A flannelette shirt is a cross between a really comfortable shirt and a really uncomfortable one, and Grant is never seen without one. Grant has a beard and smiles with his whole person and thinks everything he sees and hears is pretty much the best thing ever.
Sasha is taller than a normal person and because of his height has a slight forward-leftward lean when he stands. Sasha nods knowingly and treats everything with importance, but isn’t too serious in anything. His eyes see right into people in a way that’s intimate and connecting, not intimidating. His hair is styled in an old fashioned pompadour and flaps back and forth when he nods.
Grant and Sasha are both very different people, stubbornly independent people, but they somehow seem to be a great couple.
They’re both involved in a small, poorly financed, unaffiliated theatre company where Grant writes plays and Sasha builds sets. To look at them you would think it’s the other way around.
The tone of their relationship is chummy and relaxed. While they disagree on nearly everything at work, they don’t really care. They’re the kind of people who cross paths once, twice a day. Both always hurrying, talking to no one in particular at a thousand words a minute out one side of their mouths with a pen or pencil hanging from the other side (they both do this). They attract followers, other people literally scurrying after them, waiting to be told to do something or to get something, any way to be of service to either of these harried, hurried men.
They barely exchange a word all day. They barely exchange looks. If you could look either of them in the eye as they worked you’d find them somewhere else entirely. Total individuals, autonomous in their work, but every evening they talk and laugh about everything that happened to them during the day. Tell each the things they didn’t even know they were feeling until they start describing them. Read side by side, sharing the little things they chuckle at, setting down their paperbacks or scripts to expand on some bit of gossip they just remembered.
Have a couple of drinks and go to bed to make love and fall asleep happy and contented with everything in the world.
This is genuinely how I thought of them.
When I was nineteen I caught my brother stealing from my room. I always kept some cash, mostly loose change I didn’t like having in my wallet, in a tin in my desk’s bottom drawer.
I saw my brother nudge the drawer closed with his foot. Neither of us said anything. He stood facing me, his hands in his pants’ pockets. He stepped forwards to leave and some change jingled – or he jingled it, I don’t exactly remember which – in his pockets.
He stepped forwards and I hit him in the stomach. When he fell I kicked him until he started sobbing.
A phone call from my brother, who actually did tell them everything, brought my parents home early.
They sent my brother to a friend’s for the night then the three of us sat along one side of our dining table: Dad, Mum in the middle, and me.
My parents told me there was no other choice but for me to leave. They were serious, they said. I kept staring across the top of the table, which seemed to stretch out forever.
I ended up at Grant and Sasha’s. I had only known them a couple of months but they took me in immediately. I thought we’d be like a family. I could see them being like kindly foster parents who would put me back together and show me the warmth I’d forgotten existed.
They did more for me than I could have ever asked, but it still hurt when I discovered they, like all people, were different from who I’d always imagined them to be.
Life at Grant and Sasha’s had the right look, just as I’d imagined, but it wasn’t the same.
Grant had an apparent love for the theatre and even more so for film, where he really wanted to work, and he could speak extensively and knowledgeably on a great number of directors, actors, filmmakers and what he referred to as works or sometimes as pieces.
But eventually you got the taste of the cynicism and the irony that ran through all of Grant’s enthusiasms. You discovered he had to tear down, in poorly kept secret, what he claimed to love.
It was Sasha who had described Grant’s passions as apparent, and who pointed out the double entendre; because Sasha wasn’t immune to his own irony.
Sasha was a lot cooler than Grant, I have to admit it. He walked that very fine line between being totally sharp and totally laid back. He had a certain kind of knowing wit that was pretty scathing, though, that you could really appreciate if you were hip enough to get it.
They were both draining people to be around, mentally, and I think they were probably even more exhausting people to be. This was why they were always so active, doing and producing constantly. Because they could be dangerous in reflection.
Domesticated, they had developed an unvarying after-dinner routine. They took their bottle of wine or a couple of fresh cocktails to their living room where they read all the fashionable books on all the fashionable subjects.
But they manufactured a silence that cut them off from each other and me off from them. It was worse than an unbreakable silence exactly because it could be broken, and the act of breaking it was a violent one that wounded it. Each was comfortable in his silence, and to take it away was to take away their comfort.
Conversely, paradoxically, the one’s silence was discomfort for the other and because Grant could not break Sasha’s silence without breaking his own, nor Sasha Grant’s, they were caught in a spiral from comfort to discomfort that neither could see let alone see their way out of.
I learned how to be cynical and I learned how to find fault in things, and especially people.
Then I learned that I already knew how to find fault in people, and I discovered how much work it could take not to.
I saw my brother again and I apologised for the last time I saw him, which was hard. He apologised to me as well, which was even harder. Now that we only see each other semi-regularly we’ve found that we like each other much more than we used to.
Otherwise life is pretty much the same. I continue to live with Grant and Sasha who continue to live with each other and with themselves. The theatre company still has its place at the centre of all our lives. I continue to act, but I also help out in other ways wherever I can and am probably the third busiest person at the company behind Grant and Sasha.
Grant is even allowing me to direct a small single-act piece of his. It’s for a trio of actors who play diplomats. The diplomats always say exactly what they mean, but assume that the others don’t. None of the diplomats may communicate directly to another, so whenever two converse the third must act as an intermediary. The intermediaries, assuming the first person is being opaque, tells the second person what they believe the first really means. The second person then responds based on their own reinterpretation. And it goes on.
Sometimes the second person’s reinterpretation matches the first person’s original meaning, sometimes not. As the piece goes through every permutation of communication and interpretation between the three diplomats only the audience knows when the diplomats really understand each other and when they don’t.
Grant wants to end on a revelation that allows the diplomats to unravel everything while throwing the audience into the former confusion of the diplomats, but hasn’t worked it out yet.
The piece will be performed in our next season, which we are preparing for now.