer to him.
We kept singing and at the end, he hugged me, cradling my head and stroking my hair. One night, before when we were kneeling and he was holding me, he forgot his lines and when he held me here, he whispered into my hair, “thanks”. We broke away, our arms around each other like during a slow dance, and we kissed.
We kissed for about ten seconds, occasionally moving our lips until blackout. Then we ran offstage, brought in the other scenery, and went over how our scene went and how we could make it better.
People who aren’t in theater don’t understand how it’s possible to kiss someone and not have feelings for them. I did have feelings for him, but they weren’t so strong that they would be love. They were friend love. Of course we flirted and stuff. Sometimes, we got really in character and would hold hands between scenes every night. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for theater people.
We were good friends. We could criticize each other saying “This note was flat” or “You skipped that line” or “I don’t think that’s believable…make it more realistic.” It’s an awesome connection to have and even though onstage I felt like I loved him, offstage he was this big, goofy dork.
I was in love with his acting, not him.