they are sat in front of the lighting booth at the back of the dimly-lit theatre – it’s opening night of his latest play. she looks exquisite in a green dress and pale yellow cardigan. she smells nicely different – jasmine. he is dressed casually in a roll-neck sweater, chinos, and ankle-length sneakers – all black. his hair, she notices, is growing into a well-groomed afro. he smells his usual self – cool water. she is going through the program note with the light from the lighting booth. he is playing the opening line repeatedly in his head. both are quiet. nervous. they are not lovers, they are more than lovers. recently though, they’ve been jousting by texts …

          “glad you could come”

          “i almost couldn’t come.”

silence.

the theatre has filled up quite suddenly while they sat in silence. there is a sudden flurry of activity back-stage. it’s three minutes before the play begins. the incidental music floats in and they hear sting sing, “if blood will flow when flesh and steel are one/drying in the color of the evening sun/tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away/but something in our minds will always stay.”[1]

          “i –”

          “why –”

the lights in the auditorium dip, and the curtains come apart.

        “why did you do it?” she looks around to make sure no one heard her above the music.

          “do what?”

          “thought you said you’ll always be there for me.”

          “did i say or do otherwise?”

          “i read the preview of your play – you were literally slaughtering me.”

          “i didn’t know this play is about you.”

          “don’t play games with me, damn you!”

silence as sting sings:

          perhaps this final act was meant

          to clinch a lifetime’s argument

          that nothing comes from violence …

         “everything doesn’t have to be about you, you know.” he turns away from her, “slaughtering! more like laughtering.” he smiles.

            “are you mocking me?”

         “no. just reminding you there’s a difference between writing to teach, and mockery. life isn’t always about negatives.”

           “i am leaving.” she gets up and starts tapping the program note against the theatre seat in front of her – non-rhythmically. he touches her hand and she sits back down.

          “i had thought we’d be what we are tonight.” he sits looking straight ahead at nothing specifically – responding the only way he knows how to deal with her moods. some things will never change, she muses.

silence as the incidental music fades out and lights come on on stage.

his words roll around in her head. she looks at him with the misunderstanding of a text message recipient who lacks information about the sender. in that moment, she realizes all the while that they have been friends, she has relied on stereotypes to fill in the gaps when she couldn’t read his emotions.

silence. the play begins:

                “are you saying you still care?”

         “i never stopped caring. i gave you a promise of friendship, that won’t change. but i didn’t ask you here today to ask you to stay, that’s your decision to make. i just need you to see – if all i write about is you, my writing will lose its essence. i’m a writer – i have many inspirations. other lives, that matter.

fkregie 2017.

[1] Sting. Fragile. … Nothing Like the Sun. A&M. 1988.