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Friday, April 14, 2017

My Old Acting Injury


My knee is really bothering me.  I am thinking it is my old acting injury.  I never played sports so I kinda like that I can refer to this as my old acting injury.  And here’s why.

It was the Spring of 1976.  We were preparing a one act for the New Hope annual competition.  The play was some original one act written a few years earlier.  The part was John Mann.  Kind of an every man type who spent the majority of the play ranting about one thing or another.  I remember one part when he discusses they.  The infamous they.  The they that ban blacks, kill Jews, start wars.  That was the kind thing he would rant about.  Lots of monologues.  Not a lot of action.  Well I played Mr. Mann (years before Misery was even written).  As it was a dialogue heavy play there was a lot of pacing the stage.  Some parts were played off the stage and getting into the audience’s face.  Well at one pivotal moment, I had to drop to my knees, in tears over something or other.  Rehearsal after rehearsal I dropped my 145 pound body to my knees and rehearsal after rehearsal was told that I should wear knee pads.  Ha!  I was what, 16 at the time and indestructible (remember how I didn’t play sports?).  So day in and day out I would drop, do my bit, stand and continue.  That was until the day before the performance in New Hope at the Bucks County playhouse.  The rehearsal was going along quite well.  I was ranting my ass off (not that I had much of an ass back then) and I came to the point where I held my face in my hands ad dropped to my knees and . . . click, that’s what I heard and that’s what I felt in my knee.  And as I attempted to rise, my leg, just slightly, buckled under me.  But the show must go one, so with a slight limp I finished out the rehearsal.  I am not actually sure if I told anyone about this little inconvenience at that point.

To make a long story not as long as it could be, I awoke the next day and lo and behold, my knee was fine.   I walked around the bedroom a bit testing it out and all was good.  I was ready for the trip to New Hope and the performance.  I arrived at school and went directly to the gathering area on the stage.  I proceeded to walk into to one of the risers set up with chairs.  Not just walked into, but bumped that very same knee, hard.  But it must not have been that hard because I was fine.  We went to New Hope, performed, didn’t win (the judges didn’t like the fact that the character yelled a lot at the audience, not notice to my amazing, knee pad less, stunt work).  And then I went on with life.

Jump ahead to the late 80’s It was going to rain the next day and suddenly I felt this throbbing in my knee.  No clue why it just started to really hurt.  Swelled up a bit too.  And then I realized, it must have been because of the fall so many years ago.  Seems I have myself an old acting injury.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How They Met -- Inspired by Actual Events


“So?”, her friend asked in that typical, and sincere, sing songy voice, “How’d you meet?”  After over three months it was actually the first time they were asked this together.  She nudged him and gave him a knowing smile.  He squeezed her hand gently.  “Let me guess,” the friend continued, barley noticing their reaction.  “I bet you met at a bar.”  She smiled at her friend and leaned into him, gently rubbing her cheek against his shoulder.  The feel of her against him always brought a warmth to his skin and a slight blush to his face.  He glanced at her with a tender smile then turned to look at her friend, to look past her friend and into the past.  He remembered . . . how well he remembered . . . he played and replayed that night in his mind every day.
 
He was supposed to finally meet someone from a dating site that he had been chatting with for the past week.  Chatting?  He never understood that.  Chatting meant talking.  Interacting.  Not trying to move your fingers fast enough on a keypad to assure you are answering the right questions in the right order.  So, by recent definition, they had been chatting yet never spoke.  They arranged to meet on Saturday night, 8:00, at a local chain restaurant, “You know,” the woman put it, “to see if we are copasetic.”  He was open to it.  He generally had nothing to do on Saturday evenings and the woman seemed nice.  He didn’t usually think much about how a woman looked but the picture she sent showed a cute smile and a rather ample everything else.  So at 7:55 he found himself outside the restaurant, glancing at her picture on his phone, and the single women arriving.
 
She was supposed to meet a friend at a nearby spot.  They had been there a number of times.  As usual she was running a bit late (“I’ll just say I was sure we decided on 8 and I didn’t remember 7:30”) and still patting her lips together to make sure her lipstick was dry as she tried to quickly walk to the door.  Her shoes were designed for a more elegant walk and she nearly tripped as she approached the door.  As she righted herself she noticed someone, a man, quickly get up to help her.  But she was a bit quicker than he and headed for the door.  His bearded face and silver hair registered with her.  His cheeks seemed to flush pink.  And something about his eyes.  His eyes.  Hers locked with his as she turned back to take just a quick peak of him before entering the restaurant.  A tiny smile seemed to play on his lips as he looked back at his phone.  The gentle smile turned to a slight frown. And he was gone as the door closed behind her.
 
