He took a long slow slip of his Chardonnay. It was a great night – he couldn’t think of a single thing to make it better. Well maybe one thing. A girl he’d been seeing. He loved her smile, and her unpredictable thoughts. And her long long legs. He realized that he missed her. Missed her laughter, her teasing. He smiled, realizing that now, after so many years of friendship, he still felt uncertain around her. Off of his balance. She still intrigued him. He wondered if his curiosity about her would ever be sated. He doubted it.
They’d been friends for years. She’d commiserated with him when he went through his divorce. He in turn had been there when she’d gone through her trials. He shook his head. Tonight wasn’t about her, or them together. His buddy was due to arrive shortly at their favourite bar, and he needed to be on target for him. Darryl was going through a hard time at home, and it looked as though his marriage was in trouble. For now, he’d have to relegate the girl to the back of his mind, knowing that she’d lurk there, ready to tease him. God. Could he just stop thinking about her, for even a few minutes?
A blast of cold winter air blew in, and he looked over, to see his friend standing inside, brushing the snow off of his shoulders. He raised his glass. “Darryl! Over here!”
Darryl looked over. Nodded. Made his way through the crowded tables and patrons standing around at the bar. Plunked himself down on the bar chair. Looked around for the bartender. Ordered a draft. Stared sullenly ahead.
“Hey. What’s going on?”
“It’s over, man. She told me she got a lawyer today. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
He looked at his friend. “Yeah you do. You have to get a lawyer too. You need counsel buddy.”
“I know. I know. Look.” He sighed. “Let’s talk about something else okay?”
He nodded, and took another sip of wine. “Sure.”
They sat in friendly silence for a moment, watching the light dance off of the parade of bottles at the bar. The rocky music was loud enough to hear, but not overpowering. It was one of the reasons he liked the place. That, and the lighting and the friendly atmosphere. He looked over at his friend, nudged him with his elbow.
“Look – in about six months this will all be behind you.”
Darryl took a swig of his beer. “Yeah, so?”
“So….have you thought about what you want to do?”
“What’s to think about? I’ll just go to work, come home and probably get drunk on a regular basis. I’m good at that.” He flourished his bottle with false drama. “‘s what I do”
He could hear the bitterness in his friend’s voice.
“Yes. You could do that I guess.” He looked forward and kept quiet. Waiting.
Darryl lifted his head up. “Or what?”
He shrugged. Said nothing.
“Well what would you do?” He hesitated. “What did you do after your split?”
“Lots of things.”
“Like improv comedy”
Darryl laughed bitterly and turned back to the bar. “Yeah, right.”
“Dude you know me. I’m too ….backward. I could never do what you do.”
“Says me. I’m not comfortable in front of people.”
Silence again. Except for the music. A blues rendition of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” was playing now.
“Say what you’re thinking. You’re driving me nuts here. You’re acting like my wife.” He frowned. “Ex-wife.”
He looked at him. “Okay.”
He played with his napkin. Thinking.
“I think you’re like me. Quite a bit like me actually.”
“Hear me out.” He paused. “You like feeling safe don’t you?”
“Well who doesn’t?”
He nodded. “Not many.” He sat back. “Most people look for safety. It’s natural. We’re all about survival. We like things to stay the same. All of us. Almost all of the time. It’s why the end of marriage, or of a job, makes us miserable. It’s change. It’s not fun. It’s like…..” He looked at his wine. “It’s like we’re cats, and we hate having people ruffle our fur the wrong way. It irritates us, and makes us feel like we’re in danger.”
“Yeah” Darryl nodded. Took another gulp of his beer.
“So…who’d be stupid enough to deliberately go and seek change, right?” He stopped, wanting to think some more.
Darryl frowned. “Look – are you going to preach all night? Or are you going to get to the point?”
