Sunshine and palm trees and the smiling hotel valet who has never missed a day in 27 years, profiled for it in the Wall Street Journal. Tampa. My workplace for five days.
I look over the roomful of eager, hyper, high-school-theatre students. Two hundred downward-facing dogs, sweating in the weak A/C. Four hundred hands clapping. Fifty pictures, fifty hugs, I slowed down, taught less, and it worked. They are relaxed, eyes bright and ready for the next workshop.
My partners are not speaking to each other. The busted rule-breakers are avoiding eye contact with the “tattletale-ing bitch” they (erroneously) believe turned them in. Are you fucking crazy you can’t write this they’ll read it and it’s supposed to be over, we’ve all said sorry like grownups—
My heart is heavy. I’m tired of watching my words, my step, the eggshells in the car for fourteen hours, the thin glass wall on a flight where we can mercifully ignore each other.
It will be a beautiful summer, full of festivals revisited and new festivals, fans and friends, money raining into our hats the best symbol of economic recovery for everyone, it’s coming, it’s coming.
How much longer?
* * *
New play blocking, our first ‘real theatre’ show in a while. We spend forty minutes on a five-minute scene. Turn your head on this word. Raise your hand on that word. I went to theatre school for this? Why don’t you get some marionettes?
The audience loves the show. No money is made, that’s fringe theatre, I knew that on the way in. I’ve already decided the company will eat the show-running costs, that everyone will get at least a stipend. I will take care of you.
At the hotel, I google “creative writing sabbatical replacement” and “guest writer” and “writer-in-residence.” Looks like I need a published book as well as my MFA.
Better get started on that.
* * *
I love my job. I love travel and events and busyness and knowing we can go anywhere—anywhere—and unload the car and take off our sweats and in ten minutes, there will be a show where there was concrete, there will be joy and laughter and flight, beautiful flight, and I can have dessert every night and still fit in spandex. I love Mumbai and Kosovo and Monaco and Alaska. I love that 30-something and 40-something-year-old women look at me and realize, it’s not over. It’s not too late.
And then no-one’s speaking to each other and then we make up and it’s not the same. Is this how my mother feels when her child calls her other child ‘disgusting’, is this how her heart hurts when my little brother leaves the Easter dinner table, leaves the house, taking his wife with him?
Is it too late?
* * *
“Put me up on your feet?” my partner asks, and I know she means, “I love you,” or “I want to love you.” I rock her while she stretches her back, I rub her neck the way my hairdresser does. I love you. I want to love you.
I pay attention. I try to remember all my blocking, not just the parts I like. I remember that I invested her with “director” and all that that means, and I owe her and the company—my company—loyalty.
The mistake is when I call her from backstage for another curtain call. She hisses “I fucking hate long bows” and I say, “They’re still clapping, honor it,” as lightly as I can.
It’s not about us.
* * *
Paper towels make me weep. Not being able to find the raspberries makes me weep. Getting into the car makes me weep. I sit in the driveway for an hour, unable to turn the key.
No, it’s too personal.
Write this. Then you can turn it into a noble resignation speech from the writing contest and people would still admire you and you’d never have to know if you’re a loser.
Oh, sure, now you have conviction.
* * *
Another day. Another show. We’re lying on our bellies on a dirty metal grate, reaching our hands through to clip the carabiners that hold our lives, stepping through a maze of wires and the gaps to the stage floor five stories below. I sing to my partner—
‘Hey there’s days when we’re sixty feet up and the grid is filthy
But it ain’t coal mining
No it ain’t coal mining…’
For once we are not in a panic, the show is smaller than usual and has one movable rigging point instead of three, in addition to the four fixed points. I test every point I rig, going up myself before anyone else is allowed on. There can be no more horrible feeling in the world than having someone die from your rigging. I mutter names, Desi Espana, Keri Shryock, Lillian Leitzel. Husbands, boyfriends, friends spending the rest of their lives with the responsibility of the three-second fall and the short sharp shock.
The audience loves the show.
When it’s good, it’s very very good…
It is so light, when everyone is in love, with each other, with the show. When I’m the rigger and the director instead of the mommy. Why can’t I have this all the time?
Maybe if you worked harder.
* * *
How much longer do I have to be the boss? How much longer until my wonderful life becomes the life I can’t leave? Until it becomes something that happened to me?
I want to write.
I want to write.
Good luck with that. How are you planning on paying the mortgage?
I want to write all the time.
You can’t even get to the gym unless a show’s opening. If you quit this job you’ll be fat in a week.
I want to write before I forget what it’s like, before my life is too far away.
So how come it takes you a year to write a play? How come your book is in draft seven and you haven’t queried?
I could do it if I really tried.
Then how come you haven’t?
Because there’s no-one to make me. And that’s the step. That’s why I’m here. Write every week, no matter what you’re feeling. New piece, whether you’re inspired or not. Whether you have time or not.
How can you do that alone?
I don’t know yet.
But I’m going to.
whipchick has the second-greatest job in the world.