July 1 Last night, I had a dream that I was flying. It was an old plane, the kind you would imagine Saint-Exupery piloting before vanishing forever during a night flight. The old and rickety machine was caught up in a storm, and I was feeling airsick with each violent thrust downwards.
Wow this scene felt and looked familiar. Me fretting with my clothes, hair and make-up behind the curtain. Murmurs from the audience sitting on the other side. My stomach in knots. My brow sweating. Just like so many of my nightmares about getting on stage and forgetting all my lines or worse! This time, I had even more reason to be so fearful, so excited. I wasn’t here to play just any role. Tonight, I was going to tackle the hardest role that anyone can play: Myself. This was my one-woman show.
Ali was there with me. He was wearing aviator glasses and an orange jumpsuit with a contraption attached to his back. A parachute! He was holding my hand tight and motioning for me to jump out of the plane with him. I kept pulling back. I didn’t want to go, I was terrified. Plus, I wasn’t even ready! I had no parachute, had received no training in the sport. The wind blew so hard, it was pulling my hair up and down, I could hardly see. I was paralyzed with fear and thought I’d rather crash than plunge into the dark unknown depths of the sky.
What would happen tonight? A scary prospect. I was taking a huge risk. Laying myself bare, my vulnerabilities and insecurities laid out like a buffet for all to observe, pick out, gnaw on. I wasn’t just going to recite some lines written by a third party, I wasn’t going to interpret someone else’s feelings. This was me, from A to Z. I could hide nothing. Uh oh! Time was approaching. Last chance to run away, forget about the whole thing. I shook from head to toe, my cheeks became flush. Maybe I had better get out of here while there was still time.
I turned around to run away from Ali’s tight hold and found myself face to face with a little child that was cowering in a corner of the plane, crying. I couldn’t see her face, it was buried in her bent knees, but I could tell it was a little girl, about 7 years old. I tried to comfort her, tell her it was okay, that she didn’t have to be scared. She suddenly looked up to me and between her tears, she sobbed: “The plane is going down and we are gonna die!” It didn’t even take me a split second to utter a firm, resolute “No!” At once, I had forgotten about my own fear, my own hang-ups. The important thing was to save this child from the fall. I grabbed her hand and returned to Ali. I knew that time was ticking and I had to make a decision.
But I couldn’t leave. Couldn’t let my friends and my parents down. Most of all, I couldn't and wouldn’t let myself down. I was so incredibly lucky to stand here tonight. A combination of chance, timing, but most of all my incredible group of friends, who over the years had truly become an adopted family for me: Manny, Nance and Hossein, Bruce, had flown in from New York. Artie, Ali, Sami and Behn were as always my local cheering group. My parents were here too, god bless their heart.
I knew they still thought of this whole acting thing as “ke-reyzee” but as long as they bothered to come, I knew they were being supportive and that was good enough for me. Wow: My own show, my own stage. Why would I let myself be controlled by an irrational fear? This was all mine. My writings, my role, my direction, my ideas, my audience. I was the one who would decide my fate, not the other way around. So I took a deep breath and nodded in the affirmative to the stage hand. Slowly the curtains opened, revealing the spectators awaiting me.
With one hand in Ali’s and the other firmly gripping the child, I counted: