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The Poet with His Face in His Hands

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Summer 1983 

Horns and shouts within. Lysander, Demetrius, Helena and Hermia wake and start up. 

I stretched and yawned my way to waking. A light ripple of laughter spread through the audience as each of the four ‘lovers’ looked around at each other in confusion. 

As the play continued we were questioned about our antics on this strange Midsummer’s Night, but my Helena only had eyes for her Demetrius (in this case, played by a very young, floppy-haired, enthusiastic Keanu Reeves). 
Demetrius begun his speech and I leaned toward him anxiously, hanging on his every word. At last he spoke the words poor Helena had been waiting to hear for the entire play:  

And all the faith, the virtue of my heart,
The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
Is only Helena.

He swung his gaze towards me and I promptly fainted on cue, amid shouts of appreciative laughter. Hermia helped me back to my feet and I stole shy glances at Demetrius, who was now staring at me with adoration. 

A few more dazed conversations about our evening in the forest, our joy at now being sorted into happy pairs, and the scene drew to a close.  

Keanu spoke Demetrius’ final line, our cue to exit: 

Why, then, we are awake: let's follow him
And by the way let us recount our dreams.

Our eyes met again, exultant. I held out my arms for him to leap into them, which he did with great aplomb. That earned us a huge laugh from the crowd, and I carried Demetrius off to our wedding. 

We’d practised the move many times and it honestly wasn’t hard - Keanu held most of his own weight in his arms as he clasped them tightly around my neck. The only problem was I couldn’t see very well as I pranced towards the exit. 
Luck was not with me this time. One of the fairies had lost a shimmering wing earlier in the play, and it had apparently been forgotten. That is until I slipped on the sheer material and sent Keanu flying across the stage. 
The audience’s laughter was suddenly hushed. I was stunned for a moment but quickly recovered, leaping to my feet and holding a hand out to a slightly dishevelled Demetrius. 

“Methinks I am awake now,” I improvised, shaking my head and blinking, at which the audience laughed and applauded. Keanu and I joined hands and frolicked backstage, collapsing in silent giggles as soon as we were off. 

“Shit, I thought it was all over,” Keanu whispered. “Perfect recovery line though!” 
We softly high-fived and raced into the change rooms to switch costumes for our final scene of the play. It was a pretty easy one - the lovers basically get to sit back, enjoy their wedding feast, and watch the hilariously exaggerated performance of the ‘Mechanicals’. 

It was a brilliant show that night - everything we could ask for in the last performance of the season. Later, at the cast party, I found Keanu and gave him a huge hug. 

“Well you did it! Your first show with the company!” 
“That was the most fun I’ve had off the ice,” he told me, grinning hugely. 
“Yeah cool, hockey and stuff,” I mumbled, “Sportsball eh?” 
“Sports puck,” he corrected, knuckling my hair. 

I ducked away and tried to reach his hair to mess it up but he was just too tall. He started laughing at me and I aimed a poke at his belly instead. He jumped back slightly to avoid my fingers and I conceded defeat. 
“Whatever man.” 

As I turned away in fake disgust Keanu suddenly scooped me up into his arms from behind. 
“I’m tired of you carrying me around - you’re gonna be the helpless maiden for a bit now,” he growled. 
“Hey that’s fine with me.” I exclaimed, “To the drinks table, good sir!” 

Once the party was in full swing I decided it was safe to get out my guitar. I loved jamming but without a bit of alcoholic assistance I was pretty shy about singing in public. 

I plugged in to one of the little stage amps and sat in the middle of the empty set strumming the opening riff to Ziggy Stardust. I’d barely made it through the first verse before Keanu and a few other kids from the cast wandered over to join in. We sang in our best British accents with the crazy enthusiasm that only a bunch of drama nerds can truly summon. We’d just finished a kick-ass run of a show, we were all together and (for the run of the play at least) we had become a family. It’s a pretty heady feeling and one that’s hard to beat. Coupled of course with the knowledge that after tonight we might all go our separate ways and the dynamic would never be quite the same again. It made for a wild night for some, melancholic for others. 