He grinned. “I’m getting there.” He sipped his wine. “After my marriage ended, I realized there was a lot of stuff I’d never done. Before we split, someone dared me to go skydiving once, and I remember being so relieved when the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to postpone our jump. When the same gang decided to try again – and this was after my split – I decided to go for it.”
“Geeze” Darryl shook his head. “You’ve got to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good plane.”
He laughed – it wasn’t the first time he’d heard someone say this. “Yeah, but….I decided to do it. I had to. I’ve always had dreams of flying. This wouldn’t be the same but at least it would be a step in that direction. I was as scared as hell, and there were a few times I thought about backing out. But I went for it anyway.”
“So how was it?”
“Terrifying. I didn’t like it at all.”
Darryl laughed. “Yeah. Sounds about right.”
“But I don’t regret it. And I’ll do it again.”
Darryl chuckled. “That’s because you’re nuts.”
“Probably.” He sat back and looked up at the hockey game on the flat panel TV over the bar.
“So that’s it? I should go skydiving?”
He shook his head. “No. It’s like….” He struggled for the right words. “It’s like while I was falling from the plane, I really felt alive. LIke I was doing something important. And it was the same with doing improv comedy. Only for that, it was more gradual, because I got lots of practice before ever getting up in front of an audience.”
“Okay look – I’m not you. I’m not going to go skydiving and I’m sure as hell not doing improv comedy. For one thing I don’t have much of a sense of humour.”
He nodded, thinking. “Darryl, I’m not saying you should do either of those things. It’s about……it’s about finding something that makes you live. Maybe for you it’s…I don’t know…doing accounting”
“Or it’s about doing something else. I don’t know what. Something. Anything that gets your blood flowing.”
They said nothing for a bit, listening to Ben E. King singing “Stand by Me”. The music was compelling. A woman near the end of the bar was swaying in time with the tune.
Darryl spoke up. “So what else got your blood flowing?”
“Well there was this actress who kind of got under my skin. I met her at an actors’ dinner. She kind of showed up on the scene a little out of the blue. I never expected to meet her that night.”
Darryl grinned. “Tell me about her.”
“Well, she was dark-skinned, with long dark hair and she said she was Persian. And she was younger than me. She kind of messed me up badly.”
Darryl nodded and grinned. “Why? Because you’re such a cracker?”
He laughed. “No – it’s just…I’ve never had such a strong spark with someone. I mean, ever. Not when I met my wife, not when I met any other girlfriend. And it was almost instant. We flirted with each other on the dance floor on the night we met, and then we….well, we made out like crazy, there on the dance floor. We just stopped while everyone else was still dancing around us, and we made out.”
“So this was a one night stand?”
“No. Oh God no! It was anything but that. It was a true attraction on every level. I’m not a one night stand kind of guy anyway – and she was the furthest from that too. She told me she split from her last boyfriend a couple of years before then.”
“So? What happened that night? You obviously didn’t take her home.”
“No, I didn’t. We walked all around Toronto for many hours. Holding hands, and occasionally stopping on the sidewalk to make out. I know it wasn’t just me who thought it was pretty wild, because at one point she said ‘you know, I’ve never kissed a boy like that before.’ And I said ‘yeah. Me neither. I’ve never kissed a boy like that either.'”
Darryl laughed. “But she’s not with you now.”
“No she’s not. Last I heard she had moved out west and got married to someone.”
Darryl looked closely at him. “Yet she left an impression.”
“She left me with an addiction.”
“Well maybe she didn’t cause the addiction but she sure as hell contributed to it.” He paused. “I’m kind of addicted to taking chances, risks. To anything that makes my heart race. I can’t tolerate ‘normal’ anymore. Can’t stand the thought of being stagnant in any way.”
“Really.” There was a curious note in Darryl’s voice.
“Yup.” He finished his wine glass. The bartender came over with the bottle, one eyebrow raised. He nodded, and the bartender poured.
Darryl held his beer bottle in his hand, looking at it. Flicked his fingernail at the edge of the label.
“So I kind of made a deal with myself.”
