Nicholas Bredie

Namlet began as MacMeth. MacMeth was born one night in Andrew's Volvo 240 after we procured some so-called-meth from White Boy and his punk friend Tony. We met them in the bottlecap garden, the drinking alcove tucked just out of sight at the north end of Glover-Archbold Park. Just a short walk from the Cineplex Odeon 6 where we'd ingested our first celluloid dreams. White Boy died of exposure in that park in 2002. His obituary in the Washington City Paper revealed his true name, but I've since forgotten. The so-called-meth was smoked out of a corncob pipe, which might explain its impotence. Or we'd been made as college-bound punks and sold Epsom salts. To cheer the stimulant along Andrew chanted, "McMeth murders sleep, McMeth will sleep no more." As if the whole sad situation could be salvaged by a touch of class. After a couple hours the malt liquor we were drinking in quantity on Andrew's parents' roof overtook whatever buzz I'd pretended to feel and I passed out in his room.

I awoke to Andrew pouring over our AP English textbook. Buried in it, so he was just a puff of 'grandma hair.' Stuff that had been bleached and dyed blue so often it sat on his head like a wet brillo pad. He'd been up all night, first trying to imagine a film version of MacBeth as a meth dealer. Unfortunately (given meth's television success on Breaking Bad a decade later), he abandoned that project in favor of Namlet. That is Hamlet, but set in the Vietnam era.

It was the late nineties, the middle of a short-lived 'Shakespeare' phase in the culture that had been touched off by Romeo + Juliet. I'd gone to see that with my high school girlfriend. It confirmed for us that we were in a romance. The kind of geography-defying romance of two eagles plummeting towards earth, talons locked. And as college rapidly approached, we had to reinforce this idea by spending every night drinking her mother's Bristol Creme on ice and making love.

She had been visiting ailing grandparents the meth weekend. Once I'd made some coffee, I asked Andrew why Vietnam. Ethan Hawke had just done Hamlet as a metrosexual, so Andrew said anything seemed possible. He'd said that Vietnam was this thing that our parents had. We didn't have anything like it. There were some anti-globalization things we took part in, like good little anarchists, but nothing defining, nothing society shattering. In a year we'd have September 11th, but by then we were in college and the era of filmic Shakespeare updates had died along with who knows what else. A few years after that I was in a playwriting class with Julia Stiles. Only the guy with Tourette's wanted to sit next to her. He'd throw his keys in the air three times, then leer at her.

Namlet ended with the two of us, along with a couple friends playing the Danish court, legs akimbo getting pat down by a cop. Moments earlier he'd bust in to the scene with what might have been a gun, might have been a taser. We'd been in the middle of filming, in Super 8, the climatic knife fight between Namlet and Laertes. Laertes had 'just come back from Vietnam,' so Andrew was wearing an olive M1 helmet and bandoleers. As Namlet I wore someone's dad's beret. Namlet was apparently a beatnik. Watching us jab at one another with steak knives were our drug dealer who played 'Nixon' and my girlfriend who played 'America,' meant to replace Claudius and Gertrude respectively. 'Something's rotten in the state of Denmark' had been swapped for 'Nixon is fucking America.' Initially Andrew wanted this scene filmed at the Lincoln Memorial, but we'd settled for the National Cathedral. It was easier to park, and our camera guy was convinced he could work in stock footage of the memorial. I guess we hadn't counted on the zealotry of the cathedral's own police force. After the cop had determined that our only weapons were the steak knives, he asked what we thought we were doing. "We're filming Hamlet in Vietnam," Andrew volunteered. Were we all so obviously stoned?

"I was in Vietnam," the cop sneered. "And this looks nothing like it."

Before Namlet my high school girlfriend and I were preparing ourselves for that old lie AP English had taught us to undertake. We were gearing one another up to commit to an idea of love as a tragedy. A thing made of distance, devotion and self-denial. The rigors of getting high and filming Namlet obliterated this program of soft moments. It was like a stab through the arras. We broke up shortly after.

In Namlet, after killing Polonius (no clever name change), Namlet flees to Canada. As I enacted this flight, turning the key in a borrowed '72 Chevy Malibu, I wondered why he would ever return to the mess of death and responsibility he was leaving behind. That was seventeen. Six years later, I got it. I was back with the same high school girlfriend trying to replay us as a comedy, Much Ado about Nothing set in Providence, Rhode Island. With our finances and possessions intertwined, she ultimately threw me over for an Apple Store genius. Moving out, I found the Super 8 of the Namlet rough cut. I have yet to find a camera or the will to play it.

Nicholas Bredie is the author of NOT CONSTANTINOPLE, a novel just out from Dzanc Books. He lives in Los Angeles.

Read his postcard.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Marc-Anthony Macon.

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