teven Metzger and I decided to go in together on a senior year independent study project. This concept was something new to our high school; we had proposed it to solve the heavy boredom that sat on our shoulders like unwelcome little brothers.
The way we pitched it to Mr. Gorman,
the principal, was that wed go to three classes a day, and spend the rest of the time working on our project.
Half of our grade for the whole year would be locked up in the thing.
We had planned to research the life and
career of a playwright, Edward Albee. Neither of us knew much about him, at first, but I had heard that his plays
were from the theatre of the absurd, which sounded good to me. Our production of his two-man play The Zoo Story would
take place during the last week of school.
Not the most popular guy in the school,
by a long shot, Steven was arguably one of the most intelligent. He possessed a kind of brooding smarts, a facility
with language that surpassed by volumes the vocabulary of the average student. He was a whiz on the debate team, and
had taken second place in the state in the extemporaneous speech category at the forensics tourney. First place went
to a girl who was on a par with Steven skills-wise, but who had the additional asset of good looks, something that
Steven couldnt lay claim to even on a good day. He wasnt my best friend, but he was a friend.
By the time we got around to doing any
serious work on the project, it was already the middle of May. We rehearsed the play in the little theatre on the
third floor. In the afternoon, the sun cracked through the tall windows and shone bright on the flecks of chalk dust
floating weightless in the room.
We should really jazz up the ending,
I said. I was feeling the heady rush of life in the theatre. We get some fake blood and put it in a Baggie.
Then we tape it to your chest, and when you get stabbed you can squeeze the bag and the blood will spurt out. Cool,
Steven said, Do you think thats
really what Albee had in mind? I dont think thats the authorial intention. It seems to be as much a symbolic
death as a literal one. To draw too much attention to the literal death of Peter would be to unhinge the allegorical
balance of the whole work. These were the kinds of things Steven often said.
Forget the allegorical balance,
I said. This is our show now. Lets put our own stamp on it, OK? I walked over to the short blond
piano and thumped a cluster of notes.