Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Staged Event

A friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me of something that happened to him recently that I found interesting to hear and think about. 

His name is Craig, and he works in graphic arts in the city there and puts together visual pitches for advertiser clients.  He was apparently shown a pamphlet of a musical play at an equity waiver theater not far from his work.  Since his wife and wife’s sister had planned to spend the evening together seeing the sites of the city and shopping, Craig decided to attend the show.  He likes to explore what’s up in the city. 

As Craig approached the theater, he saw that there was a small line of people getting their tickets, and after a few moments, he made it to the front of the line.  A ticket salesperson asked Craig if he was on the list of guests, and he said, “No.”  She responded, “Oh, so many people who are coming tonight were invited by crew members.”  He smiled cordially and got out his credit card, which she swiped through one of those phone credit devices. 

He then headed into the theater, seeing first a blockage at the entrance of people who were trying to figure out how they could squeeze in because the theater was mostly full.  Craig felt fortunate to be solo, slipped past the bottleneck, and headed up the bleacher graded seats to the back section.  He saw two empty seats, one of which ended up being saved.  So he asked a white haired man next to the seemingly only remaining seat left if it was taken. “Nope!” He said in a welcoming voice, “Looks like you got the last one!” 

Craig settled in and read the pamphlet he was handed when he walked in, scouring the names for anyone he might know in the cast.  One surname looked familiar, but there were none that he really recognized personally.  Just then, the lights dimmed, and the show started.  Craig was still just getting his bearings when the female writer of the show was introduced. Craig, seeing her and half hearing her name, felt as if he had known her as a familiar name from the past. 

It was a musical based on a biographical story, and it was done very nicely.  It was technically a reading, and yet, the show’s creators had cleverly created movement between the actors on stage between their podiums and microphones to keep the audience visually busy, and there was also an accompanist on digital piano.  The songs were strong and kept the narrative moving forward.  It was really lovely.

At intermission, the lights went up, and about a third of the audience made a B-line for the restrooms.  Craig stayed in his seat having made a restroom pit stop just before entering the theater, and the white haired gentlemen next to his chatted with a woman next to him.  Craig looked around the theater space, which had been used for another production just previous to this show and still had some of its décor left up on stage.  As he studied it, just to Craig’s right, a woman’s head peered around the white haired guy and looked at him.  It was Craig’s ex-girlfriend from twenty-five years ago.  He was literally in shock that he could be sitting two seats away from someone he hadn’t seen in so long, and someone who had been so significant to him. 

To give a short backstory, Craig and this woman, Mindy, had gone out for about three and a half years, and had lived together for two of them, when Mindy decided she didn’t want to be in the relationship any longer and left.  And that was that.  Craig hadn’t wanted the break up, but he had no choice.  Craig and Mindy had since spoken and texted a few times over the years, and had in fact seen one-another once maybe about ten years prior. This was an astounding surprise to say the least. 

Mindy asked the white haired gentlemen between them to switch seats with Craig so that they could catch up.  Mindy’s beautiful daughter and Mindy’s husband were also with her.  Craig said a warm hello to both of them, and then Craig and Mindy did a quick catching up.  Suddenly it all made sense.  Craig’s ex-girlfriend was attending the show of one of her old friends, whom they had both known during the time that they were together.  That’s why Craig recognized the show-writer’s name as someone from the past.

Intermission ended, and the lights dimmed.  The play began continued it’s second half.  Craig thoroughly enjoyed the story that was being told musically, but what wasn't lost on him was the fact that he was sitting next to, of all people, Mindy, while watching a performance.  Craig was obviously no longer in love with Mindy the way he had been in his mid-twenties, but he thought back to the younger Craig of that early time, the younger Craig who had lost the women he loved, and the younger Craig who had longed in those early days for another chance with Mindy.  After their breakup, he recalled clearly times when he had wished to be with Mindy again, at a show, or doing anything “normal" as they had once done.  The country song, “One More Day,” by Diamond Rio, drifted poignantly into his head as an admixture to the live music radiating from the stage as he was sitting there.  How could he not think of these things given this very strange circumstance?  Craig made a deliberate point to live vicariously through his younger self and tried to appreciate those moments as a sort of homage to the Craig of so many years ago.  It was nice to be sitting next to an old friend.

I asked him in the phone when he told me this story, “What did you make of that?  Suddenly, you’re sitting next to Mindy again so unexpectedly and watching a show together?”  He said, “You know; life is just funny that way.  You may want something so badly at one time in your life, and then later, it can be delivered to you out of nowhere.  By then, you might be in such a different place that you wouldn’t happen to recognize it as a gift that was presented to you.  That’s why I consciously tried to appreciate it that night, and to honor what I had wanted so many years before.”  I then asked him, “Was there something to learn from it all in some way?”  Craig said, “I’m not sure.  Maybe that life just goes on.  That we’ll all be okay in time no matter the difficulty that we once had to go through. And maybe even that we grow with time.”

I thought that was a good lesson.