Thursday, October 28, 2010

Role of a Lifetime or Born to Play

Clair de Lune - Debussy performed by Alberto Colo

Rehearsals ended and she shed the skin of Scarlett O’Hara and once again became the Anna Jane Saffell her birth certificate denoted. Heading out of the theater to face a world of reported purpose instead of stage props, outfits in place of costumes; she lamented the fact that life was not soundtracked. To her the soft touch of that one French piece she always heard in movies would be the perfect hand on the small of her back for the brisk walk outside to her car.

Around Anna Jane Saffell was an Oregon whose weather had respectfully obliged when Punxsutawney Phil hit spring’s snooze button. The trees surrounding shivered in the wind which had shaken them down to their skivvies. Anna was quite ready for them to regain their lush summer coats; to her there was just too much negative space in the town of Ridgefield.

Her hand reached for her door handle and commanded it to open. Once inside she paused, absentmindedly bringing a finger to her lips before drumming a few bars on her steering wheel. She looked down at the clock; its digital lights relayed the message to her that it was 5:32. That meant she still had two and a half hours before 8.

8. You see 8 PM mattered to her today because at exactly 8:03 that night she would be displacing the air between the bottom of her shoes and the brick walkway in front of the home of Mr. Talbert Calhoun Parcell, to whom that particular moment of time and it’s bookending strokes also carried some significance. For one Talbert C. Parcell, 8 PM mattered as well because at ten to 8 the guests who set their watches fast would begin arriving at his humble abode for one of his trademark dinner parties. And although the evening’s events were officially commencing at 8 sharp, the most significant part of the evening to Talbert would come more than an hour later at 9:30 when he would break open his plans to build a new theater for the performing arts right in the heart of downtown Ridgefield, Oregon. He was quite the proud father of his planned structure which complementarily combined his lives as a heartless real estate developer and a heartfelt art connoisseur.

Anna happened to be very close to Talbert and had already tucked her awareness of his blueprinted plans into her hippocampus weeks ago. And it was this prior knowledge of his future theater that would partly cause Anna, whose car would find its way into park at 8 exactly, to spend three minutes debating whether or not she actually wanted to go inside/manufacturing an excuse for her absence that was suitable for Mr. Parcell’s consumption. It was the same three minutes she spent looking into a mirror before every performance (onstage or otherwise) deciding (seriously or otherwise) if she really wanted to go on. So far she had always digested the feelings and gone on. And so far she had always been glad that she had.

Parcell had first witnessed Anna when he produced her debut in a Portland community theater performance of Peter Pan. Anna was all of thirteen years old for her first pixie dust and hidden wire aided flights as Wendy. Since then Talbert had taken on the role of Uncle in Anna’s life. He took a great interest in her acting career even though it was more Charlemagne lazes-faire than pro-active-stage-dad-pimp. Parcell and Anna had grown as close as a widower old man and a young woman can get without inspiring voices to lower, heads to slowly shake in semi-circles, and tinderbox rumors to flame when their names snuck into conversations. There was no ‘ick’ in their platonic relationship.

The clock struck 8:03 PM and Anna got out of her car and she looked up at Parcell’s looming home. It was a grand bit of wood and stone; full of square footage, vaulted ceilings, and enough features to easily fill a real estate listing without the poetic license and imagination of an agent. The pedicured lawn laid loyally at the house’s feet. The door stuck its brick pathway tongue out across the grass. Along the residence’s facade, lights hung about like ornaments, fluffing up the dwelling to its friendliest countenance. Her knees whispered hello to one another whenever they brushed past at a slow-motion pace that was only slightly above the left together-right together speed limit of the wedding aisle.

Anna’s hand performed the compulsory knock and the door was compelled to open by the evening’s host. The night was put on pause for the two to stare at one another for a 1, 2, 3 count.

“I see that you were unable to synthesize some made up disease that’s certainly all the rage in Paris for you to have magically come down with tonight,” Talbot offered on 3.

“You know I love your parties Tal,” Anna stated, trying to convince.

“You also love sleeping, watching prime time TV, and cooking food in the microwave. So an old-man’s dinner party was facing some tough competition when it came down to how you were going to waste your night.”

Anna narrowed her eyes into a smirk. Talbert starred back from the threshold that gave him a step up on Anna.

“Well, let’s get you inside. You stay out here too long and you’re bound to catch your death.” Talbert said and his arm carried her past the door.

