Dave and I were taking about being assholes the other day. We were waking far, taking the long way to the subway, after spending money we didn’t quite have on a meal just so we could eat together the two of us, a thing that never happens.
When we we’d finished our feast and made to head home, we got to regrets, and it turns out we both regretted being assholes at one time or another, perhaps many times, in our respective and collective lives.
As I near the end of the run of Radio Mara Mara, I’m feeling reflective on the FringeNYC experience, feeling grateful for the support of the community, and to Christopher and Zoe for taking this journey with me, for bringing themselves into the room in real way, for digging in the dirt and the paper pulp with me.
It’s been a vulnerable process for me, and I’m not a fan of being vulnerable. On more than one occasion I went home from rehearsal anxious that I was in over my head, worried that my collaborators could see through me. My mom says that feeling never goes away, but still, I don’t want to have it. I want to feel confident and strong, I want to make vulnerability a strength. Instead, after one particularly brutal rehearsal, I felt like the kid who switches to a new school, starts off with a big smile and shaking nerves but wills herself to make new friends, only to find that everyone is horrible and she just wants to hide under her bed or run away back to her old town.
Then, walking with Dave, I remembered Laura Mueller. Laura started Hanover Junior High School in 7th or 8th grade. She was tall, her feathered shoulder length hair fluttered behind her as she walked. Her boots had a slight heel, and there was a medallion on the side that made noise when she walked down the hall. Or maybe those were my boots and she wore sneakers. Laura had a big smile, and she didn’t seem too bright. Or maybe that was me.
We did home ec together. We made cakes and pillows. My sweatshirt was three sizes too big, with uneven trim. Laura made friends with the girls who already had boyfriends at the Vo Tech high school. She wore a leather jacket, just like Alanna, and this girl Lisa. These girls were not my friends, they attempted to beat me up on more than one occasion, giving me instructions on where to wait, after school, for them to pummel me.
But I was way more scared of what my step-mom would do to me if I missed the bus, so I always got on to that big yellow beast and went home.
These girls were untouchable. I insulted them with words they’d never heard, and they’d just make fun of me for it. But Laura was new. She didn’t know that she could be untouchable too, soon would be. I singled her out from the pack. I was nice to her. She was glad to have friends in our horrible horrible junior high school. She didn’t realize yet that I had so few friends myself that accepting my friendship would just be a liability for her, like it had been for Jody in 4th grade, when she wanted to make friends with me, the new girl.
I began slipping notes into Laura’s locker. Really mean notes, about how she was stupid, and ugly, and horrible. She came to me in tears with this note.
“Who would do this?” she would say, “am I really stupid and ugly?”
“No, no,” I would say, and then slip another note into her locker. Repeat.
I was such an asshole. It went on for a few weeks and I never got tired of comforting this girl after I’d laid her low.
There’s this moment in the play:
It felt good to be mean to Laura Mueller. I had no power, not at home, not at school, and being bitchy to this girl made me feel powerful.
Alanna and Lisa found out. They told her. She was shocked, and I enjoyed her shock, I enjoyed her knowing that I’d done it, and what I really thought of her.
I’d been on the receiving end of kids apologizing to me before, under duress, while their parents said: “now you apologize to this child right now.” But she didn’t tell her parents. And I didn’t have to apologize.
I’m sorry I was an asshole. I’m sorry I hated my life, and I’m sorry I took it out of you.
I’m sorry, Laura Mueller.