Goldstein has haunted me for years. From nowhere he comes. One minute he’s there, the next? Who knows? One minute he’s there, the next? Who knows? I go to a new place, meet new people, and he is there. From nowhere, he appears. People see him; call him by name. “Goldstein,” they say, “a pleasure to meet you.” I look around, nothing. He’s gone. Disappeared. Scrammed. Vanished.
The son of a bitch, I have never seen.
This is how quick he is. Last week, at my audition for–I’m an actor, did I mention? Last week, I walk out on the stage at the Playlab, to do my monologue, and the director says: “Whenever you’re ready Mr. Goldstein.” I turn around, and he’s gone. I look in the wings–right and left, no one.
“Mr. Goldstein?” says the director.
Again, I turn. Again no one. He’s quick, that son of a bitch.
I can’t even remember the first time he showed up. In grade school, teachers would see him sitting in my seat on the first day of class. He’d be standing next to me when we lined up in size places at the side of the room. He would be playing dodge ball in the school yard. In the fourth grade, he took credit for the American Legion essay I wrote, somehow getting his name inserted into the bulletin that announced the winners, instead of mine. At home, I’ve still got a certificate with a gold stamp and the name Jack Goldstein hand lettered where my name should have been.
On the first day of Little League tryouts, he shows up in the outfield to catch pop ups only to disappear when the coach shouts for him to come in and get on deck. Three times the coach calls him, but just like at the audition, he is gone. Finally, the coach, probably upset by Goldstein’s shenanigans, points at me. “You’re waiting for what?” he shouts. “An invitation? Engraved?”
In high school, he never once shows up for baseball practice; I show up every single day–I’m there early and I stay late–and on the list for the varsity team posted in the locker room, there is Goldstein. Goodstein doesn’t even make the second team.
My freshman year in college, when I played Sebastian in the fall production of Twelfth Night, who somehow managed to get his name inserted into the program? Who was it that got his name in the review in the student newspaper? And if this was the first time it certainly wasn’t the last. If I had, for every time, he got credit for one of my performances, fifty cents. . . you get the idea. It was Goldstein who played Mortimer in Arsenic and Old Lace at the South Hills Community Theatre. It was Goldstein as Happy in the Barebones Players’ production of “Salesman,” Goldstein as Sam Craig in. . . . Goldstein in this; Goldstein in that. Here a Goldstein. There a Goldstein. Everywhere a Goldstein.
Once I read a story, in college probably, I don’t remember the name, but it’s the same thing. A guy tells a story about his own Goldstein. It wasn’t Goldstein of course, it was another name I can’t remember, but everywhere this “Goldstein” also shows up, every time something important happens this “Goldstein” is there ruining everything. In the end, he decides to get rid of him, kill him. What happens, I don’t remember, but I can understand how he feels.
Last week I got the program for the production of my first one act play–I am also a playwright–did I mention–and sure enough, in big bold letters, there he is again.
If I could get my hand on him, if my Goldstein would stick around in one place long enough, I, sure as hell, could be tempted to get rid of the son of a bitch.
Appeared originally in A Flasher's Dozen, eds. KR Mullin and Sandra Seamans, vol.1, no. 1, Autumn, 2005, pp. 10-11.