Nerd Romance—Going to the Play

“Did he tell you he hates ‘Waiting for Godot’?”

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

This is yet another chapter in a series I “finished” last year, but my characters kept talking to me. Then Roz Warren convinced me into fill out the series into a book, so now I’m working on that. Most of what I’ve been doing lately has been filling in gaps or adding to existing material, but this chapter felt like it could stand without the reader having just finished the one before.

Short summary of the story to date:

The series covers two academic over-achievers with limited social skills (aka “nerds”) in the last semester of their junior year in a suburban high school in the 1970s. They call each other by their initials, so she is “E” and he is “K.” They were engaged in a “practice” relationship, working from an agreed upon list of goals, trying to learn to be more like regular people before they head off to college. Both kids agreed that this was a mutually beneficial partnership, and not in any way a romantic association.

Which worked really well. Until it didn’t.

They arranged a clandestine camping trip, during which they planned to have sex. The planned beautiful spring night actually was cold, wet, and awful, so while they did admit to falling in love with each other and shared a sleeping bag, that’s as far as things got. They also decided that the “practice” part of the practice relationship was over, and they were going to be actual boyfriend and girlfriend. That fell apart for a few days, and then everything came together and so did they, having sex in the guest room at K’s house while his parents were out of town.

They looked forward to spending time together over the summer, and having senior year together. Then Jenn, K’s older sister told them that K’s family would be moving hundreds of miles away. In a matter of weeks. E had a plan to fix things… that didn’t work. They tried to get have sex in a borrowed car, also ending in failure. So the days are counting down.

K let E proceed him down the row of seats, the last in the school auditorium. A good forty-five minutes before the curtain went up, there were not many audience members yet.

E scanned the seats before she sat down on his left. “This is not good. The house should be a lot fuller than this by now. Nels was right, this is not going to be a great night.” She sat down with a frown on her face.

Maybe too many people read the play beforehand? That almost killed my desire to be here. “Um, do they always leave the lights on like this? It seems really bright in here.” Bright enough to read the program, I guess… which is four pages long, so that won’t kill much time.

E gazed at him over her glasses. “So you have been to… how many musicals, plays, or other live performances previously at our fine high school? Two? One? Zero?”

I like movies better! “Um, the last one.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, I think I understand why you wanted the last row. Fortunately Nels had no problem finding seats back here. He offered to sell us the whole row if we wanted.”

“I thought you got them for free as part of the drama group?”

“Figure of speech, K.” She twisted in her seat slightly to face him better. “So you don’t normally like to see plays, and you told me numerous times that you hate Waiting for Godot, based on reading it in English. So you wanted to come because why?”

“Um, so I could be with you somewhere that isn’t home? Without having to borrow a car? And, um, I, ah, thought we could make out. In the back.” Which I’m guessing is not actually going to happen. And we only have two more days after this before I have to leave with the family. I screwed this up.

E blinked at him. “You wanted to make out in the back of the school auditorium. During Waiting for Godot. This is what you’re telling me.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “And this is why you wanted to get here early. Because you thought it would be dark in here already.”

“Ummm…” Uh oh, she’s thinking. This might be bad or good.

“Okay… okay… okay! I have a Plan B, because, sorry hon, your Plan A stinks. We just need to wait until after the play is over. Sorry. What do you want to do in the meantime? And we are watching the play, so walking out now is not an option.”

She knows me too well. “Um… so you are absolutely sure they don’t sell popcorn? Even small bags?” That just feels wrong.

E shook her head. “No popcorn. You think we didn’t suggest it as a fundraiser? But no, the administration was terrified that there’d be popcorn all over the floors and rats or something sneaking in because of it, or — I dunno, you know how these people just immediately jump to the worst case scenario. Anyway. So, did your family ever play the Circle Story Game on trips or whatever?”

“Uh, don’t think so. So, stories about circles?”

