Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When We Made Love, You Used To Cry: Cigarettes, Mistakes, and Me.

     I'm going to try and tell a story. It's a true story, it's possibly my strangest. It's about two people, first young, then...a little less young. Mostly, the years are fewer than the trials for each of them. We'll call them Romeo and Juliet. Not for a play, but for a song. Drama is nice, but Rock & Roll is better.

Romeo, young; (and quite likely, stupid) met Juliet and almost immediately dismissed her as too cute for him. Romeo, in those days, was unsteady, unsure, and awkward. Gifted though he may have been with words, he was unsure of his physical attributes, and thus felt more akin to Cyrano than any other hero of merit. In one of life's charming turnabouts, gratifying and rare, it was discovered however that she was not, in fact too cute for him. They began a romance and it culminated in his passage for the first time through the only ceremony of adulthood our culture has left: sex. It was, as often is, an awkward exchange whose saving grace was it's unlikely location: in a small hut, 40 feet off of the ground, in the woods on a mountain. The hut's purpose was to give park rangers a view of the forrest allowing as much forewarning in the event of fire as possible. Romeo is still blind to that irony. The summer passed, though of course not before the adventure was repeated, as Juliet, less the novice than our hero, schooled him in the art, in cabins and bedrooms and pools and in cars- as youth exercised it's customary exuberance for itself. Through channels still uncertain to our hero, Lady Capulet caught wind of her daughter's summer storm.
     A word should be said here about the Capulet family, as our fair Juliet was herself adopted by her lord and lady scarcely two years prior. Juliet had grown up in foster homes around Verona and wider Italia, having landed in the uncertain warmth of the Capulet family along with one other orphan (we'll call her Iago) and two young natural Capulets. Upon hearing of Juliet's adventure (the younger adoptee forever suspect in this espionage) Lady Capulet ambushed our hero. He'd called up to Juliet's balcony (well, via pay phone) and was met with young Iago in answer. When our hero asked for the object of his affection, he was instead met with Lady Capulet, in oily, villainous and venomous tone asking: "How does it feel to have sex with all of those girls?" Our gallant hero, ever brave, promptly hung up and sank to his knees. A few moments later the pay phone began to ring, and our hero knew this was no deus ex machina to save him. He answered, finding somewhere in him the resolution to face an unarmed and middle-aged woman a hundred miles away. Her verbal accosting followed, with threats of court and moral condemnations. The ultimatum was made: Lord and Lady Montague could hear this news either from Romeo himself, or Lady Capulet would contact the Prince and they'd hear it from him.

     Romeo hung his head and marched back to the Montague home, and while his father took the news with some aplomb, his Lady mother was understandably vexed. The few days after, during which they did not speak, felt to Romeo certainly not unlike banishment in Mantua.
     Alas and alack yet at the same time huzzah and hooray: Lady Capulet's message never came. The Prince was never called. The incident passed. Some years later, Romeo, who'd moved on, did finally hear again from his former flame. Scant communication passed between the two, a letter every few months, until word came down she'd been diagnosed with a fatal illness. Romeo, being a hero, or at the very least fancying himself one, knew this was his cue to strengthen the correspondence, but such was not the case. He was stunned, and his heart hardened, when word finally came down from Verona that the poison had taken her. Juliet was gone. Romeo, being young, or at the very least, fancying Rock & Roll, knew this was his cue to drink heavily (and in a plot twist the purpose of which no one is sure of, smash his favorite tea kettle). More years passed, and Romeo, once again, moved on.

AND YET: At certain turns in his story, he'd be met with characters and dialogue concerning that 'first time'. The subject was rarely at all about Juliet herself, and he could often dodge the emotional cloud bank there conjured as people wanted answers about the hut, there off the ground. He wondered dimly if it stood there still, watching for fires, and why it couldn't see his, smoking and smoldering that summer in the hills.

The play ended. The streets of Verona he walked, and dodged the brawls. Trapped between the Romeo he'd become, and the Cyrano he once was, our hero grew into a man, and just as mothers for generations had warned, his face froze into the smirk he perpetually wore. The curtain fell.

He was nearing thirty when a question was put to him: 'Do you still keep up with the person to whom you lost your virginity?' 

With a rueful resolution he answered of course no, and a thoughtful "How could I?" echoed on the stage of his brain. Curious though, he sought an obituary for the absent object of his extinguished affections.
    The news shook him. The photos sank his heart. The deterioration unnerved him. There she stared back at him: her name, her birthday, her face. Her orange jumpsuit, her lined-beyond-its-years visage... her mugshot. Juliet had fallen on or into cruel stories, wrapped up in malicious plots or driving them herself. Whether Desdemona or Lady Macbeth our hero was unsure, but his former flame had taken to fighting it seemed, and also to fleeing justice. She'd been apprehended to the south. Juliet was not only alive, but was incarcerated.

Shakespeare himself could write no bigger shock for our hero, and Tybalt could land a hit no more surprising.
There was scant wisdom to be offered by either Lord Montague or by Benvolio, and Romeo determined that none could be given, and frankly, this made for a pretty terrible sequel.

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