Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hiatus--Return Summer 2013

Hey Julian/Kate readers!

I know, poor Miss Kate was about to getting an interesting plotline. But I've really got to get serious about writing my novel or I'll never write it. I'll be back with another "season" this summer-- things to look forward to: Kate gets her dream job, Julian travels to Europe, the ACT is taken, a CD exchange goes awry, friend-zones are established and then challenged, and a stage kiss gets really awkward.

Merry Christmas and other assorted Winter Holidays! 
See you in the Summer!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Auriga, Part 2

The part of Kate's psyche that taught Vacation Bible School was mildly freaking out trying to ascertain whether she was sinning or not. This was the kind of situation that most girls hardly register passing through because for most of them it happened around 4th grade. But not to Katherine Roy. She could say quite definitively that this was in fact the first time an arm belonging to an unrelated male had ever been put around her.

It was late afternoon and the choir was killing one hour and 18 minutes waiting in an empty ballroom after lunch because Ms. Mason didn't trust them to wander through the various vendors and exhibits and be back in time for their performance. Kate had spent the previous afternoon walking around with Aaron's circle of friends looking at Dorothy's slippers and Jackie Kennedy dresses in the Smithsonian, and she still felt mildly exhilarated to have miraculously gained eight friends from the upper echelons of the choir caste system. They were talking about whether fruit had any business on a pizza regardless of its good references from highly rated pork products, and Kate was sitting on one of those circular plaza couches next to a few girls she didn't know very well. The rest of the conversationalists were sitting on the floor around them. Aaron got up to grab his water bottle from across the room and when he came back he shimmied himself between Kate and a girl named Alli on the couch throwing his arm around Kate and giving her shoulder a squeeze.

And then he kept it there, draped across her shoulder in his usual self-confident nonchalant way. Initially Kate just sat normally like his arm wasn't there but was feeling horrible self-aware and awkward. Eventually the VBS side of her personality gave way and Kate relaxed and settled into the squishy boniness of the extraordinarily tall Aaron. Since she had also spent the previous evening not falling asleep in new crush giddiness, she was also feeling pretty stellar about the current arrangement.

Sadly it meant essentially nothing to Aaron, other than a natural shift from stranger to somewhere on the extremely broad romantic radar of an 18 year old guy. Aaron is one of those benevolent cuddle cassanovas (BCC) that  every woman knows but doesn't have a word for. The kind of guy whose unsavory counterpart is the guy that played those stupid "give me an excuse to touch you" games like Are You Nervous? in middle school and by sophomore year of high school is a full blown lecher. However, unlike that guy who is usually placed somewhere on the spectrum between overpowering body odor and holding a bag of still warm but quickly cooling vomit-- the BCC is almost universally welcomed into a girl's affection as the guy that gives you a really good hug just when you need it. The BCC often suffers from being hardcore friend-zoned but that's the price he pays for ready access to the socially acceptable physical affection he craves. A woman just doesn't really know what to do  with being one of twenty girls that a guy treats more or less the same, so she puts him in the only mental filing cabinet that's got a slot for him--"brother." But while Kate knew in some vague way that this was just the type of thing Aaron did, she was still fostering grand hopes that it was indicative of a reciprocal attraction.

From her snuggled in position she looked down and saw a series of freckles on the back of Aaron's right hand. She made one of those exhale sniff-laughs for being a dork before she could stop herself. When Aaron asked what she thought was funny she couldn't think of a feasible lie fast enough so she had no choice but tell him.

"You're freckles look like Auriga."
"Like what?"
"Auriga... It's a constellation of a guy holding a goat."
Aaron didn't have a response to that.
"I'm weird. I know, don't worry."
To which Aaron squeezed her shoulder again, and pressed on her head so that it was resting on her shoulder. Kate hoped fervently that he couldn't tell that her breathing had gone all funny and her face had grown hot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Auriga: The Charioteer, Part 1

Julian spent the entire first act elated that Walt wasn't trying to let her down easy, only to realize mid-intermission that the note hadn't really ruled that out at all. This was quickly followed by the more embarrassing epiphany that her eclipse token hadn't really declared anything non-platonic either.  Julian was marginally horrified with herself. While Walter Carrick experienced the cutting pain of how malicious self-awareness can be when he called himself a coward, Julian rightfully met the internal accusation with incredulity.

And Julian wasn't about to take that sitting down.

