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Christmas Friendship Fiction

There is an awful moment after every performance when one’s feelings fall from euphoria into depression. In the moment of the performance, under the transforming brilliance of the spotlights, everything seems sharp and clear and powerful. Wave after wave of vibrant joy at being alive sweeps through every gesture, every expression. Every step is charged with energy and exuberance, every thought is an intoxicating pleasure.

To come back to ordinary life is almost torture. 

After the colors of the stage, everything seems washed out. After dancing flawlessly for two hours, real life seems horribly clumsy and uncoordinated. Walking about with no sense of the intense emotions that gripped me just a few moments before leaves an awful hole.

Even worse, the transformation never becomes any easier. 

Years of experience have not taught me how to completely overcome ‘post-performance depression’. I can cope with it, in an awkward, painful way, but the effects still cling to me afterwards for some time.

Normally I try to talk to people to distract myself. However, after this performance, the very last in our tour, I have absolutely zero energy to drag myself out of the black mood I have sunk into. Some of the cast is going out for a late dinner, and they asked me to come, but I can’t. Reality is pressing too hard right now for me to make any attempt at small talk. 

So they walk off down the street, talking and laughing loudly, and I head back to our hotel. Once I get there, I almost wish I had gone with them. What was I thinking, coming back here all alone? I need something to distract myself, something to get myself out of the hole I’m rapidly falling into.

But I don’t have the strength to try.

This past month of performances, the wild swings in emotion, the draining routine, is finally overwhelming me. As much as I love to perform, a secret part of me is glad it’s over. There will be no more euphoric moments to pull me out of ordinary life, but at least I will not have to experience the emotional low that follows. I can stand ordinary life if I’m not constantly reminded of what it could be.

I switch on the light and stump into our rooms, repulsed by the chaos of packing cases, hairpins and makeup kits littering the floor. I stand in the doorway a moment, and then abruptly turn around to leave again. I have lived in this hectic state of affairs for the past month, but suddenly I can take no more of it. 

It’s then that I hear the crying.

I freeze, ears straining to pick up the soft sounds. It’s barely audible, but I think it’s coming from the bathroom. I hesitate. Whoever is bawling their eyes out probably isn’t expecting anyone to come barging in on them and probably wouldn’t be very happy if anyone did.

But the utter patheticness of the sound keeps me rooted in the doorway. I can’t leave without knowing if everything is alright.

I close the door behind me and silently cross over to the bathroom. I hesitate a moment, wondering if it wouldn’t be better to just walk away, before I finally get up the courage to knock. 

“Hey, um, everything ok?”

There is silence, the quiet, choking noises suddenly broken off. I wait nervously, twisting one hand in the other. Oh, why did I do it? I should have just left. Whoever’s in there will hate me for disturbing them-

My thoughts are abruptly shut off as the door opens and I am confronted with the last person I would have thought to find crying: Leah.

For a moment, I can only stand and stare, not knowing what to say. Leah, although she’s only one of the backup dancers in the troupe, is the brightest, bubbliest, most fun-loving person I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her upset or depressed. To find her here alone and sobbing her heart out in the bathroom is shocking, to say the least.

“Gosh, Leah, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

My apologies stumble to a halt. What can I say? She’s probably horribly upset with me - how will I ever explain?

However, to my amazement, she rubs at her swollen eyes and tries to smile. “Oh, Mila, I didn’t know anyone would be coming back here. I thought they were all going to dinner.”

“They are, except for me. I didn’t-”

I break off, my throat threatening to choke me. The depression that drove me away from my friends rises up again, just as horrible as before. However, I don’t need to explain what I’m experiencing. Leah looks at me out of tear-stained eyes and something in her gaze seems to understand. She’s feeling it too.

I don’t know what makes me say it. I don’t really know Leah and she really doesn’t know me. All I know is that I don’t want to leave her alone like this. 

“Leah, you want to go get dinner or something? I know you didn’t want to go out with everyone else, but-”

The smile that spreads over her face is astounding. For one moment, I see the Leah I used to know - vibrant, happy, alive…

If only she will stay that way.

****

In a moment, we are both out on the streets. It’s almost midnight, but the city is pulsing with life. The store fronts blaze with warmth and color, strings of Christmas lights wrapped around their windows. There is hardly a window that does not have some trace of greenery about it, hardly a window that is not bursting with the season’s opulence. 

We pass mountains of chocolate, rich and dark and shining in gold wrappings, boxes of frosted cakes and pastries, thick with raisins and cream and jam, stacks of books and puzzles, rows of toys, racks of clothes…

We pass a cafe, and our noses are drenched in the rich, hot smells that come wafting out. We don’t resist - we go in and order drinks for each other, guessing wildly what the other might like. We laugh when we see what the other has ordered, and between laughing and trying to swallow the rich mounds of whipped cream, I realize that I have not laughed this hard with anybody in a long time. 

I had forgotten how contagious laughter was, how simple it could be to let go and loosen up. I had forgotten that not every moment needed to be one of almost ecstatic pleasure. I remembered that there are other moments, smaller, simpler moments, that can be just as beautiful. 

****

We ambled out of the cafe and back onto the brilliant streets. We didn’t know where we were going, but we also didn’t care that much. Everything was floating in a beautiful dream; nothing was quite real, yet everything fell into crystalline focus. Perfect was too weak a word - there is no word that can describe the surreal beauty of walking down those shimmering streets.

At some point we found we had turned down to the river, and were walking past its placid shores. Gentle waves beat out against the banks, breaking the city’s reflection into quivering shards of light. We slowed a little, and stopped, watching the pulse of the river throb to keep time with the city. 

