I kick off my heels and stretch out on the ratty futon. The apartment smells musty and lonely, and my eyes are tired.
My feet hurt from walking around in heels for so long. Yeah, they're killer sexy, and the pain is worth it, but seems like I never get used to it. Seems like I never will.
And you know sometimes I feel like it was never worth it. If it was just a lie, just make-believe, what's the point in acting when you want the real thing?
But I stretch out my legs and close my eyes, and I can be there again. Strutting around like the world belongs to me. Cocky and beautiful. And in the memory I can be in the moment, and you know what? It's real to me.
I'm that pretty baby with the high heels on.
It's been a long day, just waiting for hours on end, and my legs are cramping. I'm audition #9904. It's almost one in the morning and maybe they're going to just kick me out, not even give me a chance.
I feel like I'm just going to be a petty model forever. Nothing special. When I was a little girl, going to ballet classes, I used to spin around, do pirouettes, and when my parents burst out clapping I felt so special, like I was the center of the world and everyone was applauding for me.
Not anymore. Now I'm not a little girl (though I still feel like it), and I'm in a huge waiting room with thousands of other girls wanting the same thing as me. And I don't particularly care about this one job. It's just that I'm constantly waiting, constantly wanting...
Performing for my parents and those of other ballet students isn't enough anymore. Nor is even going to Juilliard and having a whole auditorium clap for me. It's arbitrary. It's not because of me. No one's going to remember my name. And lately in this world, you have to keep doing bigger and better to be noticed. It's not so easy anymore. And I'm still a little girl trying to keep up.
I pull my knees up towards my chest and lean my chin on them, wrapping my arms around myself. The room is uncomfortably warm with all the bodies pressed around me. Other girls next to me are having in a rapid, lighthearted conversation, but I can't bring myself to get involved. I check the time again. One fifteen.
"And so, he's going to be there... I think!"
"Seriously? I thought it was just going to be like, a casting guy, or the producer?"
"Well I don't know, but I heard he was going to be there, someone told me."
"Oh my god, imagine if he picks me. I'd die. I'd just faint."
"He's not going to pick you. I mean, you have no experience."
"Neither do you!"
"Yeah, but it's worth a try, isn't it?"
I tune out the girls next to me. I do have some experience. But just in modeling, and ballet--neither of which have anything to do with performing in a music video. Like they said, it's worth a try... but I'm beginning to think it's not. My apartment is calling to me, as is my shower, nice and hot, and my bed...
"Oh my god! The door's open! Quick, can you see Michael Jackson?"
There's an instant surge of the crowd towards the door, and people press around me. The room is way too crowded. I cringe against the wall.
Someone knocks against me and pushes me down, and my heel jabs into my leg. I bite back a cry of pain, and struggle to get up again. Shouldn't have worn the heels. Who cares what the lyrics in the song say.
Shouldn't have even come. I'm probably not even going to be able to audition. This is cruel and unusual punishment. I'm going to have a bruise on my leg now.
There's a massive sigh of disappointment as the next audition is called--#9902--and the crowd settles back into the room. I assume that they didn't manage to get a peek at the elusive Michael Jackson--probably isn't even here.
If I were more awake, I'd probably be as excited as they are. He's probably the biggest star in the world, plus one of the hottest men. But I just can't seem to get my adrenaline up. Really, the idea of him is kind of withdrawn from me. I don't really think of him as real. Like he could actually be in that room behind that wall.
"Hey, you're Tatiana Thumbzten, right?" It's a short girl with spiky black hair. "The model? I'm a big fan!"
I'm tempted to say no, you mistook me for someone else. "Yeah," I sigh.
"Wow, you'll get the audition for sure! I'm sure they'll like you; you seem just like the girl Michael describes in the song. Your hair even matches his."
I force a laugh. "I wish. There's ten thousand girls here; I'm sure I'm not the best. But thanks, though."
She smiles shyly. "Could I get your autograph? My brother is like, in love with you."
"Sure." I sign the back of her notebook awkwardly, and almost miss my audition call.
I jump up, startled. "Hey, that's me!" I turn to the girl. "Hey--sorry--got to go." I hand back the notebook and fix my dress hurriedly.
"You look fine, good luck!" she calls, but I'm already pushing my way through the crowd, through jabbering girls and the smell of thick perfume.
When I walk through the door it's refreshingly quiet, the air clear and the walls white. My heels click on the floor and I feel suddenly awake.
"Tatiana...Thumbzten, correct?" A small man with glasses looks up from a clipboard.
"Yeah." I look around. It's a large, white room with a wood floor and high ceiling. The guy with the clipboard is perched on a small wooden stool.
"Alright." He smiles benignly. "I'd just like you to demonstrate some of your dancing ability. I'm going to turn on the CD--this is not The Way You Make Me Feel--and just dance like the music feels, okay?"
"Sure," I reply, a little nonplussed. This is not how my other auditions have gone.
He switches on a tape player and it takes a few seconds for the song to start.
When it does, I stand still for a couple bars, learning the music, getting into the feel. I can feel my bones and muscles loosening up, like all the stress and strain is just melting out. The music bleeds into my arteries: a hard, fast-paced one with strong guitar and a prevalent beat. I can feel my body becoming the music.
And then I dance.
When I dance, I don't plan specific steps, don't attempt to control my limbs. It's as if the song does it, the music does it. And I can't remember it afterwards; I need to videotape myself later to find out exactly what I did.
I'm a model. That's what I do. But what I really feel is that I am a dancer.
And I strut across the room, spin around, open my eyes--and the music ends.
"That was really good!" It's a soft voice, surprised and intrigued, claps echoing in the empty room. I look up.
It's Michael Jackson.
His hair is tied back in a loose ponytail, a few strands falling out over his face, and his eyes are bright and awake. I don't know how he does it; he must have been here since the early morning just like me, probably earlier. Somehow I feel like I'm in a surreal experience, like this isn't really happening, like it's just dreamworld.
He looks over to the guy with the clipboard. "Can we put her down as one of the finalists?" then turns to me.
"Hi, I'm Michael Jackson." He smiles, embarrassed. "Well, you know that."
"I'm Tatiana Thumbzten," I answer. My voice does not shake because I'm not really here, but I can't stop smiling.
"It's nice to meet you." He reaches out and shakes hands with me. His grip is firm but cold. "I thought your dancing was really good. That's exactly what I'm looking for, the strut at the end--right Don?" he looks at the glasses guy who nods. "Have you been dancing long?"
"Yeah--well, I'm a model, but I grew up into ballet. Dancing isn't my profession, but I really like it."
"You're good at it too," he grins.
The glasses guy clears his throat. "We need to move on with the auditions, Michael. There's still a few left and it's getting late."
"Yeah, okay." He looks at me. "See you later."
I feel like I'm glowing. I'm out of my body, and somehow someone else inside of me echoes, "See you later."