I’m in Chicago, since Crazy Larry finally got me a comp ticket to the play he’s in. It’s a good deal. For 30 bucks, I disrupted my family’s life, drove several hours, got a hotel room, and will have bought dinner, drinks, breakfast and lunch tomorrow, and two tanks of gas.
Before the show, we went to the Scottish pub where Mrs. Churm and I had our first date. It looked exactly the same as it did 14 years ago, and we ate well, and I drank a cold pint, thinking about the path from that night to now.
Our waiter was a comical-looking young man who introduced himself as Caruso and said he’s been in the States for a year. When he found out Crazy Larry is an actor, he said he’s an actor himself, in Mexico, and his best friend back home is Christine, the famous telenovela actress. Larry asked if he acted here, and he said no, but he might take some classes.
He said he came here to learn English and maybe go to school. “Are you going to school?” Larry asked. “No,” Caruso said. “Are you planning to go?” “No,” he said. He said he might move to Miami, where they love Mexican actors and many many production studios would like to hire him.
When Larry told him I teach English, he said he also plans to write a book on the illegal immigrant experience. It’ll blow the whole scene wide open. I asked if he knew that community, and he said no, he doesn’t like the Mexican community, and he tries to stay away from all that, because they’re bad.
He confided to us that he’s gay—“Oh, really?” Larry and I said in unison—but that he doesn’t like the gay Latin community either, because they’re not nice to each other. Larry had to leave first, to help move props, and I chatted with Caruso a little more as the dinner crowd came in. He told me to bring my family to the pub one day, and I promised I would. I walked up the street, enjoying being back in the city. The din and taillights were a comfort, and a big gust blew scraps of trash around like flower petals.
A riddle, I thought: What is an actor who doesn’t act, a student who doesn’t matriculate, a writer who doesn’t write? I passed lighted shops and bars with no one in them but their proprietors, who were reading or staring at TVs, and often looked up hopefully. A woman sat near the big window at the front of a nail salon and pulled her hair back into a ponytail in a surprisingly intimate gesture. I was thoroughly enjoying my night of live theater.