Talbert had made sure his home put on its Sunday best for the dinner-party. The usual trappings that fleshed out the inside were all gone. The innards had all been shooed off into closets like children who were put in playrooms in order to give the adults time to talk. In their stead the living and dining rooms, courtesy of the house’s open floor plan, were laid out finely.

Across the two rooms, large circular tables had been placed about like a giant planetary diorama. Prom and bridesmaid dresses seemed to have been taken apart and flattened to serve through the night as table mats. Their colors were both tasteful and fun keeping with the soiree’s dinner-party moniker. And in tonight’s production, to top off the dress-like table mats, the roles of bracelets, necklaces, and earrings would be played by the crystal and silver dinnerware. Dancing among them were flowers that to Talbert added just a pinch of wistful sophistication to the affair.

Lounging lazily underneath the tables, Persian rugs floated upon the hardwood floors like magic carpets, ensuring the night was rooted in the lavish and luxurious. Above it all rested a charismatic chandelier that flattered the entire scene in its light. In the place of honor, a small film screen was mounted on a large wall. Soon it would proudly puff out its chest as it broadcasted Talbert Parcell’s theater plans to the Ridgefield elite like some exclusive, premium cable news network for the wealthy.

Leaving Talbert to his greeting, Anna finished surveying the set-up, and started the all-important move across the room. An intake of breath suddenly made her conscious of the smells scouting out the nights’ diners from the kitchen. She was unable to file any of the individual scents, but it didn’t matter. They all grabbed hands, and swung in together; blending like the colors being mixed on an artist’s palette. The smell was that blanket that came and covered you when you were cold on the couch, making you want to relax into the night. Talbert was going all out even by his own marked up standards. Investors and spectators would have to fight through a full stomach and vivid aesthetics not to be impressed by Talbert’s theater, whatever it looked like.

It was just as hard not to be impressed by Mr. Parcell himself. Parcell was a wide and varied man. He counted everything from hunting to quilting as hobbies and kept an open range of patchwork friends to match. Assorted low-level employees from Talbert’s companies in addition to random baristas and wait staff he had taken a shine to were allowed to breathe the same filtered air for the evening as the prominent politicians, artists, business people, doctors, academics, and journalists of the area who were the usual starting line-up for his get-togethers. Talbert enjoyed the mix and further catalyzed the class mingling by arranging the seating cards as one might rearrange chess pieces when the opponent is not looking. Mr. Talbert Parcell did not rule the Ridgefield area, but by no means did he adhere to the societal rules of it either; tonight was going to be a caste party, among other things. Talbert’s favorite luxury that his wealth afforded him were his quirks and his quirky friends.

As she continued the pilgrimage to her seat Anna was once again faced with the diverse world of Talbert’s associates and acquaintances. The characters the host had assembled tonight would, as she’d soon discover, conform to the type-casting mold of her past Parcell dinner party productions; unique enough to be odd, but never earnest enough to be eccentric. There was Matthen Riley, a missionary, whose innumerable thrilling stories from abroad, it was mutually decided, would be best staged over a theoretical future lunch between the two that would never happen (as Anna knew and Mr. Riley would eventually find out). There was also Tawny; a local artist who happened to resemble a lamp. She was using the dinner party as a litmus test for her next project. Tawny believed her talents as an artist were being undercut by the limitations and styles of modern sculpting. So, she decided to amplify her creativity into architecture. More specifically, she was designing an enormous, ever-growing housing complex that would be the single place of residence for an entire city. This like the above mentioned lunch would thankfully never materialize. Next auditioning for Anna’s attention, was the serendipitous re-acquaintance of Dr. Mrs. Benjamin Hadley, famous for being the wife of Dr. Ben Hadley; and he himself being famous for plastering an air-brushed version of his face and his family practice unto a billboard that bored the south bound drivers of Interstate 5.

After a delightfully qualm-free chat, the Missus extended to Anna an invitation to the Opera. Anna accepted in a verbal curtsy despite the fact that she enjoys the privilege of saying she is going to the opera much more than the culturally-enriching event itself. These plans, unlike the others Anna had been introduced to tonight, would actually be met.

Another Devil Dies - Badly Drawn Boy

Satisfied with people, Anna searched for her seat. Once more Anna was reintroduced to her true identity as she spotted Anna Saffell, cursively embedded unto a white card. Her hand grabbed and somersaulted the card. She saw a morsel of Tal’s handwriting endorsing the inside of it.

As was his custom, Talbert would adorn the b-sides of Anna’s temporary nameplates with a small note, or a quote, or a nonsensical phrase. It was his way of winking at her to let her know that she mattered more to him than whoever he was currently going over matters with. She staved off reading Tal’s words on the card till the area had been plundered of all sensory interest.