His mind drifted as he glanced at his phone for the 5th time.  “What the hell am I doing?” he heard his voice in his head.  “I stink at meeting people and I’m not dressed right, and she’s not going to find me interesting since I’m not going to talk, and . . . damn, I should be at home in bed watching DePalma and eating sauerkraut!  Why do you do this to me?”
As he glanced down at the picture again he heard the sound of rushing feet on the pavement and an almost indistinguishable “I’m sure it was eight, I’m sure it was eight,” whispering behind him.  He turned to see where that voice was coming from and saw a woman about to trip over the sidewalk.  He jumped up to help her but she gained her balance quickly.  For a moment, just the briefest of seconds, their eyes met.  In that moment he felt his stomach drop.  His face felt like it was on fire.  Her eyes.   They penetrated him.  Regaining his composure, he looked back down at his phone to see if in the wildest of possibilities, it could be her.  He realized though, he had only seen her eyes.  He looked up again to see her as she opened the door.  Again their eyes locked.  This time he saw her.  His mind could not assemble the correct letters to form the appropriate words to describe her.  Beautiful?  Adorable? Gorgeous?  Stunning?  None seemed to do justice to her delicate dark features, her piercing eyes, the genuine smile that played on her lips.  He smiled to himself, a knot formed in his stomach, he was sure she was the one.  His phone revealed true disappointment.  He looked up again.  Just to catch one more look at her.  But she was gone.
 
As she scanned the restaurant for her friend, she realized that she couldn’t get a particular smile out of her mind.  She smiled, just a little to herself.  And to the world.  From a brief glimpse she felt she saw tenderness, kindness, things she never believed she would see in a man again.  But her friend wasn’t there.  Her phone chimed.  It was a text from her friend.  “Sorry,” the letters appeared, “I am having a bit of an emergency and I won’t be able to make it.  Nothing to worry too much about.  Just not going to happen tonight.  You free tomorrow?  Maybe lunch?”  She scrolled through the message a couple of times, debating calling.  “Emergency?”, didn’t seem like something she should take lightly.  She tapped the phone icon and held the phone to her ear.  They spoke briefly.  It wasn’t really as much of an emergency, in the life threatening sense, but things needing attending to.  Made sense.  She hung up and placed the phone back into her purse.  “Well, guess I can get a drink, as long as I’m here.”  She looked to the bar which seemed awfully empty for a Saturday night, found a group of 5 or 6 empty stools, climbed up on the one in the middle and ordered a drink.  A nice Chardonnay.
 
It was 8:19 and his neck was getting sore from looking up and down to his phone.  He checked their chat site and she wasn’t there.  “Might as well get home,” he thought as he placed his phone in his shirt pocket.  He stood, yawned and turned to the parking lot.  “Hell,” he thought, “Might as well get a quick drink while I’m here”.  He was never one to just go out for a drink but he was out, he had dressed for the supposed occasion.  He might as well have a bit of an outing.  He went in.  The hostess asked him how many were in his party or if was expecting anyone.  He glanced at her, gave her a bit of a smile and told her he’d just get a drink at the bar.  There were a lot of empty seats.  Not a busy night, but that seemed to be the case in some of the restaurants so close to Christmas passing.  He sat down, pulled a bowl of pretzels close to him and began to nibble.  When asked, he ordered a Dewar’s Rocks with a twist of lemon.  It was a drink his dad used to order and had become a staple for him after his father’s passing. When the glass arrived, he held it up as if to toast.  “Miss you Dad”, barely escaped his lips.  As he brought the glass down to his lips he looked around the bar.  There she sat, sipping a glass of wine and, it must be his imagination, she seemed to be avoiding seeing him.  He had his first real opportunity to see her.  And yes, she was indescribable.  But he saw more than just “another pretty face.”  How to describe it.  There was an intensity; an intelligence; a certain sense of compassion.  He saw this all just in her expression.  The way she held her glass.  He had never experienced this before.  Never thought it was possible to see so much just by looking at someone.  She glanced his way and he quickly turned as he took too big of a gulp from the glass.  The liquid burned at the back of his throat and he coughed.  He could see an amused smile on her face from across the bar.  She wasn’t looking at him but he could almost tell she was sensing him.  “I cannot believe what I am thinking right now.”  He could feel the knot in his stomach tighten.  “But I so want to meet her.  Just hear her voice.”  He took a final drink from his glass and motioned for the bartender to refill it.  “But what would I even say.  I just can’t do this.  It isn’t me.”  The drink arrived and he stared into it.  Deep in thought.
 
