The sheet that had been given to me said she wanted, no sorry, ‘needed’ a single spotlight just off centre. All these young actresses, no longer bright eyed and busy tailed, still looking at their lines and lyrics they’d been rehearsing all week, entering the theatre, adorned with modesty, and ‘yes sirs’, ‘no sirs’, ‘and thank you sirs’ before I’d even said anything.
Now…their faces are glued to their phone screens, taking pictures of themselves, pushing their tits up for a camera, strolling on to the stage like it owes them something, with no sense of awe; and no one says ‘sir’ anymore. There was no day I didn’t sit here, sweat dripping down my back because the manager wouldn’t get the fucking heating fucking fixed, that I wouldn’t take a gun, and mow down every damned girl, before, during, and after their audition, before topping myself for allowing them to enter this hallowed place. I no longer spent the night before researching the hundreds of girls, trying to get a head start on my first impressions. Every tune, every lyric, I dreaded. Today was no exception.
She came on to the stage, skittish like a deer who’d be spooked by a far off gun shot. Hers was the first ‘sir’ I’d heard in this theatre in almost a decade. She begged pardon for her hair, her clothes, and the plaster on her knee. Avoiding direct eye contact, she asked if she may give us all another copy of her résumé- I merely gestured for her to approach.
She returned to her single off centre spotlight, nodded to the pianist, and opened her mouth. Oh, how many years had it been since I’d heard that song? Every note, trickle of melody and harmony, came back to me. I could feel myself subconsciously mouth the words, a musical muscle memory. I hoped Jack and Dan didn’t notice this, nor the tears that had begun to roll down my cheeks, one even resting on the tip of my nose.
Each word that came from her mouth took me further and further back. I could see the open air cinema from our 30th anniversary, our 25th, 15th, 5th, all the way back to our very first date. Closing my eyes, I saw the night I proposed. We’d given up on the tent; he was just desperate to sleep under the stars anyway like he did when he was a kid. We left the car running, the radio playing for naught (a word he taught me) but our ears and the night. As soon as I heard this song, this same song that this ingénue now graced us with, I knew that I wanted to marry him. It took him ‘til the end of the song to say yes.
So many memories all woven into each sound, each key change and lyric, like a series of sentimental chords played alongside the melody. I could do nothing to prevent them from coming. It wasn’t until Dan budged me with his elbow that I realised that she was done.
‘Thank you, erm, Lydia, right? If you could just tell the next girl to come in, that’d be great, thanks.’ Dan looked at Jack; Jack looked at Dan, and they both looked at me. They shook their heads.
by James Reynolds
[20/02/17: Odious, ‘Fools Who Dream’- La La Land]