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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 28 page 06

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My gaze soon falls on a small round table in the far corner. It’s dirty, two empty coffee cups from previous customers left on it. At the sight of the two cups a vivid picture of lovers takes shape in my head. She is resting her back against his chest. He wraps his arms around her, burying his nose in her hair. They just sit like this together with their eyes closed, enveloped in serenity.

They could have been just friends. Not lovers. Just two friends who went out for coffee. I cling tightly to the thought as I move the cups over to make room for mine. Character break down. Do it.

I take out the stapled pages of the Streetcar Named Desire script where the words of Blanche Dubois are underlined in fluorescent yellow. I don’t know why I chose to audition for this part. I guess because I feel Blanche even though I’m years younger than her. Her delicacy, her heightened sensitivity...That’s how I am.

Okay, start with the birthday dinner scene. I open the questions for a scene breakdown on my iPad and ponder scrupulously over each one. As I get to the fifth question — “What does your character want, and what happens if she doesn’t get it?” — the answer does not come out as effortlessly as previous ones did.

So...er...Blanche sort of wants to present herself in a positive light here. She wants to...She wants to deceive Stanley, Stella and herself. But instead...er...she reaches her breaking point and loses her temper. And so in this scene... Abruptly my mind goes blank. Is someone staring? I cautiously lift my eyes from the iPad to meet an inquisitive, almost predatory gaze of a young man. His eyes, a familiar sparkle in them, break contact with mine as they boldly set about raking up and down my body. Assessing me. Undressing me. His lips quirk up into a salacious smirk, and he winks at me ever so playfully.

I almost jump up from the table that instant as I start frantically collecting my things and jamming them into my bag. Tears blur my vision. I can’t act my way out of this situation. The feeling of unimportance which seemed to have receded to almost nothing is now raging through me with full force. It’s mingled with loneliness. The kind of loneliness that is all-consuming. Who am I kidding? I am dying without love. And nothing can save me from this. Neither my friends nor my passion for acting. Why am I unloved? Why do I need it so badly? I give way to a tornado of toxic thoughts that dash through my head like a flock of bats.

For several moments nothing exists but hot tears, until the icy air jerks me back to reality. My feet are moving along the snow-sprinkled pavement as I subconsciously try to walk as far as possible from the café and what just happened there. I’ll go home and watch a movie. Should perk me up. I lie shamelessly to myself, falling further down the chaotic abyss. Soon I know the subway is nearby since the sidewalk gets visibly more crowded. As I look up to make my way into the vestibule of Ploshchad Vosstaniya Station, a small figure on the other side of the street catches my eye.

Is that a kid all alone? Forgetting what I was about to do, I march across the street toward the main entrance of the Stockmann department store. There, pressing to a wall, stands a little girl, wide-eyed, intently scanning passers-by, a stuffed pink pony clutched to her chest. I approach the child gingerly and ask her if she is lost. She nods, and I can’t tell if she is more scared of me or of having been left on her own.

Five minutes later we stand at the Stockmann information desk, waiting for the lady behind the counter to announce the information about the lost girl on the loudspeaker. Long minutes pass before I notice a panicked woman in the distance. Pushing people away, she sprints down the escalator swinging her shopping bags from side to side. When she gets closer, I feel the lost girl yank her hand out of mine. I see her running to her mother.

They cry and hug and kiss each other and smile afterwards. As I watch the heartwarming scene unfolding in front of me, suddenly and unexplainably I feel important.