She sipped at her wine and looked through her phone.  No missed calls.  No new texts.  Nothing interesting on Facebook.  She leisurely looked up and saw him sitting on a stool at the bar.  She watched as he ordered a drink and then seemed to offer a toast to, well, to someone.  Someone not with him.  She took a really good look at him for the first time.  His silver hair and beard seemed to hide a younger person, maybe not in years but in spirit.  She had seen his smile earlier.  Felt it was a genuine smile.  And accompanied by a seeming sparkle in his eyes.  As he offered the toast to who knows who, she saw a hint of melancholy, loss on his face.  But still a gleam in his eyes that seemed to hold . . . wait, he’s turning his head.  She looked away quickly and took a sip of wine.  She tried to spy him from the corner of her eye but was concerned that he might see her.  See her? He almost seemed to be staring, but not at her.  Past her.  Through her.  She decided to confront that gaze and turned her face directly to his.  He looked away as did she.  She heard a cough and smiled, amused at his reaction.  “I have got to stop this.  I don’t want to give him the wrong impression, “She thought, yet deep down, some where she hadn’t been to in a long time, she was hoping he would approach her.  Just to see him closer, to hear his laugh.
 
And he approached her.  “Hi,” there was more confidence in the word as it sounded than he had behind it. “There is nothing I can say to you that isn’t going to sound like a line so what the hell, uhm, heck, I saw you sitting here and told myself I need to meet her.”  He smiled.  Just the right amount.  And the sparkle reappeared in his eyes.  “And,” he continued, “that sounds exactly like a line.”  He feigned a more serious, ashamed look.  Nothing overboard but just enough to let her know that he wasn’t taking it that seriously.
She smiled back.  A real genuine smile.  A heartwarming smile.  She seemed to glow.  His stomach twisted, “What am I doing?” He did everything in his power to not let his self-doubt show on his face.
 
“Well,” how sweet was her voice, “I’m glad you did.”  The smile continued and she placed her hand on his.  They connected.  He could feel the sense of electricity coursing through ever part of his body.  It was a touch he had never felt before.
 He sat on the stool next to her and they talked.  And they talked.  And they laughed.  And she touched his hand, his arm, even a gentle hug when something he said struck her as funny.  Her not too high laugh matched his deeper chuckle the way two voices do in a choir.  They spoke of family and children.  Likes and dislikes.  And they talked.
 
Before they knew what time it was the bartender was asking them if they wanted another drink as it was last call.  He glanced at his phone to see the time, 1:45 AM.  Wow!! 
 
He took her coat from the stool next her (where she had left it earlier) and placed it on her shoulders.  They left together and he walked her to her car, her hand holding his arm.  Is that just a slight lean towards him?  Was that her head just grazing his shoulder?  When he got to her car, she unlocked it and he held the door for her to get in.  She turned, about to sit, and turned back to him, giving him a hug.  He held her.  Just long enough.  Just tight enough.  He drew back from the hug and looked into her eyes.  She looked back.  He saw the glow in hers; she the sparkle in his.  Nothing else crossed either of their minds.  They were in the moment.  They broke from the embrace together.  He held the door as she sat and then closed it for her.  She put the key in the ignition and rolled the window down.  “Goodnight,” she said with a smile, “It was certainly a pleasure to meet you.”
 
He put his hands awkwardly in his pockets and stared down at her.  “I’d, well I’d like to see you again.”  The nervousness, the twist in his stomach returned for the first time since he had first considered talking to her.  He knew the moment was ending and wanted to find a way for it to be continued.
 
“Of course,” she said with a smile in her voice that matched the one on her face.  “You have my number, call me.  Or text me.  I’d love to.”  He stepped back as the window rose and she backed out of the space.  He stood there for just a minute after she left.  Staring towards where her car had driven away.  The wind blew.  There was a slight nip in the air and for the first time in hours he could feel it.  He rubbed his arms and walked to his car.  No, he strolled, with a definite lightness in his step.
 
“. . . and then he texted me that same night when he got home.  He said something like I know this is too soon but I just wanted you to know that I had a really fun night.  Didn’t you?”  She looked up to see him gazing at, well, nothing, just gazing.  “Hey, are you with us?” she said with a chuckle in her voice.  He turned back to look at the two of them.
 
“Yes, yes indeed I am.” He wiped something from his eye.  He smiled at her as if no one else was in the room.
 
“Wait,” the friend shouted just a bit too enthusiastically.  “Wasn’t that the night I needed to get that plumber in because my washing machine was overflowing?”  As it all came together for the friend she looked first at him then her then him again, an increasing smile on her face.  As the friend spoke, he made a realization.  He embraced the friend, a tight sincere hug.
 
“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear as he released the embrace and they all began to laugh.

The Kiss (2)




Julie looked into his eyes.  What was he thinking?  The room seemed to be quiet for a very long time though she knew it was barely a few seconds.  She seemed to see Andrew differently.  She wanted him to move closer.  She wanted his lips to touch hers.  She wanted to . . . and without thinking she leaned closer to him.  She could feel his presence.  Her eyes began to close, just a small amount.  She saw Andrew’s eyes slowly close as well.  He was moving closer, as was she. So, so, close . . .

