Last week I was googling myself when I came across a message board that I was mentioned on. Someone who I went to college with claimed I followed them home and it was the “most terrifying thing ever.” I was trying to think, who is this? I am the most avoidant personality type there is. People claim they have a hard time calling me because I don’t answer my phone. My boyfriends complain that I am too distant, probably because I am more man than they are. I thought, who could this be?
I googled the handle to find it belonged to someone I will call Derek. Derek had been the upperclassman superstar in the acting studio I had been in freshmen year at NYU. Talented and good looking, Derek was slated to be a big star. A favorite in the studio, the faculty gloated over him and it seemed everywhere he walked there were the proverbial flower petals. Girls, especially the second and third years, threw themselves at this future star. I was no exception.
I had seen him act and was blown away by his wealth of talent. A few weeks later I got a chance to talk to Derek one on one who loved the fact I had my puppets. At the time I was doing a report on Jim Hensen and Derek apparently was a Muppet fan. During that time Derek became the listening ear when it came to my conflicts within the studio. Unlike Derek I wasn’t a favorite, far from it. Most of my teachers oscillated in between screaming that I didn’t listen to telling me I had no talent in general. I wasn’t a burgeoning star in this studio and was actually looking to jump ship. I remember Derek always gave me a big hug and assured me everyone’s first year was difficult. I had a friend, or at least thought I did.
A week or two into our friendship the girls throwing themselves at Derek got jealous of the fact he sought me out for extra hugs. These girls, if looks could kill, the bitches would have cut me. During that time Derek invited me to a party. He wanted me to bring my puppets to show to his art star friends. For some reason I couldn’t go, but during my lifetime it has not been uncommon for me to get such requests. I started to develop a huge crush on Derek. So what he was an upperclassman going places and I was barely staying afloat? Suddenly I had a whole new reason to delve into my craft, to impress a guy.
Then it happened, or at least I got my chance.
I was going on a post paper walk after completing the in-depth essay on the Muppets and their deeper meaning. It was late April so the sky was steadily darkening and I could smell rain coming. I figured I would head home. However, on my way there I saw Derek. Like me, he was addicted to the space market, our little corner store, and was using his NYU card to get free snacks. Derek gave me a big hug as usual. Wandering aimlessly, I decided to walk with him. I was going to no particular destination. Plus we were walking and talking and we were enjoying each other’s company. Plus he gave me no indication that he wanted me to go.
“Where are you going?” I finally asked him curious. While I had a major crush on this hottie I didn’t want to seem too clingy, too needy.
“Oh home. You are welcome to walk me there.” Derek half laughed.
While I looked tired from writing a paper and every inch the overworked freshmen woman, I was willing to take the risk. Derek seemed to pick me over the rest of the girls. We talked about acting, our studio, our teachers, and our fear about life after college. We talked about where we were from, our astrological signs and all the other good stuff. The rain drops started to fall like some romantic movie. I was so hoping he would at least kiss me somewhere. The whole year had been a miserable, depressing mess. This would be the perfect ending.
Then we got to his dorm. It was pouring outside. I had no umbrella because the walk had been on a whim. Then I asked, “Do you want to keep hanging out?” I smiled, sheepishly and shyly. I wanted to be Mae West with her overt sexiness and control over the male species. Instead I was stuck being nineteen, clumsy and shy and almost fitting the description of a Smith’s song.
Pause. I was hoping he would say yes.
“Oh I have things to do. Thanks for hanging out.” Derek said and then gave me the wave. It wasn’t the hug that I had grown accustomed to do. It was the wave. Not get home safely, not here’s my umbrella, not I’ll hail you a cab. Nada.
I walked home and the rain began to pour. As I walked back to my dorm room I was soaking wet to the bone. I threw off my clothes, jumped in the shower and cried. Had I gotten my signals mixed? Maybe Derek saw me as a friend and nothing more. I was crushing on him like everyone else and like everyone else I got rejected. Then again, I thought, why would he like me? I was on the outs with that acting school, I was on the chunky side and to top it off he had another young woman who was like a leading lady he supposedly was hooking up with.
