Wednesday, September 29, 2010


My old apartment had a great deal of...character. By character I mean quirks that, in retrospect, I see as charming, but during my tenure at 124 w. 13th street, were traumatizing.

There was the old claw-foot bathtub that groaned every time I turned the handles and required I purchase three shower curtains to create a polyvinyl barrier between the iron rich water and the rest of the bathroom. No matter how I tried to position the curtains, water would inevitably cascade out of the tub, thanks mostly to the shower head that was positioned around my shoulders, causing the majority of the water to ricochet off my body and onto the walls, ceiling, floor, then eventually the ceiling of the apartment below.

And there was the weird hallway to nowhere that ran parallel to my apartment and acted as a storage unit for all the stuff I didn't know what to do with, confusing all my guests as they thought they'd entered my closet.

“Just climb over the golf clubs, sidle past the bike, and come on in!”

The cavernous gaps between the baseboards and the scuffed hard wood floor didn't seem to be a problem when I first moved in. But as the temperature began to cool and autumn set in, these shards of open space looming at my toes became welcome entrance for some unsavory visitors.

The first record of these skittering house guests was while I was away at work. I received a call from Annie, who'd been hanging out at my apartment awaiting my return.

“Get home...NOW!”

Evidently she'd been confronted by the verminous presence in my apartment, and the altercation forced her to retreat onto the futon, where she remained marooned until my return home. The monstrous rodent had shown itself, chased her onto the couch, and held her hostage the whole night through. Something had to be done.

I called the landlord, who after a week, finally left a stack of sticky traps at my doorstep.

I am not a complete pacifist. I eat meat, although not in great amounts. I've been hunting. I am saddened, but not heartbroken when I run over a squirrel in the street. I attempt to alleviate unnecessary suffering in the world.

I am ardently opposed to sticky traps.

The thought of a little rodent struggling to remove its flesh from the gooey surface of that sickeningly pale yellow card is unbearable. Like a miniature wooly mammoth, wallowing in the sticky tar pits, the little furry creature would contort its body, vainly attempting to loose his paws from the adhesive prison. And I'd be the responsible party. I was the one who cast him into the slow, painful death that would inevitably follow.

I discarded the Guantanamo torture traps, and opted for the more traditional, guillotine of pest control, the Victor Mouse trap. Quick, simple, effective. And then I remember something that my mother had once told me.

She lived on a farm as a girl, where mice were everywhere, and crafty. If you put a trap out, with a morsel of cheese or peanut butter, the mice will slyly sneak around to the bait and, with their intricate little paws, remove your ruse and make off with the goods. The key to outsmarting the vermin is in the use of the cereal box.

So, placing an old cereal box on its side, I slid the snap trap into the box, making the only path to the glob of goober pea butter directly over the trap. I then slid the box behind the stove, a high traffic zone for the little interlopers, and headed for bed.

The next morning I arose and groggily stumbled into the kitchen, searching for clarity in my still slumbering brain. As I walked in, I was met with the crunch of an empty cardboard box flattening beneath my foot. The cereal death box I'd contrived the night before lay at my feet, at least 36 inches from its original post. I glanced about uneasily. In the middle of the room was the trap I'd meticulously placed not twenty four hours prior. And clasped in its maw, the creature I'd been attempting to quell.

While rendered immobile, the mouse was anything but dead. I have never heard a rodent spray such a vile torrent of hisses and wails. It seemed that the animal had attempted to pick his way through the gauntlet I'd laid down, resulting in his hind quarters becoming securely fastened to the trap. Refusing to admit defeat, he dragged himself and, evidently the cereal box, across the room, until he could crawl no longer. There he proceeded to thrash against the wood and metal kept him hostage, cursing Victor with all the energy left in his little carcass.

My first inclination was to return to bed and hope that the little beast die during the ensuing REM cycle, but I knew that he would not allow that. The gnashing of teeth would be too much to block from my ears. I knew I had to do the only humane thing left. To rectify the suffering I had brought into this world, I had to finish the job I started.

I looked around for some device suited to bludgeoning small mammals. My options were and old broom, a baseball bat, and a shoe. The broom, I decided, would be too flimsy to terminate the rodent. The baseball bat seemed to be a good option, but the surface area was so small, and I was a bad hitter when I was in my prime, let alone at 7:30 in the morning. It may sound effeminate, but I liked my shoes to much to consider soiling them on an unavoidable mouse slaughter. That's when I spied a metal dust pan. It had a broad face, it was hard enough to provide the crushing blow I needed, and it could be washed fairly easily.

I used the dust pan to nudge the mouse onto a newspaper, so as to avoid bloodying the floor. As he squealed with pain and terror, I bent down, taking care not to get too close to the enraged captive, and let loose a salvo of downward blows in the general direction of the newspaper. Without looking at the carnage, I listened for movement. Hearing none, I delivered a few more slams, then peered over the dust pan I so timidly wielded.

It was done. Laying at my feet was the dilapidated carcass of an innocent little mouse, almost indiscernible amid the blood and newspaper that had co-mingled in the prior destruction.

Dropping my dust pan of death and destruction, I gave up on trying to salvage the rest of that morning. I returned to bed, blocking out the tiny screams that still echoed in my ears.

Those wails must have warded off any other trespassers, as from that morning on, I saw no evidence of rodents in my apartment. That poor animal died so that other scavengers might live. His death rattle served as a warning to all other mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, and even beavers. For that reason, this mouse did not die in vain.

And for that, I owe him my eternal gratitude.

Friday, September 24, 2010

“Mama Mia!”

One of my first real trips out of the country - My first trip to a land that did not utilize English as their primary mode of communication, was in the fall of 2006. I'd had a brief flirt with Mexico, one crazy night in Tijuana, full of piñatas, Mexican soda, and dancing. I was six, and I fell asleep crossing back into California, dragging my piñata behind as my head bobbed over my father's shoulder. I'd also been to Toronto for a few days with a church youth group, but Toronto is about as exotic as Cleveland (no offense to either great city).

Through the connections Annie (my then girlfriend, now wife) had established earlier that year, the two of us were afforded an opportunity to take a 10 day Opera masterclass in Florence. Annie had spent three amazing months in Europe that spring, and I begrudgingly went along for this return to paradise. The trip was expensive, foolhardy, and academically taxing. That being said, it was worth every bit of coin, stress, and dismay. We drained our bank accounts, took out loans from the national bank of Mom's and Dad's, and boarded the flight.

The first leg of the trip took us from the bustling cacophony of Chicago's O'Hare International airport to the militaristic order of Frankfurt Germany's tarmacs. I must say that in all of the terminals I've been to, Frankfurt may be one of the simultaneously scariest and the most comforting. The stringent order and prevalence of uni-brows, the unyielding looks of consternation on the customs officers. Even the sweaters worn by the Lufthansa crew are distinctly harder lined and sharper edged than the Cosby sweaters of the United airlines crew, resplendent with loosened red ties and pushed up sleeves. Ne'er would you see a self respecting German air employee with a button askew, from pilot to custodian. The Frankfort airport is also the only security that has ever wreaked havoc on my titanium infused bones.

On the day of our travel, the Frankfurt airport had discarded use of the traditional metal detecting gates, opting instead for use of the wand. Each individual on their way out of Germany via that airport was stopped, spread eagle like the great black bird on the German flag, and frisked with an over-sized, electronic Popsicle. Annie removed the contents of her pockets, slipped off her shoes in a post 9/11 fashion, and passed the exam with flying colors and, more importantly, a silent wand. As she replaced her footwear and gathered her belongings, I entered the gauntlet. The woman bearing the metal detector appeared as if she could deliver me to Florence herself, with one swift underhand toss. I assumed the position, frozen mid jumping jack and winced. I don't know why, but I always hold my breath as I undergo these tests. I'm afraid of failing, being seen as suspicious, and ultimately being taken into a room, strip searched, and thrown in a dank German cell.

