At the Richard Rodgers Theatre, I shrank my face to the box
office window and confessed to the Lucite’s voice-vent
that I’d told my wife a lie. I had hidden no Christmas gifts
in the basement, nor yet acquired tickets to Hamilton
for my youngest as I’d boasted I would. The ticket
guy pshawed and, like a chilly neighbor, acknowledged me
enough to punctuate his snub.
But the seat map online, I pleaded, showed several vacant dots
in March. No seats, he snapped, and we went on like this until
I looked it up on my phone. Those? He snarled, you can’t—
His pause—its meaning irretrievable now—was heavy with
the ghosts of Broadway’s sins. It was as if a voice offstage
was force-feeding him the line: You can’t afford those.
His cheeks ripened to prove he’d heard it just
as I’d heard it, but that, for once maybe, he’d heard it in the way
that I’d heard it. Just then, his eyes were houselights
making me suddenly real. The veil had fallen between us,
and we two stood outside the magic. We were our only audience.
As one trained in this hackneyed improv, I knew that I might
dress the specter of his fear in comedy to save him. I needed
to draw him out of his head. You got kids? I asked.
He nodded, but I needed to hear the emotion in his voice.
What are you gunna do, huh? I laughed. It’s like, what do you want
from me? Am I right? And he mirrored me, shaking his head:
The things we do. He asked if I could bring my kid next Tuesday.
Hells yeah, I said, to prove that I could stay in character, though
I wasn’t sure where he was taking us. He bent to root
beneath his desk. Then the Lucite spit two miracles
he must have set aside for someone else. The selfie
we took that day tells a partial story. You see us, all teeth
and safe as bros. You see me holding the tickets like a peace sign,
but you could never guess the price we paid to get them.