On the other hand, maybe I had misunderstood and was willing to take that. These things happened. I had been brave like my hero Mae West, I had put myself out there. Mae would have gotten the guy and this one had just given me the wave. Whatever the case was, at that moment, I decided I was over Derek. I would avoid him at all costs and there would be no more hugs. I didn’t want to get my signals crossed, and if he had been teasing me I didn’t want to play the game anymore. Despite the fact he thought he was God’s gift, one thing I knew was that I was stronger. A day later I got the news my studio switch was approved, and avoiding Derek became easier than ever. He tried to talk to me once or twice but I gave good old Derek the wave treatment.
While he didn’t readily let me see it, I knew it killed his ego. But there were others in his harem. Besides, he had made me cry and I wasn’t going to let him get the last laugh. That punk thought women were expendable and everyone should worship him. I, on the other hand, was teaching him otherwise.
I saw Derek some odd years later after I graduated from NYU walking down the street. Letting bygones be bygones and kid stuff be kid stuff, I gave him the big hello. I asked him what he had been up to and he said he had been working with a small theatre company and waiting tables. I mentioned I was doing comedy and really enjoying my life. While things weren’t fabulous it was enough to get a sneer from Derek, the exalted one and now waiter fallen from grace.
Fast forward four years after that encounter. I was on several TV shows and made several message boards. And then this thread was started, “She followed me home and it was the most terrifying thing in my life.” When I figured out who it was I felt a mixture of anger and betrayal. Derek had been my listening ear during a difficult time in my life. Derek had been someone who had been a friend. Sure, things happened but it was kid’s stuff. I wasn’t holding onto it the way he was.
I called my mother upset that Derek had slandered me. My mother, being the smartest women in the world, put it best. She said, “April, he is just trying to steal your sunlight by attaching himself to you. But he can’t steal what he doesn’t have. So don’t reply and don’t give him any of your energy because that’s what he wants. This is his chance to be heard.”
I laughed and told my mom that he would probably change his story later and claim that we slept together. My mom agreed and then she said, “He will probably tell everyone that’s why you had to transfer to Strasberg.”
Looking back at it, there was a reason Derek was a favorite at the acting studio I left. The teachers there were a bunch of sick wannabes and Derek was a sick wannabe too. That is why he took the creepy attention seeking tactic he did. Derek, who’s ego was the size of Texas, couldn’t understand why a seemingly nobody could reject him and never got over it. And plus it was easy to be nice to me because he thought I was a lesser being.
Now that the tables have turned and I have things going for myself, albeit I work hard for the things I have, someone like Derek can’t understand that. He was entitled and slated to be the Golden Boy, and the girl with puppets wasn’t supposed to get the spotlight and look out here she comes. While it is kharma at it’s finest, there is a part of me who feels his pettiness is not just ugly but rather sad.
A friend of mine and I spoke about it today. He told me that the reason Derek was so keen on assassinating me is that he is still trapped in that time in his life, the time when things were good. That is why the promising career of someone who he thought of as an underling is so depressing. Then I thought of all the classmates of mine from college who are on Broadway, have been on TV, etc. Each one of them have been gracious when they have seen me, telling me they are proud of me and my puppet children. Even the classmates of mine who aren’t breaking in and doing other things have expressed happiness. Why, because they have moved on with their lives and are living in the present.
I feel sorry for Derek. He could have slept with me and then he would have almost had a career. Ouch!
On the other hand, the truly sad thing is jealousy. Maybe Derek was so busy focusing on what everyone else had and that’s why he can’t focus on his own self. And he’ll be in La La Land until he turns on the tele and sees me and my puppet children. Then he will ring his hands, smack himself because he could have been Mr. April Brucker, and then walk to his laptop to unleash his hate. Love April
PS. There is some kharma. Some people kicked his ass so badly after he wrote that filth that his comment and the comments following it were removed by admins on the site :)