EXCERPT FROM BOOK
I drove south on route 3 toward Plymouth. It was yet another perfect New England evening, more midsummer than late spring. I was headed to the theater compound, knowing it would be my home for the next hundred days. The past week had been an all-out sprint, and I thought about how my life had changed in just seven days. I would be sleeping at PBT tonight for the first time. It would be a sign that this was real, authentic, and tangible, no matter how wildly insane, no matter how circuitous the path to its front door had been. As I drove through downtown Plymouth, I felt as if I were part of the community. I held a certain fellowship with all these other vendors who were now my neighbors.
It was May 10th. The company would be arriving in two weeks and the first rehearsal was a few days thereafter. On Monday, I was heading to New York City to “steal” a press rep. Secunda would travel with me and we’d secure the band.
Veronica had agreed to meet me for a casual dinner. I had promised to proffer no expectation; tonight we’d be just an old couple visiting and catching up on the events of the day, sharing a burger and a bottle of red. As I parked my car down by the wharf, I saw her waiting for me on a bench overlooking the bay. I realized that, although I had only been away for two days, I felt as if it had been a long, long time since I had seen her smile.
Veronica didn’t appear as pleased to see me as I had hoped. She was awkward and her eyes looked everywhere but at me. She gave me a quick hello and darted to the railing that overlooked the bay, doing anything, it seemed, to avoid connection.
It was early evening and the sun was setting behind the dozens of boats that danced gently in the bay. The wind off the sea was refreshing and pungent. They say that sometimes feelings lie, but often so does the weather.
Atop the knoll sat the stoic Barrows Building, which watched over the bay with disdain. I found it telling that whenever the sun disappeared and the air chilled, it was because it was blocked by the Barrows fortress rather than by a cloud moving within a sweet summer breeze. I sat on a bench and waited to see when Veronica would finally turn and address me. Sensing bad news, I was anxious, but in no rush to see how this would play out.
The harbor bell clanged long and strong. It was seven o’clock. She turned, but stayed by the railing. She leaned against it as if needing support. I would have moved to her, but her energy was that of a force field keeping me at a distance. Her face was drawn and she looked tired and deeply sad.
“Hi,” she said in a whisper. “Hello. It’s nice to see you.” “I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” she offered, still barely audible and still not moving.
“Okay then. And what were you thinking?” I asked, more afraid than curious. “That I will miss you and . . .” Her words hung in the air like poison.
Breathing was hard. “That I will miss you, and that I am so sorry and sad, because I think you are so special and I want to know you, to . . . but I can’t.”
“Can’t what Veronica?”
“I can’t see you, Sam. I’m not brave enough. I said you’d break my heart, but that’s not what I’m afraid of. It’s that I will disappoint you, and that would stay with me forever.”
She had turned back toward the sea and away from me. I could no longer read her eyes. The ambient happy sounds of the village mocked me. “Veronica, what are you talking about? What happened? Are you fucking Sybil, for Christ’s sake?”
She turned to me, and with contempt overtaking any kindness she said, “While you were gone, I thought about it all again. Us.” Her voice cracked with emotion. “I spoke with some people . . . some friends . . . and they told me to stay away . . . that I should stay away, that I had better stay away.” Her last words were caught in the wind and stolen before I could be sure she had actually spoken them.
Frustration got the best of me. “Okay, Veronica,” I shouted across the distance, “play the part of some freak in a bad melodrama. Bravery and courage go hand and hand and you have neither. Disappoint me? You already have.”
She looked at me as if for the last time, wiping away tears that covered her cheeks. “You are so stupid, Sam! Pay attention. You think I work at that shithouse motel because it’s the best I can do? Someone like me?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. Instead she shouted, “goodbye!” and ran down the shore.
The sun disappeared behind the Barrows Building, and the warm, late spring evening suddenly turned cold. I remained still for a long time. I had nowhere to go and no inclination to seek company or solace.
What had happened, really? A girl I had known for a week had dumped me without explanation or reason. I was momentarily stunned. It would pass. I hadn’t come to Plymouth to meet Veronica Chapman. I had come here to work, to find my way. If I let this girl distract me from that task, I was a fraud. I would have convinced my friends and my investors to participate in a charade. I would have lied to those who believed in me and, worse yet, deceived myself.
Yet I did meet her and that reality held on long after the sun was gone and the midnight blue waters of Plymouth Harbor reflected the glow from shore. Finally, at way past nine, I stood and examined my surroundings. I walked slowly to the large granite mausoleum that housed the famous rock. I walked aboard the Mayflower and looked out toward England. I looked up at the sky to find a star to wish upon, but the options were far too many and I could not choose one that promised hope. Then I wondered what I was actually hoping for.
I wasn’t ready to return to PBT. I thought I’d sit and think some more, try to put the thoughts of lost possibilities behind me. I saw that the bench was occupied by an elderly gentleman wearing a Red Sox cap and an oversized Sox sweatshirt. He seemed relaxed, at peace and happy. He was enjoying an ice cream cone, savoring each lick as if it would be his last. On second look, I realized that I knew this man. After a moment’s hesitation, I elected to sit down next to Dr. Anderson Barrows.