Welcome to the Attic!

Card Challenge: Day 20

So, when I saw this card, a song immediately started playing in my head. I don;t normally do the “Suggested Listening” thing, but I;d suggest Milk and Money by the Fratellis for this one. It just seems to fit. Also, this is not my favorite piece, but I think it was definitely a bit of a different track for me. Always good to stretch yourself!

Card Day 20: A reserved, white and black dressed clown stands alone in a spotlight, a single tear on his cheek.

She stood on stage, clutching the microphone stand in her hands with a mixture of excitement and panic. The final notes of her song still hung in the air, bouncing off the wooden rafters before being swallowed up by the heavy, velvet curtains pulled to the side. Her eyes were trained, however, on the lone forms seated halfway back in the front section with their empty expressions and matching clipboards.

“That was great,” said one of them—it was hard to tell who it was with the spotlight drilling into her eyes. The voice sounded like the musical director, but she had only briefly met and shook his hand before beginning. There was no was to be certain. Nevertheless, her heart fluttered into her throat.

“Thank you, I can’t wait to start!” Her excitement got the best of her, nad the words were cast out into the arena before she could properly process them.

A fated cough brought reality squarely back down. “Well, I mean, you have a great voice and all, but…” His voice trailed off into an awkward paused. She could see him shift around in his seat, a brief gesture of a hand wave. Then another voice jumped in to feel the lingering silence.

“You’re not what we’re looking for. Good luck next time.” That voice was clearly the smoke-clogged, nasally squeak of the director.

In that moment, the lone singer felt the walls cave in on her. She did her best to keep it together and exit the stage with grace. She half-mumbled a “thanks,” into the microphone before leaping for the security of the dimly lit wings. Tears stung in her eyes as she felt one more failure pile on top of her, threatening to crush her. Along with the unbearable feelings of defeat, anger swelled as well.

This was her dream! This was her life, what she had poured her whole heart into, and yet her fate was determined by a set of inky silhouettes seated in moth-eaten, theater seats. She felt her sense of failure melt into raw rage. She had practiced for hours, and had nearly driven her family broke getting singing lessons or going to various talent shows in the hopes of making it. And she had succeeded, won scholarships, starred in university plays. Only, now no one cared, and no one gave her the roles. No matter how much she practiced or how much heart she poured into each and every performance. It was just strangers dictating her life, judging her, evaluating and finding her repeatedly wanting.

The anger spilled from inside her, tracing down her face in mascara-laden trails. She stomped out of the building, her shiny heels snapping against the concrete floor as the sultry red dress swayed with each step. Not it lit her like a blazing avenging figure, tearing her way out of the building and into the dingy alleyway.

A failure. That was what she was, through and through. She had one goal in life, and had nevertheless repeatedly run into barrier after slammed door that just spelled out the futility of her continued perseverance.

She slipped into her car sagging into the run down seats. The engine started with a groan, a series of foreign sounding clunks and growls sounding the car’s tired protesting. Nonetheless, it shifted into gear, the wheels skimming through puddles running deep in long-forgotten potholes.

This theater wasn’t even in a good part of town, she bemoaned, looking at the cheap neon signs and barred windows that slipped past her. It was a last ditch effort, a fall back gig that she had nevertheless failed to acquire. As she drove past midnight tavern after dive bar, she considered stopping and letting her good old friend wash away the sorrow of the night. Yellow street lamps pooled rhythmically over her window as she somehow managed to keep her path steady and straight.

Failure. The theme replayed again and again in her mind as she drove along silent highways and silent city streets. It was 9:30, at least according to the obnoxiously green numbers on her dash, but it felt like she existed in a time of impossibly late night or eternally early morning. Despite the passing cars, she felt as if she drove in a constant bubble of isolation.

Was this what it was like to throw a life away? She could not help but reflect on all the missed opportunities she had pushed aside to pursue a dream that never materialized. What did she have to show for all of this? A few clippings from college newspapers, a collection of worn VHS cassettes where her childhood sang like a prodigy. An unemployment record spanning years, and a bank account that hovered tentatively around empty, constantly threatening to give up and plunge into nothingness each moment.

Her car wound its way home to the apartment, but she sat, the engine idling. She could not go home and face her failure once again. The thought of speaking the bad news, of seeing the pitying glance. She tried to put a smile on as she came through the door, but she knew the sooty trails of her face showed the true story.

“How did it go?” asked the voice from the living room. Her husband rounded the corner, and then his congratulatory smile fell. “Oh, honey.”

His compassion broke down whatever had been keeping her going, and she began to sob again. “I didn’t get it,” she needlessly added, sinking into his waiting arms.

He soother her softly, stroking her hair. “It’s okay. They don’t know what they’re missing. It’ll be okay. I’m sure you did great,” his platitudes fell like rain around her, doing nothing to stop the constant flow of tears.

“Why am I wasting my time? Our time? What’s the point” she moaned in broken phrases in between sobs. Her husband gently held her, whispering all the right words, but never managing to actual comfort the terrible ache inside of her.

After a few minutes, she calmed, her tears spent. “Are you going to try again?” he asked once she had time to calm down, now seated side by side on the loveseat.

“What’s the point? I’m not,” she paused, facing the sudden reality that had impressed itself so clearly, “I’m not a singer. I’m just a–“ she froze, unsure how to finish.

“Mom?” the tired voice echoed down the hall. She sat up with a sigh, gathering herself so that no distress leaked into her voice.

“Yes, Ellen?”

“I can’t sleep.” She and her husband traded knowing glances. “Can you sing to me?”

The simple question lit a smile on her face, banishing a bit of the darkness that had so quickly taken hold. “On my way,” she replied, rising gracefully and brushing away the lingering tears and makeup from her face.

“Hey, if nothing else, you’ll always have two super fans,” whispered her husband with a smile. While the feelings and fears still swirled, she felt a slight peace settle within her. She was appreciated by those who mattered. Even if it wasn’t fame and glory, it was important and it was what mattered.

Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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