 

“Oh wow,” his words broke the silence.  “I am so very sorry.  I don’t know what I was. . .”  He leaned back and rubbed his forehead with his right hand.  He felt a warmth permeate his cheeks. 

 

Julie stiffened just a bit too noticeably.  She looked away from him, to the TV, to the kitchen, to the plates on the table.  “Here,” she said quickly as she reached for a plate and started to rise, “let me help you clean this up.” 

Andrew’s mind cleared and he reached for her hand to stop her.  “It’s okay,” he said, “I’ll get it later.  Don’t worry about it.”  As his hand touched hers he felt her soft skin and the tightening of the muscles as she grasped the plate.  But that was it.  No chill.  No electricity.  The change surprised him so much he pulled his hand from hers.

 

Julie put the plate down awkwardly.  “You okay,” she turned a concerned face to Andrew.  Was she more concerned about his quick release or was it that she did not feel the same tingle she had the last time their skin touched?  He didn’t react to her question; he was just looking at his hand.  Flexing his fingers.  “Really, it’s not that much stuff, I insist.”  She picked up both plates and headed to the kitchen.

 

“Sorry,” seems that word had come up a bit too often tonight, “I must have a bit of a cramp or something.  Age sucks, huh?”  That last with his usual touch of sarcasm.  All spells had been broken; he was back to his usual self.  He heard her chuckle in the kitchen.  Andrew picked up the rest of the dishes, flatware, and anything else that was laying on the table and brought it to the kitchen.  As he placed it in the sink, his arm brushed hers again.  Neither of them even responded.

 

“Well,” she yawned, it’s getting late.  Julie moved from the kitchen to retrieve her bag and jacket from their resting place beside the couch.  “I have to say, I had a really fun night.  Next time, my place.”  You could hear her usual smile and sincerity in her voice.

 

“It was really nice,” Andrew said, but not out loud, just to himself.  “It’s a date.”  This aloud but not with the recent nervousness he had felt when that word was used before.  He sighed with relief, a little too hard. He hoped it wasn’t too obvious to Julie.

She had gotten to the door.  At the sound she turned casually back to him.  “This feels so much better,” she thought to herself.  “Where was my head earlier?”  She gave him a gentle smile.  “I’ll let you know when I get home.”

 

“Please, “mock sincerity, they had played this scene out numerous times in the past, “You know I worry.”  They smiled at each other.  There was a brief moment.  No other way to describe it, just a moment.  She reached behind her for the door knob and turned it.  The door didn’t move.  “Oh yeah, I locked it,” Andrew reached behind her.  They were so close again.  His arm rubbed her back as he turned the lock.  Their eyes almost, yes almost met, but the click of the bolt shattered the moment.  He took his hand from the lock, she turned the knob and opened the door in one motion.  He held it open for her as she exited, a brief turn, a brief exchange of goodnights, and she was headed down the hall to the exit of the complex. The main door opened.   Andrew turned to reenter his apartment.  “Why didn’t I walk her to her car?”  He flew out the door and down the hall, leaving his apartment door open.  As he reached the exit, he heard the familiar chirp of a car alarm being disarmed and the opening of a car door from the street.  He stopped to catch his breath.  “Maybe that’s not her.” He exited the building in time to hear a car door close, an engine start, and see the rear lights glow red as the car, her car, slowly pulled away.  Away from his building.  Away from him.  Away from this night.  He stood outside, a bit of a chill in the air, and watched as the red lights grew dimmer as they disappeared into the distance.  He stood, still watching for a small eternity.  Turned to open the door, turned back, just one last look, and then into the building and back down the hall to his apartment.  He walked a bit slower than his usual gait.  His head just a little bit lower on his shoulders.  His mind unclear.

 

Julie closed the door and started the car.  “How odd,” she said out loud to no one in particular.  She put the car in drive and started to head off.  “Andrew is always so diligent about walking me to my car.”  She thought she saw a glimpse of someone at the door to his apartment building but it seemed it might be just a trick of the light.  It was night and she felt it was better to keep her eyes straight ahead and not worry about what she saw.  And then, as she knew she would, she looked back into the mirror, but the complex was just too far away to see.  She turned on the radio, an 80’s station that she liked to listen to.  Cyndi Lauper was in the middle of explaining to her that she, as well as many of her gender, really only wanted to enjoy themselves.  She began to hum along and then joined in singing as the chorus repeated.

 

Andrew’s apartment door had closed and he immediately feared the worst, that it had locked itself and he didn’t have the key.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case.  He turned the knob tentatively and it opened easily.  He stood in the doorway, looked over his apartment.  “Not too messy, gotta get to the dishes, “which basically translated to rinsing them off and transporting them to the dishwasher.  He’d worry about wiping down the table in the morning.  He let the door swing closed behind him and locked it.  He took the bucket with the wine bottle into the kitchen, removed the towel, drained out the melted ice, and held the bottle up to the light. “Why don’t they call it Pink Zinfandel,” this aloud, attempting a southern accented falsetto but his voice cracked when he stressed the “Pink” and it made him laugh.  He moved towards the trash can in the corner to deposit the bottle, thought again, and rinsed it out in the sink.  “Hey,” this in his normal voice, “It’ll make a nice candle holder.”

Julie was enjoying the music on the radio, it was a clear night, and there wasn’t too much traffic, so she decided to drive around for a bit.  Not go straight home.  She turned the music louder as Boy George quizzed her on her thoughts of causing him pain.  She knew this one, oh too well, and sang right along with him.  She continued to drive, mindlessly but with her eyes clearly on the road, and let the car take her where it wanted to go.  She was just enjoying this time.  With her music, with herself.

Twenty-seven minutes later everything was pretty well cleaned up.  He even opted to wipe off the table and rinse off the place mats.  Andrew was over by the player.  The disc was removed, wiped down, and placed back into its case.  The clock on the player glowed 12:13 (and a little AM just left of the number).  “Wish it displayed seconds,” he grinned to himself.  “And so sir,” in his head but with a bad stuffy British accent, “What were you doing this morning at twelve thirteen fourteen?”  He smiled.  The smile faded.  It was almost quarter after twelve and he had not heard from Julie.  At this time of night, it shouldn’t have taken her more than ten minutes to get home.  Should he be worried?  Might she have stopped at the store for something?  Did she forget to call him?  Was she really so upset with how the evening had (or is that hadn’t) ended that she wasn’t going to call?  He picked up his cell phone and considered calling her but, wait, no.  If she was upset, probably best they didn’t speak.  Would his calling send an odd message to her?  He had never once called her in a similar instance.  Even the time it took her over an hour to get home from that theatre downtown, he always waited for her to call.  This night should be no different.  He looked at the phone and placed it back down on the table.  He would wait.  But if another 15 minutes go by, I’m call . . .  There was a knock at the door.

 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Kiss -- completed (?)

The Kiss
 
“Now what are you thinking?”  He watched as the words formed on her lips.  They were spoken lightly, almost soundlessly; with just a small amount of, what was it, seduction?  No, more a sense of knowing than anything else.  He so wanted to move closer, to feel her breath on his skin, the touch of her lips on his.  But he stopped himself.  He couldn’t.  It just wasn’t right.
 
Julie and Andrew had been friends now for close to 4 months.  They were introduced through a mutual friend.  A colleague of his; a member of the same gym for her.  The friend, Jane, thought they would hit it off.  Not as lovers but as friends.  They were two lonely people living in a city of lonely people, but Jane saw a commonality between them.  The commonality of not being common.  Two people in need of, well, a friend.
 
The three met over drinks and as the conversation turned to movies, Jane felt herself back away.  She was never much of a moviegoer but knew that these two were.  Often one or the other would mention wanting to see a new movie and planning to go it alone.  Well, she thought, why not go alone, but with each other.
 
And there were movies.  Dramas for her.  Science Fiction for him.  Comedies for the two of them.  They’d have a light dinner beforehand to discuss expectations and a nice snack after to discuss in more detail.  And to plan for the next.  And they dated.  Not each other, nope, that wouldn’t do.  They had diner dates and beach dates and museum dates, but never movie dates.  That was reserved for their unique friendship.
 
Three months, two weeks and four days after their first movie excursion, an independent love story neither of them were really in the mood to see but both rather enjoyed, was released on Blu Ray.  They decided they needed to get a copy and watch it together.  A nice remembrance of their friendship so far. 
The date was set for Saturday night, Andrew’s apartment.  It seems he had the bigger television.  Andrew would cook (he so wanted to just order a pizza but Julie insisted they be more civil).  Julie agreed to bring the dessert.  And to balance the home cooking, something she made from scratch.  He shopped for all the fixings that go with Linguine with Clam sauce (which amounted to a box of linguine and a jar of sauce) as well as an Italian bread, garlic butter and frozen, microwavable Brussels sprouts.  She bought vanilla ice cream and box of chocolate chip cookies.  Homemade ice cream sandwiches were her specialty.
 
Saturday night arrived.  Andrew got to his cooking and loaded the disc into the player while the pasta boiled.  As he watched the trailer for the movie (he wanted to make sure everything was in working order) he felt compelled to put a candle out on the coffee table in the den. Seemed to fit the mood of the movie and the evening.  There was a sudden twinge in his gut.  Where did his mind just go?  No time to think about it as the kitchen timer buzzed.  The pasta was ready and Julie would be there soon.  He lit the candle, almost mindlessly, and moved into the kitchen to finish preparing dinner.
 
Julie had made the ice cream sandwiches the night before.  She wanted to make sure they were fully frozen for the trip to Andrew’s apartment.  What to wear, there was the question.  She was usually quite casual on their movie dates.  Dates?  Was that really the right word?  They were more like movie club meetings given all the discussion before and afterward.  Julie actually joked once that she felt like they were in a sort of book club but without the wine and they actually see the movies.  Tonight was a bit different.  She had been to Andrew’s apartment before.  Mostly to watch some old movie that hadn’t been in movie theatres since before the Home Video market.  Usually when it had its “re-mastered” release on Blu ray.  She’d wear jeans and a sweatshirt and they’d down a few bowls of popcorn (air popped, not microwaved, they were at the movies for heaven’s sake) with sparkling water or, on some very rare occasions, a beer.
 
But tonight seemed to be different.  They were having dinner.  Well, they’d had dinner before but always at a restaurant before or after a film.  It was a celebration of sorts.  Their first really.  In the few months they’d known each other neither had had a birthday nor were there any major holidays.  So this was, in a sense, a first for them.  She felt an odd twinge in her stomach as she took off the jeans she had been wearing and went to her closet for something different.  Twenty minutes, and three outfits later, she thought she was ready to go.  She had chosen a pair of black cotton pants and a button down blouse decorated in a pink and green floral pattern.  She decided to forgo the flat leather sandals she normally wore for a pair of black open strappy heels.  She liked these especially as they showed off the pedicure she had gotten that morning.  She checked herself in the mirror for what seemed like the tenth time.  She fluffed her hair and adjusted her blouse over her shoulders.  She unbuttoned the third button, opened the shirt a bit more, tilted her head to see herself, and then re-buttoned the third button.  She frowned, considered changing her blouse again, looked at the the time and thought better of it.  If she left right now she would only be 10 minutes late.  She turned from the mirror to stare at her phone.  She considered calling but opted to wait as she turned back to the mirror, leaned forward and gritted her teeth in a strange grimace of a smile to assure she had no lipstick on them.  Though there was none she rubbed her teeth with her right index finger and then ran her tongue across them.  “Oh what the hell, time to go.”  She spoke the words aloud to no one in particular.
While the linguine drained in the colander and the clam sauce warmed on the stove, Andrew placed the plastic package of Brussels sprouts in the microwave.  As he was setting the timer for the necessary 7 minutes, the phone rang.
“Hey there,” Julie’s voice was unmistakable. “I’m running a few minutes late.  Sorry about that.  Did you want me to stop and,” she paused, considering what she was going to ask, “Uhm, pick up a bottle of wine on my way over?”  She rushed the words to get them out.  Why was she suddenly feeling uncomfortable?
 
Andrew smiled and his expression cam through the phone.  “No, that’s okay.  I’ve actually got a bottle of ‘White Zinfandel chillin’ on some ice right now.’”  They both laughed.  It was a line from the movie they were about to see.  He said it in the same faked southern accent the male lead of the movie faked when he delivered it in the movie.  “Seriously, though,” his voice softened almost unnoticeably, “I did get a bottle just for this occasion.”  He felt a warmth in his cheeks.
 
“Okay, great!  I’m on my way.”
 
On her way, that gives me about 10 more minutes.  He set the microwave and turned down the already low flame under the pot of sauce.  He made his way to the den to check on the place settings he had arranged on the coffee table.  Where normally they would rest their feet, there were two placemats.  Each in the shape and design of a movie clapboard.  He had picked these up years ago at a rundown souvenir shop he found while making his first pilgrimage to Hollywood.  They had remained in a box in the back of his closet, waiting for just the right moment.  A fork, a knife, a spoon and a wine glass completed the settings.  In the middle of the table sat the candle, just starting to burn down, and a bucket of ice with an open bottle of wine, wrapped in a towel.  The table looked fine.  He moved on to the bedroom and especially the floor length mirror to check himself out. 
 
He had already decided khaki pants instead of the jeans and a Hawaiian shirt of mostly blues.  Earlier that evening he replaced his sneakers with a more comfortable and slightly better looking pair of off white canvas shoes, no socks.  He breathed into his hand to check his breath.  Just a slight minty scent from the mouthwash he swished and rinsed three times about an hour ago.  He looked at himself again.  Checked and found his zipper was up. Leaned in and smiled to make sure nothing was on or between his teeth.  He picked up a brush from the end table next to his bed and ran it through his recently groomed hair.  He smelled under his arms.  Though there was no noticeable odor he went to the bathroom, which was adjacent to the bedroom, and reapplied deodorant, sprayed cologne in the air in front of him and walked through it.
 
The microwave buzzer went off.  He rinsed his hands in the sink and then returned to the kitchen, looking over the den once again as he passed through.  Everything seemed in order.  His stomach twinged again.  Why was he feeling nervous?
 
