The other day I sat down to write a new blog. I wanted to go into a moment in my life that had importance and long lasting effects. I made it through a few paragraphs when I realized that I simply couldn’t do it. At least not yet. It may be a week from now or longer, but eventually I’ll feel comfortable enough with my abilities to give the moment the treatment it deserves. Also, I realized that my blogs have a tendency to be serious in tone and I’m really not a very serious person. So, instead I figured I’d share a story that never fails to make me smile in the most nostalgic of ways.
For a few years in the midst of teenagehood I thought I could be an actor. I believed that I could be one of those celebrated few who could command a stage and rip the attention and love from the audience with my performances. My first production was a musical called Anything Goes.
The audition went great. I poured myself into the lines given to me. I transformed myself into the character and rocked the very foundation of the room with my thespian aspirations. I walked out of the room with a bounce in my step as if I was already dancing over my star on Hollywood Blvd. And for all my effort I was given the coveted role of “extra”.
I was not deterred though. The next year I auditioned for the community theater production of A Christmas Carol. I performed with the same confidence as I had before. This time though, I was awarded not one, but two speaking roles. I was given the chance, nay, the opportunity to show the world that I could bring two characters to life.
I went to each rehearsal with determination. I memorized my lines, including a page long monologue, within a week of receiving the script. I dyed my hair jet black because I thought it fit the character better. I created chemistry with my co-stars. I made sure that when showtime came my fellow actors would feel as if they were performing with a true friend. The inside jokes ran rampant and our scenes became actual moments from our life that we were simply relaying to a new set of watchers.
One of my roles was that of Scrooge’s nephew. He was an optimistic young man who, with his lovely wife by his side, believed in the spirit of Christmas and was more than eager to spread his love to his penny pinching uncle.
His defining scene came in the form of a conversation with his wife. With the spectral form of Christmas Present and Scrooge looking on, they would give Scrooge a toast and share a drink of wine and embrace.
I worked the scene over and over again in my head. I knew exactly how my hands would move. I knew exactly how I would stand. I knew exactly how I would add a melancholy laugh to the performance, the nephew was a three dimensional character regardless of what the screenwriter intended.
Opening night came on the winds of a blizzard. From a side door I watched as the shivering audience members took their seats, snow covering their coats and hats. It was perfect, they were cold, but I would warm them with my words and craft. I can honestly say I wasn’t nervous. Only eager to begin my ascent into stardom.
Finally the scene came. I took to the stage and acted my ass off. I could hear the polite laughs after the humorous lines came out. I could see starry eyed grins as the older audience members remembered the sweetest moments of their lives as I expressed my love for my wife. Then I triumphantly raised my glass.
“To Uncle Scrooge!” Drink. “May he-”
The words wouldn’t come out. They remained buzzing in my throat like wasps. Instead of those beautiful words I could only emit a cough. How could this be happening? I was choking. After all my practice, my intentions, my dreams, I was choking.
Then it hit me. I wasn’t choking in the metaphorical sense. I was literally choking. The fake wine I had just drank never made it to my stomach. Instead it took residence in my neck. As I tried to put it to rest it only grew in intensity, like a fire growing with gentle breaths.
“Oh my dearest love. Your Uncle really gets to you doesn’t he? Let’s put you to bed.” My wife said.
God bless her. She ushered me off stage and then patted my back until I was able to breath again. My face felt so hot I was sure that I was having an allergic reaction to the make-up. But no, it was only the sting of embarrassment. The dastardly embrace of shame.
“Great job guys.” A stagehand said.
He was right, it was a good job. By my co-star. She saved the scene. She was the talent. I was happy for her, but my dreams were fading right before my eyes.
I finished the three show run. I even did one more play before my 20s arrived. But I knew that my aspirations were gone. It was only a couple years later that I found the true reason for my mishap.
I was talking with a new acquaintance I mentioned that I had been in a play. They generously asked how it went.
“I’m so sorry.”
“No, I literally fucking choked.”
It’s a bad joke, but it always makes me smile.