eighteen. post-natal audition

Act One

– Congratulations!
– Thanks, Christopher.
– What a performance!
– …just a lovely audience…
– You’re a marvellous Helena, darling.
– Thanks Christopher. Thanks for the gig.
– Of course! You’re part of the family!

– Speaking of families…funny you should say that…
– You’re not…oh darling…is that why you’re drinking —
– Soda? Yes. We wanted to wait twelve weeks till we…
– Yes, yes I understand. Well. Isn’t this exciting news.

– I don’t think the costumes will need altering…
– This will change your life you know.
(Laughing) Yes, all the fathers are warning…
– This will ruin your career.

– What did you say?
– Acting and motherhood — It won’t work.

Act Two

– Hi my name’s Tiffany, I’m represented by LLA, and these are my profiles.

She turns to her right. Turns to her left. Back to camera.

– Thanks darling, and can you just drop the robe now please?

She hesitates for a millisecond, then lets her bathrobe fall. Underneath she is wearing a one-piece bathing suit.

– Okay, so you’re in the back yard and your gorgeous children are playing with your gorgeous husband in the pool, and you’re smiling at them and feeling like everything’s right in the world. That’s it. Happier. A little happier please. Super. And now you notice to camera right – no, camera right – that a jaguar has wandered into the backyard. No no, you’re not scared, you’re just a little perplexed. That’s right. It’s a beautiful creature. Look at its lithe body. Look at those spots as it stalks through your backyard, past your children, past your husband, past the drinks table, past the barbecue. And it’s gone off camera left. You think about it for a second. That’s right. And then you say….

– Honey, I think we should buy that Jag!

– Cut. Great. Thank you.

She gathers her robe up and presses it to her chest, hard. Exits to the foyer. She weaves through the other women standing around in bathrobes waiting for their auditions. Grabs her bag from under the seats, apologising to another actor who has taken her empty spot.

– Excuse me could I just grab my…
– Oh! Sorry about that. How was he?
– Fine, fine. Easy. In and out.
– God why’s it taking so long then? I have another audition across town at three..
– Dunno. Sorry, I’ve got to dash. Good luck with it.

She slides on her thongs, motors to the bathroom as fast as she can without running. Locks herself into a stall and perches on the toilet. When she drops her robe, it is evident that her breasts have been leaking milk. She pulls out and awkwardly assembles a portable breast pump. Pulls the strap of her bathing suit down from her right shoulder. The milk squirts and foams into the container. She sighs with relief.

Act Three

– HI I’M HOME! How is he?
– He’s fine.

She snatches a six week old baby from her husband, nestling him again her body. Her shoulders drop. Her breath settles.

– Hey buddy. How you doing? Did you have a good time with your dad?
– How was the audition?
– The usual. Running late. One take. I nearly sprayed all over the camera, though. That was a new experience. How’s everything here?
– Fine.
– Did he take the bottle?
– You bet. He’s a champ. Aren’t you, buddy?
– How many diapers?
– Didn’t count. You weren’t away that long.
– Really? It felt like forever. I was mentally prepared to be away till two thirty. The minute the clock ticked over I was jonesing for him.
– We were fine.
– I know you were. It’s just. It’s kind of like having one of your internal organs floating around in the world in the care of a stranger.
– I’m not a stranger.
– I know you’re not. That’s not what I mean.
– I know. I have to split.
– Really?
– If I’m going to catch the bus…
– Oh just take the car.
– No you’re right. The parking’s killing us.
– But it takes so much longer. And you’re tired. Aren’t you.
– I’ll be fine. See you little buddy.
– I miss you.
– I miss you too. Take it easy. I’ll see you tonight.

He is gone. She looks at her baby.