In the three seconds it took for those thoughts to flash through my mind, the Rhineland Amazon was upon me. She wanded my left arm.


The Popsicle ascended it's alien-esque scale as it approached the titanium in my port side. It reached the climax of its frenzied pitch as it passed over my humerus, and one half of the security woman's uni-brow arched, the pupil underneath boring a hole into my frozen expression. Her gaze locked on my paltry face, she proceeded to continue the search, discovering the additional deposits of unidentified foreign metal in my right arm and my left leg. As I searched for the most succinct explanation for my alarming appendages, she searched my expression for any hint of suspicion. Once she had identified all of the zones of violation, she asked in a gruff Germanic tone

"What are these?"

"I have plates...Surgery...see the scars?"

I rolled up my shirt and pointed to the trails of sinuous tissue that scramble up my biceps, trailing around my elbow on the left side, carving out canyons in my thigh. I smiled tentatively, almost saying aloud:

"Don't worry, I wouldn't be so crazy as to implant a bomb in my arms! That'd be nuts!"

As if one who was interested in blowing up a plane would be concerned with harming his own limbs.

The woman called another security person over, conferred in terse, short bursts of German, then, without another word, she beckoned to my shoes, baggie of bath products, and the miscellaneous inhabitants of my pockets, and I was on my way.

We boarded the plane to Italy without any further misstep.

When we finally reconnected with the terrain of Tuscany, the laid back Italian lifestyle became instantly apparent. We gathered our belongings, crossed into the terminal, and made our way to the baggage carousel. We gathered our cases, then unsure of where to go next, we walked out the nearest exit, into the fresh sunshine of the sleepy Italian morning.

It wasn't until we had boarded a bus, headed vaguely in the direction which our hotel was presumably located, that we realized that we hadn't gone through customs, had our passports stamped, or even spoken to another soul in the Florence airport. From the time we were told to “Enjoy our stay” as we exited the aircraft, not another word was uttered by an airport official.

On the bus, we were not so inconspicuous. Not only were we lugging huge suitcases onto a bus already loaded with Florentine locals on their way to work, school, or the market, we were standing in the middle of the aisle, desperately attempting to slide our belongings out of the way as people shuffled on or off the tram. Sometimes a man would mutter


or something indeterminate under his breath as he sidled by. I would smile an apologetic grin and timidly attempt to return the salutation

“Sca...uhmahh, scuzahda?”

Annie would hear this vain attempt at assimilation and chuckle to herself. Living in the country for months earlier that year, her Italian was returning like scenes from an old film. She excitedly pointed out familiar waypoints along the trip, already shaping the itineraries of the days ahead in her mind.

At one stop, a train of little women in nondescript pastel habits shuffled on to the bus. One after another, we traded greetings




Suddenly one small leathery woman stopped before me. She sighed with a labored irritation, trying to decide how I expected her to pass through this unbelievably small chasm between my case and the adjacent seat. Shaking her head, she looked up at me with an open mouth that was poised to spew any number of old world reprimands, a discursive cascade of chiding admonishment. But as her eyes caught mine, the torrent of Mediterranean scolding stopped short in her throat. She gasped, took one look up and down my body, and muttered

“Mama Mia!”

And with that, she moved down the line. The first real words anyone said to me in that magnificent city. And to this day, I say the same thing about Florence.

Mama Mia, indeed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I hate Banana...and the periodic table

this story contains graphic recounts of vomit. I personally find vomit funny. If you don't, read with caution, so as to avoid puking on your PC.

Continue at your own risk

In 2005 I had a rare stomach problem that caused my insides to form knots that'd make a Boy Scout proud and a sailor curse. I'd go into details, but that story isn't the one to be told here and now. This story is but a small piece of that larger tale. The imperative back story here is that I had been struck with an inability to keep anything down, from three course meal to three ounces of water, without regurgitating any attempt, accompanied by a putrid crimson bile. This all began on an international flight preceding a ten day tour of Scotland, so I spent two weeks hurling in the beautiful Scottish braes. The Scottish physicians deemed it a viral infection, and sent me on my way.

