by Dennis Milam Bensie
I like getting flowers. My fellow actors knew I was getting a bouquet from a mysterious fan named Steve before each performance. Roses, daisies, and colorful mixes out of season from a man who never showed his face at the theatre.
The handwritten cards would romantically suggest that Steve was in the audience every night. He’s an old soul like me, no doubt. Despite never meeting him, it was special. And I got used to the feeling.
The stage manager was concerned about me being stalked, but I wasn’t worried. Never did I feel safer. I was more scared of being unloved or unnoticed.
I had an idea in my head of what Steve probably looked like: an effortlessly handsome businessman for sure. My fantasy was that he might be waiting for me with red roses at the stage door someday on a motorcycle; or maybe in a convertible. I wouldn’t mind if he drove a beat-up old pickup truck. We would confess our love for each other as we zoomed down the interstate; no more show business for me. Steve would give me a gold ring at a rest stop a hundred miles away. Someday we would share initials on monogrammed towels.
The flowers from Steve kept coming in. The bouquets got bigger with more and more Baby’s Breath. And I was content.
Everything was going so well until my credit card statement went missing: the multiple charges to the florist told the truth; my own handwriting on the cards.
Friends asked me why, but I didn’t want to hear the question.
Perhaps I should have kept the situation contained. But Steve was all I had after Jim and Stan and Donald.
I was still addicted to flowers from Steve.
But the bouquets stopped making it to my dressing room. Someone was intervening on my behalf. I would find my flowers sitting at the box office or hidden behind the set on the prop table. Even in the garbage. My handwritten cards were missing or torn to shreds. There were stares and whispers backstage. I was misunderstood by my fellow thespians. The producers labeled me unstable.
Whose business is it who I love, or how I love, or if I love?
You see, nobody understands that getting flowers from Steve was a way for me to love myself — all the time.
And without them I couldn’t remember my lines.
I was empty.
It was time for me to find a new show.
Everything went south.
Things are, indeed, bigger in Texas. It’s opening night and there’s a knock on my dressing room door. The stage manager hands me the biggest bouquet of yellow roses I’ve ever seen. The typewritten card reads, “From Tex.”
It seems I have a new admirer: a cowboy who only does business in cash.
Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem Eight Ball was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories, poetry and essays have appeared all over the web and in print. His second book, One Gay American, was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. In 2015, Bensie’s latest book, Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature, was featured in Kolaj Magazine and was a part of Tribe Magazine’s Anti-Shame Week.