(Well, a mix CD, but that didn’t sound as good.)
Over the years I’ve developed a strong belief that the “universe” sometimes takes a heavier hand in our lives. I’ve seen evidence that the universe can send us signs when we’re on the right path, and try to slow us down if we’re skipping down the wrong path. This is a story about such a time for me – fall of 2011.
In my life, these moments of fate usually begin to manifest themselves as a strange “déjà vu cluster”. I’ll have a week or more of intermittent episodes where the events unfolding in front of me seem familiar to the tiniest detail. This is my first sign that Something Important is about to happen – problem is, I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, just that I need to pay attention. The first time I can remember this occurring is in college, right before the events leading to my first long-term relationship.
Chapter 1: Ancient Chinese Curse
This story begins in midsummer, July 2011. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” had closed on July 2nd and I had decided to take the rest of the summer off from non-TheatreSports shows. But on July 12th, I got an unexpected callback for a show I didn’t audition for, and two days later I found myself cast in a show that opened in September. (For more on the show itself, read Life in the Theatre: September Skies)
Shortly thereafter, I began to get a strange feeling. As if the world were reordering itself around me. Good things happening that shouldn’t. The dreaded déjà vu clusters. And on July 25th, rehearsals started for September Skies. I found out who my costar was – the one of the three called back who gave me the strangest feeling. I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad.
As rehearsals started, I began having car troubles bad enough to take it in for service (rarely needed on my trooper of a car.) The issue was a transmission leak but they couldn’t find the source, so at the end of the month I spent several days with a rental car hopping between rehearsals and other events. Since I’d be doing a lot of driving and didn’t want to re-find all my radio stations, I burned myself a mix CD to pass the time.
- Party Rock Anthem // LMFAO
- Circus // Britney Spears
- Jai Ho! You Are My Destiny // A.R. Rahman
- DJ Got Us Falling in Love // Usher
- Apologize // OneRepublic
- Better than Today // Kylie Minogue
- Bad Romance // Lady Gaga
- CrushCrushCrush // Paramour
- Till the World Ends // Britney Spears
- Jigga What/Faint // Jay-Z and Linkin Park
- Rhythm is a Dancer // Snap!
- Firework // Katy Perry
- Stronger // Kanye West
(I should mention that my mix CDs are primarily intended to keep my energy up when driving late at night and to psych me up when heading to a show or rehearsal. Hence the dancepoppy focus. A DJ I am not.)
But at the very same time, I began to put words to the strange feeling. From my journal on July 30:
“Something just feels… strange. I’m not sure good or bad. Something is happening in my life right now and I can’t figure it out. The best way I can describe it is that I have a feeling Things are Happening. Ancient Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times” – but what sort of interesting is this?”
In mid-August, after three weeks of rehearsals, I visited a girlfriend in LA for the weekend. We had a great time, heading to Universal Studios, having fancy French dinners, shopping, etc. I remember sitting in the Bucca di Beppo at CityWalk (a place I’ve been entirely too much for someone who has never lived in LA), drinking the better half of a bottle of Chianti, discussing my checkered romantic past. My friend had some rather distressing information about a past relationship which only strengthened my resolve to stop dating and focus on things like IGNITE and work for a while. I explained my déjà vu clusters to her and how I thought it must be telling me that stopping dating was the right move because something important was coming.
I might have also mentioned how I DEFINITELY did not want to date any actors, and how I thought maybe my costar in September Skies was interested in me but I knew that would be trouble and unprofessional and just basically swore that whole concept off. (Besides, I had a no-actors policy and he wasn’t just a hobbyist but a full-time union classical actor.) But she sanguinely insisted that she knew the right guy was coming. But that’s just what girlfriends say to encourage each other, right?
At the end of that trip, my friend and I went to a live taping of America’s Got Talent semifinals. It was rather fascinating to see such an ambitious technical feat done live. But before the show, to psych the audience up, they made frequent and incessant use of “Party Rock Anthem”, the first song on my mix CD. No big deal; it’s a popular song. But it now forever reminds me of that trip.