She made five or six schemes during the second act. She had snuck through the theater shop and made her way to the parking lot before realizing that even she wasn't audacious enough to leave the school in the thirty minute window before she was expected back on stage. She had written three drafts of three different notes. She had decided quite firmly that she was going to kiss Walter Carrick right on the face as she came out to take her bows. Then, on more serious contemplation of the logistics of that decided it wasn't actually such a good move. Besides, she was wearing tar-y stage lipstick and it would hardly be satisfying to either party, especially because it was the last performance and Walt would also come on stage to take a bow on behalf of the entire tech crew. No guy, no matter how smart and quirky, likes to go out in front of a large crowd of people with lipstick smudged on his face.

Valjean was ushered into heaven by a rather peeved Fantine. Thankfully, the scene didn't really require much actually acting on Julian's part. And then it was over. Julian realized that this great, frustrating, magical, time-consuming saga in her life was over. She was waiting backstage for the curtain call and acknowledged too late that Fantine was gone. She had already said her last lines. The applause was like the sound of a library in an earthquake. Julian rushed downstage and the noise surged for her. She smiled broadly and bowed deeply, humbled at the awesomeness of the moment.

The curtain closed. Goodbye Les Mis.

When Julian finally made it back to the dressing room, she changed her clothes, methodically hanging up her costume. All the other girls were scurrying around in a flurry, rushing around so that they could get out to their cars and get to the after party. Julian scrubbed her face, a stream of beige-pink water falling into the sink. Normally no one bothered to remove their stage makeup before heading out. She reapplied her normal, less oily, less intense makeup. She shook out her hair, removing all of the bobby pins. And by that point, as she had planned, she was the last woman to leave the dressing room. Walt was standing awkwardly in the hallway trying not to look like he was overtly waiting for her specifically while not appearing indifferent either. A few people were still milling around backstage, but    it was a barren wasteland in comparison to what it had been. Good, Julian thought, no one will ask for a ride.

Walt put the car into gear and sailed across the empty parking lot.
It was now or never. "Walt?"
"I like you." Julian's throat felt raw and swollen but she pressed on. She wasn't going to let the situation devolve into a meaningless "I like you too, I'm glad we're... friends" scenerio.
She looked fixedly at the dash not daring to see Walt's reaction. "...I mean... with the play over, I lost my excuse to talk to you everyday..." Julian's usually limitless supply of boldness was waning quickly. This was far less than the crystal clear declaration she was hoping for. She tried to say something more concretely romantic with one last push of mental fortitude but the wall of silence emanating from the driver's seat choked whatever might have come out.

Meanwhile, Walt was trying to convince himself that he had in fact come to the right conclusion about what Julian meant. She was using like, as in "I'm falling for you", not like, as in "I like three musketeers". Because let's face it, no one gets that excited about three musketeers, maybe a butterfinger, but never a fluff of a noncommittal candy bar. Just when Walt thought that Julian was going to put his doubts to rest she just stopped mid-sentence. He passed six more street lights, and it was like all of the oxygen had been siphoned out of the car. Walt was warring with himself, an epic battle between a love for safe social situations and a desperate urge to man up. His mind was cursedly blank.

His right hand shot from the wheel and grabbed Julian's hand. He missed, but Julian cooperated.

Walt made awkward, boat-like turns, steering with only his left hand, and Julian's wrist was cocked at the strangest angle but both held on to each other's hand with a death-like firmness. Both were afraid that if they made any adjustments that it would cause irreparable damage to whatever they were deciding they were together.Walt still hadn't said anything. Julian just held his hand and kept her eyes on the windshield straight ahead of her, and Walt loved her for it.

Walt pulled up along the curb in front of the house where the after party was. He tried briefly to put the car in park with his left hand before finally relinquishing Julian's hand. They made eye contact for the first time since the dressing room, both waiting for the spell to break since they had let go.

"Um." Walt's voice was dry and inaudible. He swallowed. "Um...what if..." He swallowed again. "...Wanna go to the park?"

They sat on the hill behind the jungle gym looking up at the sky to avoid looking at each other. Walt took a steeling breath and put his arm around Julian. She scouted herself closer and put her head on his shoulder.

"That's Auriga"
Julian laughed. "The constellation. It's a charioteer. Right above that big pine tree"
"Julian, there are about a hundred pine trees over there."
Julian laughed again, and traced out the pattern between the stars with her finger.
Walt acted like he saw what she was pointing at. Then took another serious breath. "Julian...I want to see you everyday too...and the only believable excuse I can come up with is if we were dating."

