RE(nt) – Cap (Gift of Love)

Posted: February 2, 2010 in Road to RENT

January 30, 2010 (Part 2)

I arrived in a part of Wilmington, DE I had never been to before. The roads looked deserted and wreaked of construction. I exited the car, cautiously, reading a sign depicting the towing laws. Being one to have had extremely bad fortunes with the tow man, I took extra measures of precautions to make sure that my mother’s vehicle was not wrongfully abused by an uncaring human being – or simply someone who was doing their job, unconcerned about the manner in which it got done. I thought:

Scratches and dents are not the least of their concern. My previous cars would know.

I walked down the street, around the corner and through the door. My jaw unhinged as I tried to take in my surroundings:

Is this a sub-section of Caesar’s Palace?

The room was the epitome of Art Deco. A barren tree stood in a Christmas stand, decorated from trunk to the full extension of each branch with white Christmas lights. I tilted my head and admired the creativity:

Aw, this is what Charlie Brown must’ve aimed for when he received his from the lot.

Paintings hung against a brick wall, attached to strings mounted within the brick. A piano stood, beautifully polished to my left. The hardwood floor sparkling under my unworthy shoes. I reached to pull them off, but took thoughts to the possible odd appearance of my socks or a hidden odor between my toes.

I lightly treaded the floor, hoping not to scuff the surface.

I moved to the kitchen where a gourmet of dip, chips, brownies, cheese and crackers were laid out for all.

I b-lined towards the chips.

Taking no notice to the people around me, I indulged myself as if I hadn’t eaten in decades. As I shoved chip after chip into my mouth, the crumbs resting on my heavily Blistexed lips, I stared towards a table center piece.

A dish held beautifully lain out cheese, resembling a pie. The outer crust was trimmed in tomatoes and it looked so polished that one could’ve sworn it was fake, plastic. I wanted to dig in, but I was afraid to disturb its beauty, to dismantle the creator’s artwork. Another shared in my apprehensions:

“That looks too beautiful to eat.”

I agreed.

My stomach punched me, I betrayed its beauty.

I dug into the dish like a fly in a manure factory. Driblets spread across my face and fell down the side of my cheek. In all my inhalation, I also managed to snort a few morsels up my nose. I thought:

Never have I been so hungry. I am definitely a pig at the trough.

Soon my throat began to chip, hinting at its dryness. I took a deep breath in while trying to conjure up saliva. All I smelled was alcohol. I panicked:

What am I supposed to drink? I guess I can excuse myself and take a dip under the bathroom faucet.

I turned around and caught Double RENT filling his cup with a carbonated beverage. My soul rejoiced:

Juice Bar!

I filled my cup with orange Fanta and slipped into the second part of the evening.

I stood around, acting as a wallflower amongst the gardens of conversation. I could hear the laughter and saw the mixtures of drinks being cradled throughout the room. I didn’t know what to say, or who to speak with. Suddenly, the first taker came my way.

I swatted at it as I danced around. I picked my legs up, threw them over its head and waved my hand at its face trying to distract its attention. Next, I grabbed the top of its head, gently, and gave it a slow push.

One of the dogs had decided to sniff my crotch.

As I hopped around, trying not to spill my Fanta on the immaculate floors, I couldn’t help but take notice of how the situation was putting me at ease. Although I was not fond of a dog sniffing at me, for a third time, it relieved my unsteadiness with the crowd, and soon I was cornered, unable to deter my vocal chords any longer.

Three women swooped in and stole my attention. They referenced my performance and questioned my theatre prowess. I replied:

“Oh, this was my first show. I’m not a theatre person.”

I smiled inside as I took in the image of the shirt the tall photographer had designed, one in which I bought.

Upon learning of my amateur status, I was bombarded with questions.

I praised the cast for the many individuals who fastened themselves as crutches underneath my arms. They smiled and leaned forward wanting more:

“But now, especially today, I finally feel like I can stand on my own, knowing they are there to support me if I shall fall.”

They cheered me on:

“Doesn’t it feel good to say that?”

Another chimed in:

“Yes, to finally say you can stand alone, and you did sweetie.”

My face lit up. I took solace in the revelation. The main director swooped in:

“Hey, Jeremy is this your family?”

I turned my head, shaking it, about to verbally proclaim my objections. The tallest of the three chimed in:

“Yes! Yes, we are!”

I froze, my face paralyzed in confusion. The main director looked at me asking again with his confused expression, a twisted smile on his face. I stuttered:

“Um, noooo…”

I turned to see their heads shaking, in objections to mine. I turned back to the main director, my voice perking up:

“Um, Yes. These are my three aunts…”

I began pointing at each one, giving them the first names that popped into my head:

“Ethel, Estelle and um, Aunt Ruthy!”

They all shook their heads, accepting my names as their own. The taller one, with pride, spoke:

“Yes, we are your family, and the next time we see you, we will be jumping and screaming…”

She pointed to herself, with great pride:

“I am Estelle!”