Upon return home, it was clear that something more than a viral infection was afoot. I still hadn't retained anything since the upheaval began. So the stateside doctors admitted me into the hospital, and began their battery of pokes and prods. They decided that something needed to be done to prevent the acid in my stomach from building up and causing me to vomit. Their solution? A torturous device known as the “NG tube”. A wiry RN who looked as if he'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes since he was seven came in and started off in a playful yet slightly annoyed effeminate voice.

“I'm going to tell you right now, this is going to suck. I'm going to shove this little tube up your nose, where it will go down the back of your throat and into your stomach. You are going to want to gag, puke, and probably punch me in the balls. Just keep trying to swallow, and it'll be over before you know it.”

Fifteen minutes later, I'd been violated in a way that I've never known. Laying in my bed, involuntary tears rolled down my flushed cheeks as I struggled to regain my breath. I continued to repress the spasms of regurgitation, and finally calmed my body down enough to speak without another bout of dry heaving. For the next few days, I'd be a mouth breather, resigned to a dry throat and an awful snore that could wake the dead.

The panel of physicians decided some scans and X-ray's would be the best route to discerning the cause of these projections. The process was simple: In fifteen minutes, I drink a half gallon of Barium (periodic element #56) which is opaque when viewed in X-ray images. If they see where the Barium stops flowing, they gain further insight into what is stopping my digestion.

So there in the sparse hospital room filled with outdated magazines and sterility, I began my imbibing. The nurse presumptuously assumed that banana flavored Barium would be the flavor I preferred. Not that I wouldn't, but in retrospect, I would have liked a choice. Although I hadn't kept down more than a tablespoon of liquid in the last ten days, I managed to choke down almost a quart and a half of the lukewarm liquid of milkshake consistency. It's thick, chalky substance left a mucous like film on my palette and a sickening scent of banana in the room.

Twenty minutes later, the same husky voiced RN impatiently told me I'd drank enough. He hurriedly wheeled me to the X-ray room and lifted me onto the cold table. The X-ray technician sidled me back and forth on the slab, adjusted the gargantuan mechanism that loomed above my torso, then retreated to the safety of her control panel. The instant I lost sight of the technician, I also began to lose the ability to keep down my periodic elements. It was as if the viscous barium with which I'd engorged my stomach was now flowing back upstream, a tsunami of elemental fury, crashing toward my mouth. I choked out a few syllables that, if pieced back together and cleansed of dry heaving and tear filled gasps for oxygen, might resemble


Unfortunately my heaving cries for mercy fell on deaf ears in that cold medical facility. With no strength to drag myself to a dignified waste can, I instead opted to cock my head to the left, let out one last cry for salvation, and wretch my periodically charged puke in a manner that would put Linda Blair to shame.

Evidently the convulsions that gripped my body were not conducive to taking pictures of my innards, because the X-ray technician soon returned from her mysterious control panel with a look of irritation, which upon assessment of the situation, turned to absolute horror. As she stood there, uncertain of the protocol and not fully dedicated to keeping her own bile down, I stretched out a barium covered arm to indicate the target of my relief – a waste can in the corner of the room. Instead, the technician dove back into the safety of the control room, as it not only protected her from X-rays, but also the projectile elements spewing from my face. She soon returned better equipped for the situation.

She hurried to me with caution and a small, pink, kidney shaped dish. Thrusting it into my hands, the technician beamed as she began to comfort me

“It's Ok honey, just throw up in...”

She was not afforded the opportunity to finish her sentence, because before she could utter another word, another round of bile infused barium summoned itself from the depth of my emaciated abdomen and forced itself upon the world. I directed the wrath towards the dish, and watched in helpless dismay as the vomit rushed into the kidney dish with such force that it immediately sprayed back out in a fan on all sides of me. The caution that the woman took in delivering the dish was proven vain as the final contents of my stomach came to rest on her flowery smock.