He smiled so vulnerably then that Julian's heart nearly stopped. "I think I could be amenable to that solution."

Walt turned his neck and kissed her hair. "Good."

Photo Credits

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chimera and Choirboys

"Are you reading that for school?" Kate asked
Aaron flipped the book over in his hand to show her the cover his thumb still marking his page. A green apple with an orange interior, Freakonomics. "Sort of. Ms. Ceasar gives you a 60-point bonus on the college-project if you read a book on economics."
"Is it good?"
"I just started. It's weird...I'm reading about sumo wrestlers right now"
"Sumo wrestlers?"
"Yeah. Apparently they're all dirty rotten cheaters."
Kate laughed. The bus was finally beginning to fill with sunlight after hours of darkness.

Aaron opened the book as if he was going to start reading, then closed it again."Have you ever wondered where the sumo women are?"
Kate had no ready response to that.

"I mean have you ever seen a very large Japanese woman?"
"...no. I have not." Kate was trying really hard to find something to say. But really there was only so far you could go with women sumo wrestlers. So Kate took option b when encountering a conversational wall-- Be Jet Li. Run up it like that's a completely feasible solution. Option A of course is looking at your hands awkwardly and hoping someone joins the conversation so that you can leave it."But I haven't seen very many women linebackers either. It's probably some kind of feminist plot."
"You mean chauvanist?" Aaron grinned.
"...no..." Kate said in mock-seriousness. "I meant feminist. You have to have something to rally people around. Really the future of equal pay for equal work will center around the debate over sumo women."
"Oh really?"
"That's a pretty far-fetched conspiracy theory."
"Isn't that the point of conspiracy theories? I bet the conspiracy theorists have a rocking organization of fantasy writers."
Aaron gave a honest to goodness "ha" being the only time in the last century where "ha" sounding anything like an actual laugh."I would love to go to Conspiracy Con. I'd go dressed up as a Roswell alien."
"That would be awesome. I bet I could make a fortune if I set up a sound-stage of the surface of the moon that people could act out their own moon landing."

And the conversation continued uninterrupted from that point for the next three hours, fourteen minutes. It  grew chimerically from the limbs of silly anecdotes and ridiculous situations, eventually gaining bones made from serious wonderings about death and whether ghosts existed and plans for college and beyond. Around one and half hours in they gained two more conversationalists to contribute after they had overheard the Aaron and Kate laughing about their first memories of playing video games. Apparently Elmo's Alphabet Adventure was a runaway hit among five and six year olds after the start of a new millennium. But Sara and Morgan splintered off on their own conversation a half hour later. The legendary beast of a chat died from an illness that too often besets its kind, it became self-aware.
"Wow, it's almost noon." Aaron said peering down at his phone.
"What? That's crazy."
"I guess we've been talking for a long time."
A few beats later both felt so awkward that they both fled to their bagged lunch. Filing their faces with sandwich so they didn't have to fill them with words.

For a few hours Kate Roy and Aaron Davis enjoyed the sheer pleasure of good company. The rare but precious occurrence where people actually said meaningful things to each other that goads humanity to endure a million empty exchanges of "How are you?" "Good, and you?"-s, like continuing to buy peaches into the winter even though they are hard and flavorless. It was rich orange, juice exploding from each bite peach of a conversation. Kate mourned its conclusion, but was already trying to suppress a smile from the memory of it around her bite of peanut butter and jelly.

Kate had never really thought much about Aaron before, but she was thoroughly in crush with the rail-thin but broad-shouldered, mile-tall, pseudo-tenor with a ridiculous laugh in addition to several other hyphenated descriptors. But the kindly mischievous eyes were Kate's favorite, not that she was admitting that to herself. 

Julian prepared herself this time for the pre-show circle. She wasn't going to wait for Walt and had already positioned herself around her better friends in the cast and crew. It was the last performance and  although Julian hadn't thought it could be possible, there was even more excitement and electric momentum backstage than there had been on any of the previous nights. Hundreds of hours, dozens of rehearsals, and a few months were coming to their culmination. Soon, Julian would tuck Fantine back into the script and she wanted to give her one heck of a send-off. 

The warm-ups were more enthusiastic, the circle oscillated faster, and Mr. Todd was almost televangical in his pre-show speech. As everyone ran to their places, Julian felt a hand on her shoulder. She spun around to find Walt pressing a tiny envelope into her hand.

