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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

not a doctor

Most of the day was spent outside myself, goosebumps running up my arms. Faces stared, young men and women smacking at their phones, taking selfies in the giant modern house. It was over an hour drive from the city, all gates and guards and gravel driveways when we finally arrived.

I was whisked into the costume room, where they fitted me for scrubs and then began to iron them. I was given an old shirt to wear in the makeup trailer. A woman with soft, warm hands held my face and looked at me in the mirror. She spoke quietly to herself, and then began. 

I sat in a giant foyer. 
"You really look like a doctor." One girl said to me.

I kept the script next to me, forcing the bizarre UK English that detoured through Russian grammar to come out, trying to remember the awkward phrases. Last night, I had them cold but here in this strange place it was running away from me.

No one spoke much English but I was told there would be two scenes, one with no dialogue and one later one with the page I had auditioned with. I relaxed, watching the small army of people taking off their shoes at the doorway and carrying lights up the stairs, or a clipboard, or a monitor. 



They call me upstairs and it seems there is no scene without dialogue, just the one I have been struggling with. A girl with a fake scar on her back tiptoes in. She is one of the main characters from the show. Her English is ok, and we try to make some small jokes with each other. She has a few kind words for every single member of the crew. And then all at once we run through the scene and I am staring at her, trying to be quiet and gruff and sincere. She acts differently, eyes popping, her whole body going through a series of motions, hands flipping around. But maybe that is her character. I have no idea what the story is outside of this random scene. I ask her who the director is and it turns out he is not even in the room, but downstairs watching a collection of monitors with headphones perched on his forehead. He is nice enough, and speaks not a word of English. The first assistant director tries to help me, her English half a mess. She looks at me a lot, not sure what I am saying.

I bury my chin into my chest, buckle down, try to answer my own questions, try to tell myself I am not a hot mess, not a straw man speaking false words with two cameras hovering near him, not a mannequin next to her, the live wire that somehow has tears running down her cheeks in every single take.

The words completely escape me a few times and I improvise around them. Maybe no one even notices, I tell myself. They shoot from a host of angles, details of buttons pushed, hands, reactions, face turns. My stomach growls, empty.

And then all at once they say thank you and I am lead downstairs where I change back into my jeans and t-shirt, and the car is waiting to take me back to the city. I am starving. The makeup smears onto my sunglasses. I will remember to take it off at home.




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