Saturday July 21. 2001

into the woods and back again

I went home to Lebanon this weekend. And for the first time in over 2 years, I went back to the Lebanon Community Theatre for an Saturday evening performance of Into the Woods.

I practically lived in this theatre for three years of life. I was in at least a dozen shows, both onstage and on the crew. When I walked in, I noted the things that were different - not much, actually. The carpeting in the lobby is gone, the deck outside has a roof, the wooden siding has been replaced with aluminum.

And I saw him. I recognized him the moment I saw him. I immediately went into "let me disappear" mode. He's going to see me, do I say anything, what do I say, I'm so fat and ugly, walk past quickly, avert eyes, head down... Too late, he recognized me and cleared his throat to catch my attention.

Brian. Wasn't I in love with you when I was 14?

I was in love with him. That 14-year-old kind of love that comes with scrawling little hearts all over my journal with his name in them. The kind of love that lead to endless obsessing, endless conversation with my friends, endless dissection of every blessed word that passed his lips. I know this. I have the painful proof, scrawled in my teenage hand with a thick black marker that lept out of the lines with intense emotion. Dated somewhere between the end of 1994 and the beginning of 1996.

And like all my crushes, it remained largely unrequited. I never even kissed him. But Brian stands out in my mind because he was the closest I ever got. I remember the scorching summer of 1995. We were in a show together at the Theatre. Neither of us were in the second act, so we would spend that time outside, in back of the theatre, where there was a small concrete outdoor stage. It was nearly dark, that blue velvety darkness, punctuated only by fireflies. We would talk. I don't even remember what we talked about. But there were those silences, where we would look out over the lake that was right next to the Theatre, and I would almost do it.

I would almost do it a thousand times. Now, Bethany. No, not now! Ask him. Ask him to kiss you. No, just do it. Grab his face and just do it. But what do I do with my tongue? Should I use my tongue? I don't know how to kiss! Okay, now. Do it now! No, wait... And I waited, and waited, and it never happened. That was the sorry story of romantic life all through high school. Entirely one-sided, drawn out and tortured.

So nothing happened between us, but he stuck in my mind for some reason. And here he was before me, looking more or less the same as he always did. Reddish hair and blue eyes. Always I fall for men with gorgeous eyes. There was a girl with him. Girlfriend? Wife? I thought he was gay...

We did a 30 second catch up of the past six years. Graduated from high school, living in Harrisburg, going to attend college in the fall. I'm going into my third year of school in Philadelphia. Going to Rome next spring. I wish I could tell him about John. I've fallen in love, Brian. You were some sort of weird little stepping stone on the road to where I am now, whether you realized it or not. Something I did that summer, something I said, something you said, gave me the courage I needed. I may not have had the courage six years ago to kiss you, but I found the courage to take a chance on this relationship now, and I am happy. So, so happy.

One Year Ago:
"He is the kind that will drone on and on and then occasionally break his stance for an unfunny joke, you know, just to keep us on our toes. He wears a shirt with a little alligator on it. He probably drives an SUV and wears Oakleys while doing it. I'm sure you know the type."