"It's a good luck charm." He answered her quizzical expression and ran to the stage. 

Julian went to open it, but thought better of it and tucked it into her bag to remain unopened for the next fifteen scenes. But only made it through the first verse of the opening song.

Julian opened the flap to realize that the envelope itself was an origami-folded picture of the possessed choir boys from the "Total Eclipse" video. 

On the back in messy guy-handwriting:
Break a leg, Miss Agacelli. 
Don't worry I'll protect you in the event that possessed choirboys  attack the theater.
                          -Your Guardian Stage Manager

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Taste of

New to JA? Welcome! If you're feeling a bit lost, you should start from the beginning. Or if you want more general information, read What the heck is this?


Julian breathed deeply, trying to circumvent the inevitable tide of negativity and doubt that was beginning to well up inside of her. But it was essentially a lost cause, a flood of adenocoricotropic hormone was already acting as the shrieky violin in a horror movie to Julian's bodily functions. However Julian had  survived the last six years of her life by relying on sheer willpower to overcome the continual choas of the pubescent pituitary gland, and so she was doing her hardest to talk herself down from a hormonal apocalypse.

Julian. Calm down. Julian. Really, just a guy. Not a big deal. Breathe. Breathe. For a reason that Julian could not consciously understand or acknowledge, she found herself drawing a square on her palm over and over again. 

She pressed her back into the cold cinder block wall. She put in her earphones and put her mind to the task at hand. Time to be the Fantine I was yesterday.  Of all the depressing songs that could've played from her playlist, Yesterday began to play which did little to help Julian get into the Victor Hugo state of mind. 

"Now I need a place to hide away"--exactly....wait, what? What am I doing? THIS IS SO STUPID. Walt didn't even do anything. He just didn't do anything. That didn't even make sense. Gah, I hate boys. There are people with real problems. That's what I'm supposed to be thinking about...not, Walter freaking Carrick, Mr. Miss-Agacelli, Earl of mixed signals...king of my heart. What, where did that come from? ... I like him, yes, but it's not like I'd be heartbroken if he didn't like me back. (A panicky aching in Julian's lungs at this precise moment contested otherwise, but Julian had a rebuttal for that too) Just a crush! ugh.

Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" began to play and Julian felt ill. There are different tastes of sadness in this world and Julian Agacelli was experiencing a particularly bad combination. One was the the electrifying sadness of rejection, pure citric sour. The other was the agony of systemic injustice induced by a song about lynching--bitter, crushing, nauseating: the imagined taste of a chicken carcass decomposing in the sun.  


Julian hit the pause button like she was being burned. Really. That's quite enough.  Sombered and chastised, her mind actually let the subject of Walter Carrick drop. Julian flipped to the blessedly wordless music from Band of Brothers.

She felt her anxiety dissipate with the peaceful chords. Remembrance: the ghost taste of talc and perfume that burns the back of your throat when you walk out of the empty home of your grandmother for the last time. 

Twelve minutes later, Julian was doing fantastically. Perhaps even better than she had done the day before. Walt watched from the public anonymity of the dark, but still looked over his shoulder to see if someone could see his flush and his irrepressible grin. He embarrassed himself at his protective sense of relief and possessive sense of pride, even greater in degree than they had been the night before. And like last night, they were also accompanied by three million tiny daggers of self-effacing insults that only clever people have the ability to invent for themselves. But it wasn't the cleverest that bit into his soft fleshy sensitive underbelly (that like most guys Walt tried to protest that he didn't have) of his emotional self the most , it was one word, often used by Webelos at their first cub scout overnight: wuss. 

And there was no counterargument to that sole syllable because frankly, it was true. Walter David Carrick, certified wuss.

It was 5:04 in the morning, and Kate's stomach felt like a school of minnows trying to flee the grasping hands of 9 year old boys. Somehow, Kate's mother thought an Egg McMuffin would be a great idea to start of the day, hours before it really had the right to start anyway. However, the questionably grease paper wrapped sandwich was functioning pretty well as a handwarmer. 

Ms. Mason looked even more severe than usual, the green-yellow glow of sodium-vapor street lights bounced off the angular cheek bones while leaving her eyes shaded. "Stand as if we were about to sing Mountain!" she commanded. 

The groggy choir did as they were bid, shuffling themselves and their clutched pillows and backpacks into position for "A Mighty Mountain to Our King."

"Now, tenors I want you get on the first bus one per row."