A quick panorama of the rooms did not provide a spark that she was drawn to and Anna figured that she might as well sit for awhile. A couple of her theater friends waved at her. Then she saw a few kindred spirits whose time and company she actually enjoyed investing in. But, she settled on sitting down for now; there’d be plenty of time for talking later she figured.

So she lowered and aligned herself with her chair, docking it into the table. Starring off into the distance she did her best to not cast a lingering glance at any of the surrounding seating cards. If she read them, she was sure she would begin doing an imaginary mental scouting report. Instead Anna, making the same metaphorical dress-table cloth connection, busied herself with deciding that the particular table cloth her seating area was modeling had probably been skinned off of a bridesmaid from a fall wedding. Amusing herself without increasingly morbid thoughts cut from the same vein, she was finally able to come up with one revolting enough that she became self-conscious of the creepiness and put an end to her time-killing.

Feeling that was more than enough for her, she flipped over the card. “Dazzle” it read. Dazzle? That’s it? She was slightly disappointed. She felt it was a little too made-for-TV cheesy and was hoping Tal would’ve produced something a little more thoughtful for tonight. Anna was almost embarrassed to be holding it. She put the card back and sat.

Soon a blustery boredom came and swept over Anna like a pair of cumulonimbus sweat pants and a hoody; she was now lazy and about to give up on the night. Anna really did usually enjoy these big events: the people, the lights, the conversations, the basking. But sometimes like a neurological prima donna she just stopped caring. And her apathy frightened her because she found her portrayal of it to be quite dangerous. She knew she was about to slip into a half-consciousness for the rest of the night. An auto-pilot state full of stock answers and a laugh-track sense of humor. The worst part being that no one would notice and all the party attendees would probably find her quite charming. She would live and breathe the night out with her compatriots while not experiencing it with them at all. Their blinks, smiles, laughs, eye brow angles, itches, tweaks and amendments of appearance; all of it would act as cues for her to play along with. This was achievable much in the same way one could watch a foreign film without subtitles and still comprehend the essential action, emotion, and plot of the story. Anna could be very cordial even when in a robotic state; she couldn’t disappoint an audience, after all, the show must go on.

And so to her stage left and right, and in front of her, and all around the table, the players assembled. Anna was sure they were all nice people and although she couldn’t tell you fifteen minutes from now, ask her tomorrow and she’ll be able to remember enough names and details to fake her way through the pop-quiz of a future conversation. All of this became quite terrifying when Anna thought about it because she realized the potential of her possibly sinking into that act for periods of increasingly extended time. She looked down at the card displaying her name but only saw the other side.

Dazzle…sorry Tal not tonight, maybe next time. Then she mused that perhaps that’s what she should have told Tal anyways. It might’ve been best not to have shown up at all.

With that Anna crossed over. Introductions were made and words trafficked the tables under the guidance of the green, yellow and red lights at the intersection of Culture and Custom. Waiters appeared from somewhere and some edible materials were placed in front of the guests. Anna stole the show from the first course with her woven stories of ad-libs and unexpected turns on the stage. People always relished those tales like they were old war stories. Someone would always remark about how that’s the real drama of the stage. She could narrate those stories with the same precision as whatever current lines she had gnawed into her memory.

Myke Ptyson - Starf*cker

Then, with the inverse formula for plant growth, a healthy applause had taken root and budded as the lights were dimmed to 4 AM, and with the plates and glasses already empty of food and liquid, adding to the now breathless guests silently gasping to hear the words Talbert Parcell was about to spout off as he stood ensconced with the projection screen. The hand to hand contact acted as a slight Pavlovian response to Anna as she consciously climbed partly back inside her mind and body. The clapping trickled into silence like a cup of water being poured full. Anna gazed into the quiet, and there, across two table planets at a silver prom dress, a curious curio was afoot. Or rather still seated, but unmistakably distracting all the same.

A shower of polite laughter revealed that Talbert had just sent up some delightful anecdote which Anna had missed due to the young man in black. For reasons known only to boys in black, this particular dark-coated male specimen had just radiated across his table, and seized some centerpiece flowers by the throat. Then, as if it weren’t queer at all to be the holding flowers, he shook the floral arrangement of superfluous water and raised them out of their vase jail. A couple more shakes from the hand removed any stubborn aquatic stragglers.

