6.1.2015 Journal Prompt

Image from Pippin
Image from Pippin

June 1, 2015: We dressed up.

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7 thoughts on “6.1.2015 Journal Prompt

  1. Dave

    Shelly and I were in this play together, kind of by accident. We were just a couple of college kids then trying to graduate. We had papers to write and exams to prepare for. She was going to be a doctor and I had plans to be an engineer. It seemed so odd for us to go off track from our goals to just act the part of someone else in a play. But the college said we had to take a class in literature or drama to graduate. Drama sounded easiest so that’s how I met Shelly. She was the leading lady and I was one of her suitors.
    She had done some plays in high school and I knew how to use carpentry tools so the next thing we knew we were selected to come to rehearsals. I was just going to build sets to start with. This was hard enough working with kids who had never in their life held a hammer. But then it turned out that one of the kids didn’t show for a rehearsal. When the prof found out that I could strum guitar chords I got pulled into the troubadour role. I had played in a band in high school so thought I would be an easy gig. Besides I began to have ideas about Shelly.
    On the surface it would seem that Shelly and I really didn’t have much in common, and I guess in some ways we still don’t. We were on the stage together and that was it. She came from a doctor’s family in the burbs that could always provide her the extras. I didn’t have any of that but didn’t know enough then to miss it. My family wanted me in college bad, and I knew that they were scratching every payday to make it happen. We lived in a small town where everyone knew everything about everybody. So me and Shelly were worlds apart.
    The play turned out to be a lot of work after all. At least it kept our minds from thinking about anything else. I worked on building the sets and making sure that everything fit with lighting and sound. Shelly paced around reciting her lines checking to make sure that she had the delivery right. We worked with the prof and the student director every two days to start, then daily as final rehearsals got close. We were even there late at night sometimes to polish up a rough spot. Makeup had to be just right, our costumes had to be put together to look real. In the midst of all the other pressures we were under it was a relief to act as someone else.
    The play itself had a pretty simple plot. At least that part was easy. The troubadour pursues the noble lady with song while her other suitors promise her riches. It wasn’t a Hollywood type story where the troubadour gets the girl and they live happily ever after. The leading lady instead goes off with one of her other suitors and their money and then regrets it all in the last scene.
    Putting so much of ourselves in a play we both found that the play became part of our selves. I who had been the high school rock star had to play the dashing singer in pursuit of a woman of noble blood. And she who had come from a family of means had to put her heart into being part of an elite world that required her to push away her true love. See, in order to convince the audience that it was real we had to take on part of who we already were. I know that there is an art theory that covers this somewhere but it didn’t matter to us. All we knew was that we played a part that seemed to suit us at first.
    But being in the play every day as the semester wore on we found that they didn’t fit so well after all. I began to feel different from the lines I had memorized and I think Shelly did too. I remember the night walking her to the dorm and she told me out of nowhere that I was being a jerk. She didn’t like that way that I was acting like the troubadour when the stage lights turned off. I had kind of had it with her too, thinking she was so great, and wanting to be at the center all the time. When told her so she said she could get herself the rest of the way to the dorm and that was that.
    The next rehearsals were a little rough for us both. The drama prof couldn’t figure out what had happened to his acting team, and the student director was worried that he was going to lose his “A.” The play was getting close to dress rehearsals and here the main actors were losing their way. She wasn’t into being the noble lady any more, and I was losing my lines as the singing rock star.
    Life wasn’t giving me one thing at a time, either. My calculus class was killing me and the theorems were getting tough. Then there was the pressure from home. My mom called one night and said that dad wasn’t feeling well and had to go on sick leave at work. I was worried that I would have to stop school at the end of the semester. No one at home would care that I had been in a high school band, or was a troubadour with the cool costume. That part didn’t matter to anyone it seemed.
    We were still all dressed up one afternoon after a rehearsal when she asked me to talk. We sat down on the grass in front of the theater and tried to sort out what was going on. I had my guitar with me and tried to play a tune about living out a dream and she told me to quit it.
    “Life isn’t a dream anymore at least for me.”
    Shelly was also having problems from home—they kept calling her on the phone at night reminding her that the family expected her to get straight “A’s.” Shelly went on to talk about her dreams to go to medical school. “I’m sick of my family wanting to be the best and having me wear the best clothes and drive the best car. That’s the life they want to lead. But it’s not the reason I want to be a doctor.”
    She was also supposed to meet the perfect man in college, best if a premed student like herself. She knew I wouldn’t fit their wishes but said that it no longer mattered to her. She was trying to think for herself.
    I was having my own doubts about going back to my small town to be the town hero. I could see life with Shelly as more life giving than going back to where I came. The troubadour life was a fantasy, not a dream. I didn’t need to be the star of the show to be with her, just live life through the day by day, like a play rehearsal.
    “Maybe we aren’t so bad for each other after all,” I tried gingerly. “Sorry I said you were stuck up.” She slowly turned towards me with her quiet smile: “I’ve been thinking we must have been having a really bad day.” I put my guitar down and we embraced awkwardly on the lawn there, drawing comfort from each other’s warmth. We were finally dreaming again, together this time. The troubadour and the lady.

