The sniffles of the audience resounded throughout the theater, signaling she had them in the palm of her hand. She cried right along with them until finishing the scene and walked off stage right. A new scene began as Alex was pulled into a darkened corner behind a sheet by a female stagehand. Lisa, or Lauren, began to undress her and reached for a new costume. “You’re doing so great Miss Martucci.”
“Thanks.” Alex was wiping at her still dripping eyes and trying to calm herself down.
The stagehand placed a small bottle of eye drops in her hand and began to button her blouse.
“Can I ask you a question?”
Alex turned to her, almost void of any semblance of emotion. “Sure, of course.”
The stagehand looked up at her straight on, as if she was trying to muster up the courage and nerve. Her bottom lip quivered a bit. Alex shifted the weight on her feet back and forth uncomfortably.
“You’re a pretty established actress now…Why did you decide to go back to stage acting?”
Alex stared back at her numbly, trying to come up with a quick answer that would please the girl and get her to shut up at the same time. She most definitely couldn’t tell her the truth. “Well, I love being on stage. I feel more connected to the audience. It’s much more fulfilling than acting for cameras and grips.”
Alex mentally patted herself on the back. It did sound much better than the truth, my career is taking a dive and all my agent could get me was this shitty off-Broadway play just didn’t have the same deep, introspective actress tone to it. In fact, it just made her sound bitter.
The young girl seemed to accept that as an answer and moved on to reapplying her makeup. “That totally makes sense, I mean it’s great when you really get something out of your work right?”
Alex was horrified by her overly bubbly response. How a person could be in such a good mood in New York of all places boggled her mind. This cream puff of a girl clearly belonged on a beach somewhere wearing shorty shorts and turning an unnatural shade of processed food orange number 8, not asking personal questions about her career.
Alex went into defense mood. “I’m sorry I didn’t get your name…”
The puff ball looked up at her obliviously to apply some lip gloss to her lips.
Her memory of meeting the girl came back quickly with the name.
“Oh, that’s right. Sorry, my mind is elsewhere.”
Lisa seemed unfazed. “No problem.”
Alex remembered when her director Mark had pointed out Lisa during rehearsals and had told her she was his niece. She was almost nineteen. Alex was suddenly surprised at how much younger she had thought the girl was than herself when Alex was only twenty-four. It had become hard to keep simple things straight from time to time. So much had happened since she had moved from LA to New York. She was a pretty well-established actress now, with a lot on her plate.
Her parents were a big part of the weight. Most of the money she was making these days ended up being sent back home; no matter how badly she was hurting. Alex knew her parents needed the money. They just weren’t able to make it on their own. Alex looked up when she noticed the puff ball was yapping at her again.
“Look up towards the light so I can reapply your eyes.”
Without saying anything, Alex tilted her face towards a small black desk lamp that had been mounted on to a beam above a small mirror that was barely large enough to see your own eyes in. Lisa pushed back her carefully groomed brown bangs and re-lined her eyes in heavy charcoal. It was important for everyone in the house to see her expressions without having to strain, so she was heavily made up and caked on.
Alex listened carefully for her cue to rejoin the cast on stage. It was coming soon but puff and fluff hadn’t yet wiped off her base makeup and redone her blush. She was getting antsy now. She couldn’t be late on. It would throw off the whole play and confuse the audience to no end. Not to mention it would be the epitome of unprofessionalism.
Out of the corner of her eye, Alex spotted a makeup cloth. Her hands began to itch to grab it and clean off her face. The feeling of dried tear streaks down her cheeks and neck was a blunt reminder of how messy she looked. As her arm twitched to swipe the cloth, the sparkle queen finally reached for it and began to clean her off. This would have been fine if her entrance wasn’t now only three beats away! And the girl was rushing as fast as a sloth on heroin.
This is ridiculous, Alex thought. “Here, I’ll help you.” She grabbed a blush brush, dipped it in some blush with the thickness of face paint, and began to blindly rub it into her cheeks.
“Oh, are you sure? I could…” but before Lisa could finish her thought Alex threw down the brush, turned on her heel, and scuttled towards the stage leaving the speck of glitter in a high state of confusion.
Alex didn’t feel that bad, she figured Lisa was in that state quite often. Her leading man was about to cue her on stage. She sucked in her breath sharply and released it, trying to get rid of the butterflies in her belly. She found herself feeling so nervous almost every time she entered a scene. She wasn’t as comfortable with the stage as she was on the sound stage. Her belly butterflies were beginning to feel more like pterodactyls flapping about, trying to break free of her constricting digestive system. She would just have to use her fear in the scene. And try not to pass out under the flaming hot lights.
Alex sucked in another deep breath and jerked herself into the scene and onto the stage. She stepped into the spotlight once again. Soft Rose and Bastard Amber warmed her body instantly. The heat was a welcome change from the chilly wings backstage. She settled into the scene nicely and found a rhythm with her acting partner Devon. He was a polite man/boy with the appearance of an overgrown Kewpie doll. His shock of blond hair even came to a point at the top of his perfectly oval head. His cheeks were rosy, his eyes were blue, and sometimes Alex couldn’t get the image of him in a diaper out of her noggin.
