Monday, November 19, 2007

Sort of a win-win

Back along at the beginning of October I submitted a piece for consideration for the new Fray book. They said that decisions would be made by the end of that month and in this case no news is bad news so I didn't get in. I said I'd post the piece here if I didn't get in, though, so it's not like it was written in vain. Here it is:

Streaking Down Myrtle Avenue
A Caught in the Act Story

When I was 25 I went to drama school in London. Back in New York, 26, well-educated but underemployed I mooched then rented a room in a house owned by two college friends. The three of us shared groceries, cooking, cleaning and dog-care chores. We also shared a kitchen and a bathroom.

I have a sweet tooth. Really, all my teeth are sweet. Despite a genetic river of diabetes in my family there is nothing I like more than eating dessert first. If I can’t have it first I’m perfectly happy to have it instead of dinner. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, though, I’m as likely to scarf down a Kit-Kat as I am a hand-dipped Belgian truffle.

One afternoon I was alone in the kitchen and had a hankering for something sweet. Being lazy I reached into the fridge and pulled out the economy-sized bottle of chocolate syrup. Using a large dessert spoon I gulped down 2 or 3 spoonfuls of this white trash delicacy and, as sometimes happens, couldn’t seem to stop. It’s a lot like playing solitaire on the computer, you say you’re only going to play one more game but when the game ends you’re powerless against the thrall of the ‘New Game’ button. So, in an effort to stop the madness I chucked my spoon into the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. (I didn’t say we did the chores well, just that we shared them.)

I took my time savoring the last drops of chocolate on my tongue while holding the bottle in one hand and the cap in the other.

It wasn’t enough.

I wanted more, not a lot but more, definitely. Listening carefully for approaching footsteps I positioned myself behind the kitchen door for cover in case I was ambushed, ditched the cap and up-ended the jug over my outstretched tongue.

This is a precarious position to be in, should you ever try it yourself. Gravity is a demanding mistress and you can’t just stop the flow of sugary goo in an instant unless you want to be covered in it.

Before I could extricate myself D. flipped open the door and strode in. He was greeted by a scene out of an Afterschool Special. I was hunching my shoulders and trying to turn away from the door to shield myself from his eyes, to swallow without gagging or drooling and to gently return the bottle to its full upright and locked position without turning myself into a cheap, edible reproduction of a Jackson Pollack painting.

D. stood, frozen on the peeling linoleum for a moment.

“Um….oops?” I said, smiling sheepishly.

Then we both laughed.

Whenever I think of that time of my life I think of that incident and I’m immediately brought back to a sense of shame, but that shame is mixed with glee.

At the time I was working as a freelance theatre technician, temp theatre season subscription salesperson and general dogsbody. I had deferred my student loans for the year I was in the UK but those payments would quickly be coming due along with all the regular bills my meager and irregular paychecks were meant to cover. Apparently my life didn’t feel exciting enough even then because I also began dating a man who had recently become engaged to his live-in lover.

I was, in every facet of my life, all but begging to be caught. Catch me in your bed with your fiancĂ©. Catch me and demand the money I owe. Catch me and ask me what in the name of little fuzzy puppies I think I’m doing with my life.

The plan upon re-entry from my magical year abroad was to put that year’s earned knowledge and joy to work. I was to be auditioning and acting and writing and meeting agents on a regular, life-sustaining basis. Actors are the very soul of the desire to be caught. We all but run the streets naked screaming, “Catch me! Catch me! Please, catch me!” like three-year-olds at bedtime. We want to be caught doing something fascinating, to be caught saying just the right thing or leaning into the sunlight in just the right way so that you see that you cannot live for one moment more without putting us on your stage, screen, billboard or radio.

While I found a great deal of pleasure in acting, freelancing and having sex with a forbidden man the shame I experienced with them didn’t have the element of delight I equate with that chocolate syrup moment. As I licked sauce from my lips I was able to laugh with a friend over one questionable choice and fundamental weakness. Not so for the other things. While I could laugh with my lover I couldn’t laugh about us. While I loved being in a rehearsal room or on a small stage on the fringes of the New York scene, when I thought about it all I could see was where I hadn’t yet gone and wasn’t getting any time soon. While I enjoyed my friends and my simple pleasures and a culture of barter I turned ferociously on someone who said, “No one can really live in New York for under $40K.” All I could see in that phrase was judgment.

Twelve years later I’m able to pay my bills without fear and I’ve extricated myself from my naughty lover but I’m not much further along with making my acting, or writing or photography for that matter, my full time job. I think I remember standing in that kitchen and feeling the sweet rush of being caught in the act because it reminds me to honor my impulses. It reminds me that there are those who see my weaknesses without judgment. I still love what I do and my many talents are still valuable and that is what is most important while I streak down Myrtle Avenue screaming, “Catch me! Catch me! Please catch me!”


  1. Thank you for sharing that.

    I was going to go all professorial on you, talking about imagery and focus, but I got bored with my own pretentiousness, so let me say this.

    You rite rilly good.

  2. I like your focus, sir. :) That's exactly the sort of thing a girl needs to hear after having her writing rejected. Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Anonymous2:01 PM

    Very nice! Thanks so much for posting. And it hit me in a good place today, since I'm starting to have to stick my neck out for the things I want more than usual.

  4. I could just see you and see me sitting right next to you waiting to take the next hit.
    Well done my dear!

  5. Christa, I hope you get everything you're working for, you certainly deserve it all.

    Gert, while cleaning out the fridge for the Thanksgiving influx I discovered that I seem to have a jug of chocolate syrup in there. Oh heavens, come over quick and slurp your share!