Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March...Eh, Not Always So Bad

When I was a sophomore in high school, I became inspired by Julius Caesar.

It was only the second Shakespeare play I had ever read, but I had a fantastic teacher who made the story come alive and have resonance in the modern world. I fell in love with the language, with the politics, with the grim analysis of human nature and our desire for power.

And during the time we were studying it, I happened to also fall in love with a boy, and I guess that colored my response to it, too.

So enraptured by this play were my two best friends and I that we started seeing ourselves in light of the story and began to call ourselves "The Great Triumvirate." Yep, we were weird kids.

It was not a good year for The Great Triumvirate. We bonded over a shared feeling that life sucks. (And then you die, sometimes at the hand of someone you thought was your friend...Et tu, Brute?)

As a high-school educator, I've always believed  that there is a huge gap in physical and emotional maturity between freshmen and sophomores and have wondered what sort of cruel growth spurt Mother Nature puts kids through the summer between those two years of school. Whatever it is, it's intense and clearly visible. The three of us struggled that year; we were starting to see the realities of the adult world, but we still felt an awful lot like kids. Our well-meaning English teacher, what with his Lord of the Flies and Julius Caesar lessons that (in his own words) show us "Man is basically evil", got to us. We took it to heart and saw evidence of man's evil everywhere. Even in us. We were all three seriously depressed by adulthood and its ramifications. Looking back, I'm pretty sure we needed Prozac.

For me, it was just flat-out a bad year. I had entered the world of almost-adult dating the summer before my sophomore year and had back-to-back relationships with two older boys who owned cars, were popular, and who each unceremoniously dumped me within a month and broke my heart. Not because I loved either of them; just that they made me feel terribly young, unpopular, and patently undesirable. My mom had had a serious illness and had undergone surgery, and Dad's drinking was as bad as it ever had been or ever would be, leaving me to care for my mom pretty much on my own. I lost touch with most of my girlfriends, all of whom had either gotten wrapped up in a serious relationship or in school activities that my caregiver status didn't allow me to join or both. I ceased to have anything in common with the girls I had been so close to the years before. I clung to my two closest guy friends and we became almost inseparable. Depressed as hell, and troublemakers in a quiet sort of way, but inseparable.

Then something...changed. That late winter, one of them became more than a friend.

I had seen enough movies and read enough books even at the tender age of 16 that I saw the writing on the wall, and that writing whispered, in a soothsayer's voice, "Beware the ides of March." Metaphorically, of course. Suppose this boy and I admitted our feelings for each other. Suppose we gave it a try and it ended as badly as my other relationships that year had. I would lose one of my best friends. Not to mention what two of the Triumvirate breaking off would do to the third. So many things could go wrong. Somebody could end up getting stabbed through the heart on the capitol steps. It didn't help when our teacher followed Julius Caesar up with Antony and Cleopatra; talk about your relationships that don't end well.

It was around the ides of March, ironically enough, that I realized I couldn't keep my feelings quiet. The Great Triumvirate had gone away to compete in an out-of-town speech and drama tournament, and out of boredom and angst had started to write a collaborative short story/memoir about our alliance. It was meant to be a comedy that played heavily on what our much-admired English teacher had taught us that year both about writing and about literature. I suddenly saw that there was room in the story for a little romance, too.

Jason and I literally and metaphorically began to write our chapter of that story in March of 1990. I'm pretty sure it's going to end well.

As for the third member of the Triumvirate, he remains to this day a good friend and one of my favorite people on the planet. Through every major event of our lives, through weddings and births and funerals, he has been there. He was the best man in our wedding, and somewhere I have a snapshot of the three of us on that day: The Great Triumvirate still.

And not a dagger in sight.

No comments: