I Don’t Care What They Think; I Don’t Care What They Say.

Bram pretending to be a tough guy.

It seems that I kept meeting Bram for the first time over and over and then suddenly it was like we’d always known each other. I wasn’t introduced to him that first time I saw him at Summer Theatre. He spoke to Aili for a few minutes and then walked up the hill into the audience as places were called. I detest going out to meet the audience after a show, so by the time I emerged from the dressing rooms, Bram was gone. Janet told me he was working that summer as a camp counselor at Camp Metigoshe, a Lutheran Bible camp at Lake Metigoshe near Bottineau.

Camp Metigoshe

One of the ways Rocky had tried to ‘make me behave’ while we were in Germany was to try to turn me into a good Christian wife with the help of a persistent Jehovah’s Witness couple. They would tell me about their version of biblical events and history and why women are lesser than men and have to cover our heads when we pray and obey our husbands and fathers.  I would shoot down everything they said with science, logic, common sense, scoffing, and outright ridicule. I won’t obey my husband. He has no authority over me. We’re supposed to be a partnership. I finally told Rocky that he could keep entertaining the Xtians, but I would no longer join them.

So hearing that the very interesting man I’d seen was involved with ministering to children all summer made him quite a bit less interesting in my eyes. Janet told me Bram was in theatre too, and he was playing the role of Pilate in the Camp’s production of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” “Jesus Christ, Superstar is my VERY FAVORITE MUSICAL OF ALL TIME, so my interest rose a bit. Anyway, I figured I’d meet him soon enough and Summer Theatre was over and it was time for Nick and Monica to come home and I had other things to think about.

School started and my first theatre class was Theatre for Children. I sat in the front row as I always do. I am short and I’m nearsighted, so I always try to sit in the front row. Bram walked in and sat behind me. I can’t recall what he was wearing this time, but he favored large T-shirts with a flannel shirt tied around his waist, baggy jeans, and combat boots, so I’ll assume it was some version of this. He was very nearsighted, much more so than I was, so he tried to sit near the front of class too.

Hartnett Hall, Home of MSU Theatre Department

Professor Paula took roll, explained the syllabus, and told us to choose a partner and get down on the floor. I was at a disadvantage–everyone in the class seemed to already know each other and have a bestie. I thought I was going to have to wait around and be the sad last one picked, but Bram leaned over my shoulder and said, “Partner?” in my ear. He smelled like lemons. I immediately agreed to be partners and we got down on the floor. Paula started explaining what exercise we were going to learn. Bram held his finger up as if he had an idea–this was a ‘Bram gesture’– and said, “I’ll be right back.” He left the room. He never came back. 

I watched the exercise, waiting for my partner to return. When the class ended and Bram still hadn’t returned, I gathered my things and his and went downstairs to the Campus Players desk. Bram’s dad Conrad was a professor in the theatre department, so I dropped Bram’s things by Conrad’s office and went on with my day. That was meeting number one. We hadn’t even exchanged names.

A few days later, I was standing with Janet looking at audition announcements on the callboard, when I felt someone walk up behind me and pause. Tonia had given me a new haircut before school started: it was ‘stacked ‘ in the back, permed, and then brushed upward and forward so that it looked like it was a wave, high at my crown and tumbling over my forehead. She’d also dyed it a gorgeous red. The person behind me never touched me, but buried their nose in my wave of hair and took a big whiff. Then they giggled, said, “You smell like a girl!” and walked away. They smelled like patchouli.

I didn’t turn around; I just looked questions at Janet. She said, “That was Bram. He’s unique.” And that was our second meeting. We still hadn’t exchanged names. 

That Saturday, we had our first workcall, which is when the members of the department come together to build set, props, costumes, publicity, etc. Paula was in charge of the costume shop and publicity. Kevin was in charge of sets and lights. I of course joined the costume shop; so did Janet. So did Bram. We were finally introduced. Paula began assigning people to design specific shows. Bram was assigned one; I was not. Then he looked at Paula and told her he’d changed his mind; he felt he was better suited to set crew. He told Paula to give his show to me and left to join the set crew. I asked Janet if it was me. Bram kept leaving rooms I was in. Janet said it was just Bram. He wasn’t mean and she didn’t think he was capable of disliking someone. He was just…Bram.

I’d spent the summer with Bram’s sister. She was also her own unique, quirky person. I figured that was what the kids in their family were like. You know, my siblings and I were mentally ill; Bram and his siblings were quirky.

