Looking for Clues
We sat in the dark waiting for the first actors to take the stage. As soon as he entered, I leaned over to my best friend, Giselle and whispered, “He’s dreamy.” I scanned my program like she did. Stewart Harriman; transferred from Syracuse U, theater major, semester abroad at London’s Old Vic.
I leaned close to Giselle again. “Bet he’s gay.” Okay, I’d hoped he was.
“No way,” she whispered. “He’s straight.”
So, the bet was on. For the rest of Charley’s Aunt, I scrutinized for lisps or limps, capes tossed with too much flourish, any other theatrical gesticulation that might suggest possibilities. Instead his performance was exquisite, nuanced with tinges of sensitivity, balanced by bravado. Not even an ounce of gay hope. Giselle and I sprinted to the green room afterwards, throngs of underclassmen surrounded him.
But it was Giselle who caught his eye. She was right, straight Stewart was, and straight into her bed he dove.
It was likely for the best, as I was transitioning through yet another fallout with Tom, Dick or Harry. At the ripe age of 21, I felt washed up, a senior who’d been ready to graduate as a freshman. Giselle met me at the Letchworth Diner for brunch.
“Why so glum?” she asked. Ordered an iced tea.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“You’ll be okay, Buzz.” She patted my arm. “Are you still seeing Timmy?”
“You mean Tommy?” I shook my head no, sighed. “He wanted to see other people.” A plate of steaming french fries arrived. We always shared.
“Maybe you ought to try someone our age? What about Gary?”
“Nope.” I made a face. “Closet case.”
“Fair enough. Donald?”
“Get serious. He’s about twice my size.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know that mattered. Damn, these fries are good today.”
I huffed but I wasn’t really offended. Giselle was just trying to help. “How’s Stewart?” I tried to hide my jealousy.
“He’s fantastic. He drives me absolutely wild. ‘Course, I don’t see enough of him. He’s rehearsing for Gemini, so he leaves at some insane hour. It’s still dark out.”
I pretended to be happy. “That’s nice, I’m glad things are working out.”
“Me too,” Giselle said. She smiled at me. A little piece of french fry stuck in her gums and it made me feel slightly better.
Our senior year progressed, Giselle’s time divided by school and Stewart. They nearly moved in together for spring semester, but he got cold feet. Hmm. Turns out, Giselle told me, it was after he’d moved in with English girlfriend, Evelyn, that things took a drastic, irreparable turn. He didn’t want to repeat that with Giselle. Okay, so add smart to his resume.
I’d begun to hate them by the time spring finally rolled around. Not to mention that we’d done more than just a few theater projects together- all three in Dr. Cho’s Theater History class, as well as Scene Design 2. When Giselle’s lead actor bowed out of her senior project, Why Hanna’s Skirt Won’t Stay Down, I was shocked she asked me to take the lead role. We met that Sunday at the diner.
“Why didn’t you ask Stewart?”
“I did. He’s too busy with his own senior project,” she said.
Of course. “What play did he choose?”
“He doesn’t know yet.”
“When does he have to choose?”
“This weekend. But there’s something else I have to tell you.”
I was all ears. “What’s up?” Her face changed and she looked as if she might cry. “Giselle, what is it?”
“I’m fairly certain…” She looked down at her hands, then back into my eyes. “I’m pregnant.”
“Stewart’s?” I blurted, didn’t mean to. Of course it was him. I took her hand.
A tear slid down her face. “What am I gonna do?”
They’d placed us at a corner booth, so I slid closer to her. “How did this happen? You had a diaphragm, right? Did it break?” Truth was, I hadn’t even seen one before.
“No, it was about a month ago. Stewart was supposed to come over after the cast party for A Christmas Carol. He’d designed the lights, so he felt he had to go. It got late and I crashed. When I woke up around midnight, I was a little miffed because he’d said he would stop over by ten. The next thing I remember, there was pounding on my front door. He was drunk, apologized, then barged into my room. We barely discussed protection before he was…before it was too late.”
I didn’t know what to say. I could feel how upset she was, and for good reason. “I’ll help however I can.” Our waitress dropped off our fries. “What did Stewart say?”
“I haven’t told him yet.”