Awful Heavy

5 May 2019

That curtain is awful heavy. It looks alright from the audience, I suppose. When you’re sitting in row EE, seat 20, the red velvet looks as soft as can be and the folds of the fabric, as gentle as a newborn lamb. Yeah, from row EE, seat 20, that curtain is alright. But get closer. I dare you. Get on stage and stand under that curtain. It doesn’t look as gentle now, does it? It’s awful heavy. I would know. I’ve been hit a few times, gotten a few bruises. Gentle as a newborn lamb? Ha! A newborn lamb wouldn’t hurt a fly. This curtain is no lamb.

I know it’s heavy because I spent so long trying to hold that curtain open for myself. I was backstage, tripping around in the darkness and stumbling into sets. Sometimes, I’d get a glimpse past the heavy red velvet into a land of bright lights and fake personas. This was my somewhere over the rainbow and I prayed for a tornado to sweep me off my feet. But the curtain was impermeable, or so I thought. It liked to play games with me and open just a crack. And I’d race forward and tug at it, thinking that this was my chance to get through a brick wall, only to get lost within the folds. It teased me, that curtain did. It was too heavy for me or I was too weak, or maybe both. I’d try to hold it and my arms would shake and my legs would shake and I’d shake until my body gave out and I collapsed backstage.

All I wanted was one opportunity to shine like the stars, but it seemed to be written in my stars that I’d never get the chance. The curtain didn’t just block me from lights and an audience. No, it blocked me from opportunity. At times, it didn’t seem like a total block. It would open just enough to let me see the opportunity, maybe even smell it a little bit. Sixth grade and I landed in the ensemble and I tried to sing my heart out in a sea of faces caked in stage make-up. But I could feel that curtain laughing behind me and seventh grade came along and it slammed shut. I couldn’t get by that sea of red. Those waves were too big for me and I wasn’t Moses. I wasn’t a star.

Two years and I had stopped trying, but I hadn’t forgotten. I pushed my desires to the back of my mind and they kept creeping back up on me and I couldn’t ignore them. I tried again and the sea parted, but just a crack and I was stuck somewhere in the middle and others were stuck there with me. We were the ensemble and we sang and danced, but there was a constant threat that those red waves would come crashing down. I mostly kept dry, but throughout the rest of ninth grade and the beginning of tenth, the sea lapped at my feet. The slap on the face came at the end of tenth grade. I didn’t make the play and my cheek hurt a whole lot for weeks to come. That curtain was heavy.

I met that curtain’s cousin, or maybe brother, when I switched schools in eleventh grade. Just as red and just as menacing and I wanted that opportunity more than anything. Another ensemble role. It was written in the stars. Another slap in the face. I was almost used to the pain, but not quite. I’d never get quite used to that sort of pain. Maybe I should have given up and sat in row EE, seat 20. Maybe then I’d start to see the curtain as a lamb.

One more audition. One more school. I ignore the curtain, give it my best. I can almost feel the burn against my cheek. This curtain looks heavier than the others; maybe it’ll leave a big red mark that’ll hang around for weeks, just to remind me every time I take a look in a mirror. The slap never comes. There’s no mark and it’s my turn to laugh and I’m over the rainbow, across the Red Sea. I can see the lights and I feel like a star and the audience claps and I am a star. My face gets red, but not because of the curtain. It’s because of my pride; I made it. I’m over the curtain. That curtain is awful heavy. I feel a little bit bad for it, having to just hang there all day.

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