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Exit ArchiveArchive for November 12th, 2005

I have never seen any version of Love! Valour! Compassion!, either on the stage or on the screen. When fellow CCPT actor Colbert said the run of the version he’s in was extended, I thought I should go see it. I assure you that knowing he would be naked for part of the play had nothing to do with it. I also love seafood.

The set at The Attic Theatre was spare. The house was not quite half full. When the show began, it smacked immediately of “PLAY WRITING.” It had that cadence, that stage verbiage and shape that made it, well, sound play-y. None of these were bad beginnings, but for a night of theater in Los Angeles, you have to be prepared for the worst.

The show was going well. The characters were introduced with the sort of predictability one expects from a play, though the form of narration bleeding into action was interesting, promising. A bit into the first act, I was still uncertain what to think of the show, but was settling into it just fine.

The only person I’ve ever really truly loved in a romantic sense was Bryon Fear. I have loved others on a variety of levels, but Bryon was the kind of love you hear about, and the kind of love you think is impossible or bogus until you find it. Like all genuine, honest, reciprocal relationships, it was not perfect. One of the worst disagreements we ever had was over something so ridiculously misunderstood, it could only happen to two people who loved each other.

I had picked up Bryon from the Hollywood Hills, where he was working with a producer. I made a comment, hard to recall as I write this, but something regarding my having to pick him up. It made Bryon go quiet. He would not talk during the rest of the car ride to my apartment, where he was staying while in the States. I knew what I’d said had made him angry, but I honestly did not know why, and I did not have the courage to ask him outright.

When we got to my place, right after parking my green Honda, he walked to an art store that was many, many blocks away—which in L.A. is like walking from Miami to Poughkeepsie. He refused my offer to give him a ride. I waited in my apartment, confused and angry and sad.

When he returned from the store and the quiet became too much, we finally got into it. He told me what my comment had sounded like to him. I told him I had not meant it that way. We argued over the salient points of the misunderstanding, somehow ending up sitting in the floor of the bathroom.

The relief of the talking and the stupidity of the discord became too much. We both were crying. I can not say where his tears came from, but I know where mine came from. I was crying because I had hurt him and had inadvertently caused him pain. His pain was mine, and that was something that was kind of new to me, and that meant… something I balked at embracing.

About 30 minutes into Love! Valour! Compassion!—maybe more, maybe less—two characters, Perry and Arthur, who have been together for 14 years, get into an argument over Perry’s black, pessimistic explosion during dinner. Up until now, you wonder why these two are together, wonder how Arthur puts up with Perry’s bitter outlook. But they talk, and the writing, still with a theatrical conceit, belies honesty and reality.

Still on the bathroom floor but now past the most difficult stage of the argument, Bryon and I ended up in an awkward hug, crying into each other’s neck. He told me he loved me, and he was worried that I had not told him the same. I knew what I was feeling in the pit of my soul, but fear of it still kept me cautious. I had to tell him I did not know why I could not say it. I could not say it. I had to be sure, and could not say it yet.

Perry and Arthur, on stage, the structure of their relationship now more obvious to me, are winding down their tiff. “I love you, Arthur,” says Perry. “Don’t give up on me.” Me, clutching Bryon tight, my fingers digging into his clothes, my head filled with his sobs and his scent, can only say, “I don’t know. Don’t give up.” “On what?” Bryon asks. “On anything.” “Does that include you?”

“Yes.”

I loved Bryon, and I knew it. I knew it then. I could not say so. I was afraid of saying so if I did not believe it would be true forever.

The remaining 2½ acts of Love! Valour! Compassion! were mesmerizing, funny, and genuine. I could not help but see myself, my life, people I knew, the companionship I had and lost and long for again. This introspection made it difficult to talk to people during the two intermissions. (I went to the show by myself, yet ran into three people I’d met before.)

I thanked the actors genuinely after the show, and Colbert and I talked for a while outside in the chilly, dense air. He asked me what I think is the best way to meet someone, but I didn’t get to answer fully. I don’t know what the answer is, really. But I wanted to tell him love can happen any way, without warning or expectation. It can happen and you won’t know it until it’s already begun. Trite but true.

With Bryon, I eventually got over the fear of semantic expression. I told him I loved him, and it was true. The honesty of love was exhilarating.

I have not had that kind of love since, but I know I will someday. When I do, I hope I will have the guts to ignore the doubts that overthinking creates and be able to say “I love you” with elated heart. And I hope I never again have to say “don’t give up” because I will know he won’t need to.