Tuesday, May 17, 2011

RemembeRED: Taking a Break


 This week's RemembeRED prompt:

"I think we've been too nice to you.

It's time for another image prompt.

Write about the first (or second) memory that comes to mind when you see this:"


 
Taking a Break

            I was sitting in my little black Honda Prelude fiddling with the sunroof control. It was too cold in the car with it open and too hot with it closed. A lot of other drivers had gotten out of their cars to get some air. I looked at my watch. It was almost 7:00. Curtain was at 8:00. A police officer was walking along the row of stopped cars.
            “Any idea how much longer it will be?” I asked him.
            “No idea,” he said.
“I’m in a play at Marist at 8:00,” I said. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t in the play. But I was the makeup person. I needed to make a 22-year-old college student look like an aged King Lear. For now I was stuck in some side road off of Route 9 waiting for the President Clinton’s motorcade to pass by.
“You knew the president was going to be in town,” he said unsympathetically.
He continued walking down the line of cars until he was out of sight. I held back tears. The actor playing Lear was going to be pissed.
            It was the early 90’s and only doctors and lawyers had cell phones. They were the property of the well to do, not standard equipment for students like they are today. Even if I could walk to a pay phone, no one would have been at my house. They would all be at the theatre.
            I hunted around in the floor of my car for a cassette (remember those?) to listen to. For some reason the only tapes I could find were The Rolling Stones and Beethoven’s 9th. Neither matched my mood so I sat in silence—angry at myself for not planning better, the police for keeping me here and the president for being delayed.
            We were finally allowed to move our vehicles at 7:45. The curtain was scheduled to go up at 8:00. I drove to the theater, parked my car and ran to the green room. When I arrived, another member of our group had begun Lear’s makeup. He looked profoundly relieved when he turned over his brushes to me. Lear’s base had already been done. I needed to use a darker make up to create contours in the space under his eyes and paint on his age lines. As I moved the brush closer to his face, he grabbed my shaking hand.
            “Go have a cigarette,” he said.
            “But the curtain time was five minutes ago,” I said.
            “We can wait. Go have a cigarette.”
            “And I don’t smoke”
            “I don’t care. Go have a cigarette.”
            I was at the time, one of the few members of the theatre group who didn’t smoke. I had grown up in a house smelling of smoke and it just didn’t interest me. I took the proffered cigarette and went out on the loading dock and lit up. Taking a moment and stepping out of the situation was enough to make my hands stop shaking. There were a number of things that would have had the same effect—going for a walk, eating some French fries, getting a hug from a good friend. I crushed out the cigarette and went back inside. I finished Lear’s makeup and the curtain went up only a few minutes late.