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“Thank you, five” are the heaviest words I know. My acting coach used to say that by the time you say that thank you, five “you’d better be so into your character you can smell their breakfast on your breath…”
So, sorry, I probably should have started this differently. “Thank you, five” are the heaviest words I, Jennifer, know. But “Thank you, five” doesn’t mean much to ‘me’, Tartaglia.
Shake it off. Start again.
Breathe in. Specifics of: Anger. You are as angry as if you just watched your father smash your computer with a wrench the night before your English final was due. I closed my eyes to greet the familiar rush; it closed cracked fingers around me. My back shivered slightly as the fingers slid down into my gut.
Tartaglia isn’t quite here yet. I guess that’s alright- three more dress rehearsals until we go up on Friday. I should save my energy, anyway.
“…she never told me you played the piano…” They had set up that speaker in here just for me. The words signaled me to rise to my full height. I had three minutes to be on stage and I couldn’t get myself in it. There was something about Margot coming to my rehearsals that always made me nervous. I mean, she came most days. She was that kind of aunt. I could imagine that to most people, Margot was an ominous shadow who always sat in that back corner of the auditorium. “Jenny! On in two…”
My ballet flats made graceless as I walked through past the prop table. I never took a dance class, like most actors- I haven’t the nerve. Or, well, my grandmother used to tell me I was too fat to dance. “They wouldn’t be able to fit you into the costumes, my dear…”
Tartaglia’s dress was a little bizarre. It cut just above my knees. I think they’re called pantaloons? A combination of that fabric and the lights would surely have me, yes me, Jenny, sweating in seconds. Tartaglia doesn’t care, Jen…
Mom was never allowed to be on stage; that was Margot’s job. That is my job.
When I was younger, I used to love to play with her fingers. They were so long and delicate. They would dance across the piano every night until someone took them off. A pure dance of nature she was, as soon as she allowed it, like a flowing stream hitting keys daintily, but with purpose. Deep breath.
Imagination does incredible things: we can hide in it, we can learn from it. It can let us become someone else. My imagination even made me think I had an aunt named Margot. There are some things, some people, we only know through their absence. We can paint them into our tangible lives; our imagination as our canvas, colored only by the stories they leave behind. Margot’s brush was filled with music. In my mind, she is a spectator at my shows, sitting in the back of the auditorium humming alone and smiling as I sing.
Instead, my grandfather comes in her place. I’ve only looked out at him once when I was on stage. His eyes were closed. He let tears fall in the silence of that audience. That’s another thing about absence: in its presence, nothing sounds the same.
For me, you were never absent, Margot. Not really. You were always there, back left corner of whatever auditorium I was in. You often nod your head, too. Sometimes in approval, but not always.