Tag Archives: falling off the stage

Show Up And Play.

Nightmares.

Some are so soul crushing that the relief which occurs upon waking is akin to epiphany.

I’d found myself back in the cello section of the Erie Philharmonic. (That alone, to those who know the history, was already a foreboding dream marker.) Herewith, the scene unfolding.

First, the orchestra was performing in the pit not of the spacious and soon to be reborn Warner Theatre/Erie, PA but of Grover Cleveland Elementary School, a site never before graced by this orchestra (although the Erie Chamber Orchestra would find its way there a year or so before its own demise). Further, my position in the cello section was outside last desk (which had almost never been my seat) and the cellist sitting inside was a student, the only private student who had left my studio during my actively performing years and who, during this scene, was no longer my student. Given this arrangement, the dream concert would likely have been a Jr Phil “side by side” performance, no doubt inspired by photos posted on Facebook which I’d just perused before retiring to bed the night before.

I’d taught at Grover Cleveland School for twelve of the twenty five in total dedicated to related arts, public education. My seat as outside last desk in that pit put me very near the spot of the place where, twelve years earlier, in full view of an auditorium filled to capacity with young children and their teachers, I’d flown from the stage edge to smash to the floor, breaking my hip and sacra.

Now, in that very place, the orchestra sat in dress rehearsal. My former student was sustaining sound on one note noticeably beyond cue of the conductor’s baton, affectionately known by seasoned professionals as “the stick”. Watching the stick had been something to which I’d been absolutely loyal for nearly 30 years. This was a feature of my own contribution to the ensemble which I’d been sure established my value within it.

I gave my former student a sidelong glance of teacherly disapproval.

Suddenly, the dream scene changed. The conductor was at my elbow, leaning across me, lavishing the student with praise – and, ignoring me. This conductor, that is, none other than the Maestro to whom I’d been most devoted, the one and only Eiji Oue who, as a Bernstein protege, had filled our hall every concert for five glorious years.

I looked up at Eiji – bewildered, frustrated, and sad. Then, I spoke. “Maestro, do you…….should I just leave the orchestra?” With snide condescension, almost irritated by the question, he responded.

His reply was affirmative. I don’t remember what he said.

Rehearsal having ended, audience had begun filing in. Standing up, preparing to buck the encroaching crowd, I spied my younger brother already seated in the auditorium. I called out to him, declaring that I was being eliminated from the orchestra. He gave me a challenging look, the kind he presents when he’s about to wordlessly act. Then, he turned, and ushered his couple boys out of the row.

I looked over the throng, beginning to feel the panic. Was I carrying my cello in its case up the steep aisle toward the foyer? Once there, the space resembled the inside of a local parking garage near the Warner, all cement, with painted steel rails. I had to find my brother; he’d transported me to the event. Didn’t his truck have my housekeys in it?!

My brother, because this was a dream, could not be found.

I returned to the inside of the auditorium, which was filling fast. Heading down the aisle was a strange young woman with long, thick, honey colored hair, carrying a cello case. Reaching the last desk, she began unpacking her cello. Her face was one common to my dreams, clearly identifiable but totally unrecognizable by me. I called to her. Refusing to look at me, but with a knowing smirk, she continued setting up her instrument.

That fast, I’d been replaced for the performance by a sub willing to “show up and play”, the moniker for those whose entire performing lives are dictated by a willingness to wait for a call at any moment, said calls tabulated and reviewed and documented for income tax purposes.

I turned. I looked back over the audience. I looked back at her. The room was closing in. I spoke to a woman near. I’d been eliminated from the orchestra after three decades. She looked back at me, as one looks at a sad stranger. I looked around the room. I stood. The sounds in the room increased in volume around me to a maddening pitch. I woke up.

Eyes opening, sticky from sleep, I felt the weighted blanket hugging my hips. The bedroom chair, dimly seen, the bathroom doorway, the music room through the bedroom door with my cello laying on its side by the piano… I’d returned to the haven of my own reality. I was intact.

Most dreams linger, their images gradually fading as we move through time. This one was different. This time, with a clarity as yet never experienced, I knew something.

No one other person, however importantly perceived, however grand in sphere of influence, however innately capable, determines another’s value.

No single moment within time determines destiny.

None, perhaps, except epiphany.

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© 4/8/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Sharing permitted via blog link, exclusively; no copying, in part or whole including translation, permitted. Thank you for being a good person.

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The Actual Living.

That wheelchair had become the center of her social life.

Breaks locked, in the center of the livingroom, both her weight and the hardwood floor would render it rooted, stable enough from which to fulfill a role unbeknownst to both herself and most everyone who’d ever thought they knew her.

