It was New York. I was backstage trying to put my makeup on in front of one of those long mirrors with the light bulbs around them but there was an annoying person on either side of me also getting made up and I kept getting pushed into the wall bit between each mirror so I couldn’t see myself. I looked down at the Chinese guy to my left, getting styled by a hair-and-makeup artist.
“Can you move?” I asked.
He looked up at me. His face was round. He wasn’t fussed by me.
“This is my mirror,” I continued. “Can you go back to yours?”
It was that Theatre de Soleil backstage I always go to in my dreams - vast, unruly, dark. Dim-lit by lamps. I had that feeling I wasn’t going to be ready for my call. Natalie Portman passed me in her tutu, scowling.
The Chinese guy got up and left. I sat in the chair.
The show was to begin. All the hundreds of cast members assembled outside the building, ready to go downtown to the theatre. I was the lead. The Love was there, and Kiki. We all began to walk in a procession towards the theatre which was an enormous presidential building. It wasn’t far from the ‘backstage’ place, only a few blocks. I had a large piece of fibreglass shaped slightly like a sled and I said to them,
“See you there,”
and they waved me goodbye as I sat down on the sled and whooshed away down the street leaving them all behind.
I sailed through traffic lights, the speed was crazy. I knew if I fell I’d graze myself very badly – perhaps take all the skin off my face and palms – but I somehow knew I wouldn’t fall. It was still scary though, enough to be fun. I zipped past streets and crowds and that’s when I realised that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to be in New York and to learn from great writers. And that’s when I discovered that I’d gone way past the theatre. And that I didn’t actually know exactly what the theatre looked like or what it was called. And that it was 6:55 and that my call was 7pm. Curtain was 7:30.
My heart beat hard.
I arrived safely at the bottom of the hill. It was evening and I was at that other dream place that’s the shopping mall thing in the New York that’s not New York and there was this reggae band playing. The band was friendly. I walked up to them. They were speaking French. It was comforting. I wanted to ask them where the theatre was but I didn’t know its name or what it looked like so my voice caught in my throat. The saxophonist stopped playing and looked at me sympathetically. I tried to explain my situation in French and then I said,
“Would you prefer me to speak in French or English?”
And he said,
“English is fine. After all, we are in New York.”
So I tried to explain in English that I was lost and that I was trying to get back up the hill to the theatre whose name I didn’t know and then I started getting anxious that I was going to miss the show. What would they do without me? Cancel? All those people! I looked up at the reggae guy, lost. I was sure he thought I was mad. But he smiled and put his arm around me. Then the band stopped playing and we all walked away together. To where I can’t remember.