Convention-al Crush (Or ‘How I Got to Know Kristen by Accidentally Becoming an Actor’)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Three Maidens

After three hellish years in middle school, I was determined to make as clean a start as possible in high school. I was back in with people I could relate to better (those a year ahead of me) and there was a larger pool of potential friends (a whole extra year, as a matter of fact). So I decided to try some new things.

One of those things was Key Club. There had been no school-based community service group in the middle school, so getting involved with Key Club was something very new. The only other community service experience I had back then was through Boy Scouts and the little bit I was required to do as part of my Confirmation sacrament class (yep, back when I was still technically Catholic… but that’s another story for another time). Key Club was something different. It was co-ed, it spanned all four classes of students, and it had competition to contend with (from the school’s other community service group, Interact, sponsored by Rotary).

As soon as I attended the first meeting, I knew I’d found a good place. There were faces I recognized right away from any number of places. Paul, the president, played trumpet in the school band, so I saw him every morning, just one tier down and a few seats over from my trombone spot. Meghan, the treasurer, was from one of the more prominent families in the county (I knew the family from church).

Most importantly, though, was Kristen. She played flute in the band, so I had met her in middle school. Needless to say, I (as well as a number other guys I knew) had a crush on her. (For now, we’ll ignore the fact that I would also eventually have crushes on just about every other girl in the club–and in the band–as well.) Key Club would be a chance to get to know her outside of band. That was a big extra bonus to the general goodness of the promised community service.

As the year went on, I was enthralled by the charisma of the club’s president. Paul was just one of “those” guys. Everyone loved him. He inspired people to do their best and made it all fun, no matter what “it” was. His enthusiasm and hard work made Key Club, band and the school as a whole, quite the experience–even for a lowly freshman like me. When he got all psyched up about the Key Club District Convention, so did we all.

The District Convention went on, quite literally, in our back yard. It seems my county was pretty centrally located to the population of New York State (at least as far as Key Club distribution was concerned) and the location for the District Convention was at The Pines, one of the big local hotels. I signed right up for a spot (and, of course, got my parents to pay for the weekend).

There was only one small problem.

I had a conflict in my schedule.

A few weeks earlier during the morning band class, Mr. Rovitz (our conductor) had been talking about the upcoming musical, Oliver. In the past, I had seen some of the high school’s productions and had been quite impressed by how good they were (apparently I missed the abysmal ones by a couple of years–there are still stories told about the tragedy that was Camelot in the 80s). I knew I wanted to be a part of the show, preferably in the pit band (since I was a trombone player, after all).

It wasn’t until I had my hand raised and was walking up to the front of the room to put my name on the sign-up sheet that I realized I had made a horrible mistake.

For a minute or so, my attention had drifted to a conversation with the guy next to me. What the “call for interest” had been wasn’t about the pit band.

It was for the musical itself.

On stage.

Singing and dancing.

Not knowing what else to do (and definitely not wanting to look like a stupid freshman in front of the flute and clarinet sections–which were, of course, composed almost entirely of very crushable women), I signed up for an audition slot and went back to my seat. Then I sat there in terror, wondering what I had just done, as Rovitz then called for interest in the pit band.

I don’t think I even realized at that point that Kristen had signed up for it.

Since I had signed up for an audition spot, it only made sense for me to actually swallow my fear and do it. And so, one day after school, I got up on stage, read some lines, sang (and I use the term loosely) a couple of bars and was eventually given the part of Mr. Brownlow. A part which, thankfully, had no song or dance numbers. Solo song and dance would be something I’d be able to avoid right up until my senior year.

When I realized the convention weekend and the last big play rehearsal weekend were one in the same, I hustled to work out some sort of compromise. There was no way I was going to be able to miss any of the play rehearsals, so it was my time at the convention that would have to be truncated. The only challenge was I’d have to find a way back and forth from the stage to the convention.

And that’s where Kristen came in. She was in the pit band and she had a car and she was going to the convention, too. It was only sensible that I hitch a ride with her. That’s just what we did.

For two nights her and I would make the fifteen minute or so drive from the play rehearsal to the hotel, grabbing some food along the way. We’d make it in while everyone else was at dinner. So we just sat and talked. I gave her a tarot reading. We talked some more. I was actually sad that people came back from dinner.

It was the most intimate and honest conversation I had ever had with a girl at that point in my life. She actually listened to me! What I said actually helped her with problems she was having! She wasn’t freaked out by the things I was in to!

The convention also gave me the chance to get to know a lot of the other people from my club in a totally different way than you get to know people in school. At that convention, school social standing didn’t matter. We weren’t freshmen or seniors, we were Key Club members. And we had fun.

But the thing I remember most is that time I spent with Kristen. Over the next three years, she’d become one of the three most important people in my high school life.

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