I’m sleepless on a balcony.
Three hours before the curtain was due to go up, I was buying us tickets to Lulu’s play. It was a new production, one that didn’t really catch my attention when I had first seen the poster, but as soon as I discovered he’d be in it – I called up my friends.
The sun was out and so were all the people. In the main square, there was a huge colourful procession of this year’s freshmen, groups of tourists and the timeless skateboarders. I had my cup of coffee to go so I could sit down and watch the people going. It wasn’t long before I was approached by one of those men you cross the street to avoid. The skater boys watched him walk towards me; the smiles on their faces were clearly in anticipation of some impending disaster. But I held my ground.
“I hope I won’t bother you.”
“Maybe, maybe you will.”
“You’re a candy girl, aren’t ya…it’s a beautiful day. The elections are coming soon, I wonder what they will…taxes…life is…I’m unemployed,” he blabbered on, my focus elsewhere, I kept checking the foam in my cup.
“Well, I will be leaving now…”
“Ciao, good day!”
His tracksuit-clad figure disappeared somewhere behind me. I wore the strap of my bag just incase he was planning on grabbing it or something. You never know with these types…better a prude than sorry.
I walked through the park, damp golden leaves softening the click-clack of my boots, wearing the wondrous expression of a drifter back from exile. Nobody knew me, yet everyone and everything felt familiar.
I was thinking of what to do about Lulu. Should I see him after the play? Should I call him the next day to tell him I had enjoyed it? Should I just hope he’d see me in the audience?
I decided on flowers. I’d get him a small bouquet – the gesture would be subtle, affectionate and elegant.
“It’s for the theatre, nothing big and clumsy. I like the burgundy ones. And in the middle, place the sprout of tiny white blossoms. They will look like snowflakes.”
“Does the play have anything to do with snow?”
“Maybe…there was a polar bear on the poster.”
He was the first to come on stage, pulling and tying a rope of an imaginary ship. He wore a huge, savage-looking fur coat and big leather boots. When he spoke, his voice was forcefully deep and rusty.
It took me a good hour to disengage from the fact that it was Lulu, the flirtatious, charming man that had once stolen my heart with a single. At one point, he was looking straight at me, but I couldn’t tell if it was an empty stare or whether he was supposed to be flustered in the script. Near the end of the play, he forgot his lines, he struggled and tortured himself in order to remember the ending of the story he was telling and only when the fellow actress yelled out a cue, he wavered back on track. I was hurting inside – poor Lulu, this was not the first time I was witness to his overcrowded mind.
The curtain was lowered. I fetched the bouquet from beneath my seat. Then came the applause.
“Do not chicken out this time!” I said to myself.
The actors came on stage. He was himself again, and not the brutal warrior that he was wrongly cast for. My friend nudged me, “Go! Go! What are you waiting for? Just tell them to stand up and let you through!”
I got up and made my way to the first steps, but the actors had already taken their position centre-stage.
Lulu spotted me. I’ll never forget his expression of dropped mouth warm smile bright eyes. I was surprised he recognized me after all these years, but I was so happy he did and I was so happy I held this pretty little bunch of flowers all wrapped up in silver paper and tied with a ribbon.
They came back for the second round of applause and I took those few long steps to greet him. His face was all like “You shouldn’t have” and his sweaty cheek was all like next to my cheek and I was all like blushing…
I didn’t want to linger around, I didn’t want to bump into him just yet – what had just happened was perfect.
Yet, the following morning all I could think about was him. A part of me wanted to be this ephemeral appearance passing through his life, leaving him to wonder whatever happened to me calling him everytime I was back in town, and the other half was just yearning to meet him, me all grown up and full of stories.
So I called him. He was at practice and he would get back to me later. He sounded out of breath and formal. He’ll never call back…
I wasn’t going to worry about it. I continued towards the other side of the river, over the bridge, unto a rooftop landscape, into the National Art Gallery, through the rooms that held some very surprising and beautiful artworks, down a staircase, across the street, into the shopping centre, in and out of a changing room, through a bookshop. Somewhere past the first room of paintings, I had completely forgotten about the click and dial tone. It was only when I was walking towards the bus station that his name appeared on my phone. Deep breath, sound cool and confident, slide to answer.
“What are you doing, wandering around the city?”
“Actually, I’m about to head home, I’m having some friends over…”
“Awww, too bad, I would’ve invited you to tonight’s play!”
“Yes, we wanted to go but the tickets were all sold out. But listen, tomorrow we’re going to see another one of your plays…”
“Naughty girl! You know it’s easy for me to get you seats, I told you this many times!”
“Yeah, like last time…nevermind, I’ll keep you in mind the next time I come back.”
“How long are you here for?”
“Till next weekend.”
“Would you, um, like to go for tea, coffee, or…?”
“I would be most pleased.”
“So let’s get in touch on Monday. Have fun tonight, bye.”
The idea of going home for a nap was good as gone – I wanted to dance in the streets, I wanted to do cartwheels and flips and pirouettes.
Oh, how my friends will shake their heads and fingers when they hear that we could have gotten us free seats!
While I waited for bus no. 6, I danced a little.