Monday, October 7, 2013

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Four hours later: I'm in the middle of the line of people rushing out of the physics classroom fifth period when I see Tiny walking past the window. He stops, dramatically pivots toward the door, and waits for me.

"We broke up," he says matter-of-factly.

"So I heard. Thanks for letting me know - after telling everyone else."

"Yeah, well," he says. People weave around us like we're a blood clot in the hallway's artery. "Rehearsal's gonna go late - we're gonna do a run-through after dress - but you wanna get some late-night dinner? Hot Dog Palace or something?"

I consider it a minute, thinking about the unsent email in my drafts folder, and the other Will Grayson, and Tiny up onstage telling me the truth behind my back, and then I say, "I don't think so. I'm tired of being your Plan B, Tiny."

It doesn't faze him, of course. "Well, I guess I'll see you at the play then."

"I don't know if I can make it, but yeah, I'll try."

It's hard to read Tiny's face for some reason, but I think I've gotten a shot in. I don't know exactly why I want to make him feel like crap, but I do.

I'm walking to Jane's locker to find her when she comes up behind me and says, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"You can talk to me for billions of minutes." I smile.

We duck into an abandoned Spanish classroom. She spins a chair around and sits, the chair's back like a shield. She's wearing a tight T-shirt underneath a peacoat, which she presently takes off,  and she looks awfully good, good enough that I wonder aloud if we can't talk at home.

"I get distracted at your house." She reaises her eyebrows and smiles, but I see the fake in it. "You said yesterday that we were not not-dating, and like it's not a big deal, and I realize that it has been one week and one week only, but I actually don't want to not not-date you; I want to be your girlfriend or not, and I would think by now you're qualified to make at least a temporary decision on the topic, because I know I am."

She looks down for a second, and I notice her hair parted in the middle has an accidental zigzag at the top of her head, and I inhale to talk, but then she says, "Also, I'm not going to be devastated or anything either way. I'm not that kind of person. I just think if you don't say the honest thing, sometimes the honest thing never becomes true, you know, and I -" she says, but then I hold up my finger, because I need to hear the thing she just said, and she talks too fast for me to keep up. I keep holding up my hand, thinking if you don't say the honest thing, it never becomes true.

I put my hands on her shoulders. "I just realized something. I really really like you. You're amazing, and I so want to be your boyfriend, because of what you just said, and also because that shirt makes me want to take you home now and do unspeakable things while we watch live-action Sailor Moon videos. But but but you're totally right about saying the honest thing. I think if you keep the box closed long enough you do kill the cat, actually. And - God, I hope you won't take this personally - but I love my best friend more than anyone in the world."

She's looking at me now, squinting confusion.

"I do. I fucking love Tiny Cooper."

Jane says, "Um, okay. Are you asking me to be your girlfriend, or are you telling me that you're gay?"
"The first one. The girlfriend one. I gotta go find Tiny."

I stand up and kiss her on the zigzag and then bolt.

I call him while running across the soccer field, holding down 1 to speed dial. He doesn't pick up, but I think I know where he thinks I'm going, so I go there.

Once I see the park to my left, I slow to a fast-walk, heaving breaths, my shoulders burning beneath the backpack straps. Everything depends upon him being in the dugout, and it's so unlikely that he would go there, three days before the opening of the play, and as I walk in, I start to feel like an idiot:  His phone is off because he's in rehearsal, and I ran here instead of running to the auditorium, which means that now I am going to have to run back to the auditorium, and my lungs were not designed for such rigorous use.

I slow further when I hit the park, half because I'm out of breath and half because so long as I can't see into the dugout, he's there and he isn't. I watch this couple walking on the lawn, knowing that they can see into the dugout, trying to tell from their eyes whether they see a gigantic someone sitting in the visitors' dugout of this Little League field. But their eyes give me nothing, and I just watch them as they hold hands and walk.

Finally, the dugout comes into view. And damned if he isn't sitting right in the middle of that wooden bench.

I walk over. "Don't you have dress rehearsal?" He doesn't say anything until I sit down next to him on the cold wooden bench.

"They need a run-through without me. Otherwise, they may mutiny. We'll do the dress a little later tonight."

"So, what brings you to the visitors' dugout?"
"You remember after I first came out, you used to say, instead of like saying, 'Tiny plays for the other team', you'd say, 'Tiny plays for the White Sox.'"

"Yeah. Is that homophobic?" I ask.

"Nah," he says. "Well, probably it is, but it didn't bother me. Anyway, I want to apologize."

"For what?"

Apparently, I've uttered the magic words, because Tiny takes a deep breath before he starts talking, as if - fancy this - he has a lot to say. "For not saying to your face what I said to Gary. I'm not gonna apologize for saying it, because it's true. You and your damn rules. And you do get tag-alongy sometimes, and there's something a little Drama Queeny about your anti-Drama Queenyness, and I know I'm difficult but so are you and your whole put-upon act gets really old, and also you are so self-involved."