Next, with the flowers in his hand and close to his heart he civilly ejected himself from the table. Meanwhile, all the party-goers, save the flower man and Anna, were watching the projection screen play the straight man to Talbert’s enthused presentation. The guests’ eyes followed Parcell’s laser pointer on screen with the intensity of a sniper. No one else had seemed to care about this slightly strange man causing Anna to try and balance her mental books with the theory that he must be a waiter. So her eyes snuck behind him as he distanced himself from the crowd. But instead of exiting at the kitchen, he proceeded to the French doors that blossomed out onto the patio and then protruded his way out of them.

Anna shook her head and thought about all those Nancy Drews she read in middle school as she broke off from her own table to follow him and, of course now, several of her tablemates noticed and stared perplexed at her. She skipped her way across the back of the party area in a mannered speed walk. The door neared and Anna, readying her hand for the knob, was unsure of what dimension awaited her on the other side. Sliding out of the exit she quietly closed the doors with two cushioning hands. Talbert had just brought up the slide that displayed the official announcement of the theater. This sparked a pleasant round of audience reaction that masked her exit like a silencer.

The man was casually lounging on a low brick wall on the other side of the veranda. Anna was suddenly annoyed at the situation.

“What are you doing out here?” Anna asked, this being the most logical, least leading thing to ask.

“Hall pass,” he threw out as he jokingly held up the flowers like a puppy who had just killed a bird, naively thinking its owner would be impressed.

“Those are flowers,” Anna stated matter-of-factly, still trying to catch his wavelength.

“No, these are ‘for you,” the man extended the flowers her way.

“The flowers?” Anna replied are-you-serious-ly.

“No, the ‘for yours,’” he stated, Anna was not a fan of the joke.

“So what are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the very same question.”

“Well, I asked first.”

“Good for you, I don’t care.” He eased off his black dinner jacket and puffed it into a pillow as he lay back on the low wall with his knees sticking up into an acute angle.

She stared at him, and then said, “Are you for real?”

"Unless my life has been an extremely elaborate prank, then yes I believe I am." She held her silence. “What do you want to hear? That I wanted to gaze up at the stars, that I was bored, that I needed some air? What?”

She shook her head, and turned to head back inside, feeling stupid that she had come out in the first place.

“Hey wait,” his voice grabbed her wrist and held her hand back from turning the door knob.

Hell No - Sondre Lerche & Regina Spektor

“Excuse me.” She was annoyed, but was acting much more perturbed than she actually was; she felt the situation necessitated it.

“I came out here to meet someone,” he finally answered.

“Do I dare ask who?” She was not excited to hear whatever stupid answer he was probably going to come up with.

“I’d tell you but you wouldn’t believe me.”

Anna only responded with a simultaneous arching of the eyebrows, shoulders, and hands that in made-up sign language meant ‘try me.’

“Well you of course.” The stupid response he was probably/definitely going to come up with.

“Me?” Now with only one eyebrow arched, which in the same synthesized non-handicapped sign-language conveyed skepticism.

“Yes you…You; as in these flowers are for you,” he explained, once again vainly offering the contraband arrangement to her.

“So you wait till the lights go down inside and then for the presentation to distract everyone, and then sneak off into the night to meet up with me; whom you have never met before?”

“You forgot about the part where I took the flowers.”

“Well, I’m having a very hard time believing that’s true, so I think I’ll just go back inside and leave you and your flowers alone.”

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it as long as I know it’s true.”

“I would ask for an explanation of what you mean by that if you would actually talk instead of being all mysterious.”

“Yes! Yes! Precisely! Good word choice, but actually I’m not mysterious.” He rose slightly, using his elbow as scaffolding as he restored himself actively in the conversation.

She stared at him and decided she would stay straight on that course till he offered more.

“Like I said I’m not mysterious. I was only pretending to be mysterious or ambiguous...or shady as the kids say now days.”

“Why were you pretending to be like that?” She said humoring him. He wasn’t really talking so she was going to shovel down to an explanation with questions herself.

“’K get ready, I don’t think you’re going to like this, but here goes…alright, the thing is I seem to like the kind of people who are attracted to mysterious people; you know, the kinds of people who aren’t scared of and have made some room for gray areas and such in their lives. Whatever that means, right? Anyways, mysterious people themselves are usually maddening to be around, but the people who like them are always fun because they’re up for anything, you know?” He paused and she didn’t respond to his qualifier. “So, what I do is I pretend to be mysterious myself. Then, I go somewhere and do something abnormally peculiar. After that it’s a waiting game to see who comes after me to investigate. Vertical integration; I’ve cut out the middle-man or in this case the mysterious man...or mysterious woman,” he added as an afterthought, nodding at Anna as if she was the current spokeswoman for all women across the world.

