Sunday, May 29, 2005

Tristan and Ysolde, the Fall River years

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Last weekend, my wife and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Initially, that doesn't sound like much, but we've been together for 11 years. My point is, we're ineligible for "The Newlywed Game."

We have anniversary celebrations down to a science, starting with a luxurious breakfast in bed. My wife gets up before I do, so I end up rolling over and spilling her Total.

Some years, we make a big whoop-de-doo about the rest of the anniversary. Lobsters, trips to exotic ports of call, the wine third up from the bottom of the menu -- you name it. This year, it was more low-key, with us snuggling on the couch, sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry's and a fifth of bourbon. Two spoons, two straws.

Either way, we're fine. We don't fight too much and we always try to make the other feel happy. We're the cutesy kind of couple that makes other couples want to vomit in the nearest wastebasket.

Pretty good for a decadelong relationship -- which, by the way, a friend in high school gave, quote, "six months." If you're reading this, Phil: I win, you fucker.

But it almost wasn't to be. When we first met as young teenagers, I was so infatuated with my wife that I wooed her for four full years before I finally got the balls to ask her on a date -- and even then I was almost too chicken to do it.

I often wonder what our lives would have been like today if we'd never dated. It's a horrible thought. So I present to you this short tragic play based on those idle musings. It's got action, drama, comedy, romance and, yes, kung fu. Ladies and gentlemen, "Tristan and Ysolde."


SCENE: A Fall River drugstore, 2005. Enter Tristan, a dejected young Portuguese man with a scraggly beard grown more out of indifference than fashion. Also, there's a blot of ketchup in it from lunch. He scratches idly at the AC/DC T-shirt he's been wearing for six weeks straight, and ogles the magazine racks.

TRISTAN. Oooh, the new Dell Crossword Puzzle books are in! (peers at a cover) "Five-letter word for 'bee byproduct.'" Don't make me laugh! "Honey." (starts to fill it in, then stops) What am I doing? Ease up, cowboy -- save some crosswords for tonight.

(He takes one of the books and presses it to his cheek lovingly, like that irritating teddy bear in the fabric softener commercials.)

TRISTAN. Alack! I'm so lonely. Never have I experienced the warmth of a fair lady's hand. None but the cold comforts of crosswords and Nintendo to make my days worth living. You are indeed super, Super Mario -- but not that super.

(Enter Ysolde, a stunning young woman Tristan's age.)

TRISTAN. Could it be? Is that the maiden I used to have the hots for in high school? Look at her! She's still a peach.

PHIL THE APOTHECARY. (entering) Hey, how's tricks? By the way, I checked -- Mylanta doesn't come in beef flavor. You must've imagined it.

TRISTAN. (waving him off) I think I used to know that woman.

PHIL. Her?

(Ysolde cruises to the candy aisle with a shopping cart and packs it full with Twizzlers.)

PHIL. She comes by Tuesdays and Fridays to stock up.

TRISTAN. Her name was Ysolde. I was in love with her years ago, but I never asked her on a date. I've been wondering about her ever since. Pfft! Look where that got me. I sit in my parents' attic all day, building forts with the encyclopedias, then shelving them out of alphabetical order so I can re-alphabetize them before dinner! I wish I were dead.

PHIL. That's in aisle 12a.

(Tristan eyes his crossword puzzle book and flings it aside -- but not very well, as he has the pitching arm of a 6-year-old girl. He strides up to the stunning Ysolde, who is squeezing various bags of Gummi Bears, testing them for ripeness.)

TRISTAN. Ysolde?

YSOLDE. (startled) My God, Dan! I mean -- Tristan! It's been years! How are you doing?

TRISTAN. (sucking in his gut without success) Oh, not too bad. I work at the newspaper now, as you may have heard.

YSOLDE. That's fantastic!

TRISTAN. My paper route goes from Globe Street to the Tiverton line.

YSOLDE. Sounds important.

TRISTAN. Yeah, I'm pretty much holding the place together. How about you?

YSOLDE. (shrugs) I work at the library. They put me in charge of deodorizing the children's books. (Pushing her raven hair back -- only now do we notice she keeps a Twizzler behind her ear, on deck, like a cigarette.) So what else have you been up to?

TRISTAN. (breaking into sudden tears) I never dated. I measure precipitation levels and send them to the Weather Channel, but they never use my figures. I overmedicate myself with Advil and hot fudge.

YSOLDE. (crying too) I dated, but Sven and Keanu meant nothing to me. I'm so lonely. I live in a tent in my mom's yard. Sometimes, when I'm working at the library, I go to the reference room and shelve the encyclopedias out of order so I can--

TRISTAN. Re-alphabetize them later?

YSOLDE. (brightening) You do that, too?

TRISTAN. I never should have let you go when I had the chance, toots.

(The Muzak swells -- and Tristan takes Ysolde into his arms and lays a big smacker on the lips. They part after several hours.)

TRISTAN. Would you like to see a movie some time?

YSOLDE. I'd love that.

PHIL. (swaggering) Eh. I give it six months.

(Ysolde takes Phil by the arm and gives him a kung fu chop to the solar plexus. Phil drops like a bag of manure.)

PHIL. O! I am slain! (dies)

YSOLDE. I also know judo.

(She jumps into Tristan's arms. Then, somehow, Tristan jumps into Ysolde's arms. So there they are, hanging in midair in a sort of pretzel shape. It's best not to try to explain it -- and then the curtain falls.)

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