Yesterday, I hopped on a train to New Jersey to audition for a play. On the way there, taking a break from prepping my sides and gazing out the window, I casually checked my iPhone email. I received a brief, incredibly passive aggressive email from an agent (this was in response to a recommendation email sent on my behalf, which I’d followed up on Monday with, granted, a long-ish email introducing myself). This is not “the” agent I’d met, but it’s his superior in the agency. I have a pretty tough skin in terms of rejection, but this, for whatever reason, went deeper. I felt prickles run up and down my skin, and I knew my face was flushed. My breathing didn’t even change as tears began to roll down my cheeks. Goddamn it, I’d already put on makeup.
I had about forty five minutes left on the train and could barely put myself back together. I reapplied my mascara once, twice, listened to mood-bolstering music, carved the words “I AM ENOUGH” onto my upper thigh in pen, just to have under my shorts all day… Yet I still felt physically ill. I wandered through this po’dunk New Jersey town, crunching on broken glass bottles with my converse sneakers, getting honked at by semi-truck drivers, observing this tiny, terrible, Detroit-level disaster of a town as if out of a thick, bottle top glasses through a haze.
I had an hour to kill, so I wandered towards the shore, my iPhone map guiding me along “Broadway” towards a county highway, past abandoned buildings and split-levels rimmed by fenced in dumps, feeling lonelier and less safe than I ever do in New York City. Once I’d crossed the threshold of the highway, I found myself in another world, of Gold’s Gyms and microbreweries and apartment complexes named for beaches and purported paradises. I ambled towards the sound of the shore, my styled hair already beginning to frizz in the humid air. The air was thick with it, and warm, but as I found myself standing on a cement boardwalk gazing over a sand back towards the sea, I caught a brief whiff of the sweet, earthy scent of the ocean. I planted on a bench nearby, dropped my backpack and crossed my legs and breathed as more tears slid into the wrinkles to the sides of my eyes, dripping then into my ears. I still felt like I was observing the world through a thick fog, I was invisible in my “moment.” And it was odd… no one looked twice at the girl on the bench silently weeping over the ocean. I’ve found that when I cry in public in NYC, I am always stopped: “Are you okay?” “Do you need a Kleenex?” or just, “Here you go, here’s a tissue, sweetie. Feel better.” It was odd to be ignored– not good or bad, just… different.
After a while, I wiped the final drips of tears from my face with a corner of my sweater and hiked my backpack back on. I knew the way back, now, and I simply took one step at a time, confined to my own bubble of feeling, and hopefully, thereby impervious to the outside world. I simply didn’t have the energy to deal with the “Hey mami! Hey pay attention!”s or the stares of the women from out of their stores of santeria (seriously) or the stoners and drug addicts nestled in shop corners.
I reached the theatre (if you can call it that) and sat on a cement bench in a small area between the parking lot, a foreman’s office, and an abandoned bank. For the first time since deleting that email, I pulled out my phone, and for the first time all day, I reached out. “Hey buddy,” I texted to my friend P, “Having a really bad day and now I’m in Jersey. Can I get a digital hug?” I set down my phone and set myself to the task of doing SOMETHING with my now-ruined face and non-compliant hair. After a moment or two of brushing my hair actually out of my scalp and caking foundation underneath my puffy eyes, I felt the buzz of a reply text. “Of course! **HUG** What’s wrong, princess?”
I wasn’t going to tell anyone, I mostly just wanted a hug. And I could very easily just get by on the warmth of feeling growing in my chest from what I knew that **HUG** would be in real life, but I texted him back. Started out with few details, then added some more, and he responded with compassion and understanding and just enough suggestions for ways to feel better that I actually became excited about something again… namely, drinking delicious cocktails at my new favorite bar in Midtown. He did it. And I did it for reaching out. I knew he was the right one.
