Right continuing where we left off:
So the goals for Bruce in the last act was to try and work out a better relationship with Mickey, and find out what that meant. But also to avoid the empty church, he had seen in his mind, when no one came for him after the brush with death. Many other things were planned as well, but I won’t go into them here.
In 3 act I tried to go for a more relaxed Bruce, a man confused about his spot in life and relationships and not angry any more but still hurt. As I write this, I now see how close to home that is. During the game Bruce drifted closer and closer to me, I see that now.
Do you know how hard it is to plan to create meaningful relationships in game? Especially with only one act left. What was I thinking? Anyway that’s what I tried to do. It didn’t work. The beginning was fine Bruce had a great shouting match with someone who wanted his financial support, but almost demanded it from him because his friend was sick. To which Bruce shouted: “I was one of the first to lose someone! You do not get to play that card at me!” While the other hurried off. Loved it.
It was interesting to watch Bruce and Mickey try and find a way to be in a relationship they both could be comfortable with. This was explored in a few rather subtle scenes that I still love. They kinda just showed in small ways that things had changed and now they were figuring out how to do this as equals, but also as two men used to power games and wearing masks. They both struggled with the same issues but in very different ways. It was hard to play because it was so subtle, but looking back at it now, it feels kinda beautiful. Especially in contrast to the ugliness of act two.
I keep coming back to one tiny moment during the drag show. Bruce was shouting some comment at the stage and suddenly Mickey gently put his hand on Bruce’s knee and shook his head ever so slightly as if saying “enough.” And for the first time Bruce relented and muttered “you’re right, sorry.” No one saw this, I’m not even sure Mickey’s player knows the importance of that moment. But for me it showed that Bruce had changed, but also how special Mickey was to Bruce. The only one the shark would listen too.
I want to mention two other scenes as they kinda closes the story of Bruce and Micky. One might have happened twice once in the evening once in the morning. But the point of the scenes was Bruce once again telling Mickey, that he loved him but now saying, that he knew that Mickey could not say it back or maybe even feel it back, but that Bruce was ok with that. And that he knew that this might not be forever, but that he would enjoy every moment of it as long as it lasted. Or something along those lines. The essence was that Bruce had come to terms with the relationship and the uncertainties in it and was in a word: content.
The other scene was a double black box scene towards the very end. It was basically either Bruce or Mickey dying first. With Bruce he left half he owned to Mickey, the other half to the fight against AIDS, but left no note. This confused and saddened Mickey. He didn’t need the money, that was just a hassle, he needed a note, a goodbye, anything! But that was Bruce in a nutshell, bad at relationships to the end.
In fact the missing note was so frustrating for me as a player, that a few days after the game I had to write two versions of the goodbye note just to please myself. The player of Gwen’s interpretation is that Bruce wrote these, but didn’t show them, “No. Too emotional”. But as Mickey’s player said: all versions are true, that’s the beauty of role play. In the other scene Mickey dying first it turned out that he had quite a bit of money and could easily have made it on his own but chose not to. He left the money to his half sister Sam with a note saying:
“She needs it more.
I love you too.”
Ah that still breaks my heart in such a beautiful way. It turned out that the money was something he had stolen from Bruce as a safety for when Bruce threw him out. But Bruce never did that, so in the end he gave it to Sam. Bruce was rich enough to not care. Again I love the fact that these two scenes are both true! In what other medium is that possible!?
Even though we had more scenes together (For example: Sam, Mickey and Bruce (weirdest family ever) holding hands during the wait at the last funeral) those three scenes kinda ended the story arc of Bruce and Mickey and now it’s time to end and kinda begin the other story or more experience that I had during the game.
As I have hinted to a few times, another theme for Bruce was loneliness and that he wanted to spend act three trying to create some meaningful and lasting relationships. I don’t know what I was thinking, I don’t even know how to do that in real life, how did I expect to do it in a game?
So towards the tea ceremony I found it more and more difficult to find play. Most others were deep in their close relations working towards the conclusions of them. Which makes sense. But for me it meant that it became more and more difficult and taxing to find scenes to play. I was also more tired than I knew at the time.
