I was a dancing rat. It was funny, because I missed the dance audition for the show. I only made it to the vocal auditions, and yet, somehow, I was cast as a dancing rat in The Pied Piper of Hamlin, a children's show put on by the Penn State Thespians in the summer of 19*COUGH*COUGH*. I think it was because when I walked in to pick up my friend Lisa (I had no intention of auditioning) the stage manager, who knew me, shouted "It's an International Dancer!" The next thing I knew, I was standing around learning the audition piece. But still, I never did the dance audition.
Of all of the show I've done, this silly little three (two? five?) performance show has had a bigger impact on my life than any other play I've done. I didn't even have a SPEAKING role in it, and yet, the after-effects of the show can still be felt in my life today (more than 10 years later). I met so many people in that show who have become phenomenal friends, and still are phenominal friends, that it's just amazing. I've never kept in touch with so many castmates before.
I was a dancing rat. This tall, long haired, lanky kid was playing the Constable or Mayor or somesuch. I can never remember. I was a rat for chrissake, their memory isn't all THAT good. The tall, long haired, lanky kid and I didn't talk ALOT, but as we both had smaller roles, there was time to chat occasionally, and we did. His name was Obi. That was short for something obviously.
The show ended, and I spent the summer trying to woo a young lady who already had a boyfriend. I failed. But that's okay, cause we've made the 'if we're both 50 and single we'll get married pact' since then.
When fall came around and classes started up again, I got roped into this new fangled roleplay thing where you used paper-rock-scissors instead of dice, and you didn't sit around the table eating Cheetos, you actually dressed up and acted everything out. It was quite intreaguing!
Well, after a few failed start games, I got involved with one run by my friend from the summer, Obi! The man was a masterful storyteller. He had an 80 (or so) person game going on for which he pre-generated the majority of the characters and assigned them to people. He broke my best friend and I up, and assigned us characters that hated each other, then forced us to work together. It was a freakin' brilliant move, because neither of us had ANY problem back stabbing the other while we accomplished things. This game ran regularly for... well, for just about ever. It may have been as long as two years (or longer). I eventually started helping Obi on the logistics end of things. He'd come over to my office on the occasional Saturday while I was stuck working weekends, and we'd change maps of campus to "maps" of New Haven, Connecticut. It was a pleasure to work with him and help him tell the story he wanted to tell.
Obi had graduated with a degree in English, and was working at the Local hobby store by the time my own graduation was nearing. I'd been offered a job in Boston, and my perusal of the newspapers for apartments was looking rather bleak. There was no way I was going to be able to afford to move to Boston on my own. And I pondered. And then I pondered some more. And then I picked up the phone and called Obi.
"So hey, do you want to move to Boston with me?"
"Uhhh... do I have to give you an answer right now?"
"No, I'll call you back tomorrow."
And tomorrow came. And he said yes. And we packed up our truck and moved to
Now Obi and I had known each other for a while, but we didn't know each other that well. The cool thing about the roommate relationship was that we had enough in common that we always had something to talk about, but we were different enough that we rarely stepped on each others toes socially. That was mostly because I had no social life whatsoever.
OH! Awesome aside here. Valentine's Day 1997. Obi asks me if I want to go with him to "Hell." It was "Hell" night at the local nightclub ManRay, and since it was Valentine's Day, the theme was "To Hell With Love." I shrugged and said sure! So Obi picked me up after work, and we head over to Cambridge. We stopped in front of this store and he says "I'll be right back, I've got a pair of pants on layaway, and I need to pick them up." I say "Okay, I'll go with you!" and proceed to get out of the car and follow him into Hubba Hubba. Now, I'd never been in a store with display cases full of dildoes, and gimp masks on the wall, and chains and shit. I was a little taken aback, to say the least. But I got over it, and was able to provide nice compliments when Obi came out of the changing room in this nice pair of leather pants.
We trundled down the street to the Liberty Bookstore (I think) where we had coffee and pie. Obi excused himself to the restroom, and then was gone for about 45 minutes. I started to worry. Like, REALLY worry. Finally, he came out, shirt untucked, and said in a very clipped voice "I need to go back to the store." We paid the bill and left quickly. On the way back to Hubba Hubba, he explained to me that the zipper on the pants got all fucked up and that he couldn't zip them back up. That sucked. But what sucked more was the fact that the store was closed by the time we got there.
So we went back to the car. He got in the passenger side and wrestled with the zipper while I stood on the sidewalk shielding him from prying passerby eyes. Now, for those of you who don't know, Obi is some sort of Ninja master. He's a third degree black belt or something. So when all of a sudden he starts thrashing around on the inside of the car like a fucking Tasmanian Devil, I truly feared that our ride home wouldn't be lasting much longer. People walking by stopped and stared. I merely smiled and said "Dingo ate his baby." They laughed and walked on.
Eventually the inside of the car settled down and Obi got back into the driver's seat. "We're going home," he said. "Like hell!" I replied. I made him pull over near a 7-11, and I ran in and bought him a little box of safety pins. He pinned himself closed, and we went to Hell and had a grand old time.
When it was nearing time for our lease to be up, we started talking about moving closer to the city. Obi took it upon himself to find us the perfect place. And on the second try, he actually did. Fourteen months after moving up to Massachusetts (funny thing, we moved on Valentines day) we moved to Davis Square in Somerville.
My goodness, but I didn't understand the glory of living in a city until then. We were a 10 minute walk from the Subway, so I could go exploring. We were close to EVERYTHING: grocery store, laundry mat, video store, liquor store. It was glorious. Obi introduced me to his gaming group, and I helped out in some NPC rolls in one of his games. It was at this point that I had to start referring to him as Chris, because no one in Boston called him Obi.
It was a really weird adjustment to make.
Eventually, I became VERY good friends with some of the people I met through Chris, and they became the core of my social life for the next few years.
Chris and I lived together for nearly seven years. December 1996 to July 2003. There were plenty of times when we got on each other's nerves. There were some grumpy times. But there were far more laughing times, and happy times, and "Damn I've got the coolest roommate ever" times.
Chris threw me my first (and second) surprise birthday parties. Chris drove me to the hospital when I broke my arm and sat in the waiting room for hours on end while I was in surgery. Chris took care of all my shit while I was traveling for work for six months. Chris made damn sure every episode of Buffy and Angel was taped or TiVo'd so I wouldn't miss it.
It's very rare when you get to see a person BECOME themselves. But the change from Obi to Chris was something that I got to witness first hand. It wasn't easy for him, and I think that knowing what he went through in his journey of self discovery helped make the rough period I just got through easier for me. But he found himself. He has become so much more than what he was when he packed up the U-Haul with all his stuff. He's stronger, more confident, more self assured and a hell of a lot happier.
On July 11th, 2003, when my U-Haul was sitting in the street with komos at the wheel, I walked up to Chris for the last time and gave him a hug. "Take care, roomie," I said. And much to my surprise, I choked up while I was hugging him, and I realized just how much I was going to miss him. Chris was a huge part of my life for a very long time. And he was, and still is, a wonderful friend. Someone I know I can trust without a doubt. Someone with whom I will always share a bond. Someone who I will always refer to as "Roomie."
God bless you silas7. You're my hero, man.