He opened the microwave, almost burned his fingers attempting to pick up the bag of Brussels sprouts and dropped it on the floor.  This, he realized, is why they suggest waiting 90 seconds before opening the bag.  He grabbed a towel off the counter and picked up the bag which had fortunately not been damaged.  He lifted the lid of the pot on the stove and was greeted with just enough steam to fog his glasses.  As they cleared he saw the sauce, slightly bubbling.  He replaced the lid and turned the burner off.  He reached up to the cabinet above the counter and removed two plates, placing them on the counter.  He thought back to when he first saw the apartment and his reaction to the kitchen.  What would possess someone to take the doors off the cabinets (all were open air except for the floor to ceiling pantry)?  After living with it for less than a week he was more impressed than anything else by the design.  He took down a bowl and proceeded to empty the contents of the bag of Brussels sprouts into it.  As usual with these things, it seemed to him that there wasn’t enough for the two f them but he figured they could make do.  As he was taking the butter out of the refrigerator, the doorbell rang.  He placed the butter next to the Italian bread he had sliced earlier and left on the wooden chopping board.  He wiped his hands with a towel as he called toward the door, “Give me a second.  Be right there.”  He checked his zipper again and scanned the den one more time as he headed to the door.
 
“Wow!”  Andrew couldn’t have stopped the word from leaving his lips if he tried.  He had never seen Julie looking like this, not even when they first met.  He, without thinking of what he was doing, let his eyes scan her from the top of her head to the tips of her red polished toes.  And then back up again.
 
“Uhm, excuse me,” Julie wasn’t sure how to react.  She held the faux Tupperware container out to hand to him.  “You wanna take this?  It’s cold.”
 
This broke his trance, barely.  “Sure.” He took it from her.  It was colder than he originally thought and he almost lost his grip.  “Does this need to go in the freezer?  Not sure I can fit this whole thing.”
“No, it’ll be fine for at least the next 45 minutes or so.  You may want to put it in the refrigerator if you have room.”  She walked past him as he stood seemingly cemented to the spot, only turning his head to follow her.  “Oh, I love the placemats.”
This brought him back to the moment.  “Thanks,” he said as he closed the door and headed to the kitchen,” I got them on my first trip to Hollywood.  Some sleazy souvenir place.  Got them and a set of glasses with a picture of the Chinese Theatre on them.  Which broke in my luggage before I got home.”  This last a bit under his breath with just a hint of anger.
 
“I didn’t know you’ve been to Hollywood.”  She seemed impressed.
 
“Yep, three times.”  This a bit louder as he had his head in the refrigerator trying to find a place for the dessert. 
“Wow, that’s pretty cool.  I’ve always wanted to go.  What’s it like?”  The refrigerator door closed.
“Much nicer the last two times.  The first time I was there it was kinda dirty but they’ve done a bunch to clean it up.  Please, sit down.”  She had been standing, bending slightly over the table and examining its contents.  She sat on the couch that faced the TV and reached toward the wine bottle.
“You really did go all out.”  She turned the bottle to read the label.  “’White Zinfandel’” she quoted, raising her voice and taking on a slightly southern accent, “’I do not understand why they don’t call it pink’” she covered her mouth and giggled to herself, imitating the female lead.  Andrew smiled as he sat down on the loveseat perpendicular to the couch Julie occupied.
“Shall I pour?”  He took the bottle from Julie’s hand.  Their fingers touched for a brief second.  Butterflies attacked his stomach as he pulled the bottle away, a bit too quickly.  “Uh, sorry,” he said for no apparent reason.
 
For Julie, it was almost a shock.  The kind you felt as a kid when you rubbed your feet on the carpet and touched your little sister’s cheek.  But there was no static in the air, it was that brief touch of his skin that sent a quick feel of electricity through her.  He’s sorry?  Why would he be sorry?  Did he feel that too?
 
Andrew turned away from her as he lifted her glass and filled it halfway to the top with the pink liquid.  The wine rippled gently as he felt his hand shake almost unperceptively.  Without turning to face her, he set down her glass and moved the tip of the bottle to his glass, still on the table.  He poured without lifting the glass, he could feel his hand shake just a little more and didn’t want her to notice.  The room was almost disturbingly quiet as he set the bottle down on the table.  The bottom of the bottle settled on the remote control and the TV came on, “No, that’s okay.  I’ve actually got a bottle of ‘White Zinfandel chillin’ on some ice right now” came through the speakers while the menu screen appeared.  Andrew almost dropped the bottle between the awkwardness of the remote it nearly rested on and the sudden break to the silence.  He moved the bottle to a clear space on the table and turned to Julie, who seemed to be coming out of a daze as the voice from the TV rang through the room.  The caught each other’s eyes and both smiled and began to giggle at the same moment.  The line repeated.  He reached for the remote and muted the TV, still smiling.  The silence had been broken.  The awkwardness seemed to dissipate.  He picked up his glass as he sat back down in the chair next to the couch Julie occupied.  The tremble in his hand was no more.  She looked at him, picked up her glass, and held it out to him.  He touched his glass to hers.  “Cheers,” they said in unison and she stopped and waited for his usual “and Roebucks” to complete the toast.  As always, he didn’t disappoint.  She smiled, not at the joke but at the tradition.  The glasses parted and they sipped the wine. 
 
