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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: June 25, 2017      Views: 105

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I need to admire you, before I can respect you. Fortunately, I'm easy to impress,

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NYC--a melting pot of human stories
"An Accidental Audition" by Spiritual Echo

For all I've survived, strived to move beyond the destiny carved out by others, it only took a few seconds to shatter my veneer.

I thought she was dead, or perhaps it was wishful thinking. She showed no sign of recognizing me--how could she? Still, the thought she might see beyond the greasepaint and costume had left me shaking. I can't go back on stage. No, I can't. Christ! It was like looking in the mirror.


The off-Broadway play seemed doomed for an early closure until a critic from the New York Times wrote a stunning review praising the subliminal nuances buried in the script. The all-woman cast went from being obscure actors who supplemented their meagre theatre pay with an assortment of menial jobs, to household names. Suddenly they were famous.

Kelly, one of the few actors singled out by name in the review, felt overwhelmed by her overnight success. Other actors spent years crawling from one audition to another, suffering rejection and trying to maintain their dreams. Kelly didn't feel entitled. It had come too easy. 'The Clowns' was her first play, an accidental job she'd found by accident on her first day in New York. Every day she woke up wondering what angel led her to the Williams Theatre, but she certainly remember the man who'd steered her towards an accidental meeting that changed her life.

Four years ago, she'd boarded a bus in Seattle. Her only thought at the time--get as far away from her home town as possible. New York's appeal, its sheer size, offered Kelly the comfort she could get permanently lost in the swarming population.

She'd traded one ocean for another, never anticipating the move to the east coast to cause more than a flutter in her purpose, but she was wrong--and right. New York turned out to be the threshold for an entirely new life--and she continued to suffer from cultural shock.

There was a definite difference in people's attitudes. The west coast seemed relaxed by comparison. From the moment Kelly stepped off the bus, she felt like an ant in a colony; pushed, shoved and invisible. The city reeked with immediacy, a chant in the crowd, an impatient rush, a discordant symphony, a drone of chatter without a melody or words.

A stench, a mixture of melting asphalt, sweat and garbage made Kelly's nostrils flare as she tried to make sense of her destination of choice. She looked back longingly at the bus, a steel cocoon, a place of refuge, but it made a left-hand turn and pulled out of the depot before she could change her mind.

At seventeen, Kelly's life experience, limited to resistance, a push-back from all that could have destroyed her spirit, had not equipped her for survival in New York City. But, with less than two hundred dollars tucked away in her bra, her practical nature dictated that she find a job before succumbing to creature comforts. She shoved her small suitcase into a locker at the bus station and walked outside the depot, bolstering her lack of confidence with gutsy bravado. Kelly wasn't proud. She was determined to take the first job she could find--and do it well.

The subway took her into downtown Manhattan. For the next five hours Kelly crossed a hundred thresholds; from store to store, restaurant to cafe, she begged for work, to no avail. Too young--no experience--get out and stay out; the responses to her desperation hurt, but had not defeated the girl.

She splurged, bought a coke at a hotdog stand, and leaned against a convenient wall. In front of her, a wall of humanity seemed to have reason, purpose for their battle for space on the sidewalk. Kelly didn't belong, she knew it, but couldn't surrender.

A rush of cold air bathed her in new hope. A door opened beside her, allowing the air-conditioning to escape as a man rushed out of the building.  She caught the door before it closed and went inside to escape the August heat.

"Open auditions are almost over. Better hurry if you want your chance."

Kelly whirled around to see who'd spoken. A spindly old man dressed in olive-green work clothes leaned on a mop looking her way. "Are you talking to me?"

"You see anybody else in here?" He squeezed the water out the mop and continued swabbing the marble floor. When Kelly didn't move, he paused and glared at the young women. "Don't tell me you're nervous? I've been cleaning up puke all day. Now either get in there or get out. I got work to do."

Kelly moved towards the door leading into the theatre, obeying the gestures of the old man who seemed intent on getting her out of the lobby. A spotlight shone on a single person on the stage. She slipped into a seat in the darkness, grateful to be off her feet. She sipped her coke and sent a silent prayer of gratitude for a place of rest.


