The One with the SECOND Garrick Bonus Scene
When I woke Monday morning, I thought maybe I’d dreamed her. That she was the strangest, most elusive siren ever. Or maybe that the universe was punishing me for breaking Jenna’s heart.
Mostly, I spent my morning guzzling coffee and resisting the urge to walk back over to her apartment and knock on the door.
I would give it a few days, and then go back. See if I could make sense of whatever the hell happened the night before. It was obviously an excuse, but I just couldn’t understand why. I’d given her several opportunities to get out, but she’d been the one to keep pulling us along. So, either I’d done something wrong or… I had nothing. I had to have done something, said something that made her change her mind, to make her literally run away from me.
I left bright and early to get to the university. As I settled onto my bike, I couldn’t help but think of the burn on her leg, and wondered how it was.
That could be my excuse to check in on her. Maybe tonight. That would be long enough, right?
I made myself focus on the road.
It was strange to pull onto campus and not have to join the hoards of students circling the parking lot like vultures for a spot near the Fine Arts building. Instead I zipped around the lot and pulled into one of the reserved faculty spaces.
I pulled off my helmet and shook the hair out of my face.
I was less than an hour away from being a professor. People in their twenties, only a handful of years younger than me, were going to call me sir or mister. I could almost hear the ominous slasher movie music playing behind my thoughts.
I had a real job. I was a real adult.
And I’d done it by accident.
I’m not sure if everyone feels this way or just actors, but I felt like I was in a movie as I entered the building, and made my way to my office. Well, Professor Jackson’s office anyway. I kept expecting to see a camera out of the corner of my eye or a catchy and yet appropriate song underscoring my movement. It was that surreal.
Sometimes in life you make these tiny little choices that at the time seem miniscule in the grand scheme of things. But you veer a little left, then a little more, and more, and then suddenly you’re facing an entirely different direction and have no idea where you’re heading.
My first class of the morning was a group of graduating seniors in their last semester. What could I possibly offer them? I’d been out of college just long enough to rack up even more debt in the form of a post-graduate degree, work less than a year in the regional theatre scene before mangling my personal and professional life into an unrecognizable carcass of failure.
My first lesson plan should be called: Life. No one knows what the hell they’re doing.
I sunk into Professor Jackson’s chair, surrounded by his books and his files and his things, and rubbed at my eyes.
I had to believe there was a reason.
I had to believe that even though nothing about my life made sense at the moment, I was getting to where I was supposed to be.
I had to believe that even though I couldn’t see the map, and I was making wrong turns and taking not-so-short cuts—the destination was there.
Maybe I was supposed to be here. Maybe I was supposed to lock myself out of my apartment, and meet Bliss. And as bizarre as it seemed, maybe it was a good thing that she’d run out on me. I liked her. She was sweet and silly, and when everything else seemed complicated, being with her felt simple.
There was more than a one off there.
A knock on the office door pulled me out of my thoughts, and I sat up straighter at my desk. The department head, Eric Barnes stood filling up the doorway, his hands in his pockets. He was a lanky man, twice my age, and had taught me theatre history and directing in my days here, among other things.
“You get all settled into your place?”
I smiled, trying not to think too much about last night, and said, “Yes, of course. Thank you.”
I stood, and he leaned over the desk to shake my hand.
I felt again, like this was some movie, rather than my life. Five years ago, I’d been getting sloshed and doing impressions of him and the other professors in a room full of college friends. Now, he was my boss.
“I thought I’d go down to your first class with you to get you all introduced. Most of the students will have heard the rumors of your coming by now, but I’ll be there just to get you settled.”
“Of course. That would be great. Thank you.”
I felt like a bobblehead, nodding along and just spouting ‘thank you’ every few seconds.
He said, “I think you’ll like this group. They came in the year after your class left, and they really stepped up. They’re a strong group.”
“Good. That’s good.”
God, I hoped I was better at figuring out what to say during class.
“ I think you’ll have a blast teaching them. But make sure to hold your ground, too. They’ll push the line as far as you let them. But be firm, and keep them on track, and you’ll do fine.”
“Right.” Be firm. God, I was going to make a bleeding mess of this whole thing.
“You’re looking a little yellow, Garrick.”
I forced a smile and said, “Just a bit of nerves, that’s all.”
“You’ll be fine. You may not feel experienced enough to do this, but you’re still light years beyond these kids. Most of them leave college, determined and passionate, and half of them give up within the first year. You’re past that phase. You’re in the trenches, but you’re still hanging on. Your perspective will actually be more valuable to them than a seasoned professor who has forgotten what it’s like to go on a dozen auditions a week. This is a clean slate. These kids don’t know you, and you don’t know them. Just tell them what you wish someone had told you when you’d been sitting there. It’s a simple as that.”