-Hello stranger.

seventeen. boy crazy

Can’t settle. Prowling.
Hunting for a way in.
Like trying to find an Advil gel cap dropped on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night.
Did that last night.
Didn’t want to turn on the light because it would be a confession
You’re not sleeping
Refusing to look at the clock
Refusing to put on the specs that will tempt you to look at the red digital light on the microwave that will tell you
You should be asleep now.
On hands and knees, palm floating above the kitchen floor, hovering over the mental image of the Advil gel cap that fell from its plastic and foil nest onto the vast linoleum expanse.
Contact
It rolls
Somewhere
Use the force, Luke
If anyone saw you now they would laugh
Stark naked hair askew on hands and knees in the dead of night
Cow position on the kitchen floor
Using The Force to find a pill that
Dances across the linoleum away from your weathered hand.
But no one’s looking.
No one’s looked for a while now.
And certainly not in the dead of night
In the semi-rural neighbourhood you call home.
If you can find it, night-blind,
Maybe that will be an omen
A sign
A promise
That you will also find a way to write this thing you need to say
But don’t want to confess.

***

So here’s the thing. I keep trying to tell the story of being an actor, but it seems that all my memories are about relationships.

Sigh.

So let’s get on with it. Spit it out. Let’s move on.

Shakespeare, season one. The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing. Much ado about nothing indeed. I flirt with Claudio. I flirt with Lorenzo. A married man takes advantage of my vanity and ignorance. I sing and party and skinny dip in the moonlight. The season ends. I am unemployed with no prospects. I get depressed. I see a drop-in counsellor on Robson Street. You’re not depressed, you’re unemployed. Get a job. I get a job. Retail, extra staff at the Body Shop hired for the Christmas rush. Giving back massages to business men queued up to buy stocking-stuffers for their wives. No really, I don’t work on commission. My assistant manager makes me do this because she’s crazy. I quit on Christmas Eve before they have a chance to sack me. The manager asks me to reconsider. When we said we had to get rid of extra staff we didn’t mean you. Not if it means working with Crazy anymore. I go back to Australia. I get a faxed an offer from the Shakespeare festival offering me a second season. I tell them I’ll come back if they buy the credits that will make me a union member. It’s a struggle but they eventually agree.

Shakespeare, season two. Love’s Labours Lost and The Winter’s Tale. The Princess of France and Perdita. I crash at the new boyfriend’s sister’s place in New West while I hunt for a place of my own. I find a room in a flea-infested boarding house in Kitsilano. I leave my electric blue trench coat, the best second-hand score I ever made, at the boyfriend’s sister’s place. The boyfriend goes on tour and has a fling with his stage manager. The end. I’m more sad about the coat.

I see a play on Granville Island. One of the actors looks like Yul Brynner. Smoky eyed and dangerous. My new friend, the assistant stage manager at the Shakespeare Festival, knows him. She lets slip that he’s been asking about me. He saw me playing the Princess of France. She organizes a girls’ night out. He comes along to play the role of surrogate boyfriend in case of emergency. It’s all a ruse. An excuse for us to meet. A chumper approaches our table and shows an interest in me. I take Yul Brynner’s hand. It fits perfectly. That was eighteen years ago. We don’t hold hands as often as we did then, but when we do his hand still fits. Perfectly.

There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? What’s the big confession? You were boy crazy. Big deal. You don’t have to hate men to be a feminist.

Do you?

sixteen. riding the wave

A scene.

A mother (3), and her mother (2). 2 is having chemo treatment. 3 is keeping her company. Both flip through back issues of women’s magazines. Damia, a nurse wearing a hijab, checks on 2 periodically.

Silence.

3 – I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism.

2 – Oh yeah?

3 – One of my supervisors suggested that I haven’t quite reconciled my position on it.

2 – On what?

3 – Feminism.

2 – Oh yeah?

3 – Yeah.

Beat

2 – Why would she say that?

3 – From the stuff I’ve been writing about work and motherhood and stuff.

2 – Oh.

3 – The other one gave me a book to read about post-feminism. I wonder if they’re trying to tell me something.

2 – Post-feminism? Never heard of it.

3 – It’s about how young women today hate feminism.

2 – They do?

3 – Yeah. A lot of them do. Didn’t you know that?

2 – No. Why would they hate feminists?

3 – The whole man-hating, bra-burning thing. That you can’t stay home and be a mum.

2 – Oh. Well I never burnt my bra, but I’ll tell you what, if I could have stayed home more with you kids I bloody well would have.

3 – You would?

2 – Oh yeah.

3 – But…I thought you were a feminist.

2 – I never really thought about it.

