There are times when people who write have to do just that. We grab menus, forms, gas station receipts, and paycheck stubs, flip them over and capture the thought stream that charitably surges through our brains. The flipside is also true. Sometimes creativity is entombed in mental concrete. I savor the moments when life flings you colorful caricatures on which to build. Sitting in my daughter's audition this morning I experienced a profusion of characters that both stirred my imagination and forced me to exercise sturdy pre-coffee restraint.
I sat quietly alone in the back of the theater eager to learn the process of becoming the mother of a would-be actor. To my left was a well seasoned stage mom forcing her son to drink from a water bottle to keep his - and I'm quoting verbatim here- throat moist. As I watched the boy reluctantly take several gulps I wondered how he would perform at peak whilst having to pee like a race horse. My daughter and I, on the other hand, had stumbled into the lobby wearing what we only then recalled were explicitly prohibited flip flops and reluctantly handed over our half completed forms. While Moisty and his mom were bathing his vocal cords, I was simply trying not to spill my latte down my shirt while ushering my daughter into the auditorium and hoping the effects of caffeine would hasten my ability to rise to the occasion.
Earlier, during the registration process, I was drawn to the strident and confident voice of a tall man who greeted everyone with preparedness and vigor typically unprecedented at this hour. I was drawn to his charisma. My mind carelessly entertained projections of my husband and me drinking oaky red wine with him and his wife. I pondered the strange process of making new friends at our age and how years from now we would share laughs telling the story of how we met when our youngest auditioned for local theater. Later my first impression would be shattered as first impressions often are despite the 'lasts a lifetime' myth.
I entered the auditorium, settled into my back row seat, pulled out the book I am reading and dove eagerly into the world Chris Bojalian creates in Secrets of Eden. I was jarred from my story land bliss by a rhythmical drumming that shook my seat every few seconds as though a Brachiosaurus was making its way ever closer to the high school gymnasium. Looking around in all directions, it seemed no one else felt this sensation. It appeared to be localized and I was alone to asses my safety. I closed my book and tapped fully into the feeling. I recognized that the relentless drone of the voice behind me was coming from the man I had only minutes earlier been fantasizing about. The only constant in the room was his voice talking incessantly at a helpless man while hitting the row of seats in front of him for emphasis which sent reverberations down the entire aisle and into my seat. I learned also via his self-absorbed pontifications that the man he was talking at was a police officer and I wondered if he was carrying a gun. If ever an individual might snap and shoot someone, and perhaps justifiably so, this was that occasion.
After a parental briefing the lot of us was excused. Children were led into the auditorium in small groups while the others mingled with the adults in the lobby awaiting their turn. I went back to my book only to be interrupted again. I am, by nature, a people watcher and this was the mother load. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Moisty and his mom had appropriated the seats that had previously been occupied by a busy mother and her rambunctious toddler. By all rights, the mom -who purposefully left behind her diaper bag to mark her territory in the crowded room- abdicated her seat when she took her toddler to the bathroom. Mama Moisty pounced on the opportunity as only a water pusher could. Upon her return the evicted mom gently offered that the bag Ms. Moisty had moved, now on the table, was in fact a marker left behind to hold the bench open. The toddler was a tiny being of no more than two and capped with a head of curly blonde hair. Her mom was a once pretty woman who was now visibly tired and worn thin. Ms. Moisty, a large woman by common standards, looked up at her and offered only that she had been unclear if someone was sitting there, but she made no gesture to relocate or to scoot over. She and her damp throated boy were now engaged in a full blown game of dice in the space between them. The mom and her toddler took their ineffective diaper bag and played cards on the cold unforgiving linoleum.
Back to my book. Silence again was broken this time by a boy defiantly shouting at this mother as she whispered for him to turn his iPod down. It was a cartoon strip moment where he was unaware of how loud he was with his ear buds tucked in his ears. As he yelled, she instinctually put her hand over his mouth which made his eyes bulge with surprise or perhaps due to the inability for his breath to escape through any other available orifice.
Just as I became sucked into that moment, my sweet daughter emerged from the dark and intimidating auditorium. She took her number off her shirt, handed it in, assured me that things had gone well within and we were out of there… leaving all those characters behind, but surely not forgotten.