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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

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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