On Saturday night my father took me into the city to see the musical West Side Story (an updated musical version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). The show is touring around the country for a few months before heading to New York in the Fall (for a Broadway revival or something), and my father surprised me by getting tickets for their opening-night performance.
It was fantastic!
I love seeing plays and musicals performed live. The film version of West Side Story is – and probably always will be – one of my all-time favorite movies. But, there was an electricity coming off of the stage the other night that simply can’t be duplicated on a movie screen (no matter how good the movie is).
I was so energized by the actors’ performances on Saturday night that I practically leapt out of my seat when the show was over. As we walked to the car, the brisk March air (which had felt so bitter and unforgiving when we’d raced into the theatre just a few hours earlier) felt so good – so cool and brisk on my cheeks – that, for a second, I didn’t care if Spring ever arrived. “Don’t leave Lion,” I called out. “Stay away, Lamb!” And I laughed out loud as the wind whipped my hair wildly in the air.
At that moment, I felt lucky to be alive – motherless or not.
So lucky that I almost forgot all about Elise and what she did to me this past week. Or, rather, what she didn’t do.
Way back in November my father ordered three tickets for West Side Story – one for himself, one for me, and one for my brother. But, a few days ago, he shocked me by suggesting that I invite a friend to come along in my brother’s place (“So that I can have two lovely dates on my arm, instead of one,” he said with a grin).
He told me that I could invite anyone I wanted. I just had to give him an answer by Thursday afternoon, so that he could make sure that there was someone to look after my brother while we were out.
I immediately thought of Elise. We had watched the movie version of West Side Story together at least a dozen times, and I knew that she loved the show as much as I did. So I called her – twice. She never returned my calls.
When she didn’t return my first call, I was upset (of course). But, I forgave her, because I figured that, maybe, her mother had forgotten to tell her that I’d called. Not that Elise’s mother, Charlotte, generally makes it a habit of forgetting to give Elise my messages. It’s just that she’d been trying to take a nap when I’d called (she said that she wasn’t feeling very well), and she sounded really groggy.
So, even though we had a perfectly normal conversation (she told me that Elise was out shopping with her grandmother…I told her why I was calling…she said a night out at the theatre sounded like a lot of fun…I said that I thought so too…she promised to have Elise call me when she got back from the store…and so on), I couldn’t help feeling that Charlotte really wasn’t paying all that much attention to what I was saying. That maybe she wasn’t fully awake, even though she was having a conversation with me.
Not that I blame her. I know what it’s like to be wakened by a ringing phone. Sometimes, it is really hard to focus on the person at the other end of the line. Which is why, when I still hadn’t heard back from Elise after a few days had passed, I came to the conclusion that one of two things had happened. Either Charlotte remembered our conversation, but she remembered it as a dream that she’d had during her nap, and not as something that had actually happened. Or, she was so tired when she’d spoken to me that she just plain forgot that I had called.
So, I called Elise again.
This time, I got voice mail. I left a long, rambling message explaining exactly why I was calling, and I practically begged Elise to call me back. It was kind of pathetic, if you want to know the truth, and I felt pretty stupid after I hung up the phone. But, that was nothing compared to how stupid I felt when she failed to return my call for the second time.
Bt Thursday afternoon, I still hadn’t heard back from Elise, and I had pretty much given up hope. So, when my dad asked me if I’d invited anyone to see the show, I said no. I told him that I had decided that it would be nicer if we had a family night out on the town instead, just the three of us.
I didn’t tell him about Elise not returning my calls because, if I had, he would have insisted on phoning Charlotte and “getting to the bottom of things.” And that would have embarrassed me even more thanI already was.
Besides, what could he have possibly said that would have made any difference anyway? If Elise doesn’t want to be my friend anymore, then there’s nothing that I (or anyone else) can do about it. Sure, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But, I can’t force someone to like me. Friendship doesn’t work that way.
So, why do I feel as if I’m mourning the death of another loved one?