In The Depths

Loneliness is like a deep dark void, with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. As much as I try, I just get deeper into the depths of loneliness, and into the depths of my soul. I just want to get out. I don't deserve this.

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19. A New Play Begins A New Life

Roughly a month has passed since the alcoholic buzz with Harry.

Since then, my annoying crutches have been safely put away in the corner of my garage. They attract cobwebs, it seems. The doctor said my hip would be better and I could ditch the metal sticks of torture, as long as I wear this undeniably large bandage over the left side of the pelvis.

The drama club in which I participate in has been absolutely a blur of happiness and singing. Francisco has really beaten us with all the practicing, making us spend five hours in the theater daily. We would have to belt out songs so loud that people would squeeze their hands to their ears. Exercises like fake kissing and fake punching have been thrown out there. I’ve got to admit, I despise the kissing. I’m the only gay male in the class, so I had to kiss a lot of girls. Humiliating.

The play is tonight. Harry has been bathing me in hair gel and nose kisses. Nervousness has washed over my body, but I don’t speak of it. After all, this is my first real play. People pay good money to see me sing and dance and portray an evil old man.

“Louis,” Harry snickers at my outfit. “You look hot as an old guy.”

I brush off the ironic compliment with a red face. We’re behind the set of the stage. Others run around us, panicked and hurried as the clock ticks down to show time. I find myself glancing down at my watch from time to time. I tell myself to stop the nervous habit, but my glances take over the better part of me.

“There’s five minutes,” I hiss through my teeth. “Oh shit I’m sweating.”

Harry smirks at my comment and brushes down the fabric of my thick coat with his hands. “Nobody can see your sweat, Lou. Plus, you’ll be fine. I always hear you sing in the shower and your voice is gnarly.”

“Thanks, but it’s not gnarly I’m aiming for. I’m looking for mentally scarred French slave owner.”

Harry’s eyes widen as a vibration rings in our ears. “Let me get this,” he says and holds up a finger. “It’s Will.” He fishes for his phone in his pocket.

Will has been completely nuts lately. He’s been avoiding contact with Harry and me; because all that’s been buzzing through his mind was his old girlfriend. Jamie, his long lost love, has been rumored to move back to the United Kingdom. Neither Harry nor I have any idea of how he heard this impossible possibility. But, Will is one hundred percent sold, thus trying to contact her in any way possible.

I told him that she probably has a new boyfriend by now. When I told him that, he looked at me straight in the eyes and uttered:

“She won’t have a new boyfriend, girlfriend, or any significant other. Because I loved her so much that it hurt. I still do. Every morning I ache with the feeling of desperation. I need her, and she needs me. When she left she told me she would come back. Ever since then, I’m been staring at my phone, hoping and praying that a text would reveal the news of her moving back. So of course she still loves me. She must.” His eyes fluttered as he took in a sharp, painful breath. “She has to still love me.”

I felt-and still feel- sorry for Will. He truly believes that Jamie has an undying love for him. If she does, that’s cool. But if she doesn’t, Will’s heart will we broken glass that Harry and I have to step on.

“Louis!” Francisco’s large hand cups my shoulder. “Harry just left. He was on the phone. Anyway, the show starts in four minutes.”

“I’m so nervous, dude.”

Francisco rolls his eyes and sighs. Even his sighs have a Scottish accent. “Louis, you’ll be fine. Half these people have never been on stage before, just like you. You have to become the character. Sing your heart out.”

“I’m just-” I sigh and look at my shoes; black boots that reach my knees under thick pantaloons. “Okay. Okay. I got this.”

Francisco squeezes my shoulder. “You’re on first, kid. Go to the stairs next to the stage now.” With a curt nod of the head and a wave of his hand, he jogs away.

The stage steps are closer than I thought. With just a few sweaty and grotesque steps, I stand at the bottom of ten black stairs. The black steps lead up onto the stage.

Darkness swallows the corner in which I stand on. Nobody cares for lights here. I remember a kid say that the darker the stairs are, the brighter the stage seems. From here I can see bits of the pit orchestra down below. The conductor gnaws his lips and shakes his head as violins scurry to tune the strings. Trumpeters stare at their music, then at their trumpets, then at the music again.

Though the music may sound so beautiful and strong, the players are actually nervous. Same goes for the actors. I figure this nervousness drives us to do better. The more nervous, the more determined we will become as the play sets out.

I catch the eye of the only pianist. Her short brown hair barely reaches her shoulders and her thick glasses look like tens of pounds on her nose. She smiles with a wave of her well-manicured hands. I smile back. A bit of confidence trickles into my system.

“One minute.” A gruff whisper breaks off my eye contact. I turn to the left to face one of the actors portraying one of my slaves. His face is smeared with fake dirt, and his lip trickles with the remnants of draw-on-stage blood. A hand rakes through his thick, black hair. “Are you nervous?”

“Yes. I start this whole bloody show. What if I screw up?”

The conductor of the orchestra raises his baton.

“You won’t. Believe in yourself. I’ve been doing this for five years now, and the feeling when your shoe hits the stage is like no other.” He looks around. The music starts playing. “Good luck. You’re going on in a few seconds.”

So he backs away, and I’m alone at the bottom of the stairs and I’m nervous and I’m sweating and time is ticking and I am the leader of this whole goddamn play. So as the precious seconds slip from my fingertips, I close my eyes for one moment before letting courage wrap its claws around me. Now is my time to step onto the stage and begin my career for good.

Somebody pulls me by the scruff of my sweater and drags me away from the heaven which is the stage and my future.

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