On Cue

The man was late, the lights were dimming. The attendant grabbed his ticket and pointed down the hall. “Turn right and take whatever seat you can find.”

The man moved forward into a narrow hallway that grew darker and darker. He slowed his steps. For a moment he was disoriented. He could have been anywhere. His foot clunked against a wooden step and he stumbled up three stairs toward an opening between heavy, velvety curtains that smelled of mildew. He waited for his eyes to adjust. A space between two heads materialized. He weaved around the person on one end and sat down between them. In the stillness that ensued, he was left with his thoughts. It was the first time he’d had to himself all day.

He came because a friend’s wife had helped with the play’s promotion. Not really a friend, but a colleague with whom he shared an off-campus lunch every couple of weeks. The play was being performed at an experimental theater off a back alley. It could use the support. He’d told him that he’d definitely see it, he was looking forward to it.

He couldn’t remember the name of the play.

He was late because he’d had a blind date with a woman at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Her dress was dun-colored, and she smelled faintly of garlic. He decided he wasn’t interested in her but she seemed to be interested in him. When she gestured with her hands and talked about herself, he maintained eye contact to show interest. He rolled his straw into a ball, let the straw unfurl, rolled it up again. Eventually he found a way to tell the woman he’d call her and hurried over to the theater.

Now he sighed. His shoulders relaxed as he sat in the quiet room’s pre-curtain buzz. The night before, he’d sat in the seats his students had slouched in earlier that day and listened to a lecture by the department’s chairman. A Jung man, the chairman poked his glasses up the bridge of his nose and maintained a steady, somewhat ironic grin. What did he say? Something about how the subconscious betrays itself by creating situations in the external world.

Fascinating.

The man’s eyes had now adjusted to the darkness. He glanced to his left, looked to the right. His row consisted of only three people. Was it the only row in the theater? His mouth opened.

Crimson lights clicked on above. Face after face appeared below, expecting something.

This story appeared in the Kennesaw Review (Online) in 2008.

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