An Actress Prepares

By on Dec 28, 2014 in Fiction

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Silhouette of woman with disheveled hair superimposed over footlights

I hold the makeup mirror to my curled red lips scrunched between my teeth, and I press them hard and harder and harder until a tooth punctures my lower lip and I taste the bitter mix of blood and gloss, and in the silence I shut my eyes and try to remember, and as the last note dissolves, my body tremors as I peer into the mirror and say: “Thank you God for making me an actress.”

My living room lights flicker. Too many people using their AC in our building. I reach beneath the couch and drag the bound stack of head shots, photos from college productions, and tours in city palladiums and theatres packed with eyes for me. The serrated kitchen knife atop the stack falls to the floor and I am possessed now, no turning back. I retrieve the knife and clutch it in both hands and shudder as I raise the blade high above and weep and I am on stage in Louisville, my promise brighter than the spotlight shining on me, and in my final moment it is only fitting that you, Louisa, you, the soul of Bryce Maclaine, actress, bid farewell to her fantastic life in your own words:

I’m sixteen years old, and every day something happens to me.
I don’t know quite what to make of it.
When I get up in the morning and get dressed, I can tell… something’s different.
I like to touch my eyelids, because they’re never quite the same.
Oh, oh, oh! I hug myself till my arms turn blue,
then I close my eyes and cry and cry ’til the tears come down and I can
taste them.
I love to taste my tears.
I am special. I am special!
Please God, please, don’t let me be normal!

The blade’s tip plunges into Bryce, the actress who was me. I raise the knife again, and it plunges again: into the stack of photos into me. Again and again and again it plunges. And as I drop the knife by my side, I think, how young and self-assured you look, Bryce. And how perforated.

I rummage through my Cherry Bombe sac another Abrir gift for my cell and read my voice-over agent’s urgent missive from this afternoon: You got the job, Brycie —  VoicePros Studio, Monday, 3 pm. RSVP, baby! :-) Jen.

I look once more at yesterday’s email from Ms. Lawler and I waver, but I inhale deeply: Dear Ms. Berg, we are thrilled to have you back for a third interview. Your mock presentation just knocked the sox off everyone last time we met — including the executive director, who said, and I quote, ‘she’ — meaning you — ‘was born to fundraise.’ I can safely say that non-profit is in your future and the job is yours. See you Monday at three. All best, Betty Lawler, Exec. VP, International Disabled Children’s Rescue Fund.

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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.