RE(nt) – Cap (Not Ready)

Posted: January 27, 2010 in Road to RENT

January 26, 2010

I wasn’t ready!

I returned home around 7:43 a.m. Checking my phone, I received a message, from over the moon stating, “OMG – the photo of you in the News Journal is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I immediately signed on, questioning the statement. I tore into the News Journal website, expecting her words to be a fluke.  I scrolled down the page and there I stood. Body erect, a slight twist in the hips and a hard expression on my face, the flash causing my features to take on a cartoonlike glow. I jumped towards my mother’s wallet – I don’t carry cash.

Hopping into her car, I flew to the nearest convenient store. I darted to my right, newspaper stand. I mulled over the cover to see a picture of over the moon shining bright. I moved a few pages, trying to find the article. I didn’t see my picture. I thought it to be strictly an internet printing and bought a few papers for memorabilia of my cast mates.

I gave a copy to my mother, thumbed through the article and fell upon my picture. My legs betrayed me, and I collapsed to the floor.

It had been nine years since I last graced the pages of the News Journal for my track and cheerleading accomplishments; however, back then, I was so full of teenage angst that I could only focus on the fact that people would see my picture and have something off-putting to say.

But now, as I looked at my image, seemingly displaced from the rest of the scenery around me, I couldn’t help but feel humbled:

Wow, is that really me?

I turned to my mother:

“I can’t believe they picked me out of all the pictures they took.”

My mother began to read through the article. She paused for a second. I interrupted her, thinking I knew what she was going to say:

“Yeah, that’s over the moon, I didn’t know she was Miss Delaware. I can see that.”

My mother replied:

“Yeah, I read that, but that scarf she has on looks familiar.”

I twisted my face. My mother continued:

“Is that my scarf?”

I retorted back:

“Yes… well, it was your scarf until I stole it from you. And she’s wearing that black matrix jacket I stole from you too.”

The first time my nephew saw me in it, walking down the driveway, he turned to his dad, my brother, and stated:

“Look, DD (me), looks like Batman!”

I shrugged at the thought:

Even my nephew thinks my wardrobe is costumes.

Eventually I realized that I needed to sleep before the third night of tech week.

I wrestled with the decision of how many Tylenol pm’s to take to sleep for eight hours, soliciting the advice of my mother as well as my brother. Three was agreed upon, but I settled on two, basing my decision off of a conversation between the choreographer and over the moon.

I took my pills and went to bed and awoke three hours later, fighting the air. My thoughts beat against my skull:

What was the point of that? This is the same amount of sleep I get every day.

I tossed in bed trying to pull myself to sleep, knowing my efforts were pointlessly feeble. I got on the internet and received an e-mail from the main director:

I wasn’t ready!

He told me there were some changes to my entrance. He told me the new character I was to portray and he told me that I would most likely be performing it at rehearsal that night.

My heart skipped a beat. It pumped excitement through my veins.

The time frame was shorter and the character more solidified in my genre of performing.  However, that meant I would have to pull together a new outfit and restructure my mental routine – bits and pieces thrown together in hopes that the physical manifestation of them played out perfectly (I did not factor in distance and fatigue).

I scrambled through my wardrobe, trying to find the ideal style. I heard my cast mates ringing in my ears:

“Anything in your closet will work. You are RENT.”

Still, nothing seemed to call out to me. I rummaged through every inch of my closet, and like a boomerang, I returned to a pair of familiar black pants, sewn with red sparkly yarn. I accented it with an orange top and a multicolored hat, orange and black popping through. I stared in the mirror and heard the voice of Linus from the Peanuts Special:

“Look Charlie Brown, it’s the Great Pumpkin!”

I turned my head and chuckled. I looked at my watch, nearing six o’clock, and realized I had been playing costume party for two and a half hours. I grabbed everything I needed, including some last minute supplies for over the moon to decorate her pants, and ran towards the door.

I popped a CD into the player and tried to mentally piece together my entrance routine, which I had yet to physically perform as a whole.

I wasn’t ready!

I half-heartedly rummaged through my routine as I waited for the night to begin. There was talk of music cues for the entrance dance, but I just knew it would escape me for the third night. I changed in preparation for the microphone check, and waited around, trying to illuminate new moves in my mind. The stage manager with the golden brown hair stopped me:

“Hey, were you told that the song is cut down to a minute and forty five, it is no longer four minutes.”

Her words soothed my conscience. I was ecstatic that I would now have more material than I needed rather than trying to fill in the space between moves with clueless motions. I responded:

“Yeah, but I am not sure where exactly it starts and cuts off.”

She responded:

“Well, is there a section that you would like?”

I began to respond, the music director stepped in:

“Well, I can mix the music and give it a really good strong ending.”

Suddenly I got lost in a jumble of words. The flies in my stomach were laying maggots and making me nauseous. My thoughts slid in the slim:

I’m really going to be doing this.

I ran to the back of the theatre, out the door, into another door and up a ladder. In the control room was the main director, I summoned his verdict:

“Um, am I really doing this?”

He quickly retorted:

“Yes!”

I could see my anxiety reflecting off his face back at me. He tried to get them to cue it up and play it for me.

Technical difficulty.

The main director found an idea:

“You have it right, let’s go listen to it and I will show you where it stops.”

I reluctantly made my way back down the ladder and to my phone. The main director made quick hurried steps behind me, his legs moving a mile a second. I felt humbled, special even, that he took the time to show me my part. With the wide array of questions, concerns and ideas floating in and around him it amazed me that he found time to rest his worries to ease my anxiety.