Chapter 2: Jai Ho!
Fast forward 2 weeks to late August. It’s the one-year mark since a terrible breakup that caused some pretty bad scarring emotionally. (Hence “Apologize” on the mix – a song I used to try and force the moving-on mentality when I got all self-pitying.)
Long story short, I have since come to the realization that I had indeed developed a crush on my costar, but was STILL DETERMINED to wait until the end of the run to see if anything would be done about it. It didn’t help that our director decided to write in a kiss in during the 11th hour.
…And then some things happened, and the day after first preview we had our first (offstage) kiss. And then some more things happened.
3 days later is Labor Day, and we’re kind of a thing, or at least 3 days of a thing. But we haven’t been on a date, don’t know what this “thing” is, and are separated by 60 minutes of drive time. It’s also the first day in over a week that we haven’t seen each other. In a series of fast and furious texts we decide impulsively to go to an event equidistant between us – the circus. Our first date is the Ringling Brothers circus.
“Funny,” I thought. I haven’t been to a circus since I was 6. Then I go and put that “Circus” song on my mix CD (I use that to psych myself up for performances) and a few weeks later I’m at Barnum and Bailey. Still, just a coincidence.
I was very nervous as we met and went into the arena – this was our first time interacting outside of the 1-mile radius surrounding the theatre. Would we even still like each other? We were a bit late so things were already underway. There were some acrobats performing and the circus orchestra was performing some instrumental uptempo music.
And then they started playing “Jai Ho”, the song that comes right after “Circus” on the mix. That weirded me out. That song came out for Slumdog Millionare – it’s not popular anymore. And who plays an instrumental version of that song anyway? At a circus? As I pondered that thought, slightly on edge, my costar puts his hand on my leg – a very innocent gesture that conjured all of the proverbial fireworks you find yourself looking for. “Oh, crap.”
(If you want to REALLY read into my CD, then you might say that the DJ/conductor at the circus had us falling in love… SONG 4! HA!)
The next weekend we spent all day wandering the city hand in hand like we had been doing this for months. We were texting like high school students. It was crazy. Also, it was his birthday. On September 11th. While we’re falling in love while doing a show about two characters that get onto one of the doomed September 11th planes. I’m not making that up.
The middle songs on the playlist are a bit of a hodgepodge, but “Bad Romance” spoke to me about our characters’ doomed fling. “Better Than Today” covers ‘living for the weekend’ and ‘taking a chance’ and along with Paramour singing about crushes seemed to encourage me subtly. Don’t ask about the Jay-Z song. 😛 As for “Rhythm is a Dancer”, I like to throw an ‘oldie’ on my playlists to make me think about how far things have come since the first time I heard that song.
During the 3rd week of performances (and our relationship), I ended up meeting the majority of his family since they came to see the show. I was, of course, more nervous about that than performing. As we discussed it backstage, Dave asked me, “Do you know the song ‘Firework’?” That one on my CD? Yeah. “Well, it’s kind of a joke with me and my brother. Can you do me a favor and sing a few lines from that when you meet him?”
Well, good thing THAT was on the CD.
Chapter 3: Sleepwalker
This isn’t related to the CD per se, but it’s music. The following week (Week #4 of the run and our relationship) my parents came to town from Pennsylvania to see the show. So they met my costar, which went better than expected given the early point in the relationship. (My past two long-term boyfriends – of 6 months and 1.5 years – *never* met my parents.)
That Friday, I skipped the company meeting to go sightseeing with my parents. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we went up to the Space Needle to enjoy it.
Out on the observation deck, they play some quiet background music. Pretty uninteresting. But the song changed, and a spark ran through my body. What happened? I listen, and you know, it sounds a lot like the song “Sleepwalker”, which plays during the show when our characters kiss. But the universe doesn’t revolve around me, right? So that can’t be it. In the 15 minutes I’m on the Space Needle in the middle of all of this, that song plays? Impossible.
