Exit Stage Left – chapter 4 & 5

By C Parke

Image: Gwen King

Chapter 4

The following two days were weird. On Monday, I was at rehearsals since we had some new cast members that needed to learn the dance routines and introduce themselves to the rest of us. This is a typical scene for me a large, empty room packed to the brim with performers moving in unison, with a giant mirror in front of us that took up the entirety of the left-hand wall. The director asked me to help out one of the new crew members struggling with the steps to the ending song. Wanting to be of assistance, I took her into a separate room for private coaching while having some small talk. “So, what’s your name?” I begin with, “Anna, and you are?” “Daniel,” I inform her. She shakes my hand and says, “It’s nice to meet you, Daniel.”

Anna seemed like the shy type; she was shorter than me with pale skin, emerald green eyes and red hair. She wore grey tracksuit bottoms and a purple exercise t-shirt, typical attire for rehearsals. Anna appeared to be an amiable and polite person, but I already knew why she was cast as an extra. She didn’t have the stage presence needed for the leading role. People used to say that I was pretentious about this sort of thing, but it’s true, to make it in show business, you need a certain kind of aura, one of confidence and ambition, take Lucy, for example, she exudes an outgoing and self-assured nature, she’s a natural fit for the leading lady. Anna, however, didn’t strike me as someone who could handle the pressure of being the main character.

I guided Anna into the changing room for a bit of privacy, and I asked her, “So what part are you struggling on?” she replied, “You know that bit with the spinning jump?” “Oh yeah, that, don’t worry, it’s a synch once you get the hang of it,” I assure her. I then ready myself. “First of all, Anna, just stand there and watch me do it.” I take a few breaths, and then I leap like a rocket into the air doing two twirls but instead of landing on my feet like I usually do, as soon as my right leg hits the ground, it suddenly spasms, and I land face-first on the floor. “Ow…Shit,” I mumble, “Oh God, are you okay?!” she yells, crouching down next to me. “Yeah… Fine, thanks.” I get up rather embarrassed and with my head slightly bruised.

“You hit your head pretty bad there. Are you sure you’re alright?” she persists. I get back on my feet and say to Anna, “Don’t worry, I’m okay, just ignore that, this is how you properly do it,” I tell her quickly, wanting the moment to pass I try again and do it perfectly this time, but with my confidence shaken a little bit. “Now follow my movements, and we’ll do it together, don’t worry, you’ll learn it soon enough” after about fifteen minutes, she was able to get the hang of the twirling jump and afterwards, I sent her on her way “We probably should get back to the others but great job. Take a few minutes each day to practice that, and it will become second nature soon enough.” She smiles and says, “Thanks Daniel, but be careful next time you don’t wanna hurt yourself in front of the audience” “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, just don’t mention that little incident to the others.” I was pretty embarrassed. This was one of the new crew. She looks at me for guidance, and our first interaction has me tripping over like a bumbling fool, but never mind, she’s gotten the hang of it now. I’ve done my good deed for today. That spasm was strange though I had never felt anything like it before. It was like my leg had a mind of its own.

The next day, I tried to forget about that minor incident as I was performing on stage, but I had this sudden urge to urinate as soon as we reached the interval. My pelvis seized up as I bolted for the toilets dashing through the hallway. But while I was running my vision suddenly became blurry, like when you emerge from the water after opening your eyes. Because of this, I stumble into a box full of props on my way there, probably looking like a complete idiot. When I reached the toilets, I made my way immediately to the middle urinal despite two other people already being to my left and right. I felt humiliated about this, Lucy and the others must have thought I was mad dashing off the stage at a breakneck pace, but I couldn’t hold it any longer. Not only that, but I felt far more tired than I usually do. After all the time I’ve been doing this, I hardly break a sweat after Act 1. Now it’s like I had just completed half a marathon. I wondered what was going on but not for long because I was soon needed back on stage.

I was worried on the ride back home but ultimately dismissed both of these incidents as nothing. Unfortunately, it was only the start of something terrible.