3 – But what about telling me off for saying sweeping is women’s work?

2 – When did I say that?

3 – When I was six. Jason was mucking around with the broom and I wanted to be a witch, so I took it off him and said that sweeping was women’s work and you heard me say it and you tore a strip off me.

2 – Did I? (Laughs delightedly)

3 – What about the fact that you wouldn’t let me have long hair?

2 – I never stopped you from having long hair –

3 – Yes you did! You never let me have long hair.

2 – Well with those thick glasses of yours, it would have hid your face –

3 – AND you made me wear pants on school photo day —

2 – Probably just forgot it was photo day –

3 – AND kids used to ask me if I was a boy or a girl.

2 – They did?

3 – Yeah they did.

2 – Oh.

3 – I got hassled all the time for it.

2 – Really?

3 – Yeah. A boy pushed me down on the ice rink cuz I was wearing white skates. (Shouts) Those are GIRL’S SKATES!

2 – (Laughs fondly again)

3 – It wasn’t funny, Mum!

2 – Sorry darl.

3 – So…wasn’t it because you were a feminist?

2 – I don’t know darl. I don’t remember.

NURSE enters, checks on 2’s chemo needle.

N – How are you feeling, Mrs K?

2 – Just fine darling, thank you. This is my daughter – you haven’t met her before have you?

3 – Hello.

N – Nice to meet you. Your mother is doing very well.

3 – Fantastic.

N – She is a very brave woman.

2 – Oh stop…

N – No it is true. She is very brave. And strong.

2 – Thank you Damia.

N – (To 3) Why have we not seen you here before?

3 – Oh, I…

2 – She’s very busy. Two kids – my grandchildren –

N – Yes! Katy, and…Elliot! Very beautiful children.

2 – (To 3) I showed her their pictures…

3 – Thanks.

2 – AND she’s working. AND she’s doing a PhD!

N – My goodness! You are very–

3 – Busy

2– Very busy.

N – Yes, I see.

Beat.

N – Well. Just relax now. I’ll be back to check on you again soon.

2 – Thank you lovey.

Damia exits

2 – She is so lovely.

3 – Yeah, she seems really nice.

2 – She takes such good care of me.

3 – Yeah, you’re really lucky.

They return to their magazines.

Long silence.

3 – I just watched this video on YouTube called “The F-Word”.

2 – Sounds racy.

3 – It deals with feminism from a young woman’s perspective.

2 – Mm.

3 – It was an interview thing. They were all really young. The host had make-up packed on, and I thought “some feminist you are”. But then they talked about what feminism means to their generation and why they consider themselves feminists. One of them talked about how feminism defends the rights of all – as opposed to both – genders.

2 – But…

3 – What? Do you have a problem with transsexuals?

2 – Now don’t jump down my throat. Of course I don’t. I saw Priscilla three times. I just don’t understand how feminism defends the rights of all genders, when it’s called FEMinism. Don’t you need a different ism for that?

3- Fair enough.

2 – Everyone-ism.

Beat

3 – They were only in their early twenties, but they were all so bright and confident. They called themselves third wave feminists.

2 – Third wave? Is that like new wave?

3 – No mum. You were a second wave feminist.

2 – Was I?

3 – Well I thought you were. The first wave was the suffragettes, who fought for the vote.

2 – (Fondly) Like Miles Franklin.

3 – The second wave fought for equal work and equal pay.

2 – (Proudly) Like Germaine Greer.

3 – Right. Although she’s given up on feminism too.

2 – She has?

3 – That’s what this book I was reading said.

2 – Oh. (beat) I think I might try this recipe.

They go back to reading their magazines.

3 – I don’t know if I’m a third wave or a second wave.

2 – I wonder what tamari is?

3 – I mean I call myself ‘ms’ and I didn’t change my name when I got married –

2 – Is it like soy sauce?

3 – But I never really thought about sisterhood or solidarity.

2 – Maybe I could just use teriyaki. Look it up for me would you?

3 – Sorry?

2 – Look it up. On your iPhone.

3 – I don’t think you’re allowed to use phones in here.

2 – Of course you are.

3 – Doesn’t it interfere with the machines?

2 – Don’t worry about it, it’ll be fine.

****