Sunday, July 20, 2008

On A Woman's Mind

I know a woman with a plan. While her parents are out of town on a family trip, she's going to invite her boyfriend over, spend a good long time getting comfortable, and finally have sex. I personally don't have a problem with this plan.

First, she's nineteen, which means she's old enough to make her own decision about when and with whom she's going to have sex.

Second, she's smart, which means her plan is going to include protection and making sure that things are only going to go as fast as she wants them to go. She's already taken enough time to be certain that her boyfriend is the guy she thinks he is.

Lastly, because when it came time for me to lose my virginity years ago, I ended up doing it much the same way she's planning to. In fact, thinking about the plan has sent me down memory lane for much of the day today.

Begin at the beginning:

Christmas, 1991. A friend from high school (lets call him James) comes back home from southwest Arizona, where he's gone to live with his biological father and finish a college degree. He brings with him a videotape of the school's fall theatrical production, 'The Foreigner'. In high school, James had always worked behind the scenes, and had intended to do so in this show as well, but when the actor playing the lead broke his leg two weeks before opening night, James was pressed into service as the understudy.

The thing that astonished me was how good James was in the role. Granted, the lead in 'The Foreigner', like the lead in Christopher Durang's 'The Actor's Nightmare', can be played by actors who aren't bravura performers or even all that experienced; as long as the actor can use his own bewilderment and confusion for the role, it'll work and work well. Still, James was notably good in the role, and was surrounded by other good performers. Something was happening in that little town in the desert, and I decided I wanted to be a part of it. I asked James if he needed a roommate, wrapped up what few plans I had brewing in Minneapolis, and boarded a Greyhound bus for Yuma.

On February 7, I got off the bus, and met her. Let's call her Stephanie.

James was involved in the rehearsals for the college's spring production, back behind the scenes of Neil Simon's 'Brighton Beach Memoirs'. Because he couldn't leave rehearsal to pick me up, he sent Stephanie to do it, despite her having laryngitis -- her first words to me were a croaked-out 'Are you Dave?' while I was on the phone telling my mother I'd arrived in the desert in safety.

Though I expressly refused to give Stephanie a Valentine's gift a week later (having only known her a week, despite James's urging), we did end up spending a fair amount of time together; not only were we all involved in the college theater program -- Stephanie had taken me straight to the college theater to see James, and I ended up spending the evening 'on book'; providing the actors with their cues if they forgot during rehearsal -- but James was dating Stephanie's best friend.

Stephanie was tremendously good to me, and for me. She helped me find a job, working for her father at one of the two Pizza Hut franchise stores he managed in town. She eventually helped me find places to live after I alienated my first Yuma land-lady. And, one day while her family was out of town visiting the Grand Canyon (as I remember it), she invited me over, we went swimming, and she eventually led me into her room where we...

Or rather, she did. I was too nervous, even with the extremely obvious set-up, to perform well and I ended up not officially 'consummating' the evening, though I did my best to make her feel good. Apparently it worked, because she made the same plans a second time, this time when another friend and her husband left town to spend a few days with in-laws.

It's kind of odd, looking back and thinking about Stephanie now -- I might have even married her, had it not been for James. At the end of the 1993 school year, James was announcing to anyone who'd listen that he'd been accepted to a workshop for technicians seeking to work in television, and was very excited for the opportunity. Then, near the end of summer, he sent a postcard to his now ex-girlfriend from St. Louis, Missouri, explaining that he hadn't really gotten into a workshop; instead, he'd decided to follow another woman to St. Louis to be with her.

Stephanie, who'd always carried a torch for James, became convinced I'd do the same to her. So, when I returned to Yuma after Christmas break in January of 1994, Stephanie had begun dating another guy; a guy who, in many ways, was just like me. They eventually got married, but I've lost touch with them both and am not sure how they've done over the years -- the last time I saw Stephanie was, ironically, in a theater, when I went to Tucson to audition for the BFA program at the University of Arizona in the spring of 1996.

I'll always have bittersweet memories of her, and I'll never be able to listen to Mannheim Steamroller's 'Fresh Aire IV' without thinking of the day we spent in her friend's apartment, finally consummating our more-than-friendship, as she'd planned.

And every so often, I have a day where I deeply miss being the most important thing on a woman's mind.

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