Corset laced tight, curls teased, bow properly askew and feather duster in hand, I awaited my cue backstage in the red hallway. My feet shifted in their shiny patent pumps. My sweaty hands twisted the duster as my heart beat down the moments before the music would announce the start of Act Two, and would throw audience and actors back into a world of steamy color and ridiculous comedy.
And there, in the nano-seconds before I would strut solo onstage as a character who relishes being looked at, who walks with her head held high, on opening night at the theatre of which I respect and dreamed of working, I begged time to slow.
I had to thank God. The gracious one who hand-picked me to be in this place, at this time.
And I knew in my deepest heart of hearts that there was nowhere else I’d rather be, that there was no other path I wanted to be on. Nothing could tempt me to trade this moment.
And the sinister, swanky trumpets heralded the jump-starting of time. And with a deep breath of wonder and abandon, I set my feet in motion and made the stage a catwalk. I sang in a French dialect and did a sassy dance, flew up and down stairs seven times (without tripping!), and met a quirky cast of doctors and butlers and managers and madame’s and monsieur's .
And just before all was said and done, I looked in the mirror at the girl who’s been with me through it all. The one with the inquisitive eyes, the slightly crooked nose, the teeth that were called “vampire-esque” before Twilight made it cool. She’s curvy and willowy. She’s introspective and observant. She’s not the life of the party, but she’s my life.
I thanked her.
I thanked her for not giving up.
I thanked her for adventuring to find the balance of getting over herself and fighting for herself.
As much as I sometimes want to, I couldn’t do it without the girl in the mirror. With a silent “thank you,” I turned and we click-clacked in my high heels together to the stage for bows, she and me, body and soul.
And I stood out on that stage in fishnets facing the seats I had so often sat in, dreaming of the day I might clamber onto the stage and breathe a character into being. I watched the actors and friends I respect and adore bow with me.
And it was light; it was celebration. It was the moment that makes the rough journey ahead and behind smooth.
We bowed together one last time. I looked down at my feet in the shiny black pumps. These are the feet that carried me on this journey.
I wouldn’t trade them for dainty feet.
I wouldn’t trade them for the privilege of standing in anyone else’s shoes.
“Not tonight,” I breathed.