It did seem simpler when he put it that way.
I didn’t have to have all the answers. I just had to get them past the first hurdle.
I nodded. “Thanks Eric. That helps a lot.”
He gave that cheesy teacher shrug that said, ‘I do know what I’m talking about.’ He clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s go down and get you settled. You’re in the blackbox.”
My nerves spiked, and I turned to my desk, desperate for anything to stall. I grabbed a pen. What I was going to do with it, I had no idea, but I felt better holding something.
“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We descended the stairs in silence, and as soon as we entered the theatre wing, I could hear the students in the green room down at the far end of the hallway. They were laughing and screaming, and someone was playing music, and I envied them. I missed being where they were… not just in the green room, though I did miss that. I missed being on the cusp of things. That feeling before you jump when you know you’re going to fly, so falling doesn’t even cross your mind. I missed feeling like I had all the time in the world.
We entered the small theatre, and I smiled. I inhaled the familiar scent of dusty curtains and old furniture and props. Black, moveable curtains encircled the entire room, and the flexible seating was set up in a thrust style with risers on three sides of the audience. A prop table had been pulled to the middle of the room, along with a chair. I took a seat, but that didn’t feel right, so I stood. Then I tried leaning on the table, but it tipped under my weight, so I settled for standing with my hands in my pockets.
Eric laughed at me, and said, “It’s actually kind of refreshing to see you like this. You’ve always been very confident and comfortable, even as a student.”
I cleared my throat.
Yes, well. I was a bit off my game lately.
I uttered, “I’m fine,” just as the door swung open and students started filing in.
“Eric!” A few of them called as they piled onto the chairs in the center section. A pretty redhead turned toward Eric and said, “Did you miss us over the holidays?”
Eric laughed. “I’m saving my missing until you’re all gone for good.”
She held a hand over her plentiful chest and frowned, “I’m hurt. You’re going to cry for days when we graduate. Admit it.”
I cleared my throat, and pulled my eyes away from her. The last thing I needed was to get caught ogling a student. I squeezed the pen in my hand and tried to clear my head. Last night had really done a number on me. The sooner I saw Bliss again and got things settled, the better.
For the most part, the students ignored me.
Well, they stared, for sure. But they went back to their conversations, talking about who had said what and who was seeing whom. It was like looking into the past and seeing my class right before we graduated.
I started labeling them as my friends from college. The red head was Emma definitely. Spunky and pretty, but a little bit off-putting. There was another guy they called Dom that was hands down Jack from my class. He tried too hard to be cool, and every time he spoke I saw half a dozen eyes roll.
This was simple. I could do this.
By the time nine A.M. came, and Eric introduced me to the class, my nerves had all but disappeared. This would be no different than the conversations my friends and I used to have before graduating. We debated the pros and cons of graduate school and regional theatre and moving to New York. Only now, I had the added benefit of having already made those decisions, as had my friends. At least now, I knew what the hell I was talking about.
He was mid-sentence when the loud theatre doors creaked open. Those things had ruined many of my own attempts to sneak in and out of class in college.
Eric called out, “Late,” and two girls called back, “Sorry, Eric!”
They pushed through the curtain, snickering, their coffees held in front of their bowed faces.
The first was blonde, again pretty.
I hadn’t anticipated this particular issue with teaching.
Eric took and breath and started talking again, but I didn’t follow what he said. The second girl had lowered her coffee, and even though her head was bowed searching through her purse, there was something about her that pulled my eye.
Something about her hair and the curve of her back was familiar, and I wondered if maybe she was the little sister of someone I’d gone to school with. That happened a lot, family legacies.
Then she lowered her bag and leaned back in her chair, casting light onto her face. I knew when I saw her lips, those lips that I’d spent so long staring at the night before, but I told myself it wasn’t possible.
But as I took in her pale skin, her small nose, and her faintly pink skin, my world flashed hot and then cold. I squeezed the pen in my hand, and felt the plastic crack under my palm.
A roaring filled my ears, and it took me several long seconds to realize it was the students clapping, and not my world coming apart at the hinges.
Then her eyes flicked up to mine, blue and wide and so familiar that my whole body tingled with recognition.
Her jaw fell open, and it was like there was a wall in my brain that I couldn’t get a thought past. I knew I should look away. I knew I should acknowledge whatever Eric had just said and the other students in the class.
But more than all of that, I knew her. Bliss.
And I wished to God that I didn’t.
I was back in that surreal world, like a movie. And everything that had seemed simple and right turned out to be a complicated bloody mess.
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