I'd seen his work. Enjoyed it. Shared the same appreciation for performance art and the unique draw of watching people bring someone else's ideas to life before your eyes, in real time. Live. No editing. Limited special effects. Close enough to touch.
It was a warm fall day when I tried out for Ed's graduate directors project. Got the part. Spent every weekday evening with him for the next few weeks, as he coached me and the leading man. Stepping in to take over when Patrick wasn't quite getting it, trying to demonstrate his expectations . I loved those moments. He would get in my face for the scene with the near-kiss, and be totally in the moment, he lean body tense with the energy of a coiled spring. Only to snap out a second later, still holding onto my arm, to explain to Patrick what he needed to convey with his words, his eyes, his proximity. When he was passionate about his subject, he was articulate and poetic and inspiring and captivating. Patrick would listen to his words. I would watch Ed's mouth moving, wondering what it would be like to kiss him, catching whiffs of his cologne when he gestured.
Before I had a chance to find out, I got distracted by another member of the theater crowd, and started dating him. Only to find out later that his interest in me was piqued when Ed mentioned this new young business major who was really smart, had an interest in theater, and wore miniskirts even into October. Now the theater crowd, was a close crowd, and I saw them all at every function, including Ed. He'd come over with a smile, and a hug, and comment on how sad it was that I was taken. And I, in my naive loyalty, never thought to entertain any other notions. The flirtation continued like a pantomime of the real play in the shadows of the spotlight, and I still found myself watching his mouth and wondering, but never acting.
Months later, roles were reversed, and I was single and he was dating Carrie. She was blonde; prettier than me, bustier than me, and a liberal arts major. But every now and then, I'd catch him looking over. He'd wink, or glance at my legs and shake his head, smiling. Or when the talk turned to something outside of Carrie's intellectual preferences, he'd pull me back into the talk, knowing I could fill that space the way he needed. I was good and respected their relationship, though I wasn't sad when it was over. Except for the fact that by that time, I was back in another one myself, and anything we might have had became unspoken thoughts, just like before.
It may be a 20+-year old memory, twisted into more than it could ever have been because it never had a chance to have anything tarnish the expectation. But now and then, on nights like tonight, I am reminded of that strange pull, that human electro-magnetism that draws you to another person without regard to accepted social constructs or circumstances. Moth to flame. Trying to get as close to the beauty of the light and heat as you can without getting burned.
Maybe on odd nights, he's thinking the same. Maybe he's pining away. Then again, maybe he's got a pretty cool, tolerant spouse and two beautiful boys in a real life that's just to busy to give it anything more than a brief "what if . . . "