Several valid and equally appropriate questions came to her mind but a particular phrase had created a stain that she wanted to clear up,

“Attracted to mysterious people?”

“Platonically,” he said with verve like a lawyer who was still trying to prove the male gender’s innocence in a case of misogyny to Anna as President of the World Suffragette Association. “People whose interest is piqued by the strange actions of another human being; I should’ve just said intrigued.” he offered up a thesaurus’ed clarification. Appeased, she went down the list to her next query in the quarry for answers,

“You said you came out here to meet me?”

“Yes you. You are the one who was drawn to the mystery. So yes, you.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly drawn…” Anna shook her head.

“You skipped out on grandpa’s home videos or whatever’s going on in there to come after me. So yeah, I’d agree you weren’t drawn out here.” His sarcastic statement made-over her still shaking head from the acute, short, curt ones of disbelief to the obtuse, long, melodramatic turns of annoyance. “Look I came out here to meet someone and tonight the role of that someone is being played by you.”

A round of applause pressed out from inside. The round apparently being on Talbert Parcell from the mimed thank yous and humble head nods he was now performing. For a few moments the reality of the night once again felt real. Anna was glad Talbert’s theater plans were seemingly going over well, additionally she hoped he hadn’t noticed her absence; or mistook it for her going home.

“It was either going to be you or someone else,” he continued explaining a little slower this time. He wasn’t sure whether or not she was listening since she kept looking inside.

Backyard Baby - rickoLus

“Me or someone else…this or that…” Anna trailed off; playing with and poking at the words in her mouth and tasting them with her tongue as they sunk subconsciously in her mind. She watched Tal peel himself from in front of the giant screen and descend from the podium, it looked like he had just popped out of a TV and was now invading someone’s house, “…this or that…”

“Yeah I guess if you want to put it that way,” he gave her a bewildered look.

“Tea or coffee?” She suddenly burst out, rather enthused.

“Excuse me?” it was his turn to utter the confused’s creed.

“This or that, tea or coffee?” she persisted while he consisted his puzzled gaze, trying to solve her.

“I’m sorry, I…” he continued staring quizzically, unsure of what his multiple choice answer would be.

“Come on, seriously? This or That? It’s a classic car game. I give you two options and then you choose either the first or second option, you choose either this one or that one. Hence the name This or That. Usually, it’s pretty self-explanatory.” He just stared at her so she added, “Try it, it’s fun. It can wind chill a road trip by two hours. Plus it becomes a pretty intense bout of psycho-analysis between the players. I can’t believe you’ve never played.” She explained like it was obvious, like it was 2 + 2 and part of everyone’s first grade curriculum.

He began to say something, but either thought better of it or couldn’t think of anything better to say because before his first primitive syllable could evolve into a word, he closed his cave of a mouth.

“You don’t have anything better to do,” she informed him.

“Oh, well in that case,” he folded his hands together and played along by assuming a thoughtful pose, “tea. I just say no to drugs. You?”

“First coffee is not a drug. And second I am loyal to the Pacific Northwest, and therefore loyal to Starbucks and therefore to coffee,” she let her answer simmer and then said, “Your turn.”

“So all I do is come up with two options that are somehow related, right?”

“This isn’t that hard, but yes that’s all you have to do.”

“Umm let’s go with… Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse? Their assorted entourages being included of course.”

“Good one for a first-timer, slightly off-beat, evocative, ripe with implications. I’m impressed.”

“Your answer please?”

“My answer is Mickey. The Disney Channel was my favorite baby sitter growing up. And you?”

“Mickey for me too. I was always intrigued by his gloves. Why was he always wearing them? Was it poor-blood circulation or was he a hit man?”

“Well, at least I can now see where your fixation with the mysterious started. Sandals or shoes?”

“Shoes, for sure shoes. Toes are fingers inbred cousins and were meant to be kept in their trailer homes in Kentucky. And by trailers I mean shoes.”

“I beg to differ. I like sandals. I actually can’t stand to wear socks. It makes my feet feel like they’re suffocating. Shoes, socks any and all foot coverings are evil in my eyes.”

“And yet, you’re wearing closed-toe high heels,” he coughed out “hypocrite” and then moved on. “And on a lighter note muffins or cupcakes?”

“Interesting…I’m not sure if you’re looking for a potential nickname for me or anything,” she gave him an accusing look, “but I’ll go with muffins. What about you friend?”