There was faint under breath grumbling as everyone realized that she was going to be assigning seats for the seven and half hour drive. 

"Now altos, sit next to a tenor." 

Kate sighed, this was terrible. Tenors, as a rule, were obnoxious, immature, and arrogant. They hadn't learned how to curse very well, but that didn't stop them from swearing often, yielding sentences that were essentially as coherent as grunting yet always offensive. As Kate hauled herself up the bus steps she heard, "Shut up Jon, why don't you #@$%  @#&*#$##@. @#*!#&%."

"Why don't you &#&^$#@^#&$. You #$$&%*-ing  %$$#@#."

"You're such a $@%$. Just grow a pair!"

Oh joy. Kate shook her head because of course Jon and Blake were smiling as they insulted each other, their mothers, and made references to their privates all in one conversation. 

Kate knew exactly what Ms. Mason was doing. She was assigning babysitters. Altos were like the collies of the choir. Loyal, obedient...would always forgive slights and neglect, and would continually provide an outstanding performance. And none of them would allow the small minority of lecherous tenors make a move on them, which wasn't as universal a sentiment among sopranos. 

Kate looked down the aisle trying to guess which guy would be her ward. And in an unforeseen, and unusual blessing of fate, she plopped down next to Aaron. 

She didn't really know him, but Aaron was actually a decent human being. Probably because he was really a bass, but for "Mountain" was singing tenor because the line was particularly difficult, and Aaron actually read music. Since he was choir president and was one of Ms. Mason's favorites (with cause) and so had had many solos, Kate was in the uncomfortable position of knowing much more about him than he did about her. His first name, for instance.

"It's Jessica right?"
"Kate, actually. Aaron?" Kate made it sound like a question even though she knew he was Aaron Davis, a senior, in his third year in Vermillion, and taking IB Physics. He had sang "Yellow Taxi" in last year's Spring Showcase,  and "Suddenly Seymour" with Lara Meckles the year before. 
"I know, you probably get asked this everyday--"
"--I'm 6'3" and I hate basketball. Don't worry about it. I'm used to it by now." And then out of nowhere, "...did you wear a hat to homecoming?"
Kate's minnows nearly swam up her throat. "Yeah."
"It was pretty sweet."

The bus started to move and they were both quiet. The Hat. Kate searched for something interesting to say feeling like this was some kind of momentous occasion. 
"Have you been to D.C. before?"
"A couple of times, but not in a long time. You?"
Aaron nodded his head.

There was silence while Kate hoped that Aaron would ask her a question. But eventually Aaron pulled out his phone and put in his earbuds.

Kate pulled out the only thing worse to eat before 6am than a something fresh from a window marked drive-thru (as if it was pretentious to spell the word the way it appeared in a dictionary), a  partially smashed, 45 minute old Egg McMuffin, cooled down enough so that the grease had re-solidified into a white pox over the sausage patty and washed down with tepid orange juice from concentrate. In all of history it was one of the top 5 most fitting meals to match someone's mood ever eaten. It was the very definition of the taste of disappointed expectations. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Good News First

New to JA? Welcome! If you're feeling a bit lost, you should start from the beginning. Or if you want more general information, read What the heck is this?


Kate colored in the eighty-third square in the margin of her pre-cal notes. As for actual notes, she had written and underlined the day's date along the right-side of the page, and had put down one bullet point before completely losing interest. Mrs. Moss was tired and kept saying the wrong trig function. Kate figured that paying attention would actually be more detrimental to her GPA than figuring it out from the textbook, and so had spent the last seventeen and half minutes doodling in her margin.

"Mrs. Moss, what are you doing this weekend?," Greg said from the back of Kate's row, unabashedly trying to derail the scatterbrained woman.

"Not now, Greg. I'll let you go five minutes early."

Greg was clearly not overawed by five minutes when there were twenty-five to be had. "Are you going to set up a new hive?"
"Of course not, they say it's going to snow today."
"So...bees don't like snow?"
"Ha, they're all huddled together in their hive for warmth. Did you know that the bees don't allow the temperature to drop below 93 degrees in the section of the hive that holds the brood?"