I shake it off, but 20 seconds later another segment of the song hits me. It’s not only that song, but it’s the EXACT SAME RECORDING of that song. My body reacted because it expected a kiss. I took a video with my camera during the ending just to convince myself later that I wasn’t making it all up. (I wasn’t.) What, I ask you, are the odds?
By the end of that weekend I told him I loved him. Me! Who takes months to fall in love, dropping the l-word after a few weeks? Luckily, he felt the same way.
Chapter 4: Kanye’s Happy Ending
Our 5th weekend of shows – a week after the Space Needle incident – was closing weekend. And 2 hours after we closed the show, my costar and I were on a plane to Orlando. Originally, I had always been booked to join a friend for a 6-day jaunt to Disney World. And the way the flights worked out, I couldn’t celebrate after the last show – I had to go straight to the airport. All I could think was, “I really want to spend that week with Dave.” Luckily, Microsoft had just handed out annual bonuses. So I decided life was too short for regrets, and I asked my boyfriend of three weeks if he would like to come to Orlando with me.
That’s how we ended up in front of the Magic Kingdom less than 24 hours after kissing onstage in Seattle. The trip was wonderful – to be perfectly honest, if you had asked me to write a story about what my ideal ‘whirlwind romance’ would be like, it probably would have read a lot like this one. Right down to the unrealistic happy ending in Disney World across the country. And yet.
(There was a bit of angst at the airport when Dave discovered he was sitting very near his character’s seat from flight 11. I tried to calm him before we boarded but again, like the play, we were sitting apart in this case due to his last-minute ticket. Then, after we pulled out from the gate, the pilot mentioned we were being delayed due to some sort of “mechanical difficulties” which required rebooting the plane, and I’m pretty sure Dave and I had minor heart attacks. But we managed to survive.)
Our last night in Orlando was spent at Universal Studios for their Hollywood Horror Nights. It was my first time on the “Rip Ride Rockit” roller coaster, which was AWESOME. We liked it so much we chose it to be our last ride in Orlando even though the line was pretty long when we went back for seconds. That ride allows each rider to choose their own soundtrack for the ride from a list of songs. I had been waffling on my choice until I saw the song I had to choose right before we took off. “Stronger”. The last song on my mix CD. Of course that had to be the song I chose to mark the end of the beginning of our journey together. And I’ll always remember how happy I was, listening to the familiar song, Dave at my side, soaring through the night on our rainbow-lit roller coaster car on a warm Orlando night.
Two months prior, I would have placed a losing bet of tens of thousands of dollars against such an outcome. I was finally coming to terms with being single “at my age”. I didn’t want to date. I had a no-actors policy. (My friend can laughably attest to how sure I was about these points in LA a few weeks prior.) It has always taken me months to fall in love, if at all. But everything changed and for those few months I was as happy as I had ever been in my life.
There’s so much more to the September Skies story, but this specifically was a story about the signs pointing me in the right direction, subtly. Whether somehow I knew what songs to burn on the CD; whether some unseen force chose them to get my attention since they were at the front of my mind; or whether it was all a massive coincidence is left to the reader, but I know what my answer is.
Dave sometimes asks me if I get sick of that CD (and it does get rotated out, or I’m often listening to the radio). But when I hear that CD it tells me the story of last September – our September – and that story will never get old.
SORT OF RELATED EPILOGUE THING:
I asked Dave in the midst of all this – “when did you know you were interested in me?” His response: that he was interested since callbacks, but a conversation we had early in rehearsals did him in. As we walked out of rehearsal, he asked me “What are you doing this weekend?” I replied: “Oh, you know, I’ve got a D&D encounter with my improv friends. We’re going to a museum in Hell, or something.” His expression kind of changed, and he eagerly asked “What edition? We play version 4.” Ah, a fellow gamer.
Dave fell for me because the twenty-sided woman has twenty-sided dice. Hilarously awesome.