Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Then there’s the tale of my first real girlfriend. A cautionary tale.
Not naming names, but she was this dynamic redhead who played opposite me in our high school production of M*A*S*H. I was Hawkeye. She was not Hot Lips.
In those days I sported long John Lennon hair, parted in the middle a la the White Album insert glossy. I also wore round, wire-rimmed glasses. I guess I wanted to be John Lennon, though without the heroin addiction. Anyway, to play Hawkeye Pierce, army field surgeon in the Korean War, I had to have my hair pinned up in such a way that I looked something like Alan Alda. The makeup artists did their best with me, but usually my locks were popping out by Act III and I had to rush backstage between scenes for a fixer-upper.
On one such occasion my dynamic redhead was waiting for me there and said something like, “You’re coming with me after the show tonight.”
I’d been chosen.
I let her borrow my good luck charm, a Creeple People named Lucky Pierre that I’d made when I was ten. She tucked it into her army fatigue pocket over her left breast and I was hooked.
Soon enough we were an item around school, but it wasn’t far into college a couple of years later that our differences started popping out, plus the fact that she was attracted to a guy in the theater department. (Like Julie, she was studying to be an actress.) She broke up with me for professional purposes. He was, after all, the only non-gay guy in the theater department, and she wasn’t going to let that pass her up.
Calendar pages fly by, as Sarah Phelan in Occasional Soulmates would say, and we never saw each other again. And until recently, whenever I Googled her, I came up empty.
It was this most recent Googling, though, that revealed the awful truth about my dynamic redhead.
She appears to have wound up marrying some guy named Steve Farkus (not his real name) and living in the very same house where I “hung out” with her after school. She’d lived in Manhattan for a few years but apparently couldn’t make a go of it. She must have dated dozens of interesting men all that time but never nailed one of them down. Never got to Broadway. Or Off Broadway. Or, St. Louis dinner theater.
And this made me pretty sad.
My dynamic redhead, who picked me, who gave me such terrific high school cachet, who made me feel like an actual man when I walked around with her, who admired my writing and thought I could write plays for her one day, who had remained alive in my memory all this time as the elusive object of affection and fantasy, my Beatrice, had become Mrs. Farkus and now lived within a couple of miles of our old high school. It’s possible she had a child named Walter.
Once, maybe eight years after we split up, she called me when she came to town on a family visit. She still sounded like her old self at the time, confident, sardonic, acerbic, funny. She made a couple of snarky, racially insensitive comments about where I was living — a neighborhood in the city where all the young bohemian types gravitated — bragged about hanging out at the pub in New York where Woody Allen played clarinet every week, and generally made me glad that I wasn’t her boyfriend anymore. Maybe she’d fallen under someone’s negative influence since I knew her, or maybe she’d always had a certain raw streak I failed to notice.
But whatever the case, here I sit now, happy as a panda in the bamboo grove, having made a series of decisions that led to a personal kind of heaven. An atheist’s heaven, which is, of course, real. Mrs. Farkus, on the other hand, is living in her mother’s old ranch house wondering what the hell happened to land her in the place she sprang from and once fled.
Life. I tell you.