The lights were blindingly bright as I looked down from the stage, but there was almost a part of me that could feel his presence in the audience... even with it being too dark in the theatre hall to distinguish faces, my soul could feel how close he was in proximity.
My heart skipped a beat for a moment, without my consent, behaving erratically and unpredictably; get it together; I tell myself, don’t break character.
I hit another well delivered line, executed with timing, poise, and passion.
The audience gasping at my conviction.
Memories slipping out of my hands as I am reeling to separate fact from fiction.
My co-star Trenton is staring into my eyes, but I don’t see him.
Instead I see the audience painted in silhouettes, knowing, that one of them, had to be you. The room wouldn’t have felt so electric in your absence. I could almost literally see your dusty gray cap, only you, would wear a hat indoors, but it was, in the weirdest of ways, always so endearing.
Instead of seeing Trenton deliver his lines, I see that one summer in Anaheim, when you had talked me into traveling, and it was my first time on a plane and I was scared but for you I’d do anything or go anywhere.
Instead of seeing Trenton’s face mere inches from my own, I saw yours, drawing me into their gravity for the first time and me, letting myself fall into it.
Instead of seeing Trenton’s archaic gesture with his hand rise up to my cheek, I saw the moment where it all fall apart between me and you, as love is so often apt to do…
My co-star Trenton caressing my face with the palm of his hands as he stared into my eyes, all for show, as he says “if I had told you what love was from the beginning, you would’ve never figured it out on your own”
I know what the script says. I know what line I am supposed to deliver next.
I know how the spotlight is waiting on me to do what we’ve rehearsed a thousand times.
But something is different this time.
Something, rebels, in me this time. And when Trenton leans in for the kiss, I step away.
He is slightly shocked but tries to play it off as part of the script.
I step farther away from him, repulsed, and I begin to deliver my on-the-spot monologue,
“Oh but honey” I tell, him, “if you would have just told me it was love from the beginning, I would’ve had no great mystery to unveil and I never would've needed to spend my life aimlessly chasing, searching, I could’ve just stayed…. With you… from the beginning. We could’ve kept making these great memories and this grande spectacle out of life, together. But you always had me questioning--- everything…. I thought at the time that I had no other choice but to run into the arms of someone else. Someone new. But I see now. No where I ran would ever be far enough for me to forget you. I see now how my life feels like one giant façade without you, how I'm reeling in this place where nothing is ever real, it’s all only going through these motions, these scripted motions, where everyone plays their parts but no one is ever raw or authentic or genuine and I would give anything to go back to that, to be a part of something that made me feel whole…. I would give anything for you to wait for me, and to hold me in your arms, once more, after the lights go down… and tell me, that you forgive me, and I will tell you that I forgave you a long time ago, and you could tell me that you never stopped loving me and I could confess that I haven’t either not even for a moment, and we could pick up right where we left off….”
Trenton attempted to come closer to me, as my impromptu monologue continued to derail,
“No,” I snapped at him, “I can’t do this anymore. Pretend to be something I’m not. I’m tired. Of pretending. I’m tired of running away. And I just need, time, I need to get back all the time that I have lost; I can’t lose another second of it, here, without you” the tears in my eyes swelling now, and painting my cheeks with their iridescent rivers of pain, “And the curtains will just close, and no one will even know who we really are, or what we really want out of life, and then we will take a bow. And do it all over again. Like we have no conscience or purpose or reason for existing outside of ourselves or our false constructs…. And I just wanted… more. For myself. For us. I wanted, more, than the way things ended up between us; and if you could just give me a chance, I would spend the rest of my life living my best life by your side…”
Trenton, concerned now at a friend level, came to put his arms around me in a platonic hug, knowing very well in full how real the breakdown was, and I allowed myself to collapse in his arms with an almost un-humanly wail, a sadness I had repressed for a decade now coming to the surface and threatening to swallow us all whole in the truth of it.
And the audience applause roared loudly. And the curtains closed.
Trenton whispered to me sharply “are you okay? What WAS that?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” I retorted, “the show must go on.”
As all the actors and actresses came back on stage one by one. The curtains rose again, the audience standing in ovation. Trenton and I, hand in hand, taking our bow.
As the lights in the theatre hall came on, suddenly all the audience members were no longer nameless shadows, but real people coming to life, coming up to the stage now to hug loved ones and to congratulate us on a performance well done. Everyone surrounded by warmth and praise and acceptance.
I scanned the audience for him. And my heart began to sink further and further every moment that I realized his face was not among the sea of faces.
I descended the stage steps and started to walk through the crowd.
“Fantastic show!” someone said,
“Can I have an autograph?” another asked, stopping me at intervals for selfies, other admirers crossing my path to hand me bouquet's of red roses.
“No one knows how to captivate an audience the way you can!”
Their compliments falling on deaf ears….
As I reached the third row of seats and saw a single worn down gray cap sitting there lifelessly- my breath caught in my throat.
And as I went to pick it up, a single black rose was waiting there underneath.
Message received. I thought.
And the show.
It must go on.