I have a friend called Charles, we call him Charly. He evolved in a way nobody can really understand, but I want to tell you what I saw and what he did and theorycraft why and how. This is a Longread, but I just want him to read it. So I’m cool with it.
When I was in school at Punta Arenas, my class knew the following generation of people was very diverse, grown-ups and rebels compared to ours. We were pretty calm and over disciplined, but they had controversy, romances, drama and some distinguished personalities. One of them was Charles.
He was absolutely mad; he was known to be the classic problem guy, very reactive and when you’re on Elementary School that’s not what teachers or your parents expect from you. I don’t know his background, like traumas or something but with his attitude you could at least suspect something bad happened to him before. Maybe his dad was far (I never asked him) or he saw some kind of family abuse. This can be very negative to a kid, it is traumatic and it shapes your perspective of life. He had bad manners, his reactions were too aggressive and his fame was that whatever you did to him don’t provoke him, he will fight you.
I’m 21 years old so these memories are from when I was 10, when life wasn’t that hard but it seemed like it was. He was 9, a rude, aggressive and with a bad reputation 9 year old.
The moment of change
On 2009 my school announced that they would be playing a 7th-8th grade school play as a preparation for the “real deal” High School production. I was very excited because playing a musical was my dream (still is) after watching Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats. It was a more kid oriented musical so they chose “The Wizard of Oz”, yeah, the movie from 1939. I didn’t care at all, I just wanted to participate so I auditioned and got the role of the Tin Man, Joaquin got the role of the Scarecrow, Rudolph got the Lion and Solace got the role of Dorothy.
Wasn’t this a story about Charles? Calm down, we are getting there.
We were all set up three weeks before the premiere when suddenly Joaquin parent’s decided to move him out of school to a new one. It was a hard week because we had to find a replacement, but no one was really into the arts or was crazy enough. Wait! “We know someone crazy enough, Charles!” was he into the arts though? With no expectations at all we arranged an extraordinary rehearsal because he needed to learn dialogues, lyrics and choreographies. He was compromised, hard-working, and brilliant. It was like he enjoyed for the first time being on a group that accepted him as he was. He was the scarecrow, no brain, all fun. It was him going all-in on something he didn’t ask for, it was jaw dropping what he did and how he changed.
This was not only how he began but how we as a group began. We were The Chosen Ones: Freaek, Rudolph, Charly and Solace.
The years to come
Next year, I was in high school while all three of them were on 8th grade, so we needed others way of meeting. The only thing that got three of us together was Rugby. Our School Club was called the Foxes, we are The Foxes. Charles was a forward, switching places between being Hooker or Second-Line, most of the times hooker. Rudolph was the captain of his division being Scrumhalf and I was the fly of the upper division, so only sometimes we were to train and play together but when we did I noticed something special about Charles.
That kid I feared when I was 10 years old was still here but he adapted to use that rage when it was necessary and not always. It was on rugby’s matches where he channeled that rage without leaving his discipline behind. He needed to tackle, to go in and to stop other kids that were closer to a mammoth than to a human being. He did every time. He also needed to pass the ball, to group up and you know what Rudolph trusted him with his life. It was a no brainer if you need someone to take the ball and hit the other team’s wall. If you need to release the ball he was always there and I’m sure he still does. I stopped playing rugby but he didn’t because he knows that rugby is his everything when it comes to control. Is one of the two places where he can be himself… the other one is on stage.
From friend to brother
As I told you already we were the Chosen Ones. So in the year 2011 the musical chosen was “Evita”. I was selected to play the role of “Che”, Rudolph was “Magaldi”, Charly’s role was “Juan Domingo Peron” and Solace was “Evita”. The only thing I can tell you about this musical is that I would really know they had my back. For Charles it was a very interesting character to play, because Peron not only had some interests on Evita as a marketing device but he also needed to show something he didn’t before: love. It was an amazing performance as he delivered touching scenes that I will never forget like “She’s a Diamond” and the following “You Must Love Me” it was heartwarming and heartbreaking too.
After the musical we started preparing for our trip to Argentina as the school’s choir. It was five of us, but some bad decision and reactions from Charles leaded to him being expelled from this trip and the following Christmas’s Carol. A bad end of the year for Charles as he was returning to be that aggressive reacting kid he was before.
