Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Il portello rosso: I percorsi che scegliamo

Éncore! Éncore! roared the crowd as the curtains closed.
The cast made its way through the dark recesses of the theatre towards the dressing rooms. When supporting actor Ian Stoddard pushed open his door, the reception was much the same.
“Good show, mate!” “You were great up there! Tops!”
Drenched with sweat, Ian silently waved thanks as he reached for a pitcher of water. The backstage crowd was the usual assortment of Stage Door Jennies, toady arse-kissers, half-lashed crew members and the odd friend or two.
“Ian, you were the best one up there -- you should star in your own show!”
Molessa Vega was always first in line to flatter. An actress herself, Vega was incessant with her thespian-of-the-week conquests -- of which Stoddard had been long-studied prey.
“Thanks, Molessa,” Stoddard offered weakly as he swabbed a damp towel across the back of his neck. The cramped dressing room was wedged with a dozen people, a dank sauna with conversational volume at maximum.
In tow behind Molessa was her friend Deedie. Meek and somewhat comely, Deedie was just the opposite of the cloying and predatory Molessa.
“Heya, Deedie,” Ian nodded, polite but distant.
“She likes you a lot,” Molessa hissed in his ear, tugging his sleeve. Though weary from the show, Stoddard could tell this was a conquest-by-proxy set-up. Molessa would probably later invite them all to her place where she could eventually isolate and sink her claws into him.
“I need some fresh air,” he said, already halfway out the door.

In the alley Ian was calmly smoking a fag, watching the crew load up in the humid June evening.
“Hi, Ian.” It was Deedie, hands behind her back, toeing the ground nervously.
“So, you had to get out of that craziness too?” he casually smiled.
“Yes... it was a good performance by the way.” Her skin glowed like porcelain under the street lamps... her hair, india ink pulled into a bun. Beauty without pretension. Ian felt moved.
“Fancy a stroll?”
Ian knew straight away that Deedie was much too young for him. But there was a sense of... simplicity, purity... innocence, perhaps(?) that he found refreshing; and that was something he could walk down the street with, wearing neither suspicion nor shame.
The conversation remained topical yet pleasant. At one point, photos of parents were extracted from wallets for a laugh. Her father, reedy with a small moustache and glasses, seemed the actuary type; her mother, homely and nondescript.
“This is where you are staying tonight, isn’t it?” she said, pointing upward at the hotel.
“Why, yes it is... erm... care to come up?”
A cad or a gent? Ian knew the implications could be taken either way. And yet the gleam in her eye could also be taken either way.
Ian swung the door open to reveal the grand suite.
“Oh, it is marvelous,” beamed Deedie.
“It is, thank you. Shall I fix a nightcap?”
“Why, yes. Mind if I have a look about?” she purred, her eye’s gleam that much more noticeable. The breezy air of insistence with a waft of inexperience.
“Sure... go ahead,” Ian said, opening the fridge. Nice kid, he thought to himself. Why does she hang around with that trampy Molessa?
A beer in each hand, Ian approached the bedroom doorway, a crimson glow emanating. He entered and stopped.
In the red haze upon the bed lay Deedie, spread half-passed-out, her thumb tucked into her waistband as if awaiting some move to be played. Her eyes rolled and her lids descended like the curtains at the show. Ian blinked.
The lass is getting ahead of herself -- what is she thinking? Did your girlfriends push you to do this? You can’t be more than nineteen.
Ian turned, walked into the living room, sat in the dark and waited. He dozed for a spell until Deedie stumbled forth, bidding a hasty goodbye out the door. He had to be as embarrassed at the time as she was.

But down the road, further encounters were not discomfiting at all. A kind smile, an avuncular hello here and there -- it was all good.
Ian did not quite remember when it was when Deedie left town, as eventually everyone comes and goes in good time. But years later someone dropped a tidbit that shook him awake.
“You know, Deedie makes adult movies now.”
“No, I did not know that.”
For some reason, Ian thought back to the wallet photo of her parents. The bookish father and the mousy mum, clad in their polyester best, so many years ago. The humble, young couple with a future ahead of them. He pushed the image from his mind.
Freewill. We all choose our paths, don’t we? Somethin’ like that, I suppose.
In time, Ian came to terms with this young woman, and, as distant as he was, accepted her choices in life.
But in the back of his head, he had more than a hunch that young Deedie, with the path she had chosen, found the end of that road with an early demise.