Julie let the wine roll on her tongue, looked to Andrew with a smile, “So. That’s White Zinfandel.”  No comment about the color; no southern accent.
 
Two hours and 15 minutes later the table was laden with dishes and dinnerware and bread crumbs and little else.  They both did a pretty good job eating their meals and ice cream.  The wine bottle was now empty; upside down and immersed in the cold water remaining in the bucket.  The wine glasses sat, mostly empty (or should that be barely filled).  The candle had burned out leaving the room lit mostly by the screen of the TV and the kitchen light behind them.  After their main meal was competed, Andrew had moved onto the couch, but made sure that he was a respectable distance from Julie.  The last chords of the music played as the credits expressed gratitude to a number of people and organizations, including the Mayor of Barboursville (where ever that might be) and the Governor of West Virginia (hmm, perhaps a clue).  Andrew reached for the remote.  As he was about to turn the player off, the male lead of the movie appeared on screen, seemingly shirtless with the female lead in the shadows behind him.  Was she nude?  They were in a starkly lit room.  His bedroom as we had seen a few times during the movie?  It was hard to tell.  Andrew turned to Julie with a puzzled look on his face.
“I don’t recall a scene after the credits,” she responded to his unasked question.  They both looked back to the screen of the TV.  The woman moved up behind the man, touching him on the shoulder.  He turned to her, leaned in to kiss her, then turned back to the camera.  It seemed he was looking right at Andrew as he quietly spoke the words, “Go ahead, it’s your turn.”  The screen went blank.  Andrew and Julie silently stared as the list of copyright warnings in various languages flashed on the screen.  Without making a sound, Andrew pressed the power button on the remote.  It dropped from his hand to the floor. The light from behind barely illuminated the room.
Julie broke the silence.  “How did we miss this the first time?  We always sit through the credits.”  This last sentence, just a tad sarcastic.  It was Andrew who always insisted. 
“You know what, we didn’t for this one.  I remember we were joking about how lame and predictable the story was and that these little independent jobbies never go to the post credit scenes.  Guess we learned a lesson here.”  He smiled as he picked up his glass of wine, swirling the remaining liquid before swallowing in one sip.  As the wine coursed down his throat, he felt a very slight warmth in his cheeks.  He looked at Julie, who was just about to finish the last drops of wine in her glass.  “What do you think he meant by that?”  The words seemed to slur just a little.  Had that last bit reawakened the slight buzzed feeling he had as they watched the movie?
Julie was looking into the distance.  She also felt warm with the last sip.  What was that guy on the screen telling her?  She and Andrew placed their glasses on the table in an almost synchronized move.  The glasses clinked, as in the earlier toast, as they settled on the table.  Julie looked to Andrew with a smile.  It was supposed to be a that’s-kind-of-funny-the-way-that-happened kind of smile.  But there was a bit more warmth in it.  A bit more, intimate?  Is that the right word?  Their eyes met, but held this time.  He looked at her.  He didn’t know if it was the wine or the illumination from the kitchen or the last words spoken in the movie, but he saw Julie as if he had never seen he before.  The curve of her lips, the sparkle in her eyes.  He could sense her nearness.  His skin felt a slight tingle.  He felt the hairs on his hand arise slightly and the skin on his arms turn slightly to goose flesh.  The room was warm, but there was a chill.  A nice chill.  A comfortable chill.
What is he looking at, Julie thought to herself as their eyes met?  She noticed for the first time that his mostly brown eyes, had small flecks of hazel in them.  Was that a small, almost imperceptible, scar on the side of his nose?  She had always appreciated his smile.  The way his lips turned up just the slightest amount at the corners.  How many times had being greeted by that smile brought her spirits up, not matter how low she felt?  The room seemed warm to her.  She felt a small knot forming in her stomach.  Not from the linguine, the dinner he made was delicious.  Not from the wine.
The moment seemed to last an eternity.  Finally,
“Now what are you thinking?”  He watched as the words formed on her lips.  They were spoken lightly, almost soundlessly; with just a small amount of, what was it, seduction?  No, more a sense of knowing than anything else.  He so wanted to move closer, to feel her breath on his skin, the touch of her lips on his.  But he stopped himself.  He couldn’t.  It just wasn’t right.