Friday, February 20, 2009

Chapter 5

Stacey’s apartment was on the first floor, in the corner of her building and faced both the incomplete courtyard and the road. Under any other circumstances, Stacey would not have been able to rent an apartment of any livable size on her own, but living costs were unusually cheap in Landslide and the theatre subsidized housing costs for its actors.

That was how Stacey ended up with a small two-bedroom apartment. Her former roommate had finished her run at the Tallis Regional Theatre in April, so Stacey found herself with an extra bedroom for the next few months.

The living area connected directly to the floor-mat-sized dining room and the tiny kitchen, which was little more than a counter, cabinets and a refrigerator on one wall. A narrow hall, with a linen closet, led to the bathroom and a small bedroom on the other side, facing the courtyard. Stacey’s bedroom was at the very back of the apartment, and from her window, the road and the driveway were visible.

What little furniture Stacey had in the apartment had come with the place. In her dreams, Stacey saw herself living in an apartment decorated mostly in glass or black and white furniture, with unusual spots of color here and there. This wasn’t her ideal place to live—far from it—but it was fine for now. It was enough to have her own place.

Lennon unpacked her things and after waking up from a short nap, Stacey roped her into helping her make dinner.

“Take this soup and just dump it into the bowl and then mix milk in with it, ok?” Stacey handed a Campbell’s soup can to Lennon, who upended the can of solid soup into a green mixing bowl, then poured in milk, churning the ingredients together with a spoon. “Just you wait, Len, I’ll have you cooking in no time.”

Len smiled to herself, bringing her bowl over to Stacey, who was cooking chicken in a pan. “I can cook, sort of. I just don’t do it that often. And Hikari eats everything, so she doesn’t care if it comes out badly. Time for the veggies?”

“Yeah. There are bunch of them in the fridge. Just chop up whatever you want to use,” Stacey told her. “This is a new level of living together. We didn’t cook in college.”

“Unless you count Easy Mac as food,” Len replied, rubbing an eye behind her glasses.

“I still don’t know how you lived off of that.”

“I never understood your Fluff obsession,” Len answered, taking out carrots and bell peppers from the fridge and frozen peas and corn from the freezer.

“I haven’t had Fluff since college. God, listen to me. ‘Since college.’ Like a year ago, basically.” Stacey shook her head. Last week had marked a year since their graduation. “I don’t think I can eat it anymore,” Stacey said, taking the pan off the stove and dropping the cut, cooked chunks of chicken into a casserole dish. She thought of the marshmallow concoction with longing anyhow.

“So this is the script,” Stacey said later, after dinner, while the girls sat across from each other at the dining room table. She pushed a thick black binder toward Lennon with her manicured fingertips.

Len opened the binder and flipped through it randomly. Stacey watched the script move upside down and saw her loopy scrawls in the margins of the pages.

“Why are these shaded in?” Len asked, pointing to a page where Stacey had highlighted her character’s line in green.

“I did that for all my lines,” Stacey explained. “It’s one of those actory things. It’s to remind me what emotions to convey in those scenes.”

Len’s eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. “Uh huh.”

“I don’t do it all the time because in a lot of things—especially plays—the colors would be all over each other. It’s one of those things I learned in college. Green is excited or jealous. Red is angry. Blue is horny.”

“That’s her entire spectrum of emotion?” Len said with a snicker.

“Yes!” Stacey saw the page Lennon had stopped on and told her, “Read that scene. Read that dialogue.”

Stacey saw Lennon put on her critical reader gaze. Stacey recognized that look from the way the bottom of Len’s left eye squinted upward as she read, flipping a page to finish the scene. “Ok. But…what purpose does that serve? Does it connect to anything else in the play?”

Len glanced up and biting her lip, slowly continued, “It’s kind of wordy for the sake of being wordy, almost. It’s fine on the page, I guess, but it doesn’t seem like it would read aloud well.”

“It’s awkward to read it aloud. It’s not very sophisticated, but he’s young,” Stacey sighed. “It’s only a workshop performance. And a lead.”

