An actor goes to an audition with dismal prospects, high hopes and a terrible sense of direction. 2,447 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
The cold metal doors slam shut, and I am sealed in, coffin-like, for a smattering of seconds or even for a minute or more. But this will pass. I will endure; I always have. Breathe now — slow from the gut, deep down within the solar plexus. Slower — till the lungs, every inch, are full and aching. Hold. Exhale. Better. Yes. I control my fate. Breath of life, breath of life, breath of life.
My eyes open with the elevator doors, and I move to exit this vertical casket. “Wrong floor, sweetheart. I think you want seven,” warns a small corpulent woman blocking my path. We ride in silence but the woman, sensing my phobia of small spaces, kindly relinquishes as much of the elevator square footage as she can. She doesn’t know that, in my early youth, I had once been trapped in a smashed-up Buick, submerged on a river bottom with my family dead all around me. I survived off trapped air from an empty Thermos till those divers came.
Well, actually — no, that’s not really true. It had happened to my friend Kenny, not me. My invented past can seem so real. God knows I utilize it every chance imaginable for “sense memory.” Pathetic, isn’t it, to have no real trauma of your own? Is it my fault that, as the only child of diplomats, my upbringing was so uneventful? I’ve always been jealous of those raw-nerve actors with some hellish past to draw upon as grist for the creative mill. Maybe that’s why I am still a nobody with an ever-closing five year window to play leads. Yet I try to stir up faux claustrophobia to cover the anticipatory dread of an audition.
The elevator doors open, and I, Josh Barnes, the handsome-ish everyman — early 30s to mid-40s — exhale into the casting anteroom. A dozen others, all from the same narrow band of eerily similar likeness, are spaced around. Some I know, some I know too well. Most sit, many pace, all giving each other as wide berth as they possibly can. Everyone has the same three pages of ‘sides" in their hands. The room is silent but for rustling paper and the compound murmuring.