You were not how I remembered you at all. I felt like a kid at a movie theater who marveled over the actor of Superman, only to find out that actor also played the boyfriend in a romantic comedy, and the sidekick in a smaller action movie, and maybe the distant cousin in a low-budget indie drama. The actor had moved on to other roles. Bigger and better, more involved and more challenging. And I was left, sitting in the dark of the popcorn scented theater, hoping that there was a scene after the credits that added something to the movie or gave me hope for the sequel. I only knew that actor in that role – to see him in anything else hardly made any sense. Superman playing an ex-boyfriend? What were these casting directors thinking?
You’d gotten your haircut – that was the first thing I noticed when I saw you. As long as I’d known you, you’d always had long hair. Down to your waist, at times. You wore it like a badge of parental obligation, bestowed on you so that you could remember your conservative roots, your bible, and your family. I wanted to ask you if when you cut your hair you cut off all of those things, but I didn’t ask you that.
You’d gotten a tattoo – that was the second thing I noticed when I saw you. Across your right shoulder blade. I didn’t stare, so I didn’t read it, but I got the feeling that it wasn’t written for me. The words would’ve run gracefully across your back, like end credits across a black screen, if it wasn’t for your spaghetti strap running across your shoulder and dividing the words in two.
There was something in your eyes – that was the third thing I noticed when I saw you. Not something like a speck or contacts. There was a slightly tilted confidence, as if you not only knew your lines, but you were the one who wrote them. You delivered them with a twisted sincerity, the kind that I felt when I was a kid and the super-villain appeared on screen for the first time.
Your skin was darker, tanner and more taunt. That was the fourth thing that I noticed when I saw you. I was still caught up on the last character you played, your equivalent of Superman, but the casting director and your agent were far too busy for that to be your final role. The role of a shy, conservative girl might as well have been a 90’s movie, and you outgrew that franchise years ago. And there was no way that role would ever be rebooted. No remakes. No sequels. You’d left that part behind.
When I saw you again, I was still a fan of the character you played; I just hadn’t realized that you weren’t that character anymore. I hadn’t realized that you were a performer. When I asked you how you were, that was me asking for your autograph. And when I asked if you wanted to go out, that was me asking about your favorite part of the movie. You would smile and ask me, “What movie?” And then realize that there’s only one movie I’m talking about. Like a movie star on the red carpet, you’d smile and nod and give me a good answer, then move down the line.
Every once in a while, when I’m feeling nostalgic for an old role, a character that I grew up with and knew so well, I’ll find something that reminds me of who you were, and try to pretend that it wasn’t a character. I’ll try to pretend it was really you. And sometimes, if I try hard enough, it works, and for a moment, you’re not an actor who is constantly changing and shifting roles. You’re you, and you’re not going to be recast.