When I was five, my grandmother took me to see Alice in Wonderland at our local theatre. I never wanted anything else from that moment on. I spent every summer frolicking through a thespian dreamland, revelling in the scent of paint and wood, stage makeup, hairspray, and setting powders. I spent my nights drilling lines from scripts, my days practicing choreography as I walked to my classes, and I took thirty minute showers to sing and kiss the vinyl walls. All in the pursuit of the first actor, Thespis.
I moved here to take the relationship a step further. I did a few commercials, performed on cruise ships, and I had a decent start for my high hopes.
Then I met Michael. I walked into the theatre for an audition and sipped my caramel macchiato with whipped cream as I ogled the gorgeous caramel macchiato with wrought iron curls performing “Almost Like Being in Love.”
A god. The spirit of Thespis’ incarnation. My heart exploded into a gaudy shrine in his honor, burning incense and muttering desperate prayers.
We were cast in the lead roles together. He acted like the devil, sang like an angel, and when he kissed me I realized I’d found it. I’d found the stage. It was him. Stage lights sparkled in his eyes, and every time he touched me, the tingling energy and nourishing warmth of a crowd’s laughter and applause flooded me.
In a week I asked him out for a few drinks. He came along and drank water, bought me a couple of Blue Hawaiians. We did this regularly for a week or so. We had a great time getting to know each other. He was hilarious, sarcastic, and a disgustingly good dancer. He listened well, acted like a gentleman, and loved his mom. He smiled a lot. It looked delicious. I wanted to eat that smile.
About two weeks into our nightly excursions, he brought me home like usual, but I tripped and broke the window of the apartment building’s yellow door. Even drunk, that was unusual.
Michael insisted he take me to the ER, but I didn’t have insurance for that kind of garbage, so I resisted, and he helped me up the stairs up and walked me to my apartment. Inside, he stood nearby as I washed my hand.
“If you need stitches, I’ll pay for it. I’m not gonna let you go mess up your hand a couple weeks before the show. You’re going to—”
“It’s fine. Just a band aid.”
“Bull.” He came over and took my wet hand for inspection. “You’re friggin’ lucky,” he muttered, releasing my hand.
“I know, ” I said.
“Had a tetanus shot?”
“‘Kay, well,” he shoved his hands into his pockets, “I had fun, I’ll see you at rehearsal tomorrow. Jackson wants us to go over the debutante scene. You ready?”
I was gonna eat it.
“Y’know, I don’t think I’m ready for the end of the debutante scene,” I lied. “Run through it with me real quick.”
“O-o-okay, then.” He twisted his face, amused. “Are you sure you can do that now?”
“No, I’m not, idiot. That’s why I’m askin’ you to go over it with me. Gah.”
“Okay, okay, fine. Pick it up from where?”
“Mr. Chase says you and him were an item,” Michael said.
“What would it mean if we were?” I asked.
“Del, you know your lines just fine.”
“I’m not Del. I’m Virginia. Get it right, turd.”
“Fine. It would mean—and then here’s the song.” Michael went through the blocked choreography, mumbling a melodic ladeda ’til we stood facing each other. He took my hands and looked down at me
“Virginia, believe me, I love you.”
I whispered, “Say Del.”
“Say Del instead of Virginia.”
“I love you, Michael.” I took a deep breath. I did. I loved him. I loved him with everything in my soul. I loved him more than the fragrance of freshly xeroxed and folded programs. More than—
“What are you doing, Del?”
I closed my eyes, still holding his hands. “Eating your smile.”
He laughed. “Are you professing your love to me, Del?”
I nodded. “Yes, yes, I am.”
He breathed out a smile. “Del, you’re drunk.”
“I’m still Del. Let me eat your smile.”
He laughed again. “I care about you. I do. You made my night. I just feel like we should talk about this more seriously when you’ve got less Blue Hawaiian swishing through your head.”
“I thought this all out before I had a drop in me, doggone it, give me the smile!” I grabbed his head and pulled his face to min, and I kissed him.
Life behind the yellow door seemed to be going in the right direction. When I woke up the next morning, Mr. Wrought-Iron-Hair was making pancakes.
But, as Sondheim says,
You’re right, nothing’s fair,
And it’s all a plot,
And tomorrow doesn’t look so hot . . .
-Sarah Joy Green-Hart