(\^.^)\┏━┓ ︵ /(^.^/)
Directly after Drama was Math, and I had some problems finding the classroom. I got no introduction this time, just sat down, and was pleased to learn that our section had been covered last year at my old school. This was going to be a breeze. No studying in for this.
And after that was lunch. Which I had been dreading. Occasionally, in the distant past, I had been tolerated at lunch tables. That never lasted long. I never felt like I had anything to contribute. Everyone was trying to make the table laugh the hardest, but all their jokes sounded so stupid to me.
I had pre-packed a lunch, and entered the cafeteria looking for an empty table. There in the back were a few unoccupied, sad, little, unloved bits of refuge, where I could read and pass unnoticed.
On my way toward them I heard someone call my name, “Aising!”
And then several more voices called out, “Hey, Aisling!” or something similar.
Red faced and mortified, I considered hunching over and ignoring whatever bullying was about to start, when Regular Dave called, “Come sit with us.”
I had never been asked to sit with some group. I had never been asked to sit anywhere. Some forgotten feeling rose in me. Hope.
I turned to see a motley collection in the middle of the cafeteria. Spilling off of their small table, and borrowing chairs from other ones. Eight or nine kids, all various ages and genders and sizes, dressed in black pants, almost all of them, and wearing black boots almost exclusively. Regular Dave lounged in a chair with it’s back to me, and had wheeled around to wave his arm for me to come over.
I almost tripped over my shoes coming to join them. Please don’t make an ass out of yourself. Now is not the time to be Loser Ashley.
Regular Dave pulled out a chair and as I sat said, “This is Aisling, she’s one of us.”
Huh. Is this what popular kids feel like? If they didn’t, or they ever had, the wanted to. I didn’t know what I was one of, groups liked to call themselves things, and I didn’t know anything about these guys. None of them were dressed in letter jackets. None of the girls wore makeup, save one, who was only wearing purple eyeliner. None of them were dressed in what I knew fashion was like.
In fact, looking around I could see that I wasn’t one of them. Here I was in a pastel t-shirt, and jeans, surrounded by what looked like a bunch of roadies. And instead of pointing out that I clearly did not belong at their table, everyone said hi and introduced themselves. There was Big Davey, who was big, and Wee Davy, and Regular Dave now made sense. There was a Bree, Autumn, Sarah and Rachel. And there was Jeremy. Jeremy didn’t introduce himself, until two people had introduced himself as Goober. Jeremy clearly didn’t want to be called Goober. He’d been loosing this fight for a long time.
At this time someone else might have talked about what they were wearing in more detail. Couldn’t care less, then or now.
I’ll talk about what was on the table in front of us instead. Cards. Lots of cards were on the table. Perhaps a game of some sort? “What are you playing?”
Autumn put a card on the table, and Wee Davy groaned and threw his down. Then he scooped a small pile of pennies into the center of the table, and Autumn raked them over, taking the pot.
Everyone sat down then, as Autumn shuffled the deck. “Lunch money. Someone give her some change.”
Bree, sitting closest to me pulled a roll of pennies out of her pocket and counted out five to me. “The goal is to take everyone’s lunch money. Normally we play for pennies. I’ve hear of groups that buy in with a hundred dollars.”
Everyone argued over whether that was true until Autumn finished dealing, then argued about it some more while they beat each other with fists, boots, and clubs. Well with cards that represented fists, boots, and clubs. Goober targeted me early on, because I was the noob, then everyone piled on him. After that it was a free for all. I was third from the last, with Bree and Big Davey battling to the finish.
The bell rang, Bree was down further and gave her money to Big Davey, and everyone split up.
I walked off to English feeling like being a girl wasn’t all bad.
Then I opened my locker and ran the door into my boobs and everything sucked again.
(\^.^)\┏━┓ ︵ /(^.^/)
Physics was over and I felt the familiar melancholy of a school classroom emptying out. People with places to go, and things to do. The feelings of welcome over lunch had all ebbed away, and I was alone again. Ready to walk to my bus and try to negotiate my way through an unfamiliar system, to an unfamiliar home.