Paraphilic infantilism aside, Devon really wasn’t Alex’s type. But he was the bee’s knees for her scatterbrained character. Luckily this was the breakup scene where Devon’s character Alec left Alex’s character Joan for a cute red headed paleontologist named Amy. Unfortunately for Alex, this scene brought out the absolute worst parts of Joan.
“I don’t understand what I did…Just tell me and I’ll fix it!” Alex sobbed out her lines up stage right, carefully watching her back the whole time. Needless to say, stupid Joan was so unstable. Alex hated reliving the golden age of seventeen every night via Joan; the mousy bookworm with low self-esteem and a poor body image. Not that she thought uber highly of herself, but she certainly was not a Joan.
Devon was yelling down stage left towards her now. He hadn’t forgotten his lines but he was jumbling them up a bit to the point where Alex wasn’t sure when or where to come in at. She was frustrated and worried it would show on her overly expressive face. Luckily the audience didn’t notice and must have chalked up her confusion as part of Joan’s inner turmoil.
“Don’t try to understand, just let me go and get on with your life! Can’t you see how you’re dragging me down?” On the end side of the word, ‘down’ Devon’s voice cracked. He was going with the quite sensitive approach tonight. Which was completely absurd since the entire point of this particular scene was that Alec was a self-absorbed bag of sleaze that oozed a level of confidence that was impossible to achieve. Over time these subtle changes during a live scene had become an annoyance to Alex. She didn’t know how to plan out her reactions correctly ahead of time if Devon tried to keep things “exciting” every night.
Alex countered Devon’s left field acting by throwing herself down on her knees and crying boisterously and intentionally comedic. Bringing a comical element into Devon’s dramatic ‘abandonment scene’ threw him off his game and flustered him more than ever. The audience’s tone had switched and many were laughing. Devon haughtily made his exit with his last line, obviously annoyed with Alex, not Joan.
“I’m leaving now,” he blurted and left her on stage.
Her sobs began to ebb away. This was the part where unstable Joan began to pack her things, ripping clothes off hangers and throwing them haphazardly into a large red suitcase strategically placed under the set bed. Now she would have to crush the audience’s good mood and depress them all over again. It was the consequence to embarrassing Devon and going for a laugh in a dramatic play.
She packed her fake clothes into her fake suitcase while furiously wiping at her eyes and giving a monolog about how she had been so stupid to fall in love with such a loser like Alec. Sometime during this process, Alex’s brain had left the building and she was no longer acting. She was merely going through the motions and saying the right lines to be finished with her scene. It baffled her that she had been so nervous not fifteen minutes ago to step out on stage, and now she was completely subdued. It was as if someone had switched off the faucet marked ‘passion.’ What little she had left spiraling down the drain quickly.
The house was silent. Alex picked up a fake framed photograph beside her fake bed. The picture was of her and Devon posing as their couples’ counterparts. She paused, frame in hand, and took in the room, now in shambles. As tears continuously streamed down her face, Alex hurled the photo through a dummy window. It shattered the fake glass made of confection sugar. The audience gasped and out of the corner of her eye, Alex saw a few people backstage jump, including puff ‘n’ fluff.
Finally, she picked up her suitcase and walked up stage left towards the set bedroom door. As she grabbed the door handle, Alex took in the room one last time. It was important to pause at this point to show the audience all the damage Joan would be letting go of. In a film, a bad film, but a film non-the-less this might be the part where a slow motion montage flash-back ran of Joan and Alec’s failed relationship.
They would be seen strolling through the park hand in hand, cut to them having some deep conversation on their couch late at night. Them eating out at a fancy restaurant, Alec feeding Joan a spoonful of some chocolate fudge dessert. But on the stage, the boring same old stage, that only saw the same sad tacky story played out over and over every night; all that happened was a long drawn out pause…And maybe a deep sigh for good measure. Tonight felt like a deep sigh kind of crowd.
She pulled the door open slowly looking straight ahead. The house had seen enough raw emotion for one night. Alex stepped through the doorframe and closed it behind her as the set went dark.
Later that night Alex returned to her spacious studio apartment in the West 70s. A spacious studio apartment in New York City usually only meant you had to walk three steps from the bed to the bathroom. And you couldn’t fry an egg in your kitchen while soaking in the bathtub. Upon entering her real apartment she flipped on the living room lights and plopped down heavily on the couch. She threw her hand to the side, groped for the answering machine atop the in-table, and pressed play. BEEP BEEP, “first message…Hi, Alex how was the show tonight?” For some reason, her agent, Channing liked to pepper her voicemail with social niceties that couldn’t possibly be answered. “Hey listen I really need you to come to the office tomorrow, it’s important. Call me ASAP!”
Superficial dread swept over her immediately. Though she liked Channing as a friend she hated having client/agent meetings. It always felt so technical and cold and confused the lines of their already rocky friendship. “Next message…Hey girl! It’s me, I miss you, we haven’t seen each other in forever! Text me.”