“I’m a muffin man. I ate too many of those cheap cupcakes with the half pure sugar, half plastic frosting at a birthday party once, and I was never the same.”

“How tragic. Ok, get ready, this next one will be quite revealing about your true nature, so answer wisely,” she sagely warned. “Mercury or Pluto?”

“Pluto definitely.”

“Pluto? Are you sure about that? Alright well that means that you’re a phony that also likes to sit in the back of the classroom. Not my style, I’ll go with Mercury.”

“Better than a teacher’s pet who sits up front and hogs all the sun’s energy.” He jokingly stuck out his tongue. “And now I have a truly penetrating and revealing This or That of my own: Friends or The Office.”

“I’m going to have to choose Friends. I haven’t ever really gotten into The Office.”

“I can’t believe you don’t like The Office,” he started a tirade worthy of a balcony and a revolutionary crowd, “you have to get into it. The Office is like a quirky friend, the more you’re with them and the better you understand them, the more you like them. Oh, and just for the record I choose The Office…Friends,” he added shaking his head in deep disapproval.

“Sunrise or sunset?”

“I’m only nominally acquainted with sunrises so I feel like I have to choose sunsets, and you dearest?”

“Sunrises, because whenever you see a sunrise, it’s usually because you’ve done something special like pulled an all-nighter or you hiked up early to a mountain or something.”

“Aww, how sentimental, and on a nostalgic note; Ronald Reagan the President or Ronald Reagan the actor?”

“I feel like I have to go with Reagan the actor since I’m a thespian myself.”

“Really? An actress?”

“Well singer/actress/dancer, the S.A.D. trio. Pretty much anything flaky people do on stage.”

“You know, you’re one of the only people I know with the kind of job a kid wouldn’t mind having when they grew up. So out of the three which is your favorite?”

“Wow, that’s like asking a mom to choose her favorite child.”

“My mom would’ve said me,” he responded.

“I don’t know because dancing is so freeing cause you don’t have to think, and when you act you feel like you’re actually connecting with people. And singing,” she shook her head, “singing just launches reality into a place of beauty.”

“You should write Hallmark cards. Come on, just tell me: as of right now in this very moment what’s your favorite? I won’t even hold you to it tomorrow.”

“I don’t know, that’s so hard,”

“Typical girl answer,” he alleged, no longer concerned about being perceived sexist.

“Fine, in this exact moment I like dancing the most. Right now, I feel like a dancer. Earlier tonight I felt like an actress and during the car ride home, I’ll probably feel like a singer,” she laughed.

“That wasn’t so hard now was it?”

“I believe you still need to cast your vote on the Reagan one,” she retorted.

So the game continued and the pair faced off on such timely and topical issues as: khakis vs. jeans, carpet vs. wood floors, hardback vs. paperback, Google vs. Yahoo, and on it went. For two adults they spent a surprising amount of time that night doing nothing. Safe inside, the rest of the eighteen and ups were busy acting more mature as they mingled and socially waltzed around the house.

Stay Golden - Au Revoir Simone

“Alright so I have one now,” Anna said with a crossing glance.

“Shoot,” he answered back with the grizzled confidence of a This or That veteran.

“Me or someone else?” Her pupils fell into his. He paused for a moment trying to convince himself that she didn’t mean what he thought she meant.

“I don’t get it, is this a joke?”

“You said to me that someone was going to follow you out here tonight. And you said that it was going to be me or someone else. So how about it; were you happy it was me or do you wish it was someone else?”

“I didn’t mean that, I only said it. And it’s not like it’s just you or someone else, it could’ve been both. It could’ve been five people and we could have had a glorious old car game triathlon party with 20 Questions and the Name Game,” he answered with a smile buoying his attempt to dissipate her last statement along with the mood that had just taken a turn for the serious.

“Are you going to answer it?” she returned. His words had apparently not appeased her expression.

“Nope, I guess not.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a stupid question. It’s dumb; it’s like something a 14 year old would ask. Don’t you get tired of asking that question anyways? I mean that’s pretty much what you’re asking whenever you audition isn’t it? You go out there, you try out, you do your best, then you’re done and you’ve all but formally stated the question do you want me or someone else for the part?”

“I played along with your ridiculous little games and acts at first Mr. Mysterious.”

“And that was you decision, you could have just as easily walked away. I thought you, Ms. This or That, of all people would understand the power of choice.”

“Then choose now.”

