Thursday, March 30, 2017

Scene from a Farewell Party

"Scene from a Farewell Party"

She had waited all evening. Waiting for the time to be right. Or a miracle. But he stood on the other side of the room. He never walked her way. And she knew he left in the morning for New York. This night was her last chance, but her last chance for what? She didn't know. She couldn't begin to hope, but she knew the perfect words she wanted to hear.

Most everyone else was dancing. Hopping up and down to a manic pop single, but the beat of her heart took all her attention as it drummed a rhythm of fear and hope.

All the way through high school and college, the time had never been right. She had been with Kent and then with Richard. He had been with Laurie, Joanne, and Jenny. But now they were both unattached. What kept this from being the time?

How long was she supposed to wait to hear those perfect words? Or had their time already passed? She knew some things got lost. People grew up. Passions faded. A fire couldn't smolder forever.

They had exchanged glances. Significant, perhaps, but nothing more. They had never been close friends, just friends of friends. They had kissed once in a gazebo in a summer rainstorm, but his cell phone had rang. Joanne was looking for him. Richard was looking for her. She ran all the way back to her cousin's house, soaked to the skin and spent the rest of the vacation suffering from a cold and hiding in her room. He tried to call her several times, but she never took his calls. They hadn't spoken since.

Another song started, more frantic than the last one, but she couldn't hear it over the slow drum in her chest.

Somehow she pulled away from the wall. Somehow she took a step and then another. Four steps, and she reached in the middle of the room. If this had been a movie, he would have met her halfway, but it wasn't. Among the dancers she was alone.

The next step was the hardest. But the rest were easy. She reached him, put out her hand, touched his shoulder.

He turned, his ready smile fading as he saw her.

She couldn't wait anymore. Now. Now before her courage failed her.

She pulled his face to hers and kissed him.

If it had been a movie, he would have laughed and kissed her endlessly. He would have said, "I love you," the perfect words she wanted.

But he didn't.

He looked at her for a long moment.

Too long.

Panic filled her. This wasn't a movie. This was real life, and their time had passed. She was a fool.

But then he reached out and crushed her against him.

He said, "What took you so long? I've been waiting forever."

As it turned out, those words were perfect, too.

(Copyright 2017 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017


By Stephen B. Bagley

If I could, I would seduce you
into poetry. I would run
feathery words over the bare
shoulders of your muse, touch gently
the moist secret places of your
metaphors, delicately brush
your lips with similes and plunge
rhythm and rhyme into your soul.

I would take you past the threshold
where passion and structure meet, where
one image means the difference
between indifference and glory.
If I could, I would do these things
and do them long and do them well
until when you heard poetry,
you would gasp, don’t stop oh don’t stop.

Excerpt from Undying by Stephen B. Bagley & Gail Henderson. 
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. 

Friday, March 17, 2017


Dear old friend,
      I'm just writing you a note to tell you that I'm done with regrets. When I hung up the phone, after you told me that you were getting married again, I thought, It's never going to happen now. We're not going to be together.
      For a moment, I cursed the bad timing that has always plagued us. For a moment, I thought of the crazy loving we weren't going to share. For a moment, I thought of laughter in a shared, cozy dark. For a moment, I thought, well, my heart will break. And I braced myself for the shock.
      But my heart kept right on beating. And then I realized it was okay. I had been in love with you so long, had become so accustomed to it that I hadn't even noticed that it was only habit now. Somewhere over the years, the passion had been replaced with friendship.
      I thought about it all day yesterday. I turned it over in my mind, examining this strong, healthy reaction that I hadn't expected to find. Somehow, some way, some time when I wasn't looking, I grew up. And it feels fine.
      So I'm done with regrets tonight. There's a whole world still out there. I've wasted too much time already. A part of me will always love you, but it doesn't love you any more. I hope you finally find happiness. You deserve it. And so do I.
Your friend,

Thursday, March 09, 2017


     Sometimes you're not enough. That's the one of lessons of growing up. You get to learn that some people can't be saved, that you're going to have to watch as someone you love makes wrong decisions and chooses darkness, that you can't do anything except hope the damage won't break them. 
      You can only do so much. Ultimately it's their decision about their lives. All the good advice in the world means nothing if the recipient won't listen. All the kindness in the world can't reach someone who won't let themselves be reached. You hope and pray, but they take that next drink or that next hit or one more time around with the wrong guy. They say they want to be rescued, but they've chosen their hell, and you can't save them. They don't want to be saved. 
      Sometimes miracles happen. People do step back from the abyss. It happens every day many times. It's the hope you hold on to. Even when you lose. 
      So you learn to take the victories you can, and you mourn the ones that fall, but there's always someone else walking along the edge so you don't have time to waste. 
      You keep trying because we all court disaster sometimes. But for the grace of God, you might be that one who's failing, who's falling, who needs someone to catch them, who needs someone to say, "Hold on. I won't let you go. Hold on." 
      Over the past few weeks, I've watched a friend choose something bad. He's lost his job and now his family, but he wants something he can't have and he's going to ruin himself in his attempt to get it. He's had books of good advice and libraries of warnings, but somehow he thought he'd be different, that he could walk along the hungry abyss and be unharmed. That he was different from all those others that fell before him. 
      Sunday night he called me and asked what he should do. So I gave the usual good advice (counseling, marriage therapist, N.A. meetings) and as I did, I realized that he was going to ignore me, that everything I said was not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that it was going to be okay, that it was going to work out. That he could keep what he had already lost by continuing to do what he is doing. 
      Because I really am his friend, I didn't tell him those lies that because they're not true. The call ended shortly thereafter. I doubt he will call me again. I'll continue to hope and pray for him and his family, and that's all I can do for now. But miracles happen. I want one to happen in his life before he suffers too much, before he gathers too much regret. 
      Miracles do happen. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Darker than you think

I've always had a dark(er) sense of humor. I don't know why. I certainly don't like it when people get hurt or any of the other gory/senseless/immature/vulgar events that seem to pass for humor these days. (Never liked America's Funniest Home Videos or their ilk.)

But...sardonic humor. Like that in William Goldman's The Lion in Winter. Or the biting insults in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woofe? have always sparked something in me. The intelligence in the cuts, the knowing wit dissecting its object with no mercy nor regard to anything except the devastating impact....

In my plays, there were flashes of that. Sometimes the joke twisted the knife if the audience took a moment to look past the initial laughter. Not often. For one thing, I believe in mercy, and for another, I liked my characters for the most part. I hated hurting them, but I did.

Maybe all authors are darker than you think. Maybe darker than you are comfortable with. What other being makes its living by writing with great skill about another's torment? Look away. Better to not know. Just take the laugh and leave us in the shadows.

Where we're watching you.