“Who wrote this?” Len flipped back to the cover page.

“Gerry Harris. He’s seventeen, sort of the local phenom. But…he’s in high school.”

“I can tell,” Lennon said with a chuckle. “Unless you went to the most dysfunctional, frat boy-laden college ever, you wouldn’t write this beyond that stage of life, would you?” She cut the script open. “He has potential. Give him a few years. I’ll give him points for submitting his work to a public forum.”

“It’s not easy to do that, is it?” Stacey asked. Her friend shook her head slowly with a rueful smile on her face.

“No, it’s not.” Lennon shook her head. “So, this scene: drunken casual sex resulting in a tattoo?”

Stacey groaned and laid her head down on her folded arms. They’d discussed that scene to death two days before. “You don’t even see the symbolic tattoo, first of all, because it’s in a questionable place and I’m not getting paid enough to take off my clothes.”

She heard Lennon laugh. “Well, it ain’t Equus.”

“Nope. You know what I remember about college? Studio class. Shin splints. Gay boys…”

“Gay boys,” Lennon repeated emphatically.

“Shows. Being on crew.” She paused, for comedic effect. “And gay boys.”

Lennon let out a giggle, which prompted Stacey to giggle until they were both laughing into the wooden table. Lennon gained control of herself, an intermittent laugh escaping her mouth every few seconds.

It was Stacey who caused them both to plunge back into uncontrollable laughter again.

The next morning, when Stacey woke up and made her way to the bathroom, she blindly reached for her toothbrush. As she stood with her back to the mirror, the toothpaste spreading over her teeth and gums, Stacey saw the chore list.

The imposed chore list.

Her old roommate had written it out and put it up, on the back of the bathroom door of all places. The paper was divided in two, with a list of chores that needed to be done with days when they’d each perform these tasks.

Stacey was all for equality when rooming with others and as an actress, she was very good at keeping to schedules, but there was something so oppressive about chore lists. She and Lennon had never kept a chore list through four years of college. Did the trashcans need to be emptied? Whoever noticed took the trash out. Was the bathroom looking dirty? Whichever one of them had time and cleaning supplies at hand took care of it. Did they run out of milk? They took turns buying it.

Stacey had never figured out whether she and Lennon were unusually easy-going when it came to living with others or whether it was meant to be and she wasn’t sure if it really mattered either way. Stacey had lived with three people who could be considered roommates since graduation and they’d all done that clearly defined line of chores and responsibilities for each person. Which was fine and expected, but she and Len had organically come together as roommates. It seemed so much like a business transaction when chore lists became involved.

Other than the room assignments that were given out before their freshmen year began, the girls hadn’t been forced together. Stacey wanted to do her best to convince Lennon to stay longer than two weeks. She was absolutely convinced that Len needed this sojourn to herself, in the same way that Stacey had wanted to jump into a job in a state she’d never been to before. They were only young once; this was their time to explore.

Stacey spit out the toothpaste and turned on the faucet, rinsing out her mouth and washing her face. When she was finished, she reached up, grabbed the chore list and tugged. The paper gave a satisfying rip as she tore it down.

Her cell phone had a text message when she returned to her room. Flipping the phone open with a finger, Stacey saw that it was from Nick, her current paramour. They were three months strong. In some part of her mind, Stacey could very well see herself with Nick for the rest of time. If she was being honest, they made the cutest couple of the latest crop of actors at the theatre. He was the handsome male lead, meant for dashing romantic roles and dark, tortured characters. She was the blonde ingénue with the soprano voice. It was fucking perfect.

And, thankfully, Nick was a talented actor. It was easier to date someone who was good at what he did. She couldn’t imagine dating a bad actor.

Do I get to meet her? I’m nervous, his message said.

Stacey rolled her eyes. Sure, she’d mentioned that Lennon was one of her closest friends, which meant in an unspoken way that Len held approval over Nick.

There’s nothing to be nervous about. Len’s a good judge of character, she texted back.

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