On the evening of the first official preview, the audience is made up primarily of college students and friends of the cast and crew. Most of the students have come from Cornish, a local art college, and they’ve scattered themselves evenly throughout the theater, but none happen to be sitting in my row. Smooth sailing tonight, but there will be no foils to my hidden performance either—no witnesses to my ruse unless I attempt something bolder, with more visual flair. As soon as I am settled, I stir up a melodramatic fatigue that consists of me repeatedly dropping my head forward in drowsy, stuttering steps, before snapping suddenly awake. Yawn and repeat. But no matter how dedicated I am tonight, it borders on vanity to believe that someone is actually watching me closely enough to elicit anything from me other than passing amusement. It’s a strange feeling to be a qualified nobody with the largest secret in the room, acutely aware that in just fifteen minutes I’ll be the center of some unsavory attention. Like some horrible accident I have been warned about, but cannot avoid, my destiny is not open for debate and of no interest to anyone.
A group of college-aged girls files into the theater and sits directly in front of me, seats A7 through A9. One in particular, an effusive and enthusiastic blonde girl with powdery peach skin and a cheerleader’s ponytail, talks confidently about her future:
“I want to get married when I’m 27 and no earlier. I have a lot I want to do before then.”
“Do you want kids?” the brunette beside her wonders.
“I do,” she says with a definitive nod, “But I’d like to adopt a Chinese girl.”
“That’s cool. Why?”
“Because they kill little girls in China. Because everyone wants a boy.”
“Oh yeah, I read about that.”
“Yeah,” the blonde frowns, “I’ve always known about it. It makes my heart cry.”
The exchange tickles me. Such heart-on-her-sleeve empathy. If I can catch her attention before Todd’s assault, I’ll earn her sympathy for sure. But my glee is overwrought. Try as I might, bobbing and sighing and fidgeting my way to launch, when the play begins I have to trim my antics to nothing, feigning illness simply by frowning a lot. When my cue comes, I quietly rise and go, barely looking past my own feet. Todd shouts and I’m gone.
On my way out I poke my head into the booth to say goodbye. I’ve decided to head home early tonight.
“What were you doing out there?” Amy wonders, not looking up from her binder full of lighting cues. “Are you sick?
“Ah, no.” I blush “Just tired.”
“Well, get some rest,” she says. “It’s not like you’re overworked.”
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