Kissing My High School Crush On Stage

I was a theater kid in high school. I did all four Fall dramas and Spring musicals during my four years, and all of them made for some of my most cherished memories. In particular, the production of Guys & Dolls during my junior year, where I was inexplicably cast as Sky Masterson and got to play opposite a girl I had a massive crush on.

You can imagine my thrill and terror when I learned I would be kissing her on stage.

There were some complications around this, too. I was in a very, very toxic relationship (which is a story for another day), and as soon as I was cast as Sky I was “in trouble” for having to kiss someone else. The girl playing opposite me was also in a relationship and, if I recall, there was some drama around her having to kiss another boy. It was as messy as one could expect.

And then, in a near-cosmic coincidence, both of us left our relationships. I remember, as vividly as any moment on stage, when she said to me in rehearsal with a smile on her face, “So I broke up with my boyfriend…” and to this day I wonder what would’ve gone differently if I hadn’t been 1) oblivious to flirting and 2) recovering from an abusive relationship.

The show was everything I could’ve asked for. I was nervous to sing but I nailed each song as best I could (I took notes from Marlon Brando). Friends I was already close with became even closer as we shared moments both on and off-stage. And, to put a cherry on top, I got to kiss this girl I had a massive crush on but was too nervous to do anything further about it.

She was among the graduating seniors that year, and Guys & Dolls was their last performance before moving on to college. I wrote all those seniors a tribute speech at the close of the final show, and it brought the house down in tears of bittersweet joy. It was the perfect finale to a near-perfect production, and I still had one more year of shows to do for my senior year… but that’s a story for another blog entry.

For years I regretted not acting on my feelings when we were both single, and for years I wondered what could’ve gone differently if I had. But in these intervening years, I’m glad I didn’t. My high school self was an unfinished version of the man I am today, and at the time a freshly wounded one at that. I definitely wouldn’t have been the person I should have been, and for that reason alone it’s probably best she wasn’t subjected to a draft version of the current me.

I recently unearthed my yearbook from that year and found her parting message to me. It’s one of the sweetest and most endearing signatures I have; an artifact from that special time that remains as untouched and perfect as that production of Guys & Dolls.