Darryl looked up.
“I’m always going to find a way to capture that excitement, that passion. In romance, or in what I do for a living, or whatever else. I have to. It’s what keeps me alive.”
“I don’t know.- that all sounds good, but maybe a little impractical?”
He nodded. “Really impractical.”
“So how do you plan to do it?”
“When I’ve gone through really bad times in the past, or when I’ve had to make a hard decision or put myself at risk, I’ve always asked myself ‘what’s the absolute worst that can happen?’ And generally – it’s not that bad.”
“What about when it’s really bad? Wait…” Darryl paused. “What’s the worst you’ve faced?”
“Well, the finances got really bad one time. I had creditors crawling right up my ass – and it was getting pretty damned crowded up there.”
“What did you do?”
“I worked it out.” Darryl snorted abruptly at the unintended joke. But he continued: “Even though it was onerous, I kept thinking ‘in a year’s time, this will be over’. And you know what else? I’d go to the movies to escape life for a while. And when the previews came on, I’d note the date that the movies would show up – which in some cases was six months away or more – and I’d think ‘by the time this movie comes out, I’ll be through this’ It was pretty comforting.”
Darryl looked at him. “You know, you’ve always struck me as a pretty staid, upstanding guy. I can’t ever picture you doing anything out of the ordinary.”
He laughed. “You’ve only seen me at work. Back when I was doing improv comedy, I got in with a gang of friends and we all sparked off of each other. Often, we’d stay at someone’s place and drink and talk all night long. About pretty much everything. I remember so many mornings, having to work the next day – and leaving someone’s house at 7:00 in the morning and going to work without any sleep at all. I remember one night staying over, and we all decided to bunk down. I got the couch. I remember one girl coming down from her room and rummaging around for something. I woke up and we talked for a bit – and it seemed like something amazing was going to happen but it didn’t. But the magic of it was there, the possibility – and for me, having just gone through a divorce, it was enough.”
He grinned. “Yeah, I guess I am. Back then I was in the moment, not even thinking about how great an experience it was. So much of this became a kind of cool thing – after the fact.”
“Have you done anything else out of the ordinary?”
“You mean risky?”
“Well I don’t know if this counts or not, but that same girl stayed over at my place one night, because we were going to an all-day multi-performer concert the next day in Toronto.”
“Oh so you did sleep with her!”
“No. We didn’t. She was just a friend.”
“Oh. Right. I forgot. You’re dependable.”
“No, just recently divorced. ANYWAY….” he raised his voice, determined to cut off any more jabs. “We got on the bus to Toronto, but we found it was so packed that we couldn’t sit next to each other. We were lucky to get seats at all. She ended up sitting behind me. So anyway, as the bus got going, I noticed there was an old lady behind me, sitting next to my friend. So I turned to my friend and said ‘where’s my money, bitch?'”
“Yeah. We were both in improv comedy, and one of the things we’d always talked about was doing a punk-type live performance on an unsuspecting public.”
“Oh. So what did the old lady do?”
“Well she was certainly listening. It took my friend a moment to realize what I was doing, but she quickly started playing along. By the time our impromptu routine was done, it turned out that she was a prostitute/dancer, and I was her boyfriend/pimp, and we had a four year old child that we left at home before waiting for the babysitter to arrive, because we wanted to go this concert so badly.”
Darryl laughed. “So….the old lady?”
“Totally pissed. She scrunched up her little face in such a frown.” And with that, he mimicked the frown, pulling his mouth inward as tightly as he could, with his eyebrows pulled down.
And Darryl laughed even harder, with no trace of the marriage stress in his eyes.
Which was kind of the point. Or at least, part of it.
So let me ask: is there a risky adventure that you think you’d like to do? Something that would make your heart race, but you feel you could “never do” – because of unforeseen consequences? Or is there something you’ve done – where you’ve deliberately thrown caution to the wind? I’d like to hear about it.