My stomach had completed its revolt against the barium, and was proven victorious. The carnage that laid before me was overwhelming. My backless medical gown was soaked in creamy gastro-barium. My wheelchair was spackled in it. A small portion of the upheaval had taken an alternate route to freedom – following the NG tube through my nasal passages and out my left nostril. It is no understatement to say that I had puked everywhere.

Even in the midst of that exhausting exercise in abdominal rebellion, I could see an element of humor in it all. They eventually got me cleaned up, preformed surgery, and sent me on my way. The blockage was successfully removed, and I have remained relatively healthy since. But I always laugh about the final tableau that is in my mind. Covered in my own vomit, crying tears of relief while a beleaguered nurse dab at me in vain with a damp washcloth.

The image is so pitiful, who wouldn't crack a smile? There must be an inherent reason that bananas are so funny...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Search of Seurat

I have to say that a year ago, I did not know anything about Georges Seurat. I recognized the name, knew he was a painter, but beyond that, I didn't have a clue. So my exposure to this 19th century visionary was a bit non traditional.

Most people see a piece of art, are intrigued by the work, and seek out more of that individuals pieces. If they are really interested, they'll go on to learn about the artists life, inspirations and vision. My experience was the complete reverse.

It all started when we produced the musical Sunday in the park with George at the Harrison Hilltop Theatre. The production follows Georges Seurat as he creates preliminary sketches and then creates his monstrous pointillist masterpiece A Sunday afternoon on the Il de la Grande Jatte. It provides an excellent insight into the cultural context of which Seurat created his work. Seurat was creating pointillist art half a century before it came into vogue, and with that vision came great scorn and opprobrium from his peers.

After producing Sunday, my curiosity was piqued. Then I was afforded an opportunity to travel to Paris earlier this summer. On that trip, I knew that I had to learn more about Georges Seurat.

While in Paris, we visited dozens of Museums, seeing art by DaVinci, Rodan, Monet, Latrec, Van Gogh, Dali, and countless others. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the art I saw, but at every museum, I anxiously kept my eye out for works by Seurat. I had never seen any other works by the man, but I knew I'd recognize one if I saw it. But nothing. Where was he? This was his community, after all, so shouldn't Paris be the place to appreciate his works?

I was beginning to lose hope. Finally, at Musee D'Orsay, I spied the bright primary colors on white canvas that could only be Seurat. His refusal to mix his paint created a vibrancy that contrasted with the other muted painting hanging beside it. It was a work entitled The Circus, featuring a clown, a ringmaster, and a horse. I stood there, just staring at the work, in awe of seeing this piece by Seurat, in person. I stood far back, allowing my eyes to go out of focus, perceiving only distinct shapes of color. As I slowly brought the painting back into focus, I saw the image as the painter imagined – the color and panache of the Big Top. Then I drew closer to the painting. I weaved in and out of the crowds of tourists, never taking my eyes from the clown, the horse. I got right up close, nose to nose with the ringmaster, and discovered the individual dots that made up these characters. It was as if I was looking at the cells and atoms that made up these beings – frozen in time under my microscope. I was no longer dissecting Seurat's painting, but dissecting the models he had used, to see why the clowns hair was so red, what made the horse so white. The individual DNA of the painting could be seen in the pointillist flecks of primary paint.

I stood before the painting for what seemed like hours, my eyes drawn across the canvas from one element to another. Finally my wife pulled me away and we were off to the next attraction.

So that was it? The only Seurat to be found in the entire city? This was not enough to satiate my new found curiosity for this outcast artist of the 1800's. That's when, with the help of Google Maps, I began my quest: To find the Island – Il de la Grande Jatte – the subject of the famous painting now hanging in the Art institute of Chicago.

