The Theater

Submitted into Contest #123 in response to: Start your story looking down from a stage.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

To look down from the stage is to see the world in its many pieces. Of course, from the audience's view, we are but pawns and rooks, knights and queens, sliding across the stage according to the kings' bidding; but we do so only for their amusement. In truth, we are free. We are free because we are aware that it's all a lie.

After each night's performance, I return back into the world as a fool. Last evening I was asked to accompany Isabelle, a young Portuguese woman I only met briefly, to an event of nobles. Before we left she made it clear that that nothing would ever come from this. I nodded, but of course that wasn't all. Between her words, between the flicks of her wet tongue, the grating of her perfectly sculpted porcelain teeth, we both knew exactly how that night would end. 

We go on blindly believing our own lies.

The following day, the theater director, Theodor, a pleasant soul that only speaks when necessary, asked me to come to his office. His language is sparse, economic even; he's devoid of any gestures or facial expressions. In fact, he is the least expressive man I have ever spoken to. Each sentence he utters serves as an instruction, one without passion nor resentment, merely a fact that we must take in agreement. But for a moment blood rushed into Theodore's pale and porous face, he stepped closer as to feign intimacy, grabbed my hand so that I could feel the clamminess of his own, and asked if I would retrieve his old mother from the airport. She would be waiting at terminal B, he said.

When I arrived, I was amused by how similar the two them were. They both spoke in the same percussive rhythm: one word followed by a severe silence, which is then abruptly interrupted. It was as if she had been holding in her breath the entire trip, and before even saying hello, I was given an order: to grab her bags and place them neatly in the back. I cannot hold people against their nature, they do as they please, no, they do all that they know how to do.

Watching Theodore and his mother interact was a spectacle. After the first viewing of she immediately began to tear the play to pieces and demanded that Theodore change the entire play. The the show was set to premiere in less than a week and somehow, Theodore's old mother convinced him to resign; he obediently handed her the title of stage director. As the new stage director, Theodore's mother gathered the actors and actresses for an emergency meeting, declaring that she had vision for a new play that came to her during a dream. She closed her eyes and waved her hands high in the air, as if conducting the play back into her mind. She gave instructions to the dream-versions of ourselves: she told me stand there and say this, pointing in vague directions. From what we saw, she was speaking gibberish. When she finished, a tear rolled down her grainy cheek; she claimed it was almost too beautiful. No, she said, I'll have to bring this with me to the grave! We sat around as schoolchildren begging she tell us what happened. When she decided to share the story, the old woman was unable to recall a single scene, line of dialogue, not even a character's name. She forgot the entire thing!

Over the next couple of weeks we acted as a team of psychotherapists in hopes to retrieve the story from her rapidly degenerating memory. We learned of her first marriage: at sixteen, a dignified older gentleman, who after spotting her one day the street with her mother, declared that they would marry and have three children. Just days before their wedding, the count died. It was all planned, she said, the decor, the orchestra... it was perfect. She claimed the day of his death marked the day a curse was placed over her life, one that made it so any dream she dreamt would forever remain just that, a dream.

We had no choice but to abandon the theater in search of work.

When I became an actor, I vowed to never step foot in the real world again. Theater was my refuge from the senselessness of reality. I wanted art and beauty, and believed neither could be found in a world as soulless as ours. Yet, to my surprise, as I wandered the streets and became lost, I came across characters with more life than any act I'd ever seen. Suddenly, it dawned on me: the world has always been a stage, and we are but actors playing its many roles.

One night, after a day of hard labor, I caught sight of a poster during my walk back home, it was for a new play titled: "The Play of Life." Coincidentally premiering that same night by the shore. I rushed back down the road and when I arrived everyone was there. Theodore, his mother, even Isabelle who had a young and clueless man wrapped around her arms.

"Go on, Go on!" Theodore's mother hurried me. I walked in a daze onto the center stage, tonight the crisp lunar light illuminated the crowd, and I stood there looking down at the audience, but this time not in disdain, nor without concession, for on this night I was finally playing myself.

We are the watchers and the performers. The actors and the audience. We all walk upon the same stage, and despite how it might feel, we stand at its center, repeating our lines over and over, all in hopes that we might finally capture the essence of our true character.

December 08, 2021 18:15

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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