Rehearsals for the play were coming along, my Horatio to his Hamlet, but we lacked the chemistry of steadfast friends because we'd only just met. Jake was new, not the been-here-three-years-still-new of my small town, but the just-moved-here-for-his-senior-year new.
"What ho, Horatio!" With the paucity of male talent at my school, it was not unusual for girls to end up with male roles.
"Here sweet Lord, at your service." To seed this bond we were to portray, we were given homework: spend time together, perhaps in a graveyard. We agreed with ease.
He picked me up in his little rust-colored car one afternoon, and I directed him to my favorite cemetery in town. We sauntered through the 100 year old tombstones together; mostly I listened to him talk because I didn't know what to say. I'd always loved this graveyard, so it's no wonder I had trouble summoning the fear and awe required for some of Horatio's early speeches. After a stretch of silence as we walked, Jake suggested ice cream.
We drove to a nearby shop, and he insisted on paying for me though I protested. This was the beginning of years of baffling male behavior: the leftover need to pay for women even when they're not on a date. At the time, I really wasn't sure what it meant, if anything.
Rehearsals continued, and since Horatio isn't in many scenes without Hamlet, I saw a lot of him. He was refreshingly tall and nicely proportioned for his moderate frame, dirty blonde, with a longer section on top that flopped across- just the thing to run your fingers through. Sometime along the way, I discovered the distasteful fact that he had a ninth-grader girlfriend. She was also new that year, so maybe that was part of the bond. It's actually possible he told me this when we first hung out, thereby making the ice cream issue all the more baffling.
The Hamlet experience was intense for nearly everyone involved: it's a heavy play. Our performances went well and left us charged with adrenaline at each curtain call. We had one performance left- we were to be part of a Shakespeare festival comprised of high schools from all over the county- when Jake got some bad news: his girlfriend was moving back to Texas in a couple weeks.
"That's too bad," I said, while inwardly doing the math. She'd be gone early to mid-December leaving Jake plenty of time to get over her, so he could take me to the prom.