Chapter 18 – Theater

by Backseat Devil

We have to do something, his favorite musical is Cats, for goodness sake.

In his defense, it’s the only musical he’s seen… and he saw it when he was a child.

ON TOUR.  And he hasn’t seen a single thing since.  

They don’t get a lot of Broadway in Oregon.

But he can see Smashing Pumpkins fifty times. Look.  He’s you’re friend.  I’m only doing this for you.

Hey, I can hear you, you know, Aaron calls from behind the small group of brothers walking the streets of the City. I’m sorry, but I liked Cats.  It was a good play.

Neil is perambulating at a New Yorker’s speed in his penny loafers and jeans, knitted stripe scarf wrapped around his neck but manages to turn his short-combed black hair with slight hints of grey toward James to give a direct stare.  See what I mean?  He needs help.

James and Aaron are almost in tears laughing at Neil’s exuberance in his desperateness to get Aaron out of his Nirvana and into Cameron Mackintosh as they turned the corner on West 45th Street and headed to the light bulb-intensive Imperial Theater marquee to see the staple production of Les Miserables.

He felt bad for letting Neil pick on Aaron so much, but it was all in good fun.  Again, so much is accomplished when things are not taken too serious.  Aaron had just moved into A314 and since then the two had been inseparable.  The first week began a rhythm that worked:  James was creative and slightly OCD in keeping things clean while Aaron was a clean freak who expressed himself in creatively organizing (and reorganizing) the furniture in functional formats.  The two kept each other laughing and thinking.  Music was always playing and opinions with debate were encouraged.  It almost seems like the exact opposite of what Bethel wanted from it’s volunteers, but it worked for the two of them, and both of them became harder workers because of the refreshment.

Then it took a slight turn the next week, causing the trip to the city for the weekend.  Aaron comes and sits down at dinner time from work quiet, deflated.  The two walk back to the A building slowly.

So Kelly called me into his office and talked to me about my hair.

You’re kidding.

He said they can’t have me looking so different from the other Bethelites, especially when y station is on the tour route. 

But your hair looks fine when it’s slicked down like it is now.

I told him that.  But at the end of the day, it’s all in my face and it looks “worldly”.  He wanted to know why I didn’t get my hair cut on rotation like everyone else.

Because we get ours cut by a professional.

Yeah, who didn’t come here twenty years ago as an electrical engineer and then thrown into the barber shop as his assignment and butchered everyone’s hair until he perfected the art of clippers.

James laughs at the joke, So true.

I was told to be mindful of the responsibility of being a Bethel family member and the need to conform to the group.

He said “conform”?

He said “united in standards.

So “conform”.

Exactly.

But our hair isn’t any different.  How is it that you can be talked to and I’0ve only been complemented on my performance?  I mean how is your actual work?

He said I was doing a good job, but a good job isn’t enough when you’re on the tour route, I suppose.  He made me feel like it was something that would get me kicked out of Bethel.

We have the same length.  I’m going to have to ask my overseer about this.

James, don’t get yourself in trouble because of me.

The next day he decided to make sure he wasn’t breaking any rules of his own.  He had just been transferred over to Computer Programming to learn FoxPro and SQL Server to help with the transfer of all the custom programming at Bethel, changing the dates from two numeral years to four numeral years to prevent any Y2K issues.

Ralph is a short old man, bald with bushy white eyebrows and grey eyes that seemed to sparkle from across the room.  He is kind in a way that made one believe that the world would be a better place simply by him uttering a sentence.  They had become friendly since James wanted to be transferred to the drafting department, but Ralph insisted that he stay in computer programming and learn something new.  James is also a very hard worker, and with the computers needing constant updating, there was a need for good workers.

James catches up to him when Ralph walks past the cubicle.

Hey, can I ask you a quick question?

Certainly, if you can walk and talk.  I’m headed to a meeting.

James gets up and starts walking at the quick pace of the gnomic gentleman everybody wants as a grandfather.

My roommate was recently talked to about his hair.  His and ine are about the same length, so I was worried that may be a problem for me as well.

Absolutely not.  I can see your hair has a little length, something some of us don’t have to worry about.  (Laughter.)  But no, you part it on the side and it looks very clean and presentable

Okay, thank you.  I really like this length because it keeps my head warm, but if it’s going to be a problem…

It’s not a problem at all.  I’m sure your friend is just not wearing it like you, or not paying as much attention to it as you do.  

Well, I try.  Sometimes, at the end of the day, especially if it’s been a long day, my hair is less together and falling in my face and such.  I know that I have to maintain unity with the Bethel family, but I wanted to check with you just in case.

Don’t worry about it.  However, I appreciate your courage to ask about the subject.  I really like that initiative.

Thanks.  I do plan on being here for a long time, I just didn’t want to get started off on the wrong foot.

James, we are really glad to have you.  You are a great thinker, and we hope you are here for a long time as well.  

James headed back to his cubicle after delivering his overseer to his meeting and parting with a round of handshakes and smiles.

I guess things are really different in the Computer Department, Aaron said.  And you can just leave your desk whenever you want, huh?

Yep.  Walk to the kitchen… see if they have any snacks.

The kitchen has snacks?

Yeah.  James is a little shocked Aaron was not aware of this secret.

I do not even know how to respond to that.

How does one respond to that?  James has no clue how to make Aaron feel better and as Friday approaches he thinks that it would be best to do something fun and out of routine rather than the drowning regular weekend that almost seem more draining than Bethel service on it’s own.  It is time to call in reinforcements.

Neil came in with James and was assigned to one of the printing presses and managed to be the only print worker to not have his fingers stained with ink 24/7.  He lights up at the idea of going to the city and adds many catching a Broadway show.  In fact, he seemed somewhat relieved that there was other people at the Farm who loved the theater as much as much as he does.

Count me in!  And don’t worry about anything.  I have sources.

Saturday morning Aaron, Neil, James, and Jake head into the city to meet Ashley (a guy James and David had met while helping rebuild homes in St. Thomas several years before) and his roommate.  The posse follow Neil who has the agenda planned out to minute-by-minute perfection, arriving outside the Imperial Theater to the small crowd standing in line for the $20.00 day-of tickets for the matinee show.

Lunch at the Fashion Cafe had everyone chiming in on the double standard.

James, you’re not on the tour route.  You can basically show up to work dressed as a clown and no one except your overseer would know.

And the people at my juggling class Friday mornings.

What, the…?

Well, technically it’s a class on how to be more ergonomic.  But juggling is part of it.  Helps connect the two sides of the brain.  It helps with making us better programmers, so we don’t think so one sided.

I don’t even know what that means.

It means they teach him how to sit in a chair, James blurts out with mock frustration.

Everyone laughs at the situation.  It was obvious that Aaron needed a bit of a venting session and to have empathetic people around him to hear his woes, if for no other reason than to make him feel less like a freak among plastics.  His world has been brightened  that afternoon sits and watches three hours of a musical starring that “poor guy from Menudo.”

Aaron determined it was the most pretentious thing he’s heard, but still amazing to watch.  Because of his very well presented discussion points, it was humorously determined by James and Neil on the drive back that Aaron was, indeed, worthy of such effort.  Aaron is all smiles and renewed for the next few weeks.

As those in the congregation noticed how joyous the two became, it twas inevitable that… eventually, Aaron and James receive an offer they couldn’t refuse.

James P. Perez © 2013

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