 (Funny how easily we trick ourselves with comforting lies)

Chapter 5

I tried to dismiss the fatigue and the spasms as a one-time thing over the coming days. One evening Lucy and I were riding back home on the train while telling me about her first time babysitting her nephew. “So my sister Ruby asked me to look after Thomas on Sunday while she and Nick had a day out. She usually trusts Thomas with Mum when she’s away. Ruby knows I’ve never looked after a child before.” I was surprised by this Lucy always seemed like the mothering type “I reckon you’d be good at that sort of thing, you’re always on people’s cases about arriving on stage on time and giving them an earful when their costumes are dirty, just like any pain in the ass mother!”

Lucy didn’t find that comment particularly funny she just rolled her eyes and said, “Anyway, she’s right I’ve never really done anything like this before, I’ve always been the youngest sister, the youngest cousin, the other kids of my neighbourhood were mostly older than me, so I wanted to make sure Ruby knew I could be a responsible child-carer, so I baby proofed my whole apartment!” I was a bit confused, so I asked, “Wait, how old is he?” she paused for a moment looking a bit guilty and muttered, “He’s nine.” “Nine?!” I exclaimed. “He’s nine years old, and you baby proofed your whole apartment, that’s ridiculous!”.

“Daniel, be quiet. Besides, you don’t realise how dangerous a home is until there’s someone vulnerable in it, so I removed all the heavy things from the shelves, cleaned everything up off the floor and kept the cleaning detergent far out of his reach.” I furrowed my brow. “Really? Four-year-olds would drink cleaning products. That’s just excessive. He’s not stupid.” Lucy was getting flustered. “Well…Well, I was doing it for his safety.” Finally ending the sarcasm, I responded, “You panic too much, Lucy if you keep on fearing about what could happen, you’ll forget to enjoy life, besides when you’re worried about something, you need to figure out in your head whether the thing, you’re worrying over could probably happen or possibly happen, if you keep on thinking about the terrible things that might occur, well that’s no way to live at all.”

She sighed and said, “You’re probably right. I think I was getting on his nerves. I offered to cut up his food for him at dinnertime, and he said he could do it himself. I took him to the park in the afternoon, and whenever we would cross the road, I made sure to hold his hand, but he always looked both ways before we crossed without me telling him to. He seems like a sensible lad.” “See? You’re making mountains out of molehills if you dote on him too much. He won’t want to spend time with you anymore.” I affirm. Lucy seemed frustrated with herself. “It’s just… I want to be a mother someday, so I was really excited but also really nervous about looking after Thomas.” I can be kind of a dick sometimes (especially back then), so I decided to comfort her. “Thomas is lucky to have such a kind person like you as an aunt, but you need to know when to give people space and when to respect their intelligence.”

She sat back, realising how irritating she must have come across and asked, “What is it like having a little brother?” I tell her, “It’s… Nice, I mean when Gabriel was young, I teased him a lot, telling him ghost stories that would keep him up all night and threatening to reveal his secret that he practised kissing on Barbie dolls to his friends, but on the other hand, it was fun having someone to play football with and watch movies together.” Lucy stared at her reflection in the train’s window. She said, “Ruby and I never had a lot in common she enjoyed drawing and fashion while I was the extrovert,  always going outside running around and getting dirty, we didn’t connect then, and I still feel a little distant towards her now, it might be because she’s twelve years older.” “Well, what can I say, Lucy? No one can choose their family.” Lucy turned her head to me and said, “No, they can’t, Daniel.”

The train arrived at my station, so Lucy and I said our goodbyes. I was having a good day and mostly forgot about the leg spasm incident and the toilet emergency, but as I was walking through the station all of a sudden, my vision became blurry again, and I found myself bumping into an older man. “Hey, watch where you’re going!” he yelled. “Uh, sorry,” I mumbled in response. I had to sit down for a minute to regain my sight, and with another concerning symptom, I carried on home.

(It was yet another sign of the catastrophe soon to come)

To be continued…

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