I had to think hard to come up with anything to do and everything I came up with was over very quickly and it became clear, that I was falling in creating meaningful relationships, well except for Mickey, but that was kinda done by that point, not much more to play on.
This situation was draining me and I was starting to feel rather unhappy and having a hard time remaining in character, so after the green tea I went to my room, that was still technically in game, but that I know would likely be empty, to just take a break and think about what to do now. I was gripped by a strange intense feeling of sadness, frustration and loneliness, that I couldn’t quite place. I felt very out of character. After a bit I knew I could not ignore these feelings, so I decided to just include them in my play. This was after the green tea, so it would make sense to Bruce have a little breakdown. So I went and sat in the central lounge area and let the emotions go free and tried to incorporate them into the character.
So I sat there alone, head in my hands letting what ever was in me flood over me, while the others was out sending up lanterns for the dead. I did not know that at the time, but it explained why I was alone in that area. Suddenly a flood of realization hit me.
I knew this feeling! And I definitely know this experience! Of feeling alone at a party and other situations. Of having plenty of people to talk to in the beginning but always about superficial and practical things, but as the evening wore on people would find their closer friends and that would leave me alone. Also this whole struggle to find more meaningful relationships and not knowing how to do that. Not being able think up things to talk about other than practical stuff or intellectual stuff. Not being part of their shared anecdotes. That was all so familiar. I was as alone as Bruce.
This is of course a truth with modifications. I’m not as alone as it sounds, but it still something I struggle with: “being alone in a sea of friendship” I think I called it. Throughout countless conversations afterwards, I now know that this was not the only issue at play, but I’ll stay with this as we don’t want this to turn into another therapy session.
No matter what, the result was a breakdown. I opened my mouth in a silent scream and tears started flowing unhindered down my cheeks. I have never cried as freely as that. Does this sound like too much? Like over the top and too emotional? Yes it properly is, but at that moment it was important to me. I was tired, I was already emotional from the game, and had just decided to let go of my hold of my emotions and just feel, now it’s no wonder for me that it happened.
Anger and frustration suddenly hit me: “This is something I don’t know how to solve in real life how on earth am i supposed to fucking roleplay my way out of it?!” That and the way my mind and body reacted made it clear for me: Something is wrong and I need to go off game for good. I basically just burst into the organisers room, sat down on the floor and continued crying in front of a rather surprised Nicolaj (sorry mate).
I know now that I would never normally have done that, I would never had shown such loss of control in front of any one. This is my greatest fear, as I have struggled with temper tantrums (a too small word for it) in my childhood. I have lost friends and respect because of loss of control. And the last thing I wanted was to have my new great community of roleplayers see that side of me. Seeing the disgust and pity in their eyes. So I guard myself very hard, and that has been an important part of becoming the nice, calm(ish) man I am today. But that day I learned that at some points I have guarded myself too hard, I’m in the process of trying to find the balance. (I could go into much more detail here, but I think you get the gist of it.)
Alarm bells were ringing in my mind, stop it, don’t show it, hold back. But that night I was so tired, so worn, so vulnerable that I stopped caring, and just let my breakdown show to the organisers, somehow, somewhere knowing that it was important to do. (This is still very difficult for me to write. But I have since learned that it’s when I feel this instinct to hide that I must be open about it, it’s the only way to work my way through it. The mental resistance to writing this gives me the stubborn strength to continue writing.)
I hadn’t sat there for long before Anna showed up (oh and Nicolaj didn’t go to me because he had strained his hand so don’t blame him). She took action straight away and after sorting Nicolaj out went to me, held me and just let me talk. (This is harder to write than I thought, I still feel a strong urge to just delete it all. I’m just so god damn grateful for Anna and Arvid (you’ll see why) in all this) (I use real names here, to thank them and because that feels right).
To begin with I just told her, that I was leaving the game. But I felt like I needed to explain why, but also I felt a great need explain myself and maybe somewhere knew that this was an important moment and that this was my chance to do something about all this. This is the same reason I’m telling this very emotional and silly story on my otherwise rather calm blog. I know every time I feel like shuting up, I need to do the opposite, it’s my way of breaking down the blockade I have built over the years. It might matter nothing to you, but it’s important to me.