I played the song and he showed me my part. We were all called to the stage and I held the phone close to my ear, trying to conjure up a complete routine all while secretly hoping he would give me another time, another day.

The Fist Pounder playfully nudged me as I drowned in my nerves. I nudged back, she smiled. It was the interruption I needed to come back into reality.

I mocked my routine down the aisle a few times, making up something different every time. Except the kick, the kick had to stay.

I took my place on stage, and the stage manager called for everyone to take their places off stage. I turned pale white – yes, my brown skin turned white, I could feel it.

Next, as everyone departed the stage manager, with her golden brown hair, spoke again:

“The cast wants to know if they can watch Jeremy?”

Seconds later she responded:

“The cast has been okayed to watch Jeremy and then return to their positions.”

People ran out from behind bars and crates. My insides screamed:

Hezell to the NO!!!!

It was a nightmare.

I pleaded, with my face, for the director to retract his consent. My mind flew back to a conversation I had with my mother:

“I can’t do it in front of the cast. If I suck monkey balls they will be there to condemn my every move. This is their stomping ground!”

I was in their arena. This was their stage, many of them being veterans to such pressure. Being an outsider, I wasn’t sure how they would receive my craziness. Plus, they had already seen me do a plethora of crazy things, what could they really want to see:

Maybe my pants would fall again.

As they filled the seats, anticipating my performance, my heart exploded.

I looked out into the theatre seats. There were a few faces that I expected to see, I smiled. I knew they would come watch me even if I were simply making a glass of tea. Their support for me, even from afar, had really lifted me out of pits I had dug for myself along the way. My eye twinkled.

But then I saw faces of individuals I never thought would give watching me a second thought. My heart thumped inside my rib cage, jolting me into amazement, my mind stuttered:

”Is that, really, is, wow, I can’t believe. Do they really want to see this? Where am I?”

It felt like a family. My emotions hugged each one, and gave gentle chucks under the chin.

I made my way to the back of the auditorium and through the doors waiting for my cue. I thought:

I have to give the performance of a lifetime; my family is waiting for me, cheering me on.

As I waited in the lobby, I watched a big black man yelling at a smaller one. For a second I thought I had stumbled onto a crime scene. His booming voice seemed to overpower the smaller guy. I pretended to look as if I weren’t paying attention, but my ears tuned in.

I quickly recognized the voice, and took a glance over. I saw the scripts in their hands. I then saw the bigger dude more clearly, I recognized him. My thoughts sprinted:

That’s the dude that referred me here and helped jumpstart this new passion.

My thoughts rolled:

And part of the reason I am being tortured in front of my peers.

The thought kicked me in the gut again.

The music started. I pressed my ear towards the door:

“That’s not the right music.”

My soul calmed as I felt we would have to bypass the routine another time, another day. I took solitude in getting one more day to solidify my moves and have them perfected for all to see. Plus, I could feel the contents of my stomach brewing.

And then I heard the bells.

My heart stopped as my clammy hands gripped the door handles, the small metal ninety degree edges cutting into my palms. I could feel myself losing it, tipping under an ocean of fear. A voice began to speak to me:

“What if you mess up? You might trip. You haven’t done this in seven years.”

My mind flew back to my last individual performance. There, blinded by the light, in front of 10,000 people, my pants hit the floor.

The voice continued:

“You need more practice…”

My cue was coming up and I was falling deeper into its demeaning grasp.

Finally it struck a nerve, rehashing one of my biggest accomplishments, threatening to make me dwell on the past and discard the future:

“You’re not eighteen anymore.”

I thrust the doors open and whispered to the voice, with a vicious warning:

“I know!”

As I began my dance, I released myself of everything holding me back. My body recaptured everything it had been trained to do up until that moment in time.

My legs moved in whatever way they decided. I slid down the aisle. My back hit the wall and my leg swung up and to the left. I could feel it lift me off the ground. I slithered closer towards the stage. I saw my Season’s of Love partner sitting next to Bee-dee-bong. I played with them in the dance. I shuffled up the steps and there was the light.

I could see nothing, hear nothing. Everything moved in slow motion. As my body traipsed all over the stage, my mind stayed frozen in the moment. The passion of the stage crawled back into me, igniting a fire in my bones. I could feel the dance floor under me, the lights being the only eyes I could see glowing down upon me.

The beats of the music penetrated my skin and I lost all consciousness to rhyme or reason. My body took over as my mind begged it to breathe. My head nudged me to slow down, but my heart, now raging with passionate power, edged me on, pumping life into my every limb.

I was at home. Once again, I felt that desire that flickered dimly in my soul. I could breathe again, move again, my body could speak again. I had life.

The air around me lifted me up and placed me back on my feet every time. I embraced its push. The end of my dance came about, but the beat kept moving on. My head told me to stop, but my body was not finished, it continued.

My hand grasped the nearest bar, I saw the first face. I turned back to the lights and mouthed my final words. I turned towards the darkness, rounded a corner and landed uncomfortably on my back. Sweat raced down my face and my chest heaved trying to replenish what my adrenaline had created.

My mouth dried out and my teeth bared my excitement.

I could feel again, I could move again. I was alive.

I waited for the announcer to read off my score, anticipating my placement amongst my competitors. I heard his voice:

“We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate Roger…”

It was the opening line to RENT. I gasped as I realized:

This isn’t a dance competition, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

No Toto. No clicking my heels. Not time to go home. Follow the yellow brick road!

I sprang to my feet and…

[to be continued…]

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