The following is inspired by real events, though you should know that I’ve taken a couple creative liberties with the descriptions. Of course, very specific details have been changed so as not to identify anything in particular. WIth that being said, I would like the reader to consider the positive aspects of feeling overwhelmed. It’s not always such a bad thing.
It isn’t what I expected. At the very least, I expected a stage. Instead of a stage, the performers danced and sang on a piece of wood barely distinguishable from the murky carpet surrounding it. The lights are dim as you push a heavy wooden door open. You walk down a musty flight of stairs and you find yourself in a room that may have at one point been called a studio. Now it is half dressing room, half performance space. The place is lonely, with only a cracked vanity mirror, dark and lightless and dead, to view the theatricalities.
I watch the performers prepare with far too much hope. In spite of my skeptical instincts, I allow myself to hope that I will be blown away.
“Put that chair over there.”
The lights dim as a middle-aged woman takes center stage. She is beautiful, though something about her prevents me from truly believing her to be so. There is something in the high angle of her nose, the proud way she looks at her audience. There is in her eyes a blunt drive to recover some lost glory, an intense nostalgia for a top note once hit on the better side of thirty. She is very nearly good.
Next is a younger woman. Singing and dancing are new pursuits to her, and it shows; her movements have none of the sharpness or vigor of the woman before her. She casts sidelong glances at the audience when she thinks no one is watching her, and she looks sillier for it. But she is beautiful. Unlike the woman before her, the beauty is there. It is self-evident. There is an honesty to her voice that makes me pine for the last touch of technique that would make her perfect. I never find it.
The final performance is a duet. It is a piece I already know, a piece I love. I whoop and cheer as the two begin to sing. The first one is also, very nearly good. She moves and projects with a confidence and fluidity not easily found. But the second. Oh god, the second. My enthusiasm falls flat with her pitch.
“I need you to strike that chair.”
“Right after. When the house lights are down.”
I am despondent. I wanted so much to be in the presence of those far beyond my reach. I wanted desperately to be dwarfed in power and wisdom and experience, yet I was met with vanity and mediocrity. I recognize my hypocrisy.
“It’s ten. You ought to get going.”
“Is there anything else I can help with?”
“No, we should be okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Alright. Have a good night.”
“Good night. See you on Friday.”
I walk up the musty stairs and push the heavy wooden door in the opposite direction with a feeling inside my chest not unlike a balloon incapable of being filled. Outside, cheap music and cheap light make the street glow. I turn around to see the building I have come out of. I am again disappointed: it has not become the Apollo Theatre. A dirty wooden sign with the letters “TMS” painted in black letters hangs on a peg above the door, behind which I can still hear voices, proud of their owners’ progress. I turn around once more. I see cars veer across the street, becoming blurs of metal in the distance. There is an unruliness here, a larger-than-life brand of chaos. I close my eyes and step out into the world, so that it might take me.