Conrad was in charge of the forensics team on campus and I joined because Janet was a member and she wanted me to come travel to the meets with her. Bram was on the team too. He showed up in his usual Tshirt/jeans/flannel/combat boots outfit, only this time he was wearing the flannel shirt as a button down dress shirt. Conrad told him he should have dressed nicer and Bram told him these were the nicest clothes he owned. When we got back to Minot, Bram’s mother took him shopping for new clothes. I know this because I got an excited call from Bram to come over to his house to see what he had.

When I arrived, he put on a fashion show, letting me see everything his mom had got him: new shoes, belts, ties, a winter coat, gloves, and hat, new jeans, dress slacks, a few vests and dress shirts, some T-shirts without holes. And some brand new flannel shirts. He kept showing me all the different combos he could put together until I had to leave because it was time for my kids to be home from school.

Since the day Bram had left me alone in class and never returned, I’d teased him without mercy about leading a girl on, abandoning friends in times of need, breaking promises–whatever I could think of to remind him what he’d done, but also let him know I wasn’t mad. He finally told me he’d left the room because he was going to be sick. He wasn’t hungover; he was still drunk. Bram was only 19 years old and hadn’t ever really drank anything stronger than beer. Some of the older guys in the department had decided to introduce him to hard liquor–namely: vodka. But Bram didn’t get drunk like most people do; his body processed the alcohol differently. So his friends had kept pouring vodka into him, waiting for him to act drunk, and he never did. He outdrank them all and was still drunk in the morning when it was time for school. But sitting in the warm classroom, the liquor had finally hit him all at once and he knew he was going to vomit. By the time he reached the restroom he was violently ill. When he’d finally left the restroom, he’d gone straight home to sleep it off.

Then I teased him about not being able to handle his liquor.

Janet talked me into going to ACTF with the theatre department that year. The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is when all the college and university theatre departments in a region get together and basically have a theatre convention. Some universities bring shows to perform, so there are 2 productions a day, plus design expos, workshops, acting competitions, and any number of theatre related goings-on. It lasts a week. 

I was afraid to go because of my nightmares I’ve had since Florida. Maybe before. I finally told Janet I didn’t want to go because I have screaming nightmares and scare the crap out of everyone around me. She told me she’d share my bed and wake me up before I reached the screaming stage. I actually think I didn’t have a single nightmare that week. I did have a lot of fun. I remember being tipsy enough to jump on the bed in our hotel room until Janet pulled me down because I was wearing a floaty miniskirt that was floating and we weren’t the only ones in the room.

Janet and I went to downtown Lincoln for brunch one day where we heard high pitched squeals at the table behind us, and turned around to see two ‘ladies who lunch’ who greeted each other with air kisses and squealed the following exchange:

“OOH! I looove your ‘do!”

“You do?”

“I do!”’

“I love yours, too!”

We proceeded to greet each other with this every time we saw each other until the rest of the Campus Players threatened to kill us and hide the bodies if we didn’t shut up.

At one point Bram and I rode up in an elevator in the hotel with a bunch of people. The car emptied floor by floor until we were the only ones left. He leaned down and kissed me. It was a very nice kiss and I saw it coming and didn’t try to fight it. I took him back to my hotel room, sat him on my bed and told him we couldn’t date. I was 27. He was 19. He told me he was 20; his birthday was in November. I told him, “Baby Boy, you aren’t even old enough to drink legally. I am too old for you.” 

So that was that.

A few weeks later, he brought his new girlfriend around to the Campus Players Desk to introduce her. He knew her from church. I had a whole lot of feelings all at once. I was jealous! I was sad that he’d gotten over me so quickly. I was irritated with myself for turning him down. I was confused that I had such strong feelings for this strange, sweet, YOUNG man.

After a week, I couldn’t take myself anymore. I asked Bram if I could speak to him alone. I told him I knew he was with someone else, but I had been wrong to turn him down. I apologized. And I told him I didn’t expect anything; I just thought he deserved to know he wasn’t too young. He was smiling when I finished speaking and it was frustrating. “WHAT are you smiling about?”

“I broke up with Girlfriend.”

“What? When? Why?”

I broke up with her after you saw us together. Because she wasn’t you.”

And so we began dating. We were together but not really announcing it. I think our age difference weighed heavily on both of us. Of course everyone knew. But we didn’t want to make a big deal of it; we weren’t ready to meet each other’s families. I mean I already knew his, but not as his girlfriend. Even the word ‘girlfriend’ made me feel squeamish–it seemed to be such a childish word. So we were kinda floundering our way along, making sure not to expect too much of the other, and not really sure what we were doing.

Baby Bram and little me

After my second season of Summer Theatre ended, Bram told me he was transferring to Concordia College in Minnesota to become a Philosophy Major. He had never discussed anything about it with me. So that was that. Our little experiment was done.

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