I wrote the majority of this snippet of life while at work in between phone calls. For those that don't know where I'm working, I started at Gallup several weeks ago. McDonald's is no longer my master. Thank God. The following passages describe a time where I felt out of control as a result of obsessing over something I love. The first night of the play that I was a part of put a lot of strain on me afterwards. The second night was better than the first, for me. And the entire experience was incredibly rewarding.
I hear two hundred hands clapping behind me. Its like a sudden eruption of audio lava, pouring over me in a warm embrace. The feeling lasts for a moment before the heat intensifies in my stomach. A tingling sensation crawls up my chest. These aren’t butterflies. They’re roaches.
Its my turn to take a bow. I turn around from the director chair to accept some of the applause, but its hard to feel deserving. In this moment, I feel... happy? Nervous. Scared? No. I feel myself withdrawing from the people around me.
There were only two opinions outstanding in my mind. The one of the stupid kid in the restroom and the old critic’s, the one living beneath my skin. I walk briskly out into the cool night air and begin pacing up and down the sidewalk, pondering the reasons for my strain. I don’t want to face the audience. I’m hiding from their opinions and remarks. How can I believe what they say? How do I take the compliments? They make me uncomfortable. I go back inside. My peers swarm me, smiling and satisfied. I do my best to put up a convincing front. They can’t know how I really feel. Not right now, anyway. We have to put on another show still. I have to stay confident, controlled, contained.
Soon, the props and equipment are stored and the school is being locked up. Several of us stand outside for a few minutes before I walk to my car. The broken duct taped window is down, leaving my car’s interior exposed. Then I see them. An overnight growth of tiny white circles had appeared like patches of unwanted mushrooms all over my seats and floor. There isn’t time to think of analyze, only to feel.
Corrosive words explode from my mouth. Car keys fly out of my hand into the grassy hill across the parking lot. I jump up and kick my car, yelling all the while. My friends chuckle as if it’s a normal hammed up rage. I’m glad they believe that. Some wonder why I’m upset, but I continue to openly vent.
So much for keeping my cool, I think. I assume that one of the actors must have committed this treachery against me. After all the work I’d put in, I’m repaid with this. The thought consumes me, and I realize that I would probably punch the perpetrator in the face if they were standing in front of me.
I walk around, steaming, searching for my keys lost in the grass. Finally I find them, get into my car, and begin driving angrily. Underoath is in the CD player and I scream every word with them. My open palms beat against the steering wheel, sometimes honking the horn.
In the midst of my red mist rage, I begin wondering at the answer to my volatile emotions. Maybe everything’s just built up and now I need a catharsis. I’m never this genuinely upset about pranks. I continue thinking about the night and how the play went, running it over and over again in my mind. Each time I think about it, I’m not satisfied, and yet all the compliments and enthusiasm on peoples’ faces tells me it was great.
Nothing is making sense. If everyone around me believes and is proud, then what’s wrong? It clicks with me suddenly. No one else’s opinion matters. Its what I think that counts. Its the pride that I take in my work that makes the difference. Its that one negative comment that’s setting off my alarm. It isn’t my humble reserved nature. This is the dark cynical perfectionist that beats himself up for things. I think about my visions for the new born play and how I’d pictured everything going on stage. Then I remembered tonight and realized that it wasn’t how I’d planned, but it was fine. It didn’t suck like I kept hearing in my mind. People enjoyed themselves. Let it go. The words bring on a deep relaxing breath. Let it go, stop worrying. Another exhalation and I’m back in control of my thoughts.
P.S. Scott Simpson was the one that put the hole punched paper in my car, and I deserved it. In November of the previous year, I, along with other friends, lit bags of human feces on his porch. Twas well played, Scotty, and I learned that payback is a bitch. Yours is coming... not really.