"Said the pot to the kettle," I say, trying not to get pissed. Tiny is awfully talented at puncturing the love bubble I felt for him. Perhaps, I think, this is why he gets dumped so much.

"Ha! True. True. I'm not saying I'm innocent. I'm saying you're guilty, too."

The couple walks out of my view. And then finally I feel ready to banish the quiver Tiny apparently thinks is weakness. I stand up so he has to look at me, and so I have to look at him, and for once, I'm taller. "I love you," I say.

He tilts his fat lovable head like a confused puppy.

"You are a terrible best friend," I tell him. "Terrible! You totally ditch me every time you have a boyfriend, and then you come crawling back when you're heartbroken. You don't listen to me. You don't even seem to like me. You get obsessed with the play and totally ignore me except to insult me to our friend behind my back, and you exploit your life and the people you say you care about so that your little play can make people love you and think how awesome you are and how liberated you are and how wondrously gay you are, but you know what? Being gay is not an excuse for being a dick.
"But you're one on my speed dial and I want you to stay there and I'm sorry I'm a terrible best friend, too, and I love you."

He won't stop it with the turned head. "Grayson, are you coming out to me? Because I'm, I mean, don't take this personally, but I would sooner go straight than go gay with you."

"NO. No no no. I don't want to screw you. I just love you. When did who you want to screw become the whole game? Since when is the person you want to screw the only person you get to love? It's so stupid, Tiny! I mean, Jesus, who even gives a fuck about sex?! People act like it's the most important thing humans do, but come on. How can our sentient fucking lives revolve around something slugs can do. I mean, who you want to screw and whether you screw them? Those are important questions, I guess. But they're not that important. You know what's important? Who would you die for? Who do you wake up at five forty-five in the morning for even though you don't even know why he needs you? Whose drunken nose would you pick?!"

I'm shouting, my arms whirling with gesticulations, and I don't even notice until I run out of important questions that Tiny is crying. And then softly, the softest I've ever heard Tiny say anything, he says, "If you could write a play about anybody…" and then his voice trails off.

I sit down next to him, put my arm around him. "Are you okay?"

Somehow, Tiny Cooper manages to contort himself so that his massive head cries on my narrow shoulder. And after a while he says, "Long week. Long month. Long life."

He recovers quickly, wiping his eyes with the popped collar of the polo shirt he's wearing beneath a striped sweater. "When you date someone, you have the markers along the way, right: You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. You can plot the points on a graph. And you check up with each other along the way: Can I do this? If I say this, will you say it back?
"But with friendship, there's nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that's something you choose. Being friends, that's just something you are/"

I just stare out at the ball field for a minute. Tiny sniffles. "I'd pick you," I say. "Fuck it, I do pick you. I want you to come over to my house in twenty years with your dude and your adopted kids and I want our fucking kids to hang out and I want to, like, drink wine and talk about the Middle East or whatever the fuck we're gonna want to do when we're old. We've been friends too long to pick, but if we could pick, I'd pick you."

"Yeah, okay. You're getting a little feelingsy, Grayson," he says. "It's kinda freaking me out."

"Got it."

"Like, don't ever say you love me again."

"But I do love you. I'm not embarrassed abouit."

"Seriously, Grayson, stop it. You're making me throw up in the back of my mouth a little."

I laugh. "Can I help with the play?"

Tiny reaches into his pocket and produces a neatly folded piece of notebook paper and hands it to me. "I thought you'd never ask," he says, smirking.

Will (and to a lesser extent Jane),
Thank you for your interest in assisting me in the run-up to Hold Me Closer. I would greatly appreciate it if you would both be backstage opening night to assist with costume changes and to generally calm cast members (okay, let's just say it: me). Also, you'll have an excellent view of the play.
Also, the Phil Wrayson costume is excellent as is, but it'd be even better if we had some Will Grayson-ish clothes for Gary to wear.
Furthermore, I thought I would have time to make a preshow mix in which the odd-numbered tracks are punk rock and the even-numbered tracks are from musicals. I will not, in fact, have time to do this; if you do, it would be truly fabulous.
You are a cute couple, and it was my distinct pleasure to set you up, and I do not in any way resent either of you for failing to have thanked me for making your love possible.
I remain…
Your faithful matchmaker and servant…
Toiling alone and newly singly in an ocean of pain so that some light may be brought into your lives…
Tiny Cooper

I laugh while I read it, and Tiny laughs, too, nodding his head, appreciating his own awesome.

"I'm sorry about the other Will Grayson," I say.

His smile folds in upon itself. His response seems directed more toward my namesake than me. "There's never been anybody like him."

I don't trust the words as he says them, but then he exhales through pursed lips, his sad eyes squinting at the distance, and I believe him.

"I should probably get started on this, eh? Thanks for the backstage invite."

He gets up and starts nodding like he sometimes does, the repetitive nodding that tells me he's convincing himself of something. "Yeah, I should get back to infuriating the cast and crew with my tyrannical direction."

"I'll see you tomorrow then," I say.

"And all the other days," he says, patting me too hard between the shoulder blades.