They giggled and eventually tore to leave, bidding me a farewell and best wishes. My heart thumped, in unison with their excitement.

I made my way over to Double Rent and my Season’s of Love partner. They spoke of plays, future endeavors and what was to come. Double Rent shocked me:

“Whenever I go to NY I am taking you with me. I can’t wait to see you audition in NY.”

I lost all ability to speak.

He had, unselfishly, extended an invitation to me. Something I knew was a rarity, especially in such an environment. I poised myself to embrace him, but I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries. So I sat, quietly thanking him for his gesture.

I knew I was blessed to be in this cast.

At that moment I remembered the fist pounder and texted her about her absence. She replied:

“I’m not feeling well, so I decided to stay home.

I poked my lips out and returned to the festivities.

Eventually everyone made their way into the kitchen and I stayed perfectly in the middle of the room being the dissecting point between the Christmas tree and the piano. I was still uneasy about conversation; yet, I didn’t want to seem standoffish. Suddenly, I was offered a lifeline.

I had seen them numerous times around the theatre. One, a younger girl with dark brown hair, who was always laughing and huddled up with a blonde girl who seemed her perspective age. The other was a petite male who was always buried in a book, temporarily silencing the world around him.

I turned towards them and asked their ages. And as if the sound barrier had been broken, revealing the creation of speech, it was as if they had waited their whole lives for that night. They opened their mouths and filled my ears with the tones of their voices.

I was extremely grateful.

I didn’t have to search for questions to ask, nor did I have to pick the next topic of discussion. The bookworm jumped from topic to topic, excitement in his voice, as he shared the knowledge encased in his brain.

I took pleasure in his speech, careful not to interrupt him as he touched on topics that I could embrace. I began to see that we shared a lot of instances in common, instances I figured no one would enjoy. I laughed as he and his sister verbally competed with one another. You could see the playful family ties that were woven between the two.

And even as I prepared myself to leave, daring to not overstay my welcome, they filled my ears with the sweet sounds of joy, and acceptance. I drove home, basking in having my ears tickled by nourishing conversation, reflecting on my theatrical debut.

My aunt cried the entire time. At least that is the story I was told by my mother and sister.

Upon entering the theatre, finding a slight misunderstanding with the pre-paid tickets, my aunt had her hand on her plastic cash. She was determined, no matter the cost, to see me in my first appearance.

Leading up until the day when the curtains rolled away, my aunt always sang praises of my abilities. She testified in church of my hidden and apparent gifts, and silently, at times verbosely, counted down the days until it all came to pass.

And when I finally found myself in her presence, being disqualified from seeing her after the show, she crushed my rib cage as she sang praises of my performance vowing to come again before the final curtain call. Although she enjoyed every part dearly, enjoying the jolly drag queen and the vocals of one song glory, it was of no surprise that she singled out the fist pounder. Being a powerful soprano, she proclaimed:

“And Mimi, she has a beautiful, sweet, natural voice!”

I grinned from ear to nose, as only the right side of my face reacted. It was as if she were talking about a childhood friend or sibling, her words matching up with my thoughts:

Yeah, I’ve told her.

My aunt smiled again, the tears creeping in her eyes, thoughts invading her mind, placing me in the positions of life she has dreamed of. I applauded her support.

And then my mind traveled to a friend of my past, who has escaped my presence for nearly ten years.

She sat on the end of the row by her lonesome. Her hands tightly gripped around her stomach, her face twisted between the confusions of pain, excitement, pride and anticipation. Within her a nine month old baby lingered, past due, giving her labor pains.

She sat, even as I danced next to her, smiling me into the air. My excitement reaching out to her, clothing her in my love. And as I tore into the lobby, knowing my family would be waiting, I surely anticipated showering her with my love.

I stood back, admiring her bright smile, glowing face and protruding belly, and was hit with the news:

“She was having contractions during the play…”

My mother began:

“… at one point she got up and I asked ‘are you in pain, are you leaving to the hospital.’”

My eyes opened in astonishment. My mother finished:

“She replied, ‘I am here mama Swift, I am staying.’”

My face flushed out. I could feel my pigmentation fading. It was the greatest gift, the gift of love.

I could feel it from all sides and all levels of family.

With those memories lingering in my mind, I drifted off to a peaceful, stinted sleep.

I awoke with visions of the next performance.
January 30, 2010 (Part 3)

My mother has always told me:

“You never know who is watching you, so no matter what you do; always let the good shine through!”

I readied myself.

I knew one of my co-workers would be in attendance with her husband. I sent her a message, giving her the same instructions about my entrance as I had given my sister. She vowed to print them out and follow them carefully.

I entered the theatre.