We don’t say anything because we don’t need to. The quiet slap of the waves, the faint drone of the cars behind us - it is enough. There is no need for heady waves of applause, the glare of the spotlights...

The quiet, the dark, the soft lights - they have their own softer beauty that flexes and bends with our moods. Not as consuming as the joy that comes with the stage, but not as harsh either. It is willing to work gently with our joy - mellow it, bring it down to a level that will not be painful to leave.

A star ripples down through the darkness and Leah catches at my arm with the wonder of it. We stand until it fades out of sight, and then suddenly realize how cold we are. We sigh, shiver a little, and then turn back, walking on in silence. 

Though we do not say it, we both know what the other is thinking of. We both know that the other is remembering the easy laughter in the cafe, the silence of the river, the faint trace of the shooting star…

At that moment, we are no longer consumed with what we felt on the stage. We do not let it dominate our life outside of it. 

It is enough to live in this moment.

****

We all still struggle to overcome the wild swing of emotions during a show season, but it has gotten better. I think we have realized that if we do not let ourselves become so entirely immersed in the euphoric passion of performing, forgetful of any life outside of it, we will not feel the jolt back to reality so horribly.

If we remember there is beauty outside of the stage that is not dependent on its rampant emotions, we can preserve an element of sanity. We have found ourselves even enjoying the time after performing because we have discovered there are other joys to balance those of the stage. Quieter, gentler ones, but just as immersing in their own way.

We have remembered there are simpler beauties.


December 20, 2020 14:41

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22 comments

Soumya Garg
15:55 Dec 22, 2020

Thank you so much, this is going to help me so much. Thank you, Thank you!!

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13:00 Jan 19, 2021

Usually, I can't relate to this; The moment of euphoria doesn't fade until the last day, so I can't feel the depression for a cloudy moment. Of course, I knew there was this side. It was a little heartbreaking to read, but I'm glad they were able to bring their quiet lives together. "We have remembered there are simpler beauties." is amazing.

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Grace Larson
14:28 Jan 19, 2021

Thank you so much for the comment! Yeah, I guess it was a little overdramatic in terms of how down the dancer felt, but I wanted to really show how much a change of pace could mean:)

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Grace Larson
14:30 Jan 19, 2021

Btws, I loved your piece 'The Anima App Prologue!' I meant to leave a comment too, but I'm kinda busy rn - exams lol. Once all that craziness is over tho, I'll definitely go back and comment and read sequels - if there are any:)

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This entire story is a work of art. It's it's own form of poetry, and it's amazing.

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Grace Larson
04:41 Jan 05, 2021

Thank you so much!! It really means so much to me when people comment:)

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Yeah! Could you check out one of mine??

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02:04 Dec 31, 2020

The categorization under Christmas is not appropriate. The blog says a friend is under emotional; pressure and needs distraction. What creates conflict in the mind and requires to be repaired is not explained. More facts have to be given to sustain interest in the story. CRITIQUE CIRCLE

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Grace Larson
03:47 Dec 31, 2020

Hey! Thanks for commenting on my story! I always love to hear how I can improve:) I know the prompt doesn't quite my story, but I just decided to play with it a bit and have fun:) I can sort of see what you're driving at with your critique, but not quite. Would you mind being a little more specific on what facts I would have to add to this story to keep readers interested? That would be super helpful!

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Llind Kam
12:27 Dec 30, 2020

I loved how Leah and Mila leaned on each other, eventhough they do not know each other very well. Your writing was deep and humane.

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Grace Larson
03:31 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you so much for commenting!! It really means a lot to me:)

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Frances Reine
18:52 Dec 28, 2020

I loved the descriptions so much! They're really unique!

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Grace Larson
03:33 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you so much!! I love it when people comment on mywork - it gives me a great sense of what they like and what could be better:)

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Echo Sundar
21:03 Dec 23, 2020

Wow!! Love this story!!

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Grace Larson
01:12 Dec 24, 2020

Thank you so much!!

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Soumya Garg
11:05 Dec 22, 2020

Loved this piece. This aptly describes the situation we all at some point of our times feel. Depressed, anxious and overwhelmed even with the work for which we have a deep passion and love. "If we remember there is beauty outside of the stage that is not dependent on its rampant emotions, we can preserve an element of sanity. We have found ourselves even enjoying the time after performing because we have discovered there are other joys to balance those of the stage. Quieter, gentler ones, but just as immersing in their own way." Loved this...

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Grace Larson
12:29 Dec 22, 2020

Aww, thank you so much!! I was honestly a little hesitant about publishing this piece because I felt it was slightly more depressing at points than some of my other stories, so thank you so much for boosting my self-confidence!!!! And thank you so much for that critqiue! I will fix that right now because I agree it does sound better that way:)

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Grace Larson
12:30 Dec 22, 2020

Also, are you working on anything right now? I would love to read more of your stories!!

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Soumya Garg
13:50 Dec 22, 2020

Yes, I am. I know you must be thinking that I just vanished after two stories XD. Actually, I have my exams going on and last two weeks were super busy, so could not show up much. But now I am finally working on one of the prompts for this week. Thank you so much for showing interest in my work, this really helps me to know that I am not alone in this journey and there is someone. I hope you will like my upcoming story. Just one more thing. Actually I finished my very first book which is a crime mystery novel in a fictional country created ...

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Soumya Garg
13:42 Dec 22, 2020

I am glad my comment helped you:). Keep writing.

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Soumya Garg
13:42 Dec 22, 2020

I am glad my comment helped you:). Keep writing.

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