I left the classroom, and followed the flow of people. In the wrong direction I realized, but I didn’t want to look like an idiot and turn around. The school was a loop. I lied to myself and tried to make myself believe that I needed to see the rest of the school in any case.
And then on my way past the auditorium I heard Bree call, “Aisling? Where are you going?”
I turned. Does she want to talk to me? What if I miss my bus? Do I hang out or go home. The decision was easy. I had people. They weren’t friends yet, but they said I was one of them, so maybe that was the start of something. “Home?” I told her.
“Oooooooh, are you changing? Do you have a car?” Autumn was sitting on the floor next to her, chatting with Goober, and I couldn’t tell just what they were all doing here. No one was making any move to leave the school.
Even if they all drive, don’t they want to go home? “I ride the bus. I don’t have a car. Why would I change?”
“Well the meeting is in a half an hour. Are you really going to work in… that?”
I still didn’t have any idea what she was talking about, and vacillated between running away, becoming a nun, and taking a vow of silence; and seeing what the hell she was talking about. I went with the former, moving toward the center of the group, like that was were I was supposed to be, and then asking, “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, honey,” she laid her hand on my wrist, “we have to work on your grammar. It’s ‘what the fuck are you talking about.’”
“Okay, yeah. That.”
“Susan will get here in thirty minutes and unlock the stage. Then we have a short-ass meeting, and get to work.”
One thing to know about me. I find it very hard to confess my ignorance to anything. So standing there, with no idea who Susan was, or what the meeting was going to be about, or what ‘work’ entailed; I just nodded my head. “Oh, Regular Dave didn’t explain that to me.”
“That dumb-ass,” she said the insult fondly. Perplexing. “Hang out with us.” And she sat down. I sat down.
Then the regulars started filing up. Wee David was there next, plopping down with one ear bud in, and jogging his head to music. Big Davey showed up and leaned against the wall.
Everyone turned to Big Davey at this time. Big Davey gave a knowing nod to everyone. Everyone looked like they were going to ask Big Davey a question. Big Davey waited for them to ask.
Autumn finally caved, “Did you get it?”
“It’s in the car, Regular Dave is watching it.”
“Which one did you get?”
Big Davey didn’t answer because Sarah came up at that moment, wrapped her arms around Big Davey and kissed him. “Did you get the Vimle, or the Kivik?”
“I thought we were getting the Färlöv,” Autumn said.
“No one wanted the fucking Färlöv,” Bree told her. Bree was mean. I liked Bree. “It’s a hundred dollars more than we had, and it’s an ugly piece of shit.”
“Sorry, Autumn,” Sarah told her, “but it is an ugly piece of shit. It has throw pillows. What are we going to do with throw pillows?”
“Okay,” I said, “This is a fascinating conversation. Will anyone tell me what the hell you’re talking about?”
Big Davey looked at me, “Should we tell her?”
“She didn’t put any money in, so, fuck no,” Bree said.
“Besides,” this from Autumn, “I wanna see her face when she finds out.”
“My face is right here, you could tell me now, and then you would see it.”
“Not as fun that way, love.”
The door to the stage opened and a woman in her mid fifties with fluffy blond hair propped it open without saying a word. Goober helped Autumn up, Wee David pulled the ear bud from his ear, and everyone filed inside. There was a calm flurry of activity. Everyone knew what needed doing, and they went around turning on the lights they needed, opening up the garage door behind the stage, arranging the curtains. When that was done they all sat down in the garage part, while I was still reeling from my first real encounter with a stage.
It smelled like dust. But so much dust. And so many different kinds. A zoological treasure of species of dust.