"No," he said obstinately with the stubbornness and selfishness reserved only for arguments with relative strangers and much loved relatives; the times when you momentarily stop caring about what another feels either because they care nothing or everything for you back.

"You're ridiculous," she said. The statement though directed at him, at that moment, clearly applied to both.

"Isn't it enough that you're here and you're human? Isn't that enough for this to qualify as good enough? Situation and circumstance happen. Like right now, our present circumstances have put you and me outside this huge house while this party thing goes on inside. It’s a chilly, but pleasant sixty some degrees out here and I’m warm, but every once in a while you look kinda cold and I think about offering you my coat, but I’m having trouble deciding if people do that in real life or only in the movies and I just can’t bring myself to do it. That's it, that's all. Shouldn't we just go with it? It's kinda pointless to think about something else or someone different. I don't want to play what if. And it's not about making the best of things, it's just like going with it. It's there, so you know, just whatever."

There was silence after that, and for awhile after.

"Sorry about that," she finally said feeling ashamed about the question. She was embarrassed about it, the same way she was embarrassed about all the love-notes she wrote in middle school. "It was really stupid. I was just trying to like…” she shook her head like she was wet, hoping some applicable words would rain down to her mouth, “like um…" the absurdity of the night twitched her mouth into a slight smile. She tilted her head to the stars, "I don't know, it was dumb."

"Naw, I'm sorry too. I mean I wish I could ask questions like that. I think we all do. I think we’d like to feel strong enough to pretty much just straight-up ask someone what they think of you. The real goal is feeling free enough to ask those questions, while being so free that you don’t care enough what others think of you to ask. Maybe I should be the one to write greetings cards,” he laughed and felt a touch self-conscious about what he had just said. He compressed his jacket between his hands again and then laid his head back on it. “So how did you settle down that acting was what you wanted to do?’

“I guess, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I didn’t feel passionate about any one thing. Acting would at least let me pretend to be a number of things. And I enjoyed it of course too so…”

"Teddy Roosevelt once said that actors get to be everyone, but themselves," he sloughed off.


"No, but it sounds like something stupid that somebody famous would have said during some bygone era that people today would find profound. You really could make up so many stupid quotes like that. “’Heroes cleanse themselves with action, cowards with water,’ that's Winston Churchill of course."

She laughed and then said, "I seriously would have believed you if you wouldn't have told me. I think you just invented a new car game; “Fake Famous Quotes” or “Falsified Phrasings,” or…we can work on the name later or at another random dinner-party somewhere."

“Sounds like a plan,” he answered back.

It's Only A Paper Moon - Ella Fitzgerald

A drip of some piano dusted off the sound waves with a few warm up notes and tapped them on the shoulder. The two of them directed their attention inside as a one of Tal's guests struck up “It’s Only a Paper Moon" and some other party-goers grabbed a partner and allowed the music to nudge that something inexplicable inside all of us which makes you want to move when you hear the sounds.

"Do you want to dance?" she asked.

"Um, no."

"Oh come on. Why not?

"Because I’d rather watch you dance by yourself. You're the dancer, right? You love to dance? So dance."

"What do mean?”

“I mean you’re a dancer, I’m not. I really am not. Why should we compromise? Why shouldn’t you dance like you were meant to and I can sit back and watch like I was meant to. We can both exist together doing what we like instead of us both going half-way just because we’re supposed to. I’d really only bring you down. It’ll be much more beautiful this way.”

“It’s fine, we can just sit and talk. It’s not a big deal, I just thought I’d ask.”

"Why? Please don’t do that. It seems like you want to dance, so would you please dance? Why should I infringe on your dancing abilities? You're the dancer, so you dance. I'm more of one who stares, so I'll stare off into space. It makes no sense for you to have to dance worse or not at all because of me. I'd rather that you move as well as you can without caring if I can keep up. And plus I'd rather watch…if you’ll let me of course."

"Well…ok then," and she then pensively broke up her body that had been previously tied into a ball with her head being embraced by her knee caps. "Are you sure?" she added.

"Don't mind me," he said quite happily.

And so she danced, and she danced the kind of dance that people usually only do when they're alone; the kind of dance that only graces observing eyes through musicals or recitals.

The best part was that she went all out. It's a funny thing when someone does something embarrassing. And Anna's dancing was embarrassing in all of the word's essence. It wasn’t embarrassing because it wasn’t good; if it wasn’t good, you’d just assume it was joke. This was not a joke though and it was good. Anna had just pirouetted off the edge of a fountain in the center of the portico to unintentionally prove the point.