As I warmed up, a member of our instrumental crew interrupted my preparedness:

“Your dance is awesome…”

I profusely thanked him. He continued:

“Everyone loved it; however, they did have one criticism…”

My ears perked up. I looked, inquisitive, waiting for the beacon of theatre knowledge to pour into my thirsting soul. He finished:

“…you had your shirt on.”

I slowly smiled wondering if that was it. No further instructions were given. I turned around and laughed it off, thinking:

Really? They want to see me without my shirt on. Hmmm. Odd.

I took my position and waited for the music.

I had already scoped out the seats my co-worker would be in. Knowing she would be the only recognizable face, I waited to gaze at her and hope for that assuring smile she had always given me:

BROOKLYN!

I burst through the door harder than ever. I caught her eye. She had followed my instructions perfectly. I pivoted my hips and rolled my shoulders. I could already feel the music lifting me. I planted my feet, spread wide, and tried to shift my weight in another direction. That is when it happened.

I felt the fall.

My left shoe, already tattered from previous performances, was slowly inching away from the sole. As I pivoted the sole twisted and attached itself to the carpet. With my motion it ripped and I was now standing on half of my shoe, the other half bent under my heel.

I quickly lifted my foot and tried to regain my balance.

Safe!

I moved down the crowd, more faces now aware of my presence. I taunted them, threw my body in sick contortions and then slammed my back against the wall. The force slightly knocked the wind of out me. I quickly regained composure.

I tilted to my torso to the right and threw my leg over my head. Within seconds a sharp pain was traveling down my foot and resting in my ankle.

I had kicked the wall, causing my toes to recoil and whimper, my ankle to twist. I moved towards the stage trying to shake it off.

I slammed my chin on the wooden edge, I tripped up the stairs trying to move backwards, and when it came to the end of my dance, I slammed into the ground hard with my hands. My left thumb curled under my palm and popped as it took the force of my weight.

My head looped:

I am determined to send myself to the hospital.

I finished and walked off stage, my mind stuck in an infinite spiral of pain. And that is how I felt throughout the performance.

My energy was draining fast and it was agonizing trying to resurrect my emotions as my tank emptied. I tried all that I could to force excitement into my performance, but I felt as if everything I did was not good enough, big enough.

As I found myself failing to recapture the joys of opening night, I retreated back into muscle memory and allowed the engrained repetitions of rehearsals to take over my performance. I ended the night, pushing through the crowd in the lobby, anticipating seeing my co-worker, yet ready for my verbal lashing of mediocrity. She burst out:

“Oh My Gah, J, you were amazing!”

Her husband joined in:

“Yeah dude, that was an amazing dance and performance. You looked awesome up there. You know this is one of our favorite plays?”

I stared at them, trying to locate the hidden meanings between their words. My co-worker grabbed me tight, pulling me close to her face:

“J! This is it. This is what you should be doing. This is you! You shine up there!”

I wanted to ask if she were kidding, knowing that my energy level did not match up to her praises.

I let go of my apprehensions:

“You guys liked it?”

They replied in a round:

“We absolutely loved it.”

Soon I was alternating between hugging her and hugging him, wondering what they saw and how amazed I was to be in their presence, showering in their praise, lathering in their appreciation, soaking in their approval.

I waited to awake.

It was a fantasy and I knew it well. But with one last embrace from the both of them, their faces beaming sunrays of joy into me, I captured reality.

It tasted good.

I stood, alone, looking around the room. My other cast members were chatting it up with their families and friends receiving due praise. I leaned against a pole and admired their elation. I could see, even while performing, that their energy was engrossed in the flavor of their family and friends presence and I began to wonder:

Maybe that is why my energy is lacking. I have come to realize that, soon, the audience will resemble people I don’t know, faces I am not familiar with. What am I to do from there?

A face tackled my worries.

She grabbed me tight and showered me with praises and kisses. It was the same distant kisses she blew at me before each performance as I stood in the lobby, her saying:

“You are great. You are going to do just great!”

It was the same face that imitated my movements, her expression painted in amazement, at the way my body twisted and flipped. It was the same face that brought me comfort when I stood alone watching others receive their just rewards.

It was the main director’s mom, followed by the jolly presence of his dad.

Every night during La Vie Boheme, I make sure to pay the main director’s dad a visit as I dance down the aisle way. His friendly face lights up, pushing me on, no matter how many times he has seen me . I bury myself in his smile and dance until my heart is content as if he is the only audience member.

And she, the main director’s mom, is always there, no matter how many times she has seen me, filling my ears with words of nourishment, as if each time is as new as the first. The fortitude in her expression grabs me, tossing me into the image that she sees. I can do nothing but stare into her eyes appreciating the lift she is giving me.

And as she tells me the story of our first encounter, an instance that rings vaguely in my mind, I can’t help but lean on my mother’s advice, knowing, if I had injected any touches of disgust in that moment, the days of her comfort may have never existed.

“No matter what you do, always let the good shine through!”

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