There was the dust of the stage itself. Dirt, rubber scuffs, mixed with wood polish. The dust from the curtains, impossible to vacuum, I suppose. Heavy cloth, with a velvet nap, cloth and fabric. There was the dust from the auditorium, a hundred thousand shoes, mingled with the chairs. And the dust from the shop. Sawdust, hot metal. Work dust, that knew it was dangerous. Dust that could lop your finger off, if you hadn’t learned to be careful so hard you no longer thought about how careful you were.
We stood in the center of light and activity but beyond our little island was a dark abyss. The house wasn’t lit, and it was a blank nothing beyond.
I don’t know if what I was feeling had a name, but I wanted to feel it forever.
“It’s like that every time,” Regular Dave said from behind me.
I felt like I had been fooled into a profound experience, and then caught with my pants down, “What am I doing here?”
“I told you, you’re one of us. You’re a techie now.”
(\^.^)\┏━┓ ︵ /(^.^/)
Susan was dumpy, not really fat, but over the years her face had melted like a wax sculpture. Everyone was standing around her in the shop. Along the back wall was a pile of lumber on steel bars. They seemed to be there to separate one pile of lumber from another, but I couldn’t tell by what criteria. It made it look like someone had done something to the gravity in here, and a house had fallen sideways onto the wall and disintegrated. There was a table saw, and I knew what that was because it was in the middle of a table. All the other things? Well they were sharp things, and probably had names, so that momma sharp thing could tell them apart.
“We’re finalizing the designs for the set this year,” Susan told us, “so it’s platforms and flats for the next two weeks, because everything we have is in really bad shape.” She turned to me, “What’s your name hun.”
“This is Aisling,” Sarah said. “She’s cool.” I tried not to beam.
Then Susan killed my vibe, “Those shoes are okay for today, Aisling. But Wednesday I need to see you in some boots, or you don’t touch a thing in here. There’s lumber down stairs in the truck, go bring it up. I want 15 platforms done today.”
And then everyone filed out, and went downstairs, and propped the door open. In the back was a truck, but not like a truck. Like a truck. Not a truck that you buy because you think it’ll be cool to have a truck. Like a truck you buy, because you need a truck. A scaffolding had been welded along the back so that a bunch of plywood sheets could be stacked lengthwise while the rest of the truck was filled with 1x and 2x. I looked around, chagrined to see that everyone else was wearing, or putting on, heavy work gloves. I was trying to decide if I should say something along the lines of, ‘Oh you guys use gloves? I stopped a long time ago’ when I was jerked out of my plan. I looked down to see Rachel had slapped a pair of rat eaten gloves into my chest.
“Here, I just bought new ones,” then she climbed into the truck and started passing big hunks of wood to people.
Bree was the first in line, and I expected her to take a 2x, and then bring it inside with someone’s help. I expected wrong. She took one, and then another, and then another, and then another. At three she swung around, very carefully, adjusted them on her shoulders, and took off. Well okay. But that’s Bree, Sarah won’t—Sarah took four. Autumn took four. So it went until it was my turn in line and we were out of 2x4s. Oh thank god, I can probably carry four of the skinny ones. And Rachel put four on my shoulder, and I said, “Hurk.”
She stopped, and did her best not to look at me with pity, “By the end of the month, you’re going to be throwing those around like they’re toothpicks.”
I gave her a wan smile, and spent the next ten minutes trying to get them inside without fainting, while people carrying a lot more passed me on the stairs. I managed one more load, and by that time the guys were carrying in the plywood, three to four at a time.
I put my load on the pile, which Wee Davy was busy sorting. He had a forty gallon trash can next to him, and was throwing smaller pieces of wood into it, while he shuffled the other stuff around. “Hey,” I asked him, “does everyone always know what they’re supposed to do here?”
Wee Davy looks at me a little confused, “She told us what to do, we’re making platforms.”
“You aren’t making platforms,” I don’t know why this bothered me. I felt like I fit in, and didn’t fit in.
“No, I’m organizing the lumber, so that other people can make platforms. Then I’ll make platforms.”
“Okay,” It was time to admit my ignorance, “how do I make platforms?”