And then the whole reason I went there in the first place. I walked into a glorified storefront, where an overdecorated hall led to what I assumed to be the theatre. I could hear someone acting from back there, quite clearly in fact, a pretty bad sign in general. I met the stage manager (?) who took my headshots and my intake form and directed me to the waiting room/lobby. There were about five other people there, none reading for my role until towards the end, when a tiny little girl approached (the character is like… 16ish). I pulled out my sides, but let them simply sit on my lap as I watched the other actors sit in that room. Some were nervous, some couldn’t care less, some seemed like they were old hats at this theatre, and I knew I looked completely out of place.
Finally, they called my name and I entered the… theatre. It was a weird, wide rectangular space with three long rows raised above the stage floor. It seemed disproportional to me, and also really, really, really small. No more than 45 people could possibly fit. How do they make money? I introduced myself to the director and the Artistic Director, and in very short order I started the sides. Luckily my reader was good, so that was something, and they let me get all the way through. I hadn’t planned on doing an accent, but since the other guy was and I totally can, I let it slip right in through the second half. He had me do the side again, more playfully and teasingly. Girl, I was born for that. After I finished a second time, he asked how tall I was. And YUP, that’s when I realized what a waste this was. If I seemed tall in this space, then everyone who is supposed to play older than 16 is fucked. And I’m 5’5″. He also complimented my work quite effusively and sincerely, but I knew I was done and I was really ready to go home.
I finished, relieved, packed up my stuff and walked back down Least Cool Town Lane to the train station. I picked up an Izze and a snack at the Rite Aid (hadn’t eaten since 10am and was about to drink) and waited. The entire train ride back, I was in a much better mood. I listed to Mindy Kaling’s audiobook, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, which is no Bossypants, but is still pretty delightful. I love to hear her voice and I love how unabashedly her girlie, sassy, determined, but also average Mindy is. I like to think we’d be friends.
I arrived back and headed uptown to meet P at Breeze after changing into a dress and my favorite gray bootie heels for the show. Oh, I didn’t tell you? I saw WIT on Broadway (play about cancer with Cynthia Nixon) for free with my friend L (friend with lymphoma), and afterwards, I’d spoken to my friend who is an understudy and she brought us to meet Cynthia Nixon. In other words, no big.
P and I drank and talked and got well-soused on their delicious drinks (mai tai and Blue Moon for him, “kimono” sake cocktails for me), and I remembered why I am the luckiest and have the most amazing friends. He in particular is easy to talk to, smart, funny, willing to let me go a little bit mad and still think I’m special. About four drinks and two hours later, it was time for WIT. We paid (only about $10 each, because Breeze is the BEST), and parted ways on 47th St, where I met L, her mom, and our friend N.
The show was brilliant. Truly. As was Cynthia Nixon. And when my friend found us at the stage door and pulled us backstage, I felt a little like I was going to die and I was so proud of being the best friend on the planet. She guided us up the stairs towards the dressing rooms, past other actors, and past VANESSA REDGRAVE NO BIG DEAL JUST THE BIGGEST DEAL and finally into Cynthia’s dressing room. It all went very fast– L introduced herself, hugged Cynthia, Cynthia gave her a book, the rest of us introduced ourselves briefly, and then I helped L’s mom get her phone to take a picture of us. I, at least, was on air all the way out of the theatre. We capped the night with one more delicious cocktail and a yummy meal at one of my favorite restaurants. L and her mom dropped me at my apartment in a cab on their way home, and I went straight to bed, but not after posting this picture on Facebook for all to see:
L, Cynthia, Me
And I didn’t even notice until this evening that “I AM ENOUGH” was still visible on my upper thigh. And over 24 hours later, I’m beginning to believe it.
P.S. I’ve been bingeing a lot in the last couple of days, which I do want to write about, but not in this post. Soon. Also, more updates on the boy front. Also for another time.
“Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness. I thought being extremely smart would take care of it. But I see I have been found out.”
― Margaret Edson, Wit