When the envelopes waved at our heels, when the interviews echoed inside our cheeks.
When we ironed our sweaters the night before,
When we hammered our monologues and eighteen acapella bars into two minute slots over and over again at the top of the Palmer house hotel and slaughter.
When in the hallways of our high school the questions dropped from the ceiling like cans of tomatoes from helicopters. Have you heard?
It was a war.
It was a war, but no one was against you, only the perforated version of yourself that attached to rows of numbers, ranks, lists, waitings.
And the way we wanted it, and the pressure that sat on the fatty pads behind our eyes; it could induce labor.
Because there was no logic to the places we had circled in red.
Because we were children.
Because we belonged to a private school, that not only held us, heated us under lamps of praise, But stirred up inside of us a kind of drive that is usually only found in people who are mentally ill.
To consider, even briefly, that you are chosen. That you, in your fourteen dollar t-shirt, are without even really trying, simply; brilliant. That is insane.
(But, it should be reflected in the minutes that I worked very hard, I worked so hard that sometimes I found myself fighting. I would come home to find foam in my teeth, and blood under my nails. The crazy part of myself, the part that is prone to depression, the part that hangs off of my mattress in a string of puss, still believes that that was my time. Nonsense.)
Did you see me in Tartuffee?
I played Dorine.
Were you there?
I wanted it so bad.
I applied to twelve schools.
Only one of them mattered.
For one reason, and one reason only; that's where Ted Schneider went the year before, and he was brilliant.
I don't use words like talent anymore, I think it's tacky and undefined, like a pregnant rich girl winning an Oscar.
I've graduated to words like work, and new. Simple words that I can put on my bulletin board and weep to.
And someone said, in a hot blast of jealous breath, that school's second only to Juilliard.
Ted, Carolina, Look at him, We wanted it so bad.
It was planted, that's my next battle, I painted half of my face blue, I didn't eat, I didn't know what I was doing. I was crazy. I wanted it so bad. I believed I deserved it, like a mouth deserves a set of teeth.
Everyone knew about the size of the envelopes, everyone had done a summer intensive, everyone knew what went on inside an ordinary 8 by 10.
After a while we stopped opening them.
It was too much,
It was just as well,
We wanted it so bad.
I still remember Kaya who wanted Yale.
And Joe who wanted Brown.
Go to your room.
And it didn't matter, the envelopes slipped where they pleased, under, between the finger and the nail.
My letters came to my father's house.
I lived in a club on the gold coast.
My ceilings were very high.
He saved them for me in a pile in his suburb, I would read several at once, on the weekends of my choosing.
Carolina took it's sweet time, I waited, like I was waiting for a lung, ridiculous.
And then I was on a ten minute break from rehearsal, I was playing Dorine, did you see me?
We rehearsed in corsets, and full skirts over petticoats, and fans around our wrists.
And in the hallway, bent over my back pack, in my corset, on my break, I called my father.
Because it was Friday, I had to confirm that I was coming. I had to call my father on my over sized cell phone, in my corset, on the floor of my high school hallway, the floors were wood boards soaked in wax, like a gymnasium. The ceilings were very high. Before we landed there, it was an elementary school for Catholic boys.
"Coming on the 6:24".
"I got a letter here from Carolina........."
(Don't move, hallway, teeth, corset).
.........."And, Iiiiiiit'z a small one".
It was as if he was saying "na nay na na nah, haaa, ha, iiiiiit'z a small one!"
Like with his his thumbs in his ears and the rest of his fingers flapping, like that fat kid on the other side of the fence.
Can you picture it?
Me, with the whale bones pressing into my bones, puffing the tears back into my brain.
I had wanted it so bad.
The next thing I remember is Lizzi kneeling into my shoulders.
What's wrong. Nothing. She said,
You are red.
(Like, you are in the sixteenth percentile, or, you don't have a boyfriend, you are red).
Don't move. Don't you dare cry. This is ridiculous.
We must have looked perfectly period, styled, classically trained, captured. Kneeling into each other like that, our skirts billowing into themselves like waves. Our cheeks flushed, resting against each other like elk.
Thank you Lizzi,
Skin and Toast
PS: "We cannot discuss this further."