The funny part about it is that it's like diving into water; you float and fly and are free from facing reality until you hit or belly flop or cannon ball into the water and as you sink you're forced to decide whether or not you're glad of what you just did until your body remembers it is supposed to float and you rise back up to the surface. Sometimes, when you dive, it’s like you’ve been let in on this little secret of the world. Like you’ve got to experience something that’s only for the birds and the fish; something that’s a bit unnatural for humans, but totally natural for the world itself. Other times after you’ve dove it’s like gravity has used you to slap the disobedient water. You feel as if you’ve ran into a brick wall and that you’ve done it so hard that some of the red has rubbed out on your chest.

You think about it after you dive; things like that it was too high or too scary or you think why haven’t I done that before? That’s what it’s like after doing something embarrassing. You might be glad you did something that got you out of your monochromatic self or you could feel like being alone in a dark closet would be the ideal place to be for the moment. What’s even funnier about it, is that even though an event is embarrassing, no one has to get embarrassed. Anna wasn’t embarrassed and wasn’t going to be. He wasn’t either; for himself or her. He felt bad though. He felt bad for not telling her he was glad that it was her, and he felt bad that he said no to so many of her earnest requests. He only said no though because he couldn’t say yes.

She continued, and he was left to watch, which he did until the music finally stopped. When it did he spoke…

Tightrope - Yeasayer

"Well, I believe that’s my cue to leave.”

"You late for curfew?" Anna replied with a smirk...

Three minutes later, back inside Tal was pinned in his foyer as if on a lapel; toasting a good night to his guests with hugs and handshakes. Although his soirees were small affairs, he took so much joy in hosting them. He enjoyed almost every aspect of them top to bottom and reflected it with his DIY preparation thereof. It mirrored a small-town airport where the same person you check-in with, is the same person welcoming you unto the plane.

The interior seemed as fatigued as the leaving guests and despite the orderly behavior of the polite company, the place could not camouflage the unmistakable signs of human contact.

Talbert had just patted the back of a Mr. Hatten, prodding him off into the night like a paper boat on the water. The Roger Hattens were flinging on the coats that they would once again take off in thirty seconds as soon as they reached their car. The door closed behind them and Talbert was left more or less alone. He looked back at the tables and saw a few remaining guests posted about the room like crumbs on a plate. There would probably be a few of them who would end up staying over, making good his decision not to convert some of his guest rooms to galleries and billiard rooms. Tal enjoyed entertaining people in his home as much as Anna did on stage.

Speaking of, Tal just noticed her whisking herself inside. Walking back into the climate-controlled interior, Anna’s mind had reminiscent jabs of memories briefer than blinks. It got both stronger and fainter until she finally caught the feeling and placed it. It was the period of transition, the moments after a performance, when each step is like a downward thrust in CPR; reccessitating the world and its innumerable realities to her. It was time sleeping in and then rushing around to put itself together so it could catch up to her, to bring her back from a place where precise, planned words and movements rooted her to the stage; to streets and sidewalks and hallways, lobbies and rooms where everything big or small was up for her to decide on either this and that. Looking up, she saw Talbert voyaging through the galaxy of tables towards her.

“I didn’t see you all night. I was starting to think I had dementia and that you had never actually showed up,” he laughed.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that Tal. I went outside for awhile.”

“You don’t have to say anything, you saw the Batgirl sign and had to go. You’re secret is safe with me.”

“How’d it go in here?”

“Good good. Though I think people would have loved the theater as long as it was embellished at all more than a pure cube.”

“I forgot to ask, have you branded it yet?”

“The Dazzle Theater.”

“That’s what you meant by the card? When I read that, I thought you had dementia too. Are you really calling it that?” Anna replied like a spoiled teenager.

“You don’t like it?”

“It sounds like a Dance Theater for ten year olds. Why don’t you just name it after yourself like a normal person?”

“I never thought I’d become one of those people who lives on through a building. I’d rather not even have a tombstone named after me. It’s hard for me to even imagine naming the theater after myself.”

“Well, I’ll name it after you or get a petition started or something so it’s not named Dazzle. Anything to make sure no one confuses it with a gentlemen’s club.”

“I thought dazzle had some pep to it.” Anna just shook her head in reply. “What’d you do outside?” He turned the spotlight unto her.

“Oh, nothing really, mostly just talked.”

“To whom?” Talbert was curious to see which of his visitors could hold Anna’s attention for the evening’s second act.

Anna’s left eyebrow raised and she straightened up, “I forgot to ask his name…”
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