So I started talking. I told her how my game with Bruce echoed my real life. How I couldn’t handle that not in game, not in real life. She just sat with me for a long time, calmed me down and said it’s ok, don’t feel guilty, I don’t think you’re wrong or pathetic. Just basically giving me the exact opposite than that look I feared so much. Instead of pity, disgust and shock came compassion, understanding and even thankfulness that I had the courage to show this to her.
I told her, I would drop out of the game and thought that was that. But she said, that this is one of the things this game can handle and that I should give my fellow players the chance to show me that I and Bruce do mean something for them. This I rebelled against for the same reasons as before, but also I felt guilty. As I have said everyone was in the midst of their very strong end game. I didn’t want to take time away from that to deal with little poor me. But she opposed me saying they would be honored to help out. That’s what we are all here for and that it would ruin nothing in fact the opposite. My strong experience would enhance their game. I thought she was humoring me, but still I could resist, not at that point.
She suggested to get in to play again at the latest tomorrow, but at that point I was beginning to see that this moment, this crack in my defenses was important, not sure why yet but I knew it was. So I agreed to return to the game, but that it had to be tonight, or else I might come to my senses in the morning. We agreed on some players that I trusted and that it would make sense to interact with Bruce at this point. I stilled hated doing this but also knew that it was a good idea. I mentioned: Mr. T (played by Arvid), Ike and Artie.
She came back with only Arvid, but that was fine, then I only had to tell it all again to one person. I told him the same story, and he reacted exactly like Anna had said they would. Hugging me hard, tellin me it was ok, that I was brave to do this, and that he was honored to be there for me. At the time I kinda suspected Anna for instructing him on how to react, but I chose to believe them now (well ish).
During all this I slowly got the idea on how to return to the game. The dance floor was full, and in act two, to get the party started the disco star Leon had given a late night performance. So I suggested: Why don’t Bruce give a song. And I knew just the song: “Don’t stop me now” the theme song for Bruce though out all this. Both Anna and Arvid shouted: that’s my favorite song, and again I suspected them for humoring me. But at least they thought the idea was good. So we went to the dance floor, got the DJ Tony to set up the song. Mr. T presented me: “Bruce wants to give you all a number, and give him a big hand as he’s feeling a bit down!” Not in a million years would I have seen myself doing something like that. But this was the time to do it. I don’t know how many was on the floor, but it felt packed.
The song started and I went crazy, just acting out all my emotions dancing and pretend singing like never before and the floor went amok, singing along at the top of their lungs dancing with me, around me, it was insane. I have rarely felt so much support and love and the most amazing thing? They had no idea why I did it. They just thought it was a crazy event. It still brings me a smile when I think about, it it was such a powerful moment, I will treasure for a long time. I might have looked ridiculous as I dance very badly, but it must have looked like I meant it.
It was like being recharged, so I spent a long time on that dance floor, dancing my heart out having many different dance partners or just enjoying myself on my own. I even felt enough surplus energy to start interacting with other players that looked like they needed some game. I particularly remember Rosemary, whom I later found out had come from a very emotional experience and was on her way to sleep and me and two others got her on the floor and we ended up dancing very close after which Bruce shouted: “first time I’ve done that with a lesbian!” I was later told that, that little dance had meant a lot to Rosemary. That night I felt as low as I rarely have, and as high as I rarely have, it was very powerful. It also taught me some important things, but i’m still figuring out exactly what.
And I’m gonna end my retelling here. As for the story of Bruce this is the dual stories he (and I) had. The complex at times ugly but in the end happy love story between Bruce and Mickey and then this strong emotional experience that I’m still trying to figure out what meant. There was much more to JaLL and it feels wrong to leave it out, (For example the whole last funeral and a lovely last minute wedding, but that might get mentioned in the favorite scenes post, if I do it), but from a storytelling view that is it.
Thank you if you read this far, though I think only very few did. Coming up is more posts about JaLL (selected scenes, playing on sexsuality and maybe something on design and structure.) And then posts on the Larp Writer Summer School and what I took home from that. And then who knows…