Text Messages: A Play – by Francis Gideon

It was mere minutes
After we declared that we were dating
(A Facebook status and strained conversation,
About whether or not our affection could become
A public display or performance
Though we had only just stepped on the stage)
When the text message came
And addressed me as “gorgeous.”

Pause. Stunned silence. Cue the lights.
Has my fate been so reversed
That now I require a new word?
He is cordial, of course, gentlemanly
And with all the correct props.
I examine the dramatis personae
Before I ignore the word and continue on.
This relationship is still new and frightening
He is a man of power and devotion
I don’t want to fuck up my lines already
With a peculiar new emotion.

But the word persists. His line repeats halfway through.
Hey Gorgeous. And my examination,
Monologue-ing in the bathroom mirror
Turns up nothing
No symmetry, but also no worse.
I am average, mediocre
And yet, here he texts again: “Hey gorgeous.”

I should stop, really,
And learn to take a compliment
But I am not used to new vocabulary
or these sentiments. So I ask:
“Really? How come you’ve
Never said this before?”
And I wait, wishing I could see him type
I wonder if I have scared him off the stage,
And I won’t get to be called anything anymore.

But he sends me this,
A reply from stage left:
“Compliments are like a door.
Often locked, but occasionally
Someone is allowed to pass through.
And when you do,
Sometimes you hold it open
For strangers who need to pass;
And sometimes the doors revolve
And you become stuck inside.
But more often, you wait and wait
Until you are given a key
And you use it when you can.
You go through when asked
And you never ignore
The in-between, the middle,
Where you realize the key is a gift
And it has been given to you.
You don’t leave junk-mail, or let in the Jehovah witnesses
You don’t make copies and you keep yours safe.
The threshold is where I alone become us two.
It is a door where all the names change,
And the words have new meanings,
And I am still learning how to step through.”

His soliloquy now over, I am unsure how to proceed
Was that to the chorus, did he break the forth wall,
Or was that just to me? He seems so serious, and
I wonder when he became a poet
I hold my phone as it buzzes again —
And I anticipate it this time: hey gorgeous.
But he is not a Casanova
Don Juan, or even Romeo
He is quick and smart, and has changed the refrain.

“If you want, beautiful, I can call
You something else.”
The fingers click-click-click on the screen
And the play becomes a small tableau:
No, thanks, I reply
I rather like this locksmith.
But give me your key, too,
Stage player, and you can let me in.

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Francis Gideon is an editor, writer, and sometimes a poet. He has appeared in Microscenes, Between: A New Anthology of Gay Poetry, and has a novella entitled “Divine Intervention” coming out in 2014 on JMS Books.


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