“Oh!” He seemed to get something, and threw the planks into his hands into the trash can. “We have to get Rachel or Regular Dave, I can’t certify you on anything. Come with me.”
On the stage there were three teams of two, each one working over the plywood with tape measures, and chalk lines. Rachel and Regular Dave and Susan were talking as a group, while everyone worked. Wee David didn’t even wait to interrupt, “Aisling needs to get certified on everything before she can start.”
Susan nodded, “Will you do that Rachel, get a form out of the desk, and put it on the wall.”
Rachel nodded, turned and appraised me. “Do you have a hair tie?”
That’s probably one of the girl things mom wanted me to buy. “Not with me, no.”
“Alright, we’ll have to get a rubber band. You can’t go into the shop with your hair loose, it has to be up.”
“So a band saw doesn’t catch it and rip your scalp off.”
“Hair up in the shop, got it.”
Rachel pulled a form out of a desk inside the shop, threw a rubber band at me, and misspelled my name on the form. “No, it’s spelled A-I-S-L-I-N-G.”
She handed the form to me and I corrected the spelling. Then she took it, put it on the wall, and screwed it in with a screw gun. “There.” She looked at me and waggled the gun, “What’s the point of keeping thumbtacks around?”
Over the next half hour I was taken through the shop and told all of the ways not to do things. This is a miter, hold this, don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this. Here’s a quick square, use it like this, not like this, not like this. This is a band saw, don’t touch this, don’t put your hand here, don’t lean. Here are the nuclear launch codes. Don’t press this button, or this button, and especially not this button. And on and on like that.
What she didn’t ever explain was how to do anything, just how not to do it. She assumed that I would figure out what worked. And at that point I wasn’t sure what I could possibly be doing here.
And then I got to build a platform and fell in love again.
Platforms are the Lego of stagecraft. They’re the bits that actors walk on, or stand on, or talk on, or whatever it is actors do. A platform is just like it sounds. A 4x8 piece of 3/4 inch ply, with 2x4 runners. You put them on legs, and stabilize them, and they can be anything you want, as long as you want something that you stand on at a certain height.
Rachel put a screw gun in my hand, and handed me some screws, “Do not ever put the screws in your mouth,” she said, speaking around two screws sticking out of her lips. “This runner is cut, put two screws here.” She watched me. “Now put two here.” “Good.” “Do the same on the other side.” “This needs to be cut,” she handed me a 2x4. “The ply is four feet across, and there’s a two by on either side, how long does it need to be?”
“Umm,” Do some quick math— “Three feet eight inches.”
“Right—” I turned to cut my first piece of wood, ready to step into the fire, “—but wrong,” she finished. “Two by fours are measured before their trimmed. They’re actually one and a half inches thick, and three and a half inches wide.”
“Okay,” More math thinking, man I’m not used to this, “So that’s three feet, nine inches?”
“Yup. Go cut it.”
I went in to the shop, Rachel didn’t follow. She’d showed me what to do, and now I had to do it, and she wasn’t going to watch me. This seems easy enough. Just don’t touch anything in the shop and flee. Instead I put the measured hunk of wood on the miter, and cut it. Wow that was easy. Then I did it three more times, threw the end in the pile.
It was around this time that I began to realize what I had been feeling this whole time. Power. Here in this shop, I could do anything I wanted. No one was watching me. I could build a ship. I didn’t want to build a ship. I wanted to build platforms. Why did I want to build platforms? Because no one was there to tell me I couldn’t. Someone needed platforms. I knew how to build platforms. I will build someone platforms, and no one can stop me.
That was what the stage was. Everything you wanted to do to have a play was there. It was versatility. It was can-do attitude. It was a cornucopia of untapped potential.
One platform done, I realized that Rachel had left. Jeremy was with me now, and we were just working. We didn’t talk, we didn’t have to. He could see what I needed, and he did it. I could see what he needed and I did it. And for a little bit the world was perfect.
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