Kate was mildly impressed at Greg's audacity, but  mostly just relieved that Mrs. Moss let him succeed so easily. Kate wondered if she really was as naive as she seemed, or if Mrs. Moss was a willing conspirator--sick of math and ready for Friday night. Pre-cal was obviously the no-man's land of math courses. Everyone that actually liked math or was particularly good at it was sitting in an actual calculus class. Everyone that actually struggled with math and needed an involved teacher to succeed was in Algebra II. Seventh period Pre-cal was a class filled with thoroughly mediocre seniors that were neither easy nor rewarding to teach. A hellish succession of not-that-bad nightmares that didn't even merit sympathetic gestures from the other teachers in the teacher's lounge.

Kate's weekend however, was another four hours from starting, regardless of whether the beekeeping Mrs. Moss stayed on topic or not. There was another choir concert tonight at King's Cross Episcopal Church, great acoustics, terribly uncomfortable pews. The pews were so uncomfortable that the designers must have taken to heart the sentiment that "all are sinners in the sight of God" and were proffering the pew as a passive penance for the plethora of offenses that Episcopalians were unrepentantly committing daily. By the end of the sermon Anglican buttocks had paid the price for not only changing lanes too abruptly and listening to unpurchased music on their ipods, but had been most egregiously chastised for all of the times the owner of said buttocks had lied in a voicemail. Sorry I haven't called back sooner I've been really busy lately [watching reruns of House].

Kate stood on top of the risers waiting for Ms. Mason to arrive and start the warm-ups. Ms. Mason was a tall, skinny, severe woman with a pointed chin that would've suited a goatee if it belonged to a man. She was probably about the same age as Kate' grandmother, maybe slightly younger, but there was nothing maternal about the woman. She ruled her choir so completely it would make the chairmen of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics jealous. Apparently, the vague promise of a solo if you won Ms. Mason's favor was enough to illicit complete and total submission. Autocrats look like brownie troop leaders next to control demonstrated in Mason's choracracy. The woman was ostensibly not even in the building and there they all stood, Rutherford High School Chorale hugging their music binders to their chests, standing in their places as if they weren't surrounded by a sea of empty seats (albeit, seats that outdo diamonds on the Rockwell scale).

Ms. Mason walked in attired in a black velvet blazer and those wide-leg skirt-pants that all female fine art teachers own. Everyone stood up straight and put their binders by their sides ready to start singing--figuratively wagging their tails.

"Great news, everyone," Ms. Mason said, pausing just to increase their anticipation for what she was going to say next. "I was late because I just received a call from the East Coast Choral Invitational-- in addition to Vermilion, they have invited Chorale to be the featured high school choir for the opening night. We're all going to D.C."

Kate was so excited she hardly even registered annoyance when Lauren Lance walked in late, but received a smile of all things from the fastidiously demanding Ms. Mason. Things were finally looking up for Kate Roy.

Julian arrived slightly late for mic-checks and rushed on stage. She said a few of her lines, and sang the loudest section of her song so they could calibrate the mic levels for the performance. She didn't dare look to stage right to the Stage Manger's podium. If she was going to be rejected, Julian  didn't want to deal with it before a performance. If she wasn't going to be rejected, Julian certainly didn't want to deal with it before a performance wherein she was supposed to be depressed. Fortunately, the severe sleep deprivation had let Julian fall asleep before she could berate herself too badly for the terrible timing of her gift to Walt. She hoped she could make it through the day--just the matinee and the evening performances--without talking to Walt.

But Julian wasn't relieved when everyone came together backstage for the pre-show ritual, and Walt met her eyes looked away and quickly fit into the circle on the complete opposite side of her. It was like  stepping on a glass splinter--no blood, just a sharp pain that was unforeseen and impossible to remove.   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Post-Dance Depression and Stage Therapy

New to JA? Welcome! If you're feeling a bit lost, you should start from the beginning. Or if you want more general information, read What the heck is this?

Chapter 9

Kate recoiled at the sight of herself in the mirror. The once impeccably applied eyeliner had now made a clone of itself in the crease of her eyelid and flecks of mascara had rained down across her face. The ghost of red lipstick past had wraithed itself seemingly around the entire bottom third of her face. And  it felt like she had worn holes in the balls of her feet with her bones. She wanted a hug. More specifically, she wanted a broad shouldered body to pull her tight against its chest and a low voice to tell her she looked wonderful tonight. But she had to settle with hugging her own knees and listening to her iPod. She was too underwhelmed with her evening to bother removing the horde of bobby pins trying to invade her skull. Kate fell asleep smearing the remains of her makeup against her flannel pajama pants. Fortunately at that moment, Kate was unaware that her paper that would be returned to her on Monday was a just barely acceptable to her B-, she would imminently be reassigned to the Soprano section, and her  16-year-old Collie would die by the end of the month. 