“I just saw you last week!” Alex yipped back at the machine; she was beginning to believe Nick’s complaints of Kim’s clingy disposition within their relationship. It didn’t help that Alex was becoming such a hermitized loner. Lately, any time she was out with Kim and Nick she couldn’t wait to run home and shut herself in and away from the rest of the world.
“Next message…Hi, sweetheart.” Crap. This was the beginning of a bank-breaking message that came along with generous portions of aggravation and debt. “I hate to ask but I was wondering if you could send just a bit more money so I can buy some groceries? Again I hate to ask but your sister needed some new shoes and I had to use the money you sent before to cover that and I…Message erased.” Alex didn’t need to know the amount, and she probably wouldn’t until her bank statement came at the end of the month. Opening an account with her mother’s name on it was possibly the worst financial decision she had ever made.
If her father ever found out that her mom had access to that account he’d probably flip his lid, and hers for that matter. Fortunately for her mom, Tom Martucci liked to keep his head buried deep in the sand.
Now fully depressed, Alex slouched off the couch and walked to her bedroom area and turned on her laptop that was still sitting on her night stand from the day before. Whenever she started up her computer it, for some reason, reminded her of her parent’s first computer. Her new one was faster than any she’d ever seen and it had never given her any grief. Her parent’s, on the other hand, had to be coaxed to slowly wheeze back to life, and it was barely strong enough to handle the internet. The printer on that dinosaur was also a huge embarrassment, seeing as the thing believed it was some kind of printer/type writer hybrid.
Alex began to lose herself in an old black and white film she had saved on her computer while relaxing on her bed. The dark hues of noir? began to lull her to sleep. Inside she was still just barely awake, dancing on the razor’s edge of consciousness. Her outside was a different story; her jaw had gone slack and a bit of moisture was trying to escape her mouth. Just as her lips twitched in response there was a loud quick banging at her front door.
She shot up frightened and disoriented; wiping the back of her hand across her mouth she cursed her bad sleeping habits. “Stupid drool!” The banging continued.
“Alex!” a voice on the other side called. It was Kim.
She turned to her bedside digital clock that told her it was almost three o’clock in the morning, and her eyes almost fell out of her face. “Alex!”
Alex hopped off her bed and padded quickly to the front door, throwing it open without pause and already yelling at her best friend “SOMEONE BETTER BE DEA…” But at first glance, the look on Kim’s face said that someone might very well be dead.
Her friend was standing in the hall with her short brown hair matted to the sides of her face with tears in her brown almond eyes. Her lips were quivering and she was leaning on the door frame for some support. Alex was wondering when the other shoe would drop with Nick. “Get in here!” She rushed Kim into her apartment and sat her down on the couch. She spent the next ten minutes making tea, getting Kim tissues, pouring tea, and swaddling her friend in a large black sweater.
“Now that you’re calm can you please tell me why the hell you’re screaming bloody murder outside my door at this ungodly hour?”
Kim took a deep breath and held it in until she almost turned blue,
She let it out in a hapless sigh. “Thanks…Promise not to judge me?”
Alex patted Kim’s folded hands. “Aw honey, I already know you’re crazy.”
A small smile broke on Kim’s face, Alex let out a tiny giggle. “I think I might have accidently got myself knocked up,” she told Alex while staring blindly at her own folded hands.
Now it was Alex’s turn to take a deep breath. “Please tell me it’s Nick’s.” She was grappling for a shred of hope.
Kim’s face scrunched up and she looked completely away. “Well…”
“Oh what the shit Kim! I can’t even handle this right now! We agreed no personal disasters before eleven a.m.…You are in serious breach of a verbal contract.”
Alex sprang to her feet and began to pace back and forth in front of Kim, who sat sullen on the couch very red in the face. This was not how her quiet night alone was supposed to be. For one, you needed to be alone and that had all gone to pot thirty minutes ago. She stopped mid pace and turned to Kim. “So who else could it be?” Alex realized her stance was very motherly and scolding, she dropped her arms out of the firm fold they had been in and sat back down beside her best friend.
Kim spoke very carefully, as if to keep from incriminating herself as a hoe bag. Even if she was a big bag of hoes, Alex would still love her the same. She had always been there for her. “Do you remember my ex boyfriend Jackson?”
The name rang a bell somewhere in her brain. “Kind of I guess.” Alex urged her to continue. “Have you seen him lately?”
“Well I met with him for coffee about three months ago, just before I moved in with Nick. I don’t know why I had this urge to see him after all this time had gone by but I did and then we…”
Alex filled in the blanks. “Accidently ran back to his place and had sex?”
Kim let out another big puff of air “Basically.”
“And let me guess. You didn’t use protection because accidental sex doesn’t really count right?”
Though she said this in a joking nonjudgmental way, Kim was still tortuously embarrassed. She bobbed her head up and down and blurted out, “It was off the books sex,” before she crumbled all over again. Alex could tell this was going to be a long night that would carry into the early morning.