Waiting For An Answer

As I have mentioned in this space before, in my early twenties, my brother John and I wrote and performed a show called The American Basement Review. The ABR, as it came to be known, was a collection of philosophical sketches loosely linked together in something we termed New Vaudeville. We always ended the show with a piece John had written called The American Dream, which was a kind of dreamlike verbal landscape of Americana. I thought it made for a good ending because it was both poetic and strangely upbeat, just like our show. A little risky, perhaps, but we loved it all the same. The more we performed the show, the better it got. I remember one performance in particular. Because we staged the ABR in small theaters, I could usually see the audience members in the front row. On this evening, there was an older gentleman sitting only a few feet from where I delivered the show’s last line. I could see what remained of his gray hair, could see the wrinkles on his hands as he began to clap. And as John I took our bows, I heard his voice, heard this man old enough to be my grandfather call out, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

I don’t think it would have meant so much to me if he had been my age, or even my parents’ age. I had spent my young life looking upon men and women of his age as sometimes kindly, sometimes cranky members of an alien species. I could never quite glean where these people found meaning. Sometimes when I was feeling particularly judged, when I was feeling particularly lectured or scolded, I thought I saw in these septuagenarians’ and octogenarians’ eyes the smug certainty of someone waiting for me to be as disappointed with life as they were. It’s called experience, boy.

Except you only ever see in others what you believe about yourself. Who was really waiting to be disappointed? My brother and I had found something we had loved and decided for the first time in our lives to share it with the world. Can you really do that? Is it really worth it? Are there really other like souls who love what we love?

That old man had my answer.

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