Red wine had been my liquid courage that night. I felt strong and sexy and very sure of my 22-year-old self. I had been drawn to one of my fellow cast mates in my first week of summer stock. Despite the fact that that he had a girlfriend back home, I was sure that he had been eyeing me too, as we rehearsed dance numbers, sang Sondheim around the piano, and helped each other learn lines. Daniel was Jake Gyllenhaal-cute with mischievous eyes and a non-stop smile, and my stomach performed acrobatics as I watched him playing one of the “Back-Up Boys” in our cabaret show.
Our Mondays off meant Sunday night cast parties where we drank, played charades, found excuses to give massages, parade our humor, and talk incessantly about show business. Summer stock is camp for adults, but without the wise counselors to check your ego, tell you to go to bed and call you out on inappropriate behaviors. Newly aware of my sexuality and physical wares, I felt like a lightning rod ready to accept the bolts that came my way. By the end of the night, Daniel and I found ourselves seated on the bunk bed in my room which I shared with another actress joking, laughing and, madly flirting. After a rousing duo of “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, my drifty eyes found focus on his and I felt bolstered enough to blurt out “You know you want to kiss me right now.” The nerve! The boldness! The ego! You might have been rooting for me, the girl who for so long felt like an unattractive bean pole, not desirable to any man; I, being the late bloomer that I was, had not had the confidence until about year 21 when I finally realized that I wasn’t “Mary Purdy Ugly”, but had charm, nice cheekbones and a personality as well! So you might have encouraged me, out loud, there, as if you were watching the TV show, the scenelet, the one act, play out. “Yes! Mary! Go! You rock it, girl! Say it. Get that man. You deserve it.”
“You know you want to kiss me right now.” And then there was a pause. The dead grape breath was heavy between our faces only inches apart. He smiled, but it wasn’t reminiscent of an enthusiastic Jake Gyllenhaal grin like I had hoped. It was the smile of a kind uncle giving advice to his niece. “No, I actually don’t, Mary. I have a girlfriend.”
My heart, which had been beating with the adrenaline of the daring statement I knew I’d say, the same one that had gotten me to bed with Tom Halpern, (a girlfriend-having sophomore) the last few months of college, was now a sunken ship as a surge of embarrassment washed away the fermenting juice in my stomach that I thought would be an aid to my cause.
“Oh,” I half laughed. “Ok, that’s ok. Sorry.”
“I’m gonna go now”, he said and sort of patted my knee and gave me that warm uncle smile again. I was left in the half dark of my room, huddled under my bunk bed paralyzed in a wave of excitement and deflation, lips still slightly puckered. I sat for a while wondering if I could fake not remembering the entire episode the next day. “I was so drunk last night!” I would say. “I don’t even remember what happened.”