Next musical was Cabaret; again the Chosen Ones were playing the main roles. I was “The Emcee”, Rudolph was “Cliff”, Charly was “Herr Schultz” and Solace was “Sally Bowles”. This was a big one for the four of us because everything went downhill for us, people started calling us out because we rehearsed a lot and so our answer was to rehearse more and be as good as we could. Only the four of us where rehearsing on a house during the weekends to get the best out of everyone.
For Charles it was especially rough because his interactions were with an actress that didn’t want to act with him. During rehearsals you could easily notice the difference between Any (the actress) playing with John (Charle’s understudy) where she was sweet, lovely and charming and when she played with Charly just bored, cold and distracted. It was something he could be angry about, but that was not the feeling he felt. He was kind of ashamed, humiliated, frustrated or disheartened. So the other three of us made an intervention telling him that it wasn’t about her but what he felt, that the best he could do was to play his role. He was scared because the performance of both of them depended on an exposition of true love. So I got an idea, just surprise her on stage, live without telling her anything so that her reaction would be natural.
There’s a scene in particular where they sing each other about how old they are for love and he convince her that they aren’t finishing with The Proposal. So I gave him a ring to show her at the end of the song and when he did LIVE, she just was absolutely amazed, shocked and almost started crying. His charm and sweetness just rocket shipped this performance out of this world. My mom cries every time we see the illegal recording, because it was so beautiful so touching it didn’t seemed it was Charly leading the way. That was the moment he free himself to us, to the group.
That was the last time The Chosen Ones played as a group of four, because Solace was leaving to another city. So we hugged before and after every night of performance and told ourselves to never forget it. And I won’t.
The Choir and Final Step
Later that year we started developing an amazing group as a choir. But it wasn’t until next year that we would travel together again. Solace was gone, but the three of us were still a big part of School’s arts. Actually the musical chosen was “Man of La Mancha” and I was casted as “Sancho” while both of them were chose to play “Don Quixote”. It was a great challenge for both of them to take the main role and play it so I tried to be as Sancho as possible in real life. It was a spectacular adventure, where I discovered myself and they discovered themselves. Luckily for him Any (the bad actress) was casted as Rudolph’s couple and not as his.
The final step is before the choir’s trip to El Calafate, Argentina. It was about to be his first trip as a Choir member, because as I told before he was expelled from the first one. Two weeks before confirmation deadline during Monday’s rehearsal we were missing a member; Charly wasn’t there with us singing silly love songs. We asked our teacher and he told us Charly couldn’t afford the trip to Argentina, so he wasn’t coming until Christmas’s Carol rehearsals started.
Rudolph and I took action and started collecting as many money as we could from the choir members to pay Charly’s trip. We needed about 280 dollars and we were 14 members from High School. We couldn’t ask for 20 dollars each, so Rudolph and I tried to fill what was missing. We asked a lot of people to participate, from the little members giving $1 to our teacher who contributed with $10. It was two days before deadline when we finally got all $280 to take Charly with us.
We know he is a proud guy so we avoided his opinion on us paying his trip to Argentina. We got to his superior: his mother. The next moments of this week were amazing.
We went to the Principal’s office so that she arranges a meeting with Charly’s mom; she easily caught the bait (mostly because I was a good student) and called her immediately. She arranged a meeting with her during the afternoon. I was in Economics class when the secretary came in to call me, the setting was ready and our plan was working perfectly. I went and looked for Rudolph. We both entered the office to meet Charly’s mother, she was weirdly pleased to see us. So we just went for it and I said
“Miss, we as Charly’s friends collected the $280 required so that he can come with us to Argentina. It was not only the both of us, but everyone on the choir gave something to help him. We love and need him with us there, so we need you to approve us paying the trip.”
She said yes and started crying. We cheered her up and went towards the financial office to pay everything; we signed the contract and gave the money so that Charles couldn’t avoid the trip because of pride. After this we went to his classroom and asked the teacher if we could talk to him, this was the moment we were expecting.
“Charles, we have paid your trip and there’s nothing you can do about it. You are coming with us to Argentina” I said and his answer was of incredulity “You’re fucking with me, right?” when he discovered we weren’t he jumped over us and hugged as like never before. It was him given the chance to be him once again and that’s what he wants above everything you can think off.
That was a magical trip, my last strip. After Christmas’s Carol we separate ways as I came to Santiago to study Economics Science. I saw him grow, transform or a better word to describe it is mutate from a reactive aggressive trouble maker boy to a man.
All I know about him is that he is studying something in Concepcion, that he is playing Rugby which means he is being himself.
And that means he is happy. And I’m happy. Charly: thank you for everything.