Friday, January 14, 2011
Standing on the corner as I pass are Mr. Ex and the Little Missus and a half-dozen of their uber-couture-let's-wear-all-our-money-on-our-backs friends. The Little Missus has a new haircut--a curly bob and it's hanging in her eyes. When she sees me she covers her head with her shawl. I ignore all of them and rush first into the restaurant to sort things out there and then into the lobby of the theater. Having four tickets is a hassle, and I'm embarrassed that it's just me when I hand them to the usher. But once I'm seated, I realize I'm in the play so the extra tickets are the least of my worries. This piece of theater is something new. Part improv and part scripted. An audience member gets put into the play each night--and tonight it's me. My seat is near the set and a spotlight is focused on me when I have something to say. I'm a wife in the play, and my husband is played by my old boyfriend, Billy, who has decided to take an acting job even though he's an award winning writer now in real life. There's stress in our marriage--our pretend theater-piece marriage.
Or maybe the stress is between Mr. Ex and me.
Real life and the play get mixed up at this point in the dream.
Billy The Husband is sick or he's an addict while Mr. Ex has to have some sort of surgery that is supposed to be minor but isn't. There are letters on the top shelf of a living room armoire addressed to me in the event of my husband's death (whoever he is--Billy or Mr. Ex,) and I wonder if the Little Missus knows that her dying husband is writing to me with his last wishes.
Somehow I survive the First Act.
During intermission, I offer to babysit for my friend Elizabeth's boys so she can see the rest of the play. They are little boys--maybe 5 and 3, and there's a special room that the usher tells me to take them to where they can be put to bed. The room is raked like an Elizabethan stage and the floor is padded. There are two antique beds that look like they've come out of theater storage. I get the boys settled in a corner and cover them up. They are wearing matching sets of pajamas, but they're uneasy. They miss their mom. Still they seem receptive to me. I'm trying hard to make them happy. I'm fixing them up a night light but it can't be too bright because there's an actor in the room trying to sleep before his next entrance. At last I settle on a flashlight that I rig up by clamping it to the drawer of a large desk. The drawer is full of things that a lighting technician might use--gels and gel frames, a wrench. The flashlight projects the night sky onto the ceiling, and the boys are suffiently comforted to let me leave.
When I enter the theater, the show is not in progress. There's a warm up act or some sort of improv going on. When I arrive the audience begins to murmur. They seem excited that I'm ready to begin, and then it's silent. They are waiting for the Second Act. Lights up. Billy The Husband enters. "You look like fuck-all," I say. "You're a fucking addict, and I don't care who knows it." Billy The Husband looks awful. His honey-colored curls are dirty, and there are immense dark circles under his eyes. I begin to cry and the audience gasps. We are all suffering.