BY SHANNON REED
When I was five, I had a milk bottle which I thought was Jesus.
Oh, not the real Jesus! No, that’s silly. I thought the milk bottle –plastic, part of a set of six used as bath toys – was the man who played Jesus in our church’s production of Godspell. So, slightly less worrying… and then, if you think about it, much more so.
I saw the choir’s production of Godspell in the church’s multi-purpose room one evening in the early 80’s, and it blew my mind. I was five, sure, so my mind was very easily blown. But still, the combination of people singing and dancing and acting like they were sad when they were not especially sad (How could they be? All that singing and dancing!) was a revelation to me. I quickly developed my first crush, on David, last name unremembered, who played Jesus.
I don’t know how David became a milk bottle, but he did. Maybe they arrived in my life about the same time he did? Anyway, I have vague memories of playing Godspell with them, of singing “Prepare Ye” and “Day by Day” while I made the milk bottles sway in unison. While the other colors were interchangeable, David was always the brown bottle with the white top. I am absolutely sure of this, even 35 years later. (Lest you get too concerned, David-the-actor, like the entire cast, was white.) David-the-milk-bottle-who-was-Jesus went on adventures beyond what I could remember of Godspell, too, accompanied, like The Hobbit, by interchangeable companions.
I remember that my mom and dad thought that this was a riot, and God bless them for it, because many parents would have been much more keen to get me to stop making my bath toys crucify each other on bubble crosses. But my folks also didn’t quite understand. My dad, the pastor of that church, very much wanted to impress me by proving that he knew David. One Sunday during coffee hour, he dragged the poor guy over to talk to me. But I wasn’t interested in David, off-stage, not-Jesus. He was just a guy, holding a Styrofoam cup. The David I was interested in was the one in the spotlight, everyone’s eyes fixed on him.
As it turns out, my first weird love wasn’t David at all. He disappeared when the show closed, and he shaved off his beard and stopped being Jesus. What I fell in love with was the show. Or more precisely, I fell in love with theatre, which I had glimpsed through David, so much so that I began acting classes within a few years, majored in theatre in college and now make part of my living as a playwright. But that was all in the future. Back then, the closest I could get was a memory, incarnated in a toy, and – forgive me – resurrected in the bath every night.
Shannon's work has recently been published or is upcoming in The New Yorker, Buzzfeed, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Poets & Writers, Vela, Narratively and Guernica, among others. She isworking on a series of comic essays about teaching.