“No, doofus. Someone starts a story, and then you go around the circle — or the different people in the car, we did this on road trips — and you see what kind of story evolves. It works best with more people, but Mel and I have played it just the two of us. Dad would try to drive the plot in weird directions or cliff-hangers and then turn it over to one of us, and Mom would always try to make the story more normal. It was fun. Some of the stories, I wish we’d had a tape recorder. Want me to start?”

What?! “Wait! How does this work? I’m confused.”

“No, it’s — ” E sighed. “Okay, so I say something like, ‘Once upon a time there were three bears who lived in the woods,’ and then you say something like, ‘And they had a little cottage that was very pretty and nice,’ and then I say, ‘But one day they were out of the house and the Big Bad Wolf tired to blow it down.’ See? You can go on longer than that, it doesn’t have to be a sentence each. But it can make sense or follow an old storyline or be ‘Now for something completely different’ or whatever. Got it?”

No. “Sure!”

“Okay, I’ll start. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess in a faraway land. One night, she looked up, and saw a star she had never seen before, glowing in the heavens, bright enough to cast light on the land below. And she thought to herself — ” E made a “your turn” gesture at her boyfriend.

Ah! Okay! “She thought to herself, this is a highly unusual stellar phenomenon. Fortunately the princess, who had a doctorate in astrophysics, recognized that the spectral signature was unlike anything that occurred naturally in that astral neighborhood, and could only be caused by one or more laser batteries being used by a distant civilization to propel an interstellar light sail craft toward her planetary system. So she immediately contacted — ” K repeated E’s gesture back at her. This could be fun!

E crossed her arms and glared at him. “If you don’t want to take this seriously, just say so. You don’t have to be ridiculous.”

“But — ”

“And stealing from The Mote in God’s Eye? Really?”

“I thought — ”

“Thought? You claim there was thinking involved?”

Their conversation went downhill from there. By the time the lights came down, neither one had said anything for several minutes and were no longer looking at each other. E was sullenly scoping out the audience, and K was somewhat hunched with his arms over his belly, rocking back and forth slightly.

I should just leave. The row is still empty, I wouldn’t bother anybody. I should get out of here before I have an episode or something. E won’t care, she’ll be glad to be rid of me, probably. I screwed up one of our last nights. So stupid, so stupid. If I stay I’ll just screw up worse. What am I even doing here, so stupid stupid stupid. He was still debating internally when he felt her hand gently rubbing his back, then carefully take his chin to turn his head in her direction. Her lips met his to kiss him tenderly. Possibly apologetically.

“I’m sorry, K. I messed up. I love you. Please don’t be upset because I was stupid.” She continued giving him little kisses, her lips barely meeting his.

“I thought we weren’t doing this?” he whispered to her.

“Are you objecting?” she whispered back. Her hand moved to the back of his head and began to stroke his hair gently. “Do you want me to explain, or do you want to make out with your girlfriend?” Her tongue nipped out to touch his.

“Nruh-uh!” he mumbled back, and moved his left arm around her shoulder.

The curtain opened. On stage, one character entered to find another one wrestling with his boot. Neither K nor E paid attention.

E guided K through the maze of scenery, milling cast/crew, congratulatory family, and assorted junk that made up the backstage area, holding his hand firmly as he trailed behind her. I am not afraid of losing him, I’m just… I just don’t want to let go of him right now, is all. Is that silly? I don’t care. She spotted someone she knew. “Nels! Great show! Good job!”

Nelson grinned at her, then spotted K behind her. His eyebrows went up. “You’re dragging this poor guy along to plays now? Did he tell you he hates Godot? Is this because he made you launch rockets? I thought you liked that!” He looked at K. “Did you enjoy the show?”

“It was great!” K grinned at him.

Oh god, he’s smiling like he just spent the entire show making out with his girlfriend or something. E gave him a glare that he ignored.

Nelson looked confused, briefly, then smiled. “Great!” He spotted someone motioning to him from one of the backstage doors. “Sorry, Props, I need to take care of something, you know how it is the last night.” He walked away quickly without waiting for an answer.

K leaned closer to be heard over the backstage hubbub. “So where are we going?”