  2. Oh, I missed this and have just come across it when I was looking for something to fire up my writing. This fits the picture very neatly. Good work. Mine only takes the picture as a starting point and isn’t anything to do with the costumes and is only to do with what the two people are communicating with their body language. See below.

  3. I play guitar and I play pretty good. I got an ear, see, and if I hear something and I listen to it with my eyes closed so everything is a picture in my head, then after I can just play it. My music teacher said it was a gift and I shrugged and I didn’t really see how anyone couldn’t do the same. My music teacher said as how my brain was different from others’ brains, different in the way I saw things, and he went on about Mozart and how he translated the world into music and he could turn birdsong into notes on a clavichord. I didn’t know who Mozart was or what a clavichord might be.

    Anyway, the guitar playing, it gets me places. People just like it when someone in their company can play music and so I get invited to all sorts. Festivals or trips to the country or parties. And someone always says to bring my guitar along. And soon enough we’ve got a whole bus singing ‘Let it be’ – especially the nah-na-na bits, or everyone in a motel room and a little high on something and dancing to me playing ‘Learn to fly’ by the Foo Fighters and someone hammering out the drum-line on a table.

    And girls just love it. They sit a little nearer, touching me like they think it could rub off on them maybe, and they make requests and they’re real nice about it when I play them what they want. And guys just want to be me, and they ask if I can show them how to play something, but they don’t never understand that you got to play all the time for it to be natural.

    Celia loves it when I play and that’s how we got together. I was just sitting by the road and playing for pennies dropped in a hat by passers-by. And Cee, she stopped to really listen. She asked if I was homeless and that was why I was collecting pennies. I didn’t tell her it was just easy money, instead I made some shit up about the money being for charity. Cee took me for a drink and pretty soon we were back at her apartment and making a whole different kind of music, if you get me.

    Mostly girls that go to bed with me cos of my guitar playing, well they wake up, you know, and there aint a sound in their heads – not like there is in mine – and no memory of anything I played for them the night before. And they smile and dress with their backs to me and they say ‘see ya’ and they don’t ever mean it. Cee was not like that and so we got past one day and one month and we was soon together for almost half a year. That’s the longest I been with anyone. And it felt sort of nice and like she could be the one.

    But didn’t I go and fuck it up then?

    I don’t know, but Cee was working late and I got this invitation, last minute, to go play at this guy’s house. He said there’d be a crisp hundred in it for me if I did and I thought I could maybe buy something special for Cee with a loose hundred in my pocket. So I went and played and drank a little and this girl sat beside me and kept stroking my leg and saying how music was the food of love and she said that was something Shakespeare said. She was pretty enough, looking through the fog of beer and vodka shorts, and I forgot myself for a moment and I forgot Cee, and me and this girl made out in this walk-in cupboard, and it was as good as sex gets when it aint with the person you love.

    And Cee got to find out. Don’t ask me how. Maybe she smelled the other girl on me, or someone passed her a message, or the girl told her, or I said something in my sleep. A hundred ways she could’ve found out. And now she aint with me and she wont take my calls, and I play my guitar outside her house, just under her window, and I play her all the songs she loved before, and in my head are all the pictures of what me and Cee could be, but she don’t even look out.

    I know love aint sex and the two are different, and so I think maybe Shakespeare got it mixed up with his ‘music being the food of love’ shit – and I think he meant sex when he said that cos when I’m playing underneath Cee’s window, and like serenading her, girls just stop and they look all soft-eyed and purring and they ask me if I want to go for a drink and they don’t mean a drink exactly, and they don’t mean love neither, and these days I shake my sorry head and I don’t go cos I’m waiting and waiting for Cee.

  4. Dave

    Back again. My writing seems to have an episodic quality which is annoying for me. Lindsay I really like the way you take off from an image and don’t look back. I tend to build a story around a prompt and then colo(u)r in the lines. I studied history from some time–1066 and all that– so it has infected my brain. In this piece I really like what you’ve created and the images evoked by your words. More to come in the days ahead.

    1. Thanks Dave. Appreciate you reading this and your comment. Yes, the prompt is for me just a launch pad – sometimes the words attached to the image help, sometimes it’s just a feeling I get from the image and that sparks something, sometimes I am more faithful… it’s just as it takes me and I let it take me where it will so that I don’t always feel resposnible for what happens. Look forward to seeing more of your work up here.

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