Archive for June, 2012

Game Face: Part 2

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I’m not exactly overwhelmed with responses – thank you Kelly and Belinda, and to those of you responded off-line – but here goes part two.  This week’s question: “What do you think of Travis?”

Game Face: Part 2

The problem with Travis’ question is that it always left Andi at a loss for words.  Even though she knew it was coming, she never had a good response, and she refused to give it the time it required.  To come up with a response was to show she cared what Travis thought and the one comfort she had from this whole relationship was that she did not.

Travis looked at Andi’s blank face and again sighed internally.  The woman had no sense of humour.  That’s what her problem was.  Sure she had all sorts of other problems but – and he praised himself for his insight – that was the one problem all the other problems boiled down to. 

“So how goes it, Andrea?  ‘Buddy’.”  His lips puckering on the ‘B’.

“Andi.”

This too was part of their ritual.  Andi knew Travis thought that Andi was using a boy’s name in a man’s world, but that actually was her name.  If anyone was to be held responsible, it was her mother since she couldn’t imagine her father having played a role.

“Sorry?” she asked now.

“Sorry, what?”

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“I thought you did.”

“I didn’t.”

“I thought you said ‘a man’s world’.” 

Travis looked surprised but didn’t say anything more.

After a moment he sighed again – aloud this time – turned and flagged down Cathy.  Watched her approach.  Her every step.  Not even trying to disguise it.  Cathy arrived flushed.  Like she had just run up the steps or someone’s husband had copped a feel at a party.  Travis’ attention – the sheer brazenness of it – was a relief.  It was unambiguous and that, Cathy thought, was a highly underrated characteristic.

“Well, well, Travis here would like to order.”

“And what would Travis like?”

“How about them flapjacks with a side of bacon.  Or make it the bacon and eggs with side order of flapjacks.”

“The Hungry Man’s Meal?”

“Always.  Hungry.”

Cathy left without taking Andi’s order.

“Do you have to do that?”

“Do what?”

But Andi wasn’t sure.  Ogle the wait staff?  Refer to himself in the third person?

“Talk as if you were from Texas.”

“I don’t do that.” 

“Flapjacks?  Who in Toronto says flapjacks?”

“Well, apparently, I do.”

He looked at her challengingly.  This was the closest they had ever come to saying what they really thought.  Normally Andi just sat there smile, smile, smiling until Travis’ teeth ached from the effort of watching her.  He felt a thrill course through him.  He didn’t want the feeling to end.

“I would like to make it with one of the waitresses but it’s bound to end badly and I hate to get bad service.  I come here too often.”

“Pardon?”

“You heard me.”

It was nice to see Andi put off balance.  With her glossy, dark hair – chestnut or some other word people probably used for it – her trim physique.  He imagined hours in a yoga studio.  Flat-chested but he was OK with that.  It made her clothes hang better.  Travis noticed these things.  People thought he didn’t but he did.  He saw that she was dissatisfied and he couldn’t help but think that it was with him even though she looked that way from the moment they first met.  It made him feel angry and protective all at the same time.

“Don’t you get tired of the bullshit?”

Hah, now they were getting somewhere.

“What bullshit?  I would like to make it with one of the wait staff.  Well, maybe not Cathy.  Too eager.”

Andi’s expression almost made up for all those times she had made him feel selfish for being a few lousy minutes late.

“That bullshit,” she said, “Why are you telling me that bullshit?”

“I’m just making conversation.”

“People just making conversation talk about the weather, hockey, the quality of my coffee or the lack thereof.  People just making conversation don’t talk about screwing the wait staff.”

“We both know what the weather is like.  I don’t watch hockey and I could give a shit about your coffee.”