I flowed out of Ziggy into Rebel Rebel, which was also met with a loud chorus of singing, before rounding off the Bowie medley with my all time favourite, Under Pressure. By this point the whole party had joined us on the stage.  

It’s pretty hard (or, shall we say, impossible) to make that song work by yourself, and when it came time for Freddie’s solo I was so focused on singing that I stopped playing entirely. Keanu slipped the guitar out of my hands and roughly picked up the chords. I put my heart and soul into that wicked high note, screaming my way up and nailing it with all the energy I possessed. Everyone cheered loudly and I floated on deep satisfaction as the song ground to a messy halt and Keanu met my eyes, laughing appreciatively.

Keanu kept ahold of the guitar and took things down a notch with a slow cover of Joy Division. He wasn’t the best guitarist, or the best singer, but there was something hypnotic about how focused and quiet he got when he was concentrating.

Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

Keanu sang solemnly in a dusky baritone, and I lay across one of the fairies’ pillows to watch him, sipping red wine and half falling asleep. Keanu’s messy hair fell across his eyes as he played, his fingers slightly hesitant on the strings, and for the length of the song I was almost in love with him. Then the song finished and he launched into an absolutely absurd Rock the Kasbah, someone started drumming on the stage, and I was too busy laughing at everyone’s dancing to think about it any more.

Much later, so late it was almost dawn, we all found ourselves lying on the grass outside the theatre. The air was still and warm despite the hour, and ‘Hermia and Lysander’ were making out noisily somewhere behind my head. I tipped my head back to look at them and cracked up laughing. 

Keanu came log-rolling over the grass towards me and I cracked up at that too. 
“Oh man, I think I just collected half a ton of grass seeds in my shirt,” he complained. 
“What the heck are you doing, doofus?” I giggled. 
“Doofus? Who says doofus these days?”
“Well it’s the perfect word for you.”
“Let’s just lay here and enjoy the stars, shall we?” Keanu huffed, and we turned our faces up to gaze at the few faint stars visible over Toronto.

“This sucks,” Keanu muttered a second later.
We dissolved into a mess of giggles.
“What do you mean? Those three stars are so beautiful,” I snorted, and that set us off again.

After a few deep breaths we calmed down and I moved so my head was resting on Keanu’s belly.

“Hey I really like your voice,” Keanu said suddenly.
I was quietly pleased but I just said, “Yours too.”
“Sure,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “It’s ok, I don’t have any ambitions in that department. But how about you – are you going to do musical theatre?”
“Nah,” I sighed. “I don’t know what to do honestly. I love everything and I’m interested in everything but nothing that pays the bills. Can’t I just move to Europe and be a dirty bohemian?”
“Hell yes. I will join you on that. Want to go next year?” he offered.

I turned to look at him, not sure if he was serious.
“Um, I mean I have a couple of years of school left…”
“You’re already far smarter than your teachers. Your writing is brilliant and you don’t need school to be a dirty bohemian.”
“That’s true. Just red wine and ink stained fingers and cholera.”
Keanu snorted.

“You can be the next Rimbaud,” he said, “Writing dirty sonnets in Latin and telling your teachers they’re full of shit and then moving to Paris to drown yourself in debauchery.”
“Sounds perfect,” I murmured dreamily. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to play Hamlet,” he said immediately. “And move to Hollywood. And live alone in a cave for a while. And play hockey professionally. And design the greatest motorbike on earth.”
“Yeah, I can see you doing all that actually.”

Keanu smiled. “But yeah, acting for sure. One hundred percent.”
“I wish I was that sure about anything,” I muttered.  
We lay there in silence for a while, just breathing, and must have drifted off to sleep.

I woke suddenly to the spattering of rain drops on my eyelids and the sight of everyone leaping up to run back into the theatre.
“I guess the party’s over,” I said, grinning at Keanu, and he grabbed my hand and pulled me along as we ran for cover.