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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11. I Came Here To Act

“Actors!” Francisco paces back and forth, tap shoes clicking against the hard floor of the dance studio. “You are all actors and actresses, here to pursue a dream! Your minds and souls have one purpose: to become a man or woman that you are not, to take upon a role in this business that casts spirit through your veins! All of you are here to act!” He claps his hands loudly, echoing around the studio.

I, along with many other young adults, stand in the rehearsal studio. It’s the first day meeting with the cast of Les Miserables. Good news: Francisco said everybody would get a part, even if it isn’t a main part. Who knows, maybe I’ll be a flower in the background.

I feel accepted, to say the least. These strangers around me really express themselves; they’re different. A girl has a shaved head, tattooed flames spurting from her neck. A boy wears a skin-tight tank top, reading, I’m Asian. Deal with it, humans. A man wears bright green eye shadow, her hair grown out and put into a braid. She’s clearly a transgender, and I accept it. Everybody seems to accept it.

“Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a play before,” Francisco instructs.

A freckle-faced girl raises her hand, saying, “Does a Valentine’s Day play in second grade count?”

“Oh yes!” Francisco says, laughing with glee. He skips around the room, enjoying every second of every minute spent. “All plays count!”

A shy, teenaged boy mutters, “I’ve never been in a play.”

Francisco smiles, cocks his head, and places a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Doesn’t matter, kid. Here is a fresh start. You will learn the basics of acting, and soon be the best damn actor ever.”

Francisco turns around, beaming and throwing his hands in the air. “All of you will walk out of these doors by the end of this month, and be a new person!”

He stands in front of the cluster, clapping again. “Alright, now to introduce ourselves. Each and every one of you will come up here, say your age, your name, and show us something cool you can do.”

Cool? I can’t do anything cool! Well, if making three double chins counts as cool, then I eat cool for breakfast.

“I’ll start off my introducing myself.” He cracks his knuckles.

“I am Francisco. I’m thirty-three, and quite frankly, I think just existing is pretty cool. I mean, who would be teaching you guys if my person did not exist?” He chuckles, shaking his head with a smile as he walked to the back.

The transgender dude walks up first, clicking her tongue against her mouth.  I spot a line of mustache hairs upon her lip, matching mine. Nice mustache style, I decide.

“My name is Sarah,” she smiles, bowing. “Well, my birth name was Charles, but all of you guys can call me Sarah.”

A chorus of “Hi Sarah” fills the room.

“I’m twenty seven. And um, something cool?” She looks down at her feet, pondering. Suddenly her head snaps up. “I can play ukulele pretty well, but I doubt there’s one in this joint.”

“Expect the unexpected,” Francisco interrupts from the back, fishing a ukulele from a bin and giving it to her. “Play your heart out, Sarah.”

Sarah laughs, putting her well-manicured fingers to the neck.

She strums.

We listen.  

At the end of her Hawaiian version of Bohemian Rhapsody, (don’t ask me how she managed to do those high notes), we applaud her.  By now, the feeling of courage is looming around the room, so basically everybody feels like they can do anything.

And that’s what I’m feeling.

“Can I go next?” I ask Francisco, feeling like a boy in elementary school again.

He chuckles, nodding ever so slightly. “Of course.”

I make my way to the front of the room, shoes squeaking against the glazed wood. All is silent. I suddenly don’t feel as courageous.

Um,” I pause. “I’m Louis.”

Chants of hi’s and hello’s exit from peoples’ mouths as they stare curiously at me. I feel under pressure, to say the least.

“I’m twenty one.”

People nod. Somebody coughs.

“Cool? Something cool? Um… I can, um.” I suddenly feel like such a dick. I come up here with nothing to do.

“Hey kid,” Francisco yells from the back. “Get off the stage, sucker!” He gives me a thumbs-down.

That, although out of the blue, hits me out of nowhere. Suddenly he’s all nice and now this? You think you get to know a guy…

“Hey,” I snap. “No need for immature insults, Francisco. This isn’t sixth grade.”

Francisco cocks his head. “You would know, kid. I can see the look in your eyes as you went up here. The blackness of your pupils. The furrowing of your eyebrows. You’re scared, Louis. You’re scared of this group of, what, twenty people? Weak.”

Suddenly the audience is gone. It’s just me and Francisco. An angry me and Francisco. “Do not even insult me. Don’t you dare try. I came here for an escape. I came to this theatre to find a passion. I came here to act!” I raise my voice at the last sentence, my words hanging in the silent air. Stunned students blink at me.

Francisco stares at me. I meet his stare. And suddenly, he laughs. His laughing gets louder and louder until he is practically doubling over. I feel my face go red. He walks over to me, patting me on the back.

“And act you did!” He exclaims. “What a great actor you are, my friend!”

“What? You weren’t being serious?”

“No,” he smiles. “I was showing these beautiful people that you can do something cool. You can act.”

I feel myself smiling, flustered. Francisco leans his chestnut lips to my ear. “And you’re pretty damn good at it.”

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