The couple in the front row

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by Matthew A. Everett • 9/26/08 • In the wake of the closing of my play “Leave” last night, I was holding it together pretty well. A tear or two on the pre-dawn walk to the gym, but dry-eyed there and on the drive in to work. The first two hours of the day went OK. Even managed to talk dispassionately with a couple of co-workers about their experience of seeing the show. Then another co-worker who was there last night told me about the couple in the front row.

Single White Fringe Geek is the blog of Matthew A. Everett. In addition to being one of five bloggers covering the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the Daily Planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.

I’d seen them arrive at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Two older gentlemen, sixties maybe. One was guiding the other because one of the men was visually impaired. I remember thinking, “Oh damn, I hope they have a reservation, because I really don’t want to be the show that turned away the blind man.” They did, blessedly, have a reservation. They sat down in the very front row, just in front of two of my co-workers.

My co-worker said, “They held hands the entire time.”

“And because the one of them couldn’t see very well, they had all these different ways of touching each other, to let the other one know how they were feeling. When they were sad, they’d just grasp one another on the shoulder. They were very moved by it, sort of in their own private world.”

“One of them must have been in the military at one time, because the way they were reacting to different things in the play, it seemed more personal, like something they’d both lived through.”

“There would be times when there was no dialogue. So the sighted partner would lean over and tell the other what was happening. Very softly, whispering directly in his ear. So gently, it wasn’t distracting. But we were so close to them, I couldn’t help overhearing it all.

“He’s sitting on the bed, wearing…”

“He’s beautiful.”

“The man would often relate it to things the two of them had shared together like…

“This is like that time when we…”

“He looks exactly like…”

“Remember when we had…”

“And certain things really hit them in a way that was different from other audience members…”

“Oh. He’s wearing the uniform.”

“It was fascinating to watch because up there on stage were these incredibly youthful men, and down in the front row were these two men, on the other end of life. They’d been through all these things together that we could only guess at, and they were still sitting there, holding hands. Maybe this was their story.”

And at that point, I was basically a puddle.

Couples like that exist. I’m not just making that up in my head. I write plays like this and somehow they learn about them and come out of the woodwork. All these gay couples I don’t know. People who still go to theater, even if they can’t see it anymore. People real and devoted to one another, with history.

Damn, I hope that’s me someday. Me and someone.

I’m humbled out of all the other things they could have done on a Thursday night, they found my play. It’s a memory for them now, one of many things they share.

Breaks my heart.

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.