An Actress Prepares

By on Dec 28, 2014 in Fiction

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6

Silhouette of woman with disheveled hair superimposed over footlights

Pee bursts like a rain shower; it stings and smells rank and I think, more cranberry juice, as I fumble for the roll of cheap toilet paper while considering rank a metaphor for my life, my career. I stand and flush and swear, I will not cry today! I will finish recording my audiobook, get to Seventy-Fourth Street at five, spend two hours with Abrir, and say goodbye — for good. My eyes swell. My ears shudder.

“Morning glory. Mrs. Yao is open for business,” I whisper.

“I have a sore throat, Mom.”

“And I have a million dollars in gold nickels. Uppie.”

“Five minutes.”

“Then uppie…” I channel Boris Karloff. “Or I bite your neck and suck sugar from the sweetest part of the girl!”

As the yellow school bus departs, I text her dad Sunday’s return time in surreal time.

I slouch naked in front of the tall mirror with spidery cracks on all four edges that was attached to the inside of the bedroom door when I moved here eight years ago, and which I still haven’t replaced — maybe someday. “Look at you, Cinderella: free, broke and forty-four. Seriously. Look at you. Hair by Edward Scissorhands. Style: strewn. Bangs: chopped. Length: shoulder-ish. Color: old-yeller blonde streaked medium-brown gross. Grade: a solid D. Tits…” I puff my chest like a male gorilla, “respectable. If your preference is nippled kiwis. Grade? Um. Fail! Tummy: D. For distended.” I turn sideways. “Saddlebags: Double D! Booty. Okay. Got some heft: B.” I watch myself jump up and down — as if on a pogo stick — and I stop, breathless, and stare at decaying Cinderella.

I tug at the sides of my too-tight blue jeans. I adjust my bra underneath my sunflower tee and glare at my pudgy midriff in the mirror. I stick my thumb just inside my beltless waist: more room than a few days ago. The scale I yank from beneath the bed says 133. Then sneers: And a half! Still, down a pound from last week. And I realize, I no longer care! I am off the cottage-cheese-and-peaches-and-one Reese’s-Peanut Butter-Cup-when-I-am-happy-one-bag-when-I’m-depressed merry-go-round, and I hastily strip til I’m naked and raise my hands to heaven and thank God for letting me live this final day not obsessed with my body.

I notice the approaching siren. On Avenue B, I surmise, and I assess five-foot-two, eyes are hazel, birthday-suit Bryce, staring at me from the cracked mirror — disheveled, malformed, impure, used, longing still to be Cinderella. She tallies my life: “No audiobooks coming; haven’t booked a voice-over or on-camera in seven months and thirteen days; a mother who cannot support her child and will be late with June’s rent. Abrir will swallow a blue pill and have sex with you tonight. You will come home, have a bag of peanut butter cups, and you will die. You will die fat.”

I ride slowly, meaning timidly, along the new First Avenue bike lane. Rubber bands cover the ankle portion of my avocado-green dhoti pants, which are hippie-like, comfy in the booth and hide my ass. I just don’t feel like sharing with everyone in the studio today, which is why I’m wearing a white tank top: so that men who’ll ogle at the most unremarkable tummy and cleavage, just because it’s bared, won’t have to bother.

The shrill ring of a cycle’s bell jolts me; I’m not used to my Citi Bike, and it wobbles. I tremble and lurch forward and press down on my helmet. “Let’s go, Cinderella!” A bearded man in a gray suit and flapping tie whizzes by and turns and checks me out. I flip him the bird, and he laughs. Men are too powerful.

I turn right onto Sixth Avenue from Thirty-Fourth Street and panic: my iPad! Shit, all my character highlights; I’ll never remember. I twist my arm around and feel the weight of my backpack. It’s there.

Waiting at a red light, the city’s energy embraces me: the cacophonous noise and throngs of crisscrossing pedestrians and homicidal drivers, even their vehicle’s upchucking exhaust, even the stifling haze and humidity; I love New York.

Slowly peddling up Sixth, I wonder what Abrir will say when I tell him tonight, and I recall my best friend, Trish, clucking like a jealous hen when I confided to her about my affair with my Pakistani medicine man whose accent sounds less authentic than my imitation. She chided me, “He’s a sixty-two-year-old codger who let his finger linger, Bryce,” and I laughed at the image and said, “But he bike rides with me along the Hudson, and we share a pretzel with mustard at The Battery and gawk at the tourists lined up to visit Ellis Island.” And Trish said, “He’s married and he will hurt you because someday the thrill of screwing you will go poof. He will leave you perplexed and angry and abandoned and self-loathing for allowing a rich wretch to seduce you into believing that he might care for you one iota, Bryce. Fuck Abrir!” Which, I did, I confessed to Trish, in his office that day his finger lingered. “You what???” I can still hear her howl.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6


Paul Alan Ruben is currently enrolled in the MFA fiction program at Spalding University. To date, "The Underdog” and “Father, Son, And The Holy Obit”—from his short story collection, Terms of Engagement: stories of the father and son — have been published by Pennsylvania English (35) and Pif Magazine (August 2013), respectively. Paul is co-author of a college textbook, Public Thinking/Public Speaking, and a periodic contributor to Audiofile Magazine. He is also an award-winning audiobook producer/director whose numerous industry honors include two Best Spoken Word Grammy Awards. All his published short stories are recorded for audio, reviewed by Audiofile Magazine, and available on Paul’s website: Shortly after publication of “An Actress Prepares,” the audio version will be recorded by the award-winning audiobook narrator, Kathleen McInerney.