Game Face: Page 1

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

The members of my writing group have recently challenged ourselves to each write a short story that we would all submit to the same contest.  I am working on that story and thought I would bring you all along for the ride.  I am going to post it here in three increments (in total it’s roughly five pages) and would very much appreciate it if you made comments.  I will also pose specific questions, to which I would be interested in hearing your answers.  Below is the first page and the question is, “Whose story do you think this is going to be?”.  Thanks for reading (and commenting, I hope)!

Game Face

I dreamt of you again last night.  We were outside, lying on the ground, staring up at the night sky.  We were no longer a couple but your legs bridged mine, close but not touching.  There were thousands of stars, but there was one area where they were clustered more densely than I had ever seen.  Just as I pointed this out to you, a meteor shower started and the sky was filled with falling stars.  And you asked me, “What did you wish for?” and I responded, “What I always wish for.” 

***

Travis lurked around the corner from Cosmos, staring at his watch, reluctant to move.

He was late.  Travis was always late and Andi was incapable of being anything but punctual even though she knew she would only be kept waiting.  Thank God she had her phone; even if she didn’t have any messages to check, emails to clear, and was too scared of the embarrassment of being caught playing Angry Bird.  So she stared at the menu, knowing already what she would order – a coffee – the phone safely on the table by the menu’s side.

She was secretly grateful that Travis insisted on meeting at a coffee shop.  Much better than at the office where it would have inevitably caused people to talk.  None of it good.  She would have, however, preferred Starbucks, where the wait staff – baristas – spoke pseudo Italian behind high counters, cutting themselves off from the transaction.  At Cosmos the waitresses wore retro pink polyester and frilly aprons.  Snapping gum – it seemed to be part of the uniform – they came to you, giving Travis occasion to ogle, flirt, his whole body twisted towards them.

Travis resisted the urge not to enter.  She was already there.  Why did she always already have to be there?  Why couldn’t he too feel the luxury of having been put upon?  He stopped halfway across the café.  It was a big place.  Travis liked that.  Allowed more time for an entrance.  He chatted with Cathy.  He didn’t remember her from last time but her name was helpfully written right there on her name tag, which he managed to read while pretending to check out her breasts.  Which weren’t bad even if he suspected the bra to be padded.  They gave him hope, no not hope, the strength to cross the rest of the room and sit down at Andi’s table.  She always chose the same one, skulking in the corner.

Andi watched Travis cross the room.  It’s why she always chose the table at the back, so that she wouldn’t miss one moment of his performance.  It’s what he wanted.  An audience.  And she was willing to provide it.  It gave her strength to watch him perform.  The villain of the piece so that she could be the ingénue.  The feisty ingénue, she told herself.

“How about those Leafs?” he asked.  This what he always asked.  Except in summer when he asked, “How about those Jays?”  He was being ironic.  It was their little joke, apart from neither of them finding it funny.

They had been forced upon each other.  The firm in its wisdom thought that they should be “buddies”.  This was the term they actually used.  Even in written correspondence.  Without the quotation marks, although one sensed that they were still there.  The firm itself not being oblivious to irony.  The term allowed Travis and Andi both to believe they were the mentor – however reluctant – in the relationship.

Visceral Playwriting and the Boardroom

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Do you see it?

Years ago I did a playwriting workshop with Linda Griffiths (still, after all these years, probably best known for Maggie and Pierre, although I think Alien Creature: A Visitation from Gwendolyn MacEwen is a better play).  I don’t recall now what it was that actually made the playwriting “visceral” but my main take-away from the course is that Linda likes to eavesdrop and the course participants should too.  While most of us would be looking to maximize our distance from our fellow passengers, Linda was all about saddling up to that group of teenagers in the subway.  Being an actor meant that Linda was not just interested in the what (and the how) of others’ conversation but also all those body ticks that go with it.  The recent mother who tucked clenched fists under her shirt, stretching it outward.  The man who pursed his lips in time with his blinking.  My recent observation of a man stroking his tie the way a teenage girl might play with her hair put me in mind of Linda and her course.  Forget the subway, the boardroom is also ripe for picking.