Playing Stories — Chapter 32: Mad World

Chapter 32: Mad World
from the 2001 film “Donnie Darko”, performed by Gary Jules
posted at 15:23, 28 June 2019

And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take…

Before I jumped into the unknown, I was already adrift in the world.

It was only a couple of days ago, but God it feels like it happened last year or some past eternity: I was talking with my friend Lily — she’d been there so much longer than I had, and I didn’t know a lot of people in that place, so we did a lot of stuff together, hanging out and working out the stage stuff for the actors (they’re a really complicated lot, them)… anyway, we were talking just before the evening show, and obviously we couldn’t do that kind of thing before a performance but we managed to sneak in a couple of words before the show started.

“I just don’t know what to do, Mo,” she choked, “I mean I’ve been trying and trying for God knows how long and they still won’t accept me… I mean, I’m not that bad at dancing am I? Do you think that’s why I’m not in drama school?”

“I’m sure that you just happened to have problems with this particular audition, and maybe there were too many people trying to get in…” of course I wasn’t going to tell her that she had, in fact, got some problems with crossing her feet, but those were pretty easy to rectify.

“Yes, but THREE YEARS… is this it then, am I going to have to give it up — oh God, I just don’t want to drop it now, Mo, I’ve been in this industry for so long and all that time I’ve never been able to cross that barrier —” she waved outside at the crowd, at the people who were milling around, eating and drinking and checking their phones because they couldn’t for the next couple of hours (what sots, am I right), “— and I just want to go out there to be one of them, I want to also be somebody else, not just plain old floor manager Lily Sanders who has to go in and out of the shadows…” she said, trailing off as the floor manager came up to us with his eyebrows raised and a curt “what are you still doing here? Mo, you still got your powers right?”, as if I was going to lose them anytime soon.

The performance began, and the players ran onstage: it was a day where they did “The Tempest” and the Prospero character was jumping around, giving it her all, and making her voice echo from even above the rafters — it’s amazing how you can still package superpowers as something amazing with a bit of stage magic — and Lily and I just stood backstage, cause nobody ever gave us any attention: actually, people never mind seeing hints of the crew because they think it makes it more “stagey”, that it sort of grounds the whole play and gives it more of a produced feel, and I’m okay with that, of course, cause it makes you feel like you’re actually part of something, but I glanced at Lily and she was looking at all that and she was absolutely miserable, her mind was absolutely elsewhere: I had to remind her when it was her time to follow up on a cue, that was stressful.

Everyone was having such a good time onstage: the actress playing Prospero was on fire, the shipwreck absolutely believable — and Lily was just staring at the stage, so much so that a warning came out of my lips before I could think about it, “don’t do anything reckless,” and she looked at me, and I had just enough time to see the desperation in those starry eyes before she looked away, thinking what was going on inside her head — maybe she didn’t want to mess this up, this very important bit which she had rehearsed a hundred times for even though it would probably be forgotten the moment the audience went home: she just wanted to make sure she was ready when the time came.

So she opened the taps, and the water sprayed into the air like it always did, and I reached out and held the little droplets up in mid-air: it was easy, really, now that I’d done it so many times, I even knew how to make them fall at slightly different speeds and in different sizes (the kids loved that, and I liked those kids) — and it was really magical, that moment, cause I had drawn them into my own little world, a world where everyone stopped to look at what I’d done even if it was only fifteen seconds before Miranda spoke his next line and everyone turned back to the stage.

It was time to turn off the taps, so I turned around — and Lily wasn’t there.

I looked around, trying to keep one eye on the rains, and saw her on the balcony, waving her arms about, and it took me like a few seconds to work out what she was doing — she was trying to make it look like it was her doing, that it was her who could make the rains stop — and honest to God I didn’t feel jealous cause I helped kids do that all the time, kids who wanted to impress their friends but didn’t have the “right” superpower, and now Lily, Lily who was almost four years older than me, was that little kid, trying to impress an audience.

It kind of worked — people pointed at her, and the actors held it in and tried to work their way around it, but on the other side of the radio Michael was screaming into my ear, so I walked towards her, rolling my eyes, to get her off as gently as I could.

I tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around. Her eyes, those tear-filled eyes, were filled with rapture and the stars. It was at that same moment her foot slipped.

I wonder what it must have been like for all those people, seeing someone not on the programme suddenly appear on a balcony, wag their hands about foolishly and then falling down onto the stage — there might have been a scream, or maybe that was only the groan of the crowd as the water suddenly started pelting down on them again, or maybe most of them thought that it was just a trick of the production… I don’t know, cause it happened all so quick: everything slowed down, and I felt myself willing all of my powers, all of the energy I had in me to form a pool of water underneath Lily.

She crashed onto the stage. There was a gentle moan as pain shot through her. There was also water everywhere — slightly salty, as if there were tears inside it, some spectators said. The splash echoed and faded away in the theatre. It was only then that everyone knew that this was no stage effect.


The fallout you’ll have read in the papers: ambulance had trouble getting there, productions suspended for a week, Michael got fired, etc, etc., and so on — I didn’t look at the papers for a very long time, mostly because I already knew most of the facts but also cause I didn’t want those events replaying inside my mind.

When I got back, Yvonne had taken over, and she told me to take a couple more weeks off, and I said no because I knew I needed a successful production to keep me up and keep me sane; but halfway through the whole thing my whole hands started shaking and then it was intermission where Yvonne grabbed me and asked me if I was doing okay and I looked at her and my mind was blank and I could see the panic in her eyes and then everything just seemed so far far away and I zombied my way home that night because it wasn’t the hand-shaking that worried me but the absolute lack of emotion I felt towards everything else and looking at all those people laughing downstairs feeling like I could never be them again and

And then I realized that it wasn’t working: that I needed space, that I needed some distance away from the world, so I phoned Yvonne and told her I’d be taking two or three weeks off — and thank God, she understood, so after I made a visit to Lily (she’d just come out from surgery) I got on the train, just the first one that I found, cause I needed to get away from England for a bit, I didn’t want to do that kind of thing where I walked past the scene of the crime everyday, cause here was gonna be the same as there anyway — nobody felt like they could listen, and everyone around me seemed like they were going on with their lives and didn’t seem to care shit about what had happened to a good friend of mine… and why would I want to stay in such a place?

These things never work that way. When I got on the train, my eyes scanned the carriage for an empty seat and there was Thomas, still looking the same as he had when we’d last seen each other in June, and he didn’t really know that I’d had my eyes on him for a while, and I was pretty sure that it was him, but he didn’t look up when I said his name — he just sat there looking out the window, all moody and shut out from the world like, and after a while I thought that it wasn’t really worth it anyway, maybe he was heading to Marseille or Amsterdam and I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to anybody — him least of all — so I left him there and I went to the front of the carriage, and I just stood there looking at my reflection in the darkness, wondering if France was going to be any different, and I noticed that my eyes were still kind of red —

And then he walked right in.

Two can play at the grammatical game.

I think it might be nice to visit the capital. I’ve got more time than you, actually, the Maritime Department gave me four weeks so I’m not expected back till August. What say you?



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