It was a sweltering day in Paris when we set out for a northwest suburb of Paris. Two trains and about seven blocks of hiking through Parisian residential district later, we got to the island. We crossed a bridge and found ourselves in another residential district, full of apartments, soccer fields, business complexes, and what I can only describe as 'pocket parks' – a collection of benches and bushes huddled together on a small plot of grass. Surely none of these were the park we were looking for. Beginning to feel a bit distraught, we walked onward. We were beginning to run out of island. We passed a street – RUE DE CLAUDE MONET. How could there be a traffic tribute to Monet on Seurat's Island? According to the map, there was a bridge at the end of the island, so we meandered on. That's when we came to a huge wrought iron fence. On the other side – the park.

We stepped through the gates and immediately looking for similarities to the painting. Was that tree in the painting? Was this the shoreline Seurat depicted a century and a half ago? Where is the plaque paying tribute to this masterpiece? Where is the homage that George Seurat deserved? We wandered through the sizable park, past aging oaks, avoiding a group of bee keepers collecting honey. We stifled our laughter as we passed a young couple kissing on a bench. Her legs were in his lap, and he was cradling her as if she would float away if he didn't hold her tight. I imagine that they were new lovers, caught up in the Parisian bravado of love and passion. No one could tear those two apart, lest they tear the fibers of the world in their attempt.

We passed a group of men, teaching children soccer, as the women sat in the shade, drinking wine and laughing. The men were herding the children as much as they were imparting any technical skills, and the children were rollicking as they swarmed after the ball, embodying the essence of the bees we passed earlier in the park. The drone of the bees was replaced by the laughter of the children and the indeterminate murmurs of the women. The fathers needn't wear full body protection as the bee keepers did, as the worst fear was of a bruised shin, the kiss of an adoring son or daughter.

We saw a lone man reclined against the bank, throwing a ball into the water. Upon every throw, his dog would bound into the river, fielding the throw with unyielding constancy. The dog seemed to never tire of this exercise, while the man seemed as if this was his duty. His complacent expression conveyed a complete indifference to the activity. It was as if the owner knew that this was the best part of his dogs day, so he was obliged to give the canine this small gesture of his appreciation for the companionship and loyalty.

We had finally reached the park. The green space where Seurat sketched hundreds of preliminary drawings for his monumental work, Sunday in the park on the Il de la Grande Jatte. And while we hadn't found the monument to Seurat that I'd been looking for, I believe we found something better. We found a living, 21st century version of exactly what Georges Seurat saw – Families, lovers, dogs, and friends. We found the Parisian people enjoying the outdoors, taking advantage of their three to five hour lunches. Engaging with each other in ways that we often take for granted. And while it may seem mundane, we were afforded an insight into a slower, more fully lived lifestyle. One where the most important thing is the company you keep, not the company you work for. We'd found exactly what Seurat was trying to share with us.

It may have not been a Sunday, but it was certainly the perfect portrait of the park on the Il de la Grande Jatte.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adolescence by any other name...

As a man that has, for the most part, learned to use this clumsy body that he's been bestowed, I truly appreciate seeing that almost all youth, across cultural, gender, and socioeconomic boundaries, have some stage in their lives where they feel uncomfortable in their own skin.

I made this realization on a recent trip to Paris. We were waiting for a bus when a group of kids, probably between fourteen and sixteen years of age jostled up aside us on the busy walk. It was hot, with the afternoon sun beating tirelessly down on us. After a long day of walking around the city, all we wanted to do was get home, which meant that my conversation with my wife was nonexistent. As we waited in catatonic silence, I began to study these adolescents. Although I could not understand their quick french chatter, I quickly began to see into their little social hierarchy. It all started with one boy.

He was taller than all of the rest, by at least six inches. Despite the blistering heat, he wore a light blue jean jacket, something that may have been worn by Matt Dillon in The Outsiders. His greasy black hair was parted messily to the side, and his face was riddled with craters from pimples of both past and present. Across his upper lip were the paltry attempts of follicles to populate an otherwise virgin plot of skin. Judging by the rest of his face, this was the only semblance of maturity to grace this young boys public appearance, and he wore this strip of hair with a pride fit for a decorated army vet. No one had told this boy that his pale attempt at facial decoration was meager at best, and gave the appearance of a child pedophile over the virile beefcake he saw in himself.