E gave him a conspiratorial smile. “I know a place. Just follow me.”

The lighting became more scattered and less useful, so there was an element of surprise when someone burst out from behind a prop wall, pushed their way past the startled couple, and disappeared back the way the kids had just come. K recovered first. “That — I think that was Jenn! Was she crying? Was she okay?”

“I don’t — I think you’re right. It was too hard to see for sure. She seemed really upset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like that before.” That’s really weird! Why was she even back here?

K apparently had the same question. “Why was she here tonight? I thought the detention crew only worked before the opening night?”

E nodded. “Yeah, they only — ” She did a double-take. “Wait. How do you know about that? About Jenn being on the detention crew? She didn’t want you or your parents to know. She swore me to secrecy.” Or I swear I would have told you, honey!

K made a brushing-off gesture, or that’s how E interpreted it in the gloom. “No sweat, honey, I’ve known since… I dunno, before you guys did Oklahoma? You realize that Nels and Oz and I talk about things other than model rockets, right? Those two have known Jenn since, I dunno, ever; she used to come with us for rocket launches, before she got too cool to be doing dorky stuff like that. Nelson and Osborne were both complaining to me about how worthless she was on the crew, and they couldn’t believe she was so lazy that she couldn’t talk her way off it, like other dead weights had done.” He gave his girlfriend’s hand a squeeze. “What, you never wondered why I never asked about Jenn calling you ‘Props’ all the time? You told me that’s your nickname on the crew.”

You can still surprise me, K. I would not have guessed that you’d pass up a chance to show off your knowledge. “So do you want to… go after her? Or… okay, I don’t know what brothers do when sisters are upset. The problem with only having Melissa as a sibling. If Mel was crying and all I’d go find out what’s wrong. What do you normally do?”

K snorted. “Vacate the area as quickly as possible so that she doesn’t turn on me. Sorry, honey, the Princess Bitch and I do not have a warm loving history like you and your sister. Anyway, she’s vanished, so I probably won’t see her until I get home. Unless she’s in her room with the door closed and locked, which is almost always the case.” He seemed to be looking around, as near as E could tell. “Meanwhile, do you have a flashlight? Lighter? Book of matches? Some secret word to illuminate us in the darkness of these secret passages?”

E found his hand and started moving along. “It’s not that bad, it’s just that a lot of the lighting back here is usually from skylights and stuff. I know my way around from night performances. Here we go!” She plopped down on the small couch she’d located, then pulled her boyfriend down next to her. There was some light provided by the EXIT sign a few feet away. “This, believe it or not, is where your sister liked to hide when she was supposed to be working on crew. It’s comfy, and just large enough for two if they don’t mind rubbing elbows.” She rubbed her shoulder against K’s. “Or shoulders. Or whatever body parts you prefer.” That’s your cue, hon. “You probably couldn’t see me, but I just wiggled my eyebrows at you suggestively.”

K seemed distracted. “This cushion is warm. Could someone have just been here?”

“Um, maybe, sure. I did not pick this because I came up with the idea; it’s kind of a popular make-out spot. I just figured it wouldn’t be in use on a performance night.” Is this too strange a place? Or are you thinking about when I got mad at you? She started to run her hand up and down his back. I screwed things up, didn’t I? Poor K, you try your best, you just can’t always see where I’m going. “I’m sorry, honey. About before, before the show started. I should have explained. Explained better. Like partners do, we’re still partners, being regular boyfriend and girlfriend now doesn’t mean we aren’t partners just as much as we used to be. I had this — I thought you would take the story in a particular direction, and then you didn’t, and I had run this through in my mind and you didn’t know the script because you don’t have a mind-meld to my daydreams and we don’t have much time left and I just — ” She was abruptly cut off as he kissed her.

He backed off slightly. “Do you want to keep apologizing, or do you want to make out with your boyfriend? Who, I should have mentioned more recently, loves you v — ” Her lips cut him off this time.

Shut up, doofus, you’re wasting time.



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