“20 minutes Tyler!”

I can hear the crowd roar with approval from the dressing room backstage.
I smile a little, swiveling my turning chair until I’m facing the huge mirror that covers almost half the wall in the ‘common room’ as it is called by everyone. I watch life pass by behind me.
Chorus girls dressing; one trying to pin a tassel to her dark nipple. I watch the curtains leading to the center-stage part a little, allowing the stage light to filter through, before it falls back into place.
Yells of encouragement, of laughter. I sit in front of the mirror and watch in fascination as painted-on faces come into view.
One girl notices me and suddenly her face is lit up with a beaming smile. She whispers quickly to another girl standing nearby and they both turn and look at me.
They make to approach me but suddenly are  turned away when they hear their cue to partake in the spotlight.
Their turn on the big stage.
They wave and the cheekier of the two girls blows a kiss at me. I make a catching motion and place it on my lips, smiling slightly as she blushes red and hurries off.

“Tyler! You shouldn’t be here! Your dressing room. You would be next”

My manager.
Without a word to him, I do as he demands, walking away from the hubbub of the changing rooms of the other side acts to the quietness of mine.
Main act of the night.
Star.
Alone.
My manager hovers behind me like an annoying bee with me playing the flower.
He is nervous; his fingers twisting at a piece of paper, the pamphlet for tonight’s show.
He is talking to me.
“This would be the biggest! The biggest show ever! We are making millions!”
I tune him out.
I sit on my ‘throne’ and face an even bigger mirror.
What is it with mirrors in this place anyway? It seems like everywhere I turn, there is another me, staring out with lost, brown eyes.
Lost.
I watch him talk, bulbous nose moving with every enunciation. He notices my absent-mindedness and sighs dramatically. I almost chuckle at the comical way his already huge girth expands as he takes a deep breath.
I wonder he has a baby hippo nesting somewhere within his voluminous white jacket.
I remember when he was slimmer, hungrier.
I remember when he first met me.
‘Do you want to be a star?’ he had asked me then. I remember looking at dark, shifty eyes and wondering just how he was going to pull that piece of magical trick off. I remember shrugging my shoulder and nodding noncommittally. I did what I did because I enjoyed it, not because of stardom but I figured that too wasn’t bad. Stardom meant I shared my art with a wider audience an of course, better funding. Maybe even one day affording a new suit and not the hand-me-downs I picked up from charity stores.
He was true to his word.
He made me a star.
But he sure did reap the benefit later, if his weight is anything to go by.
I raise one hand to silence him mid prattle.
“It’s just another show Donny. Relax.” I murmur, a small sigh escaping my thin lips.
I have finally responded and he grabs this opportunity before I shut down.
“Just another show? THE QUEEN IS OUT THERE! Dignitaries! This is IT! IT I TELL YOU!” He walks about, guts heaving, hands flailing.

“Yea yea…” I stare at my reflection intently.
I’m not sure what I’m looking for; maybe glimpses of the ten year old boy who stared in amazement at the street urchin’s hands as he made the cards he held up disappear.
I can still remember his toothy grin, his croaky voice that asked me to pick a card. “Go on” he had cajoled and i picked a card.
I remember his cackling laughter at my stare of wonder when he had produced exactly the card I had picked up.
“Another!” I cried out in excitement; that pure, unadulterated excitement.
I am looking for glimpses of the boy who went home and proudly announced to his father that he was going to be a Magician.
‘Stop talking nonsense and get your hands ready for kneading’ my dad had replied shortly to me.
A baker he was, and a baker he was determined to make out of me. To my father, baking was in the Hughes blood and he was ready to knead me into what he was by all means.
I wonder where the boy who went back to that street urchin, begging him to teach him the tricks of his trade is.
What happened to him?
Would I ever feel that way again?
Would I ever feel that rush of excitement and sense of adventure I felt when I finally left home in the middle of the night, leaving to seek my fortunes as an entertainer? That freedom; that belief.
I look hard at myself and I cannot find him.

“Are you even listening to me!”
Donny’s voice breaks into my contemplation and I sigh, exasperated. I turn to him.
“Where did I go to?”
He looks puzzled. “Tyler, you’re here…I don’-”
I shush him. “Do you remember the Canon show?” I whisper.
H frowns, knowing where I was leading to.
“Not today of all days” he mutters to himself as he walks to the drawers, rummaging them, pointedly ignoring my question.
“Remember the way the small crowd cheered? How you lifted me up and called me a genius” I whispers, more to myself.
“Ah!” he calls out, securing a packet of Bupropion. He fetches me a glass of crystal clear water and proffers the two small tablets to me.
“You’re not spazzing out on me today of all days Tyler. No.”
I ignore the tablets in his hands and rest my chin on my steepled fingers back to gazing at myself.
“I don’t need those”
He looks aggrieved and I suddenly feel a little pang of guilt. I sigh, my face softening to accommodate a smile.
“Fine. I’ll take it. Just shoo. You’re a mother hen”
His smile comes back and dropping the tablets in my hands he holds my head and plants a wet kiss Donny-style on my forehead.
“We’ve made it!” He laughs and walks off. I can hear him scream at my makeup team to get to work.
When I’m sure he is out of sights, I get up and dump the antidepressant pills in a bin.
I’d do without them.

Soon, I am on stage and I feel rather than see Donny give me a thumbs up. I hear my wife’s laughter as she claps.
I smile to myself.
She believes I do not  know about her and Donny. Better off that way isn’t it?
A tic pulls at my eyebrow and quickly banishing thoughts, I wear my mask; full wattage smile. All suave.
I can barely make out the said dignitaries in the audience, the spotlight cast on me, turning them into mere shadows with voices.
Alone.
I wait for the rush I get from the applause and cheers but nothing hits me.
It is all noise.
Alone and Empty.
Like an automaton, I go through my practiced routines with such dexterity, I could have been doing them blindfolded.
After the thunderous applause that signals the end of my last performance, I clear my throat.
As if on cue, there is a hush.

I smile.
Not the mask; not the full wattage smile.
I smile; small, sad.
“Now, for my final trick” I murmur.
I hear the buzz of excitement in the audience; i also hear Donny’s voice demanding to know ‘What the hell he’s doing!’ from someone.
I do not turn.
I pick up a sword, one of the props and slowly twirl it like a baton in the air. The silent anticipation is so thick, I could have cut it with a bread knife.
“I’m done” I whisper and without thinking, I drive the sharp point of the sword into my neck.
I bite my lips at the pain, my eardrums able to pick out the gasps and claps over the pounding of blood.
They cannot see my blood, carefully absorbed by the black cloak I have on.
I suddenly realize they are waiting… for the illusion to be revealed; for the magic.
My knees buckle and I crumple to the floor.
Dimly, I hear the first real screams of fear.
Ah…
Shouts assault my ears and I feel arms around me, trying to save me.
I finally see him; the young boy who did Magic because he loved it. He extends a hand to me.
Slowly, I reach out and take it. I feel his small, familiar palm squeeze mine. I try to return the gesture.
Finally.
Finally.

——————————————————–

Hey everyone!
This was a half-finished tale hidden somewhere and decided to stay up (currently 3.23am) to finish it up and ready to post.
I do hope you liked it.
There was some sort of message I wanted to pass across when I started writing this initially; I cannot remember what now but I’m hoping i unconsciously included it in the story so let me know if you see it.

That being said, I hope you all have a lovely weekend.
Jana!

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