What added to this pathetic charade was the boys clumsy, animatronic gestures. It was as if the young man had recently been given new arms and legs, and was not quite sure how best to use them. His entire body slumped forward slightly, the weight of his extra long arms being more than what his back was accustomed to carrying. As he walked, that additional arm baggage caused him to fall forward at an alarming rate, but luckily his feet had extended in expectation of providing a base for his wiry frame, so he lumbered forward under his curiously bent legs to catch him every time. But these extraneously spindly legs could not be trusted to break the fall on their own accord. It was as if, left to their own devices, these mantis-like appendages would fold up under the boy, leaving him tumbling to the ground. Each step was a conscious choice to move forward, each interaction with the earth below him a new experience.

My own personal pubescent experiences were a bit different than those of this young Parisian. While the incongruous limb growth certainly gave me an awkward gate and horrible posture that plagues me to this day, the most memorable adolescent cross to bear was of a more turgid manner.

It was sophomore year of high school, one of the busiest semesters of my high school existence. I had a habit of overextending myself in high school, and this particular semester was one of particular stress – show choir at 7am before class, show band for the pep choir directly after school was out, followed directly by soccer practice, then finally play practice. Home by 10 or 11pm, a little homework, wash, rinse, repeat. I envy the energy that oozed from every pore of my body back then.

The event that haunts my memories of awkward high school misstep to this day took place during one of those play rehearsals. I was fortunate to be cast as one of the leads in our spring Shakespeare production. This was an awesome opportunity, one that I accepted with eager ambition. We were rehearsing a scene in which my female love interest and I had just run away from home to elope, and were setting up camp for the night. My character was adamant that my betrothed and I sleep next to one another, for “protection”, but her lady like composure would have none of it. Finally my character wins and we lay down together. As that dispute is settled, another conflict begins to arise. The girl playing opposite me was one of the most beautiful beings that I had laid my eyes on, at least for the 16 years I'd existed thus far. She was fit, curvaceous, and had a smile that could melt a pubescent boy like butter. As I laid beside this beautiful creature, my wardrobe of a dirty tee shirt, mesh shorts, and sweaty soccer socks began to show its weaknesses. If you ever want to see an uncomfortable sight, watch a 16 year old try to hide an uninvited erection. First I shifted, then I attempted an inconspicuous adjustment with my forearm, which appeared to the outside world as if I was having an apoplectic seizure. As I squirmed, contorting by legs to avoid detection from my director, fellow classmates, and heaven forbid the target of my arousal, I finally realized that if I were to get out of this alive, I had to take action immediately. The eyes of the entire room were on me as they awaited my next line, but in my mind, they were staring directly at my crotch. In a flash I was on my feet again, doubled over to conceal any protuberance. As I made my way to the door, I mumbled something about not feeling well, and that I had to get to the restroom. I didn't wait for a response. I bee-lined to the teachers private bathroom, where I locked myself in the safety and seclusion of a stall and waited for things to subside.

In the bathroom I worked up an alibi for my peculiar behavior. Heat exhaustion. I was just overworked, after soccer practice and then this rigorous play rehearsal – it had taken its toll. I would tell the director that I had been sick, gotten some water, and she'd tell me to go home for the day. It was genius. I returned to the rehearsal to be greeted by the quizzical looks of the actors, unsure as to what had happened to me. I told the director my tale, being sure to sniffle a bit and breath in a labored manner to fully convince her. She was a drama teacher after all. She listened sympathetically, then allowed me to go home.

I clunked home in my beat up, purple, hand-me-down GMC Safari, relieved that I had avoided what would have been a catastrophic disaster in my adolescent life. It's not that my social situation was gleaming, but I preferred not to give anyone fodder. I did enough on my own to attract the jeers and opprobrium of my peers, without my body sabotaging my efforts of surviving my tenure at Central Lee High School.

As I lay in bed that night, I couldn't help but think of the events of the day, and my near miss with sexual shame. In the end, I made it out alive, and that was all that mattered. I'd live to rise another day. Or night.