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Read My Lips(12)

By:Daryl Banner

“Desdemona? Hi.”

Already, I’m annoyed by two facts. One: I almost don’t recognize her due to the thick English dialect she’s putting on. Two: she’s the only person in the world who uses my full name. Not even my parents bother with all four annoying syllables of it.

“Hey, Cece. I have a favor to ask. A really serious favor.”

“Oh, that is quite fine. I was simply partaking in a lesson with my vocal coach,” she answers in an airy voice, her English dialect annoyingly realistic. “Andre, can we take five? My dear sister needs a favor of me. Thank you. Desdemona, what is it you need, dear?”

I sigh. “Can you knock off the voice, please? This is serious.”

“This is quite serious as well,” she goes on, the dialect remaining perfectly intact. “I must master every bit of idiosyncrasy in the Upper RP dialect, and that entails remaining in-character for the rest of the week at the very least, dear sister. My work is quite serious.”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes, unable to bear one more word than I absolutely have to. “Cece, I need help with an acting résumé. I’m required to have one for auditions this Friday.”

“Oh, silly girl, I am afraid I do not do my own. That is the job of Xavier and Iris. I would be happy to connect you, if you so wish to—”

“No, no, no.” I resent that I even have to have this conversation. “You don’t understand. I don’t have any shows to put on mine. Other than high school, I’ve only done the one show at Claudio’s, and I didn’t even do that to completion. My résumé’s empty.”

“Are … Are you requesting my assistance in an act of forgery, dear sister? Oh, how wayward you have become! Oh, stars! I am afraid I cannot—”

“For fuck’s sake, Cece, I need your help,” I hiss into the phone, my hands trembling. “It’s just a résumé. I can’t go in there Friday with nothing!”

Cece draws a deep breath into the phone. I can even picture her as she does so, her body turning rigid and her long eyelashes batting with irritation as she steels herself for her next words.

“Every actor must start somewhere. It is not my fault that you have no history. To have a history, you must first make one. Life experience makes the actor, Desdemona. Not a sheet of paper.”

“I haven’t been given the experiences you have. It isn’t fair of you to act superior to me, treating me like it’s my fault I don’t get the callbacks. You’re the one who inherited all our family’s magic mojo and left none for me. So help me out a little, Cece.”

“If I may allow you to stand corrected,” my sister retorts, her voice clipped and sterile, “with regard to our family’s ‘magic mojo’, you did, in fact, ask for a journey to Texas to find that very thing, didn’t you, dear sister? Why cannot you try and see this as a most precious opportunity to find that very special thing that makes you, you? I guarantee, it won’t be by forging a false résumé.”

I’m clenching my phone so tight, the muscles in my palm ache.

“Thanks for nothing, Cece. I gotta go. I’m so busy over here having my life experience.”

I hang up, cutting off her response. I always regret asking my sister for help; she makes me want to act upon violent impulses. With a huff, I turn to the sign-up sheet on the wall and bring a pen to its surface with too much force, scratching on my name.

When I’m about to turn away, I hear a noise from the opened door of the auditorium. I stop and listen.

Nothing else comes.

I move to the door and poke my head in. I don’t see anyone in the seats. Coming further inside, I look up at the stage. No one. Nothing.

“Hello?” I call out, like the half-naked bimbo does in the horror movie before she’s caught and gutted by the killer. “Hello?”

No one answers. I move down the aisle, curious, drawn by the silence. I ascend the steps and stand center stage, looking out at the seating, which is only half-lit by the spray of stage light above.

A smile finds my face. No one uses the auditorium at all, not until after auditions when the set building and rehearsing begins. This big room is abandoned for the time being, according to my new friends.

This auditorium is mine.

I imagine the seats filled to the walls with people who’ve purchased tickets. I imagine the hum of an animated crowd as they enjoy the house music and await the first act to begin. I imagine myself standing backstage, wringing my hands and excitedly longing for the drapes to be drawn. This is my moment. This is my show.

On this big stage, I feel a stronger sense of privacy than I do in my dorm. The desire to express myself grows strong, stronger … until I can no longer contain it. The first thing that comes to mind is a song no one’s heard of called “A Palace of Stone”. I part my lips and sing: