My Life on the Stage

My Life on the Stage

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Everyone was still. We all lay frozen in the most awkward and uncomfortable positions. From the audience, it probably looked like someone had emptied a toy chest of rag dolls onto the stage. My face was pressed up against the cool, black platform and my right arm hung off of the downstage side of the platform. I could still feel the vibration of the chains on my limp fingertips. I lay there, staring into the infinite black curtain, listening to the sound of silence vibrating from wall to wall. No one moved--no babies cried, no one jingled their keys, no one coughed, no one crinkled their programs, and some even forgot to breathe. I lifted my head as subtly as possible and there was Steve. His head hung weakly cocked to the side. Lines of anguish were visible on his sweat-soaked temples and around his cheekbones. The glow of soft pink and orange stage lights combined with the glare cast by the chains still swinging in the memory of our rattling them cast an eerie shimmer across his face. The aura reminded me of the softened glow produced by shining a flashlight through a water-filled fish tank. Suddenly burned by this image, I began to cry. So I returned my face to the cool comfort of the platform and sang our goodbyes as I watched my tears collect in the grooves of the wood like tiny rivers of sorrow.

She’s the kind of mother who cracks dirty jokes at the dinner table, uses the words “mannerism” and “euphemism” interchangeably, and reggaes with my friends on the dance floor. But at the end of the day, she puts on her red and green flannel pajamas and relaxes in the hands of a sixty-year-old lawyer named Matlock or shuffles through the pile of Danielle Steel and Mary Higgins Clark books looking for a good mystery to sink her teeth into.

I stopped running -dead in my tracks- entranced by the reflection in the lake. I could make out every detail; chairs on porches, tiny white cottages with brick red shutters, candles in windows, mothers standing in the doorways calling their children in from the rain, and a weeping willow which appeared sadder than usual as it drooped under the weight of the rain on its leaves.

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I could see the toys left out in the rain, clothes on a clothesline which had been neglected, swings on swing sets rocking in time with the wind, and the docked boats dancing on the water.

Shoes. Out of all the inanimate objects, they have the grimiest job. Think about it. Did you ever walk in the city when it’s raining and step into a muddy puddle laced with candy wrappers and disintegrated pieces of newspaper? No? Well, did you ever walk down the aisles of a movie theatre and tip-toe in the sticky residues of spilt soda, chewed gum, and fallen popcorn? Of course you have! How would you like having your face shoved in that stuff? Please excuse me- I have way too much time to think about these things!

She looked so fake. The skin on her neck had been folded like an accordion. The pink interior of her coffin was decorated with pictures of her family, her favorite cd’s, and of course, her Mets teddy bear. How could a woman so full of life go so quickly and so unexpectedly? I had never seen a corpse before, and I hated that it had to be the mother of my best friend. It was at this moment that my mind entertained the possibility that this could happen to one of my loved ones. I lost a friend that day, but I accepted another. I believe her name is mortality.

I took a deep breath inhaling the smell of crayons and glue as I tried to visualize the tension in my neck and shoulders being pushed up and released through my nose. The glow of the kids’ faces as they greeted one another with hola and como estas or recited the days of the week –lunes, martes, and miercoles etc, was strong enough to cast a glare on the chalkboard. Their pride and enthusiasm was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the fact that I had put that glow on their faces with what I considered to be a seemingly small piece of knowledge. You take for granted how much you know sometimes; I had, but these kids had showed me how valuable my gift was. This wasn’t the makeshift classroom my friends and I used to set up in my garage to play school back in the “good old days.” This was the real thing. I guess things don’t change all that much because even then, I always insisted on being the teacher. These thoughts raced through my mind as my eyes floated towards the construction paper cut-outs of flowers and butterflies that were taped to the windows.

For someone with low self-esteem, like myself, the stage is a perfect place to lose all your inhibitions. On stage, you can be a different person and you can do ridiculously embarrassing things without being ridiculed or judged. It’s all in the name of the art. Performers hold such power. They have the ability to make whole audiences cry, laugh, smile, to feel sorrow or sympathy, to be frustrated, to be intrigued, and to be inspired. I love it so much that while writing this, I started to cry.

The truth is, I will never be “beyond the lights.” I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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