Unfortunately, Kate was also unaware that although not actually magic, the Hat had definitely improved Kate's standing the sight of someone who at that very moment was feeling a similar feeling of romance-loneliness. However, being a guy, it didn't surface as a desire to listen to Eric Clapton songs but rather a 3am solo fight as Master Chief against The Covenant.   


Julian waited between the folds of liquid black that were the curtains,breathing deliberately. She schooled her eyes to look anywhere but the stage manager's podium, and rubbed her thumbs slowly around the tips of her index fingers in concentration.

She was haunted by the ghost of Victor Hugo--driving her to embody his tragic heroine, to pay tribute to human suffering. She was trying to hone in on every feeling of desperation that she had ever felt in her short life. The lights went black and the microphone swap went smoothly, but Julian was like a spectator inside her own body. 

The electric energy of the audience flowed across the stage and jolted Fantine into existence like a flame taking to kindling.

And for the first time in her life, Julian was utterly uninterested in the future. The present line, the reaction, and the actors on stage completely encompassed all of her mental energy. The bright lights created an abyss beyond the edge of the stage, and in that moment those few hundred square feet between the curtains was the entire surface of the world. 

The opening chords of her song floated up from the pit, and Julian reached into her well of bleakness and sorrow that she had spent last night digging. In Flander's fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row. In her mind she could see the nightmare of mud, an endless line of trench packed with bodies both living and dead. Men once-boys that would never be able to dream of pleasant things. Youth squandered for nothing. A war that changed nothing. Julian took a deep breath and began to sing. The sorrow welling up seeped into her voice "I was young and unafraid and dreams were made and used and wasted." 

Then unbidden, long-pushed down childhood memories climbed into her mind. Christmas without her mom. Birthdays without her dad. The muffled slam of the car door from her bedroom the first night of her parent's separation. "And then the tigers come at night." Julian's eyes began to sting "with their voices soft as thunder."  She covered her ears at the memory of too many angry curses said by one parent to the other. And real tears rolled down for the fictional mother with the fictional daughter who was utterly alone in the world. 

When she exited the stage, it was a weird schizophrenic feeling. The real, biting sadness of her parent's divorce was left behind between the set pieces, compartmentalized and quarantined to the world where people spoke with scripted speech. Back in the dressing room, she was just a teenage girl in a funny dress wearing lots of makeup.

And the curtain call came, and Julian Agacelli took her bows to explosive applause. In the foyer of the theater complete strangers told her that she had been amazing, and when the cast and crew gathered for post-production notes Mr. Todd started by saying, "Ms. Agacelli, I would have loved to have seen that two weeks ago...but while your timing could've been better, your performance was spectacular." He reached out to shake her hand, but before he let her hand drop be pulled it towards him and looked her sternly in the eyes.  In a mocking but somewhat seriously threatening voice he continued, "You better do that tomorrow as well."

After the cast and crew had eaten a super-late celebratory dinner at IHOP, Julian noticed that Walt dropped everyone else off first, although he had passed through her subdivision once already. Alone in the car Julian was suddenly extremely nervous about the stupid eclipse coin. Walt hadn't seemed offish during the after-play hubub, but he hadn't seemed as friendly as usual either. 

"You did really great tonight Julian....it's kind of cathartic isn't it? Theater is like therapy. You meet your demons..."

Julian didn't want to talk about her demons. "Yeah..." The wound through the alternating light and dark patches created by the streetlights in silence. 

Walt took a deep breath. "...Julian?"

"Yeah" Julian was waiting for the let down with the sort of macabre anticipation one feels when walking by a run-over animal. Walt was a nice guy and Julian figured he didn't know how to tell her he wasn't really interested. 
"...uh..." He fiddled with the A/C. "...I" Julian sighed silently to herself. 
Walt started again as he pulled onto her street. "um...don't psych yourself out for tomorrow. It's hard to repeat a really good performance when you focus too much on other people's expectations instead of...whatever it was--that made it seem real. You'll be incredible, like you always are."

Julian opened the door guessing correctly that that wasn't what Walt had intended to say. She couldn't even stop herself from feeling giddy at his last compliment even though she believed she knew that he had given it out of pity. 

As Julian walked into her front room, Walt slapped the steering wheel punishing the poor Corolla for his own hesitancy.