She had never been socially sophisticated. “Weird” branded her for the better part of the 1970’s; newly permed, painted and propped for the ’80’s; and, from ’90 to about ’95, just generally awk-ward. 1998 was too pivotal, a year of trauma from start to finish, professional medical leave to be exact for throat surgery plus a bout with sexual harassment, and wouldn’t factor. What remained, leading up to 2009, would fall under the heading “rush to the cadence”; reaching peak frenzy that June, one false step in rudderless Red Dogs on a dust-hydroplaned stage, and up into the air and down she’d dropped into the auditorium pit, to sustain multiple contusions and non-dislocating fractures of the left acetabula, sacral ala, and one tiny carpal bone of the left hand on impact. There hadn’t been an empty seat in the house; every Kindergarten, first, and second grader plus their teachers and aides had witnessed the performance.

After a temporarily chaotic rearrangement of duties involving her 93 year old father, his house, her house, and her brother’s all night trip in from Kentucky via Chicago, Dad had been placed in the backseat of her brother’s Suburban and – as she sat on her own stoop, the snot hanging from her nose of all the crying, watching them disappear down the road for what she was sure would be forever – driven off for Kentucky.

Once hauling her bottom heavy self up via the one crutch and hopping back into the house, what would commence that summer truly would reach majestically eternal proportions; eleven years hence – minus the wheelchair, plus a bit of encroaching arthritis in the lower spine – here she was, in essentially the same spot. All credit to the one, redeeming tool at her social disposal: the Internet.

At first, she’d felt consoled. As a child, playing alone with the ideas inside her head, be they narrative or cinematic, solitude had been her mode. This newly enforced aloneness was similar, if one ignored the lidocaine-numbed physical pain and discomfort; and, the new Macbook Pro having arrived, she soon became enamored of all the options for human expression which its dazzling graphic environs engendered.

Most fascinating, this time, was an apparently built-in audience known as Facebook. Eagerly she took to it, daily and, as the hours trudged by, her time flew; not only could she write, but take photos – of herself, no less – and, include them in “posts” to which others seemed to take with equal enthusiasm. Furthermore here was Becky, and Cindy, and Bob, and everyone she hadn’t seen for twenty three years, including the students who’d populated her earliest foray into the role of public school educator. And, then, the church “family”, from as far back as childhood and every corner of the United States; everybody, it seemed, was a keystroke away – and, they all appeared ready to see and hear her every word. Breaking one’s hip and back would not destroy life, after all. She would be reborn, as a character of her own, socially informed design.

It was through Facebook that her fifth grade crush turned up. It was in the chat that she would discover him to be headed home for a visit. By the next year, and all the years hence, each and every encounter with a live human would be traceable to that social media “platform”. If all the world were a stage, she had certainly found herself in the center of it.

Here is how this story ends.

Ten years of Girl, Interrupted (minus the actual attempt.) The dissolution of public persona. An epidemic emergence of that darkest aspect of the human psyche, Narcissism, all played out in a scrolling column of pseudo-dialogue, reaching peak intensity and then: the block. Only this wasn’t The Match Game, and there was no host mediating who got x-d or o’d. We were all an illusion, and so was our self image, vaporized at any instant by the disgruntled participant of the hour. We could hardly leave the house without taking the sting with us and, should we encounter someone not yet a member of our cult, we’d cut it all short just long enough for an exchange of screen names to supplant/Add Friend later.

Facebook recently “upgraded” its site. The intention was transparent, enough; competitors, Instagram and Tik Tok, were encroaching, and the format needed to keep pace.

She’d hated it, rightly enough. Not one to embrace change just because it was “trendy”, she’d been quite settled in for lo, the decade, and forcing a new navigation was as annoying as taking a wrong turn on a destination vacation.

But, weighed in against the extra inch and a half around her hips, the “spare tire” around her mid-section inherited from her father’s memory, and that nag just above her tailbone every time she chanced to stand, maybe the time was ripe for renewal. Making her social persona mobile might get her out of the house beyond the gas or grocery run, after all. And, who knows, keeping the tablet tucked away for longer than a fruitless argument over heresay and inflated opinion might actually produce a genuine conversation face to six footly distanced face.

Her body was talking back. And, collecting virtual “friends” was no succor for the one who’d left in a huff (and, a puff.) People were dying, now.

Cindy. She’d reappeared that first year, held court at the two class reunions and then, just last year, succumbed to heart failure, open casket. Bob had met his third wife online and apparently moved to the Philippines. And, one of just a handful immune to the lure of alternate reality, Becky had long since left social media entirely; she’d changed careers, moved to Virginia, and published a novel. Here sat the rest of them. Literally.

The wheelchair had only been a loaner, traded in once she’d regained vertical strength. Time to close out all open pages, log off, and shut it down. This loner was only promised the next moment to regain her place among the actual living.

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© 10/17/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, wider and less wonderful, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for seeing, and checking, yourself.

littlebarefeetblog.com