After the show we met in the lobby. So many years had passed and he gave off the exact same energy that he did back then. I was taken aback. Here I was wound up tighter than a roasting turkey and he was as laid back and calm as ever. He looked mostly the same, dressed a little more freely and still had that artistic demeanor that made me question my own skill. Seriously, when you are truly in the presence of a creative genius, you know it, whether they know they are emitting some strange signal or not. We drove back to the hotel and he filled me in on his life. He's had some issues that come along with being so intensely talented and yet not fit for the business world and he's struggled to find his way as well. The description "tortured artist" fits him somewhat, although he tries his best to move his life forward. He had some health issues that plagued him for years and caused him to question everything about himself but is now receiving treatment that opened up the world to him. For so long he had been traveling through a tunnel that just seemed to be so small and confining, but now he could see the outside world, even if he's not quite there yet.
We got a bottle of wine and split it in the hotel, talking about the theater and where we had been in our lives. The wine helped me relax, but I had fallen into my old trap of deflection and bringing the conversation back to the other person. He tried hard to talk to the real me, bringing up things he had read in my blog, talking about whether or not I missed the stage, talking about my working out. But I couldn't do it. I always circled back to him. The pieces of me were just too loosely bound together and I couldn't stop protecting myself.
We finished our wine and he went back to his own room about 1:30 AM. I thanked him for the invite and fell asleep, waking to get back on the road by 8:00 AM. The reunion was over but I spent the next 4 hours driving, rehashing why I couldn't let myself go and just share the friendship we used to share. Here I am in CountryTime without even a friend to spend Thanksgiving with and there he was, offering to be not only my friend, but a true "knew you when you made stupid mistakes and still loved you" friend.
So I talked to my therapist about it. She thinks that I have had to start my life over so many times, losing everything and starting from scratch, that I struggle when faced with a loose end. I don't want to call Schroeder a loose end. He's not. But he represents the theater company that I ran screaming from into the darkness. He was one of the pieces of the puzzle that was in place when I dropped out of the theater world and lost my artistic self. He was a man in my young life who had steadfastly held me up as every single other man in my life at that time came out of the closet (oh, the irony now, eh Schroeder). Merely seeing him again threw open the door to all that pain that I had shoved down and refused to acknowledge. And even though he was offering me a balm to soothe my pain, I couldn't accept it because I have been too traumatized by CountryTime. We met again at the wrong time in my life.
So there it is, the story, warts and all. The funny thing is, I know as he reads this that he is the one person who will totally get what I am saying, even though it is about him, and he will love me for it anyway. Because that's what friends do. He will continue healing himself and I will let the glue dry and one day we will meet again in a hotel room while he is on the road and we will have the conversations we both longed to have but I couldn't allow. So in the words of the great Sondheim:
Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you'll be.
Look at all the things you've done for me:
Opened up my eyes
Taught me how to see