|I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.|
We linger outside the theater for Jess to emerge. I suggest that I should ask for her autograph.
"Don't be obnoxious," Melanie replies as Jess descends from her dressing area, much transformed with the removal of her petticoats and mop of voluminous blonde curls.
Melanie approaches and says without greeting, "You are even hotter in person!" (I can't take her anywhere.) I had gently teased her before the show, asking if she would again go for the hug, as she had with Rosie in lieu of an introduction. Melanie had assured me that she wouldn't because I brought it up. This is my payback.
Jess replies, "You are pretty, too," but she is flustered from a combination of Melanie's forwardness and the murmuring of the crowd closing in. It is at this moment that I realize the man to my left is familiar because I had seen him in Jess's family portraits, her prodigal brother. Melanie assures me that he looks askance at her remark - best to keep bicuriosity and girl-flirting out of the view of blood relations. However, he also wears amazing red shoes with separate compartments for each toe, so we may be spared lasting judgment.
I am delighted that this interaction has, in its own savory, awkward way, gone well. Jess is one of my favorite people, though her presence at these The Importance of Being Earnest rehearsals has eaten up much of the free time on weekends that I would otherwise be wheedling out of her. I have spent a summer going on about one to the other and would hate for either to accuse me of exaggeration. Finn - whom Jess has been dating for months after relenting to his persistent affection - steps in to assure Melanie, at least, that I rarely shut up about her.
Jess is quick to invite us along to the after-party up the street. "We made sure to reserve many more than we needed," she says, her voice still tinged with the Anglican orotundity of her character, Cecily Cardew. Melanie is impressed by the invitation, but I assumed we would tagalong to whatever Jess was doing next. After over a month of her being overpromised to her job, her art, or Finn, I wasn't about to let a chance at her company slip through my fingers.
We mingle among fellow hangers-on near the bar of a fancy restaurant that looks to have closed but for us. People order drinks and mulls around the actors, wishing to be seen and spoken about, if not to. I don't care for either, so I try to encourage Melanie toward a table.
|Like this, but Jess and with a fluffier dress.|
Jess, Finn, and Finn's friend in the tight, bleach-splattered jeans join us in short order at what Jess dubs "The Kiddy Table". The other actors - all of whom are over thirty and most of whom are over forty - occupies tables to either side of use and the hum of their conversation provides a background music to drown out the farce that will come from ours.
As we sit, I begin to wonder how Finn regards me. He falls under the aegis of "People My Friends Are Dating" and I would try very hard to like him even were he conspicuously lacking. (He is not. At the very worse, he exemplifies the Irish propensity toward tall tales to spice up a conversation and keep the credulous on their toes/the edge of their seats.) In general, I give my friends a wide berth when it comes to partners. If they are good enough for people whom I respect to swap bodily fluids, they tend to be worth my time getting to know. It has been suggested that perhaps he doesn't trust me, both because I unwisely had a crush on his girlfriend for a day and because I write so publicly. I find him likeable (and did before he paid for our appetizer and Melanie's drink, giving that impish smirk and waving away the cash we tried to throw at him). We chat amiably about our near misses (the prep school where I taught is literally down the street from where he went to high school, we have several mutual acquaintances) but I can't wholly shake the feeling that all is not entirely copacetic and he isn't about to be as tactless as to show it.
Melanie orders and drinks a gin and tonic, half excusing that it was her drink of choice when she was in Japan a few months ago. While I am aware she drinks - she has tried to teach me how to properly prepare a Martini & Rossi on the rocks, so I can be a perfect 1950s housewife - the aloofness with which she asks Finn for the drink strikes me as a joke and am surprised that she fairly purrs after taking her first sip. She offers me the glass and I gamely hazard a swallow, then cringe at the taste. She pardons that the quinine in the tonic is bitter, but who doesn't like bitterness from time to time? This one drink will get her drunk enough to lose concrete memory for the rest of the night which I, as a good boyfriend, will exploit by making up stories and seeing if she calls me on them (she doesn't).
Bleached Pants, whose true name I forget, mentions that he intends to go to college to teach high school English. He is eighteen or so, with long, dark hair teased to Mötley Crüe proportions. I have been in those shoes, expecting that it would result in a purposeful sinecure, talking about books and inspiring the next generation between decent paychecks. I though I could do it while keeping my hair intact and without ever having to wear a tie. I am presently unemployed because I banked on this being the most efficient path to my dreams. In his shoes, how would I want an experienced but near stranger to warn me of the difficulties ahead? So I told him exactly what I would have wanted to hear, which is nothing. I wouldn't have paid a moment's attention to someone else's truth because I was sure it would not be mine.
Sometimes we need, if not lies outright, then tiny omissions.
Soon in Xenology: Relationships. Maybe a job. Bromance.