The shrill voice startled Kelly. She could see the heavy-set silhouette at the front of the theatre, hear the disappointed sigh of the actor leaving the stage, but she relaxed in the darkness, feeling immune to the events playing out in front of her.

"Is that it?"

Kelly took off her shoes and closed her eyes. She felt like she could sleep for a week.

Had she fallen asleep? A broom handle threatened to bruise her ribs.

"Go on, girl. You can do it. Don't chicken out now."

The janitor hovered so closely, Kelly thought she could count his nose hairs.

She didn't have time to react. The bulky man, who minutes ago had destroyed someone's dream, was looming over her.

"What? Do you need--a personal invitation? Get on the stage and show us what you've got."

Disoriented, Kelly set her coke on the ground. " I haven't got anything. I didn't come here to read for a part."

"Fine. Improv it is. Let me set up the scene."

Kelly was too tired to run, and even if she could, the janitor kept poking at her, encouragement that seemed more like a cattle prod.

"All right, then" he said. "You're reading for the part of Rachel, a woman who has been compromised, bought and sold with a wedding ring. Every role in this play depicts a woman at different stages in her life. Rachel has just received her divorce papers." He paused and looked at Kelly over his glasses. "Yes, I suppose you're too young for the part. Convince me. Get on the stage and begin."

His name was Gordon, a big burly man, a diamond in the rough, a sensitive, kind soul who rescued an actress in the making. Kelly rose to the challenge, stepped out in the stage and gave a performance she often reflected upon, but never duplicated. Her agony, the blood seeping from a fresh scar spilled on the stage. If asked, she couldn't remember or repeat the words she uttered, but she could dredge up the emotion on demand. Rachel--divorced? Rachel...the name of her twin took her over the edge.

Bathed in the spotlight, Kelly connected with her truth, the reality of her survival. Raised by a mother who continually relegated Kelly to a consolidation prize, the young woman spewed her emotions across the planks and wound up in a heap on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. From the back of the theatre, a single man applauded the performance.

"You weren't acting," Gordon said, handing Kelly a Kleenex while ignoring his own tears. "Can you do that again?"

Kelly didn't get the part, but she got something much better. When Gordon heard her story, and once he realized the girl was homeless, he took her home, introduced her to his wife and daughter, changing her destiny with his compassion. She inherited a family, something she'd never known.

Gordon encouraged her brief introduction to theatre, and with his directorial contacts, secured a place in Julliard the following year. For her twenty-first birthday, Gordon gave her a role in an obscure play he was producing. Life was good, even great, Kelly thought, especially after the review. The theatre was full every night.

Usually, Kelly never saw individuals in the audience, but the minute she saw the woman in the front row, she froze. Unable to continue, the rest of the cast covered for, pushing her into the wings. Somehow she'd made it back to the dressing room, but she had no idea how she'd navigated down a flight of stairs. She sat staring at herself in the mirror, her reality caught between the reflection of the clown she played onstage and the childhood memories pounding on her temples.

"Kelly, are you alright?"Gordon was pounding on the door. "What happened out there?"

She could barely speak, but somehow she told him enough that he left the dressing room to see for himself. Fifteen minutes later, Gordon returned, but not alone. The woman walked into the dressing room, taking small tenuous steps.

"Gordon says...are you my twin sister?" Tears rolled down her cheeks. "Are you my Kelly?"


The funny thing is, I might look exactly like Meagan, my real sister, I feel closer to Stacy, Gordon's daughter, than I do with my own flesh and blood. Two sides to every story, I'm told, and I've tried to believe Meagan's version. Her life was pretty, party dresses and fluffy toys. Mine was lived in flop houses with a drug-addicted mother who didn't care what she had to do to get her fix.

A single thread matched our stories. Meagan was told her mother disappeared taking only one of us--she chose me. Boy, wasn't I lucky! And, I was repeatedly told my father rejected me--choosing Meagan. There was no way to verify the story. Our  father died before I ever got to New York. We were toddlers, our lives, forever changed by my mother's addiction and selfishness. Meagan grew up with a fantasy for a mother. I grew up with the ugly reality.

It's going to take some time to get to know each other, but I have grandparents who want to meet me, and who knows how many other relatives? Still, even after the shock wore off, I got to go home with my family.


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