Stealing the Spotlight
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Lucky me, I thought at the time. I met a small, shy woman who set my heart to beating like a hummingbird. Somehow I talked her into going with me to see a play in a small outdoor theater in a nearby town. The play wasn’t meant for Broadway but provided entertainment without driving two hours to the nearest large city.

The stage itself sat at the bottom of a green hill. The slope had been tiered off into seven grassy levels faced with stones. The gates opened up an hour and a half before the show to allow people to come sit on this grass and enjoy a pre-show picnic. We skipped the picnic and arrived later in the evening to avoid the heat and found the place almost filled to capacity. We tiptoed through the maze of blankets, picnic baskets, lawn chairs, and outstretched legs with the dexterity of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire with one exception: me. I tripped, crushed, and fumbled my way to the last tiny available space, much to the embarrassment of my date and the moans and groans of the snooty picnickers. We ended up sitting elbow to elbow which was fine by me, as I anticipated stealing a kiss before the show ended.

  
 
I thought the outdoors, the theater and the picnics around us would set the mood. We made small talk about other plays in different settings before the show began. I had been sitting wedged into the short lawn chair for about twenty minutes when I began to feel a tingling in my leg that forewarned of a numbness to follow. I tried to stretch my legs out to restore the blood flow. Unfortunately, I was unable to extend them too far. The people occupying the area in front of me on the next lower tier, were too close.

I spied on my date from the corner of my eye, waiting for the perfect moment to spring my kiss. Between scenes, she turned away and remarked on how the full moon had come up over the stage. How romantic! With her looking away at the moon, I leaned over as far as I could, tilting the webbed lawn chair just a bit and pursed my lips. I would plant one on her when she turned. And she did.

I didn’t see the soft, shy, loving look in her eyes as she turned back toward me, as a sudden cramp hit my calf. I jerked my head around quickly to grab the painful muscle with my hands at the same time she turned. My head hit her square on the nose and I knew it. To return my attention to my now-shocked and wailing date, I had to let go of the cramp. My second alternative to relieve my pain was to kick out my leg which I did, connecting solidly with the man sitting in front of me, hastening the flow of red wine from his glass to his mouth, chin, shirt, and pants.

I focused my attention on my date, knowing I would probably have to confront the recipient of my kick, sooner than later, but the blood flowing between her fingers seemed to require my attention. I searched futilely for a napkin, paper towel, or any other absorbent cloth. I panicked at my inability to find anything when a sudden and not well thought out idea struck. I asked if she had any tampons. The question must have been cruel because there was no mistaking the look in her eyes as she stood to storm off.

About this time I began to wonder what was taking the man below me so long to come to my rescue and haul me away from one unwinnable situation to another.

Somehow, he had forgotten where he was and had tripped over his picnic basket and started an avalanche of people, spreading wide as it was long. I turned back to my bleeding, angry date, who had made it to her feet but had been trapped by the rising bystanders trying to get a better view of the carnage below me. This was my chance to make amends so I tried to stand to help her through the crowd. That pesky cramp returned and like a one-legged man on a pogo stick, I hopped about our little square of green holding my calf and looking forlornly at the back of my departing date. My athletic prowess has been documented earlier, so it was no surprise to me that my hopping would lead to disaster as I already felt my balance shifting. The first hop backwards was small, maybe a few inches. The next hop; a foot. The couple sitting to our right scrambled away, as there was no mystery to where I was headed. Egg salad sandwiches will not withstand two hundred pounds of hopping man and they are quite slippery once the egg has been mashed out from between what I think was a whole wheat bread, but don’t quote me on that; even though my eyes were wide open, I wasn’t paying particular attention to what got flattened under foot.

The boy handling the lighting for the play decided it best to illuminate the scene for all to get a better view of a quiet night ruined. The thousand-watt spotlight burned my retinas, taking my focus from my cramp to my eyes but doing absolutely nothing for my balance. My fall was cushioned by the patch of blackberry briars and the acupuncture relieved the pain of the cramp and moved it elsewhere: the location of the penetrating briars.

The large man with my footprint on the back of his head came to my rescue. He tore me from the clutches of the cat-like blackberry bush. The ripping sound could have been my shirt, my pants, or my skin, but before I could determine the exact nature, I saw a fist in motion. Thank God the cramp returned, giving me superhuman strength, and the reflex of my leg sent the behemoth tumbling, re-creating the avalanche that had just recovered. Hopping again – and this time trying to steer – my fall was cushioned by a nest of green-leafed vines. I crawled through the bushy vegetation and found an opening in the fence through which I made my escape, ripping the pocket holding my wallet and the cloth beneath, revealing parts best left covered and adding an additional scratch to my already shredded body. My date was nowhere to be found, and since she had driven us there, I assumed she went either to the emergency room, police station, or home. I flipped open my cell phone to call and remind her that she had left me stranded but thought better of it.

The limp home wasn’t far, although I started to itch all over, making the trip uncomfortable. I jumped into ditches at every set of headlights to cover my a…a...escape in case Footprint Head was looking for me. As the night progressed the itching became worse and the words “leafy” and “vine” became operable and a new word, “calamine,” popped into my head.

I have to wonder if I’ll ever get that kiss.

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