The curtains rise slowly, revealing our ensemble of violinists and vocalists to an incredibly large, seated audience.
The enormous stage lights are bright and feel hot against my face and neck, perfectly illuminating our musical assembly from high above our heads. The auditorium is packed, just as I expected it to be—as we all expected it to be.
The annual Weitzman performance is one of the events that always gets sold out quickly. Last year, I was seated in the audience, far behind on the other side of the renowned stage my moccasin-clad feet are currently planted on. I had been restless at the time, feeling giddy and excited for the whole duration of the show as I watched my upperclassmen perform their hearts out.
I’d been so eager to see the show that I ended up staying in my seat the whole time, even during the intermissions. I didn’t want to miss a second of the experience, even at the expense of my unhappy bladder, so I sat there for two and half straight hours in sheer amazement, just happily taking it all in. I kept imagining what it would feel like to be up here, and I couldn’t wait to find out. Now I know, although I never imagined I’d be feeling the disappointment I feel now.
Get a grip, Roni! I mentally shake myself. I need to get out of this funky mood, at least for now. What’s done is done, and I’m here now. I may not be in the exact position I thought I’d be, I may not be in the exact position that I want, but I’m still here, dammit! And this is still a performance that I’m going to be judged on, one that’s going to count toward a good portion of my final grade at the end of the semester, so I have to bring my A-game, no matter what.
Besides, when I really think about it, just having the privilege to be on this stage is more than enough, and this moment is too important to me to not give it my absolute best, regardless of whatever else is going on in my life. There’s no point in beating myself up over what I can’t control.
I don’t even have the time to fully process all the emotions running through my mind all helter-skelter. I’ll deal with all of it later. Right now, all I’m going to focus on is singing my ass off, because that’s all that matters.
An energetic chorus of claps bursts through the auditorium, echoing and reverberating throughout the hall. The audience is full of smiles, and they all rise in a magnificent standing ovation to demonstrate their praise. The smacking sounds crack through the air and bounce off the walls and ceiling, making their way to the stage and back. A few whistles and verbal cheers make their way through the tidal wave of claps as well.
The applause is even grander than the audience creating it. They’re clapping and cheering as if they’re getting paid to do it. It’s obvious that they really enjoyed the show.
Normally, I’d be getting an incredible rush of adrenaline by now. I’d always imagined I’d be feeling ecstatic in this very moment, right after such a huge and highly anticipated show, but I feel anything but.
I should be on ‘the ultimate high’ after seeing their reactions, I should be making my way up to cloud nine, but instead, all I feel is numb right now. Numb and demoralized and…unsure. Unsure of everything. Life seems to have a fondness for doing that to me lately. The curtain lowers and shields our ensemble from the view of the audience once again, but we can still hear the very audible slaps and smacks of their seemingly undying applause.
“Oh, my gosh, you were great, Kayla!” I hear someone say. “The audience loved you!” they continue to gush.
I’m afraid to turn and look to see who it is, so I don’t. That’s the last thing I want to be hearing right now. But honestly, it wouldn’t matter if I did, anyway. They’re right. Kayla did an amazing job. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but it’s the truth. Still, that doesn’t make admitting it or standing here and listening to their gushing any easier to deal with.
I don’t want to be here right now. I can’t.
I move away from the cluster of people gathering around Kayla and joining in on the gushing praise. I absently glance at my watch, and my heart does a double flip.
I’m supposed to meet Nicole outside and I’m already running fifteen minutes late thanks to a few unforeseen delays that happened during the show. I grab all my stuff and quickly head toward the stairwell leading to the back entrance, but my plan is thwarted almost immediately.
Swarms of performers are quickly gathering in front of it, completely blocking off the passageway. It’s already so packed with everyone standing around and congratulating each other, with a few people trying to one-up someone else. They’re all busy relishing the highs they’re on—like I should be doing, instead of scurrying to head to some rich guy’s party so that my potential whoring skills can be “assessed” by a scary woman who seems to be utterly obsessed with rainbows.
God, this is turning out to be such a shitty night.
It’s impossible to make my way through the back. My only other option is leaving the building through the main entrance—with everybody else from the audience. I really don’t want to take the front door route as I’m not at all in the mood, or have the time, for that matter, to make small talk with anyone, but right now, I don’t have a choice.
I dash in the other direction, making my way through one of the backstage exits and into the auditorium once more. The hall is rowdy as streams of people shuffle out while some continue to remain seated or chat in little groups in the corner. The aisles are so much more packed than it is backstage, but at least people are moving here.
I do my best to wiggle through, smiling and saying ‘thank you’ when a few people congratulate me and tell me I did a “great job”. I only do it for the sake of being polite and as a gesture of common courtesy. I really don’t feel like I deserve to be congratulated on anything right now. I did my best, but I know I wasn’t at my best. And that makes all the difference.
As I keep walking, I think I hear someone call my name, but I’m not sure so I ignore it. I continue shuffling among the masses of people with even more urgency, eager to get out of the annoying cluster as quickly as possible. But then, I hear my name again, and it’s loud and clear this time.
I’m a bit startled by the sound of the deep voice, and I turn to see none other than Jamie Wrighton walking up to me from a few feet away.
My eyes widen at the sight of him. He’s dressed formally, in a well-fitting dark grey suit and navy blue tie. He actually looks pretty fancy. I’m honestly surprised to see him here. I hadn’t really pegged someone like him to attend these kind of events.
He sidesteps a few people as he makes his way over to me with ease, towering over everyone around him. It’s almost as if people automatically just part and make way for him wherever he goes, and I’m not sure if it’s because of his height or because he’s the school’s star quarterback. Maybe both. Either way, right now I don’t have time to try to decipher it, and I certainly don’t have the time to make small talk with him.
“Ramona, hey,” he smiles, finally stopping just a few inches in front of me.
“Jamie…hey,” I say. It’s probably the lamest attempt at a greeting, but I’m not exactly sure what else to say. He’s the last person I expected to be talking to tonight.
“You were great out there,” he says, giving me another encouraging smile as he shoves his hands into his pockets.
“Thanks,” I say, feeling somewhat unsure. I have no idea where this conversation is going, but I don’t have time to stick around to find out.
I shift my weight onto my other foot by force of habit; something I do when I’m in an uncomfortable situation that I’m trying to get out of, or if I’m being bogged down somewhere when I really need to be somewhere else.
He starts to speak again. “Hey, listen. I was wondering—”
“I’m glad you liked the show but I really need to get going. Good seeing you again,” I quickly say, stopping his words short.
I don’t mean to cut him off. I honestly do it unintentionally. I really hate that I sound rude right now and I wish I could apologize, but I’m certainly not about to give him—or anyone else—any more opportunities to keep me here any longer.
I turn before he can say anything else and practically run through the remainder of the crowd as fast as I can.
I hear him call out from behind me one last time before I head through the exit. “Yeah…good seeing you again, too.”
As soon as I’m out of the building, I immediately spot Nicole’s car ahead.
Okay, it’s not like I really tried to spot it. It’s literally right there, parked right in front of the main entrance, in a very unauthorized parking space.
I can only shake my head in disbelief at the proverbial balls she has to do something like this, and on a day like this one, no less. This chick is really something else.
I quickly close the distance, not bothering to mention how blatantly she’s breaking the law, because with Nicole, that would just be a waste of time. But at least she’s here, just like she promised she would be.
She puts her window down as she sees me approaching. I can’t read her expression behind the large Guess aviators sitting proudly on her face. I guess she likes to stay fashionable year round, even in shit weather.
She gestures with a slight cock of her head to the side. “Get in.”