There were greenish and yellowish fields passing behind the window. They were not to be walked through in the warm wind. There were some old towns spoiled with modern buildings. They were not to be ever visited in a sunny summer day. There were some pedestrians strolling along the pavements. They were to remain anonymous and unknown to her.
She dropped her gaze and looked at her watch. The bus was to be late. She wished she had power over traffic, other people and, above all, her own life. She wished she were a scriptwriter and director of what was going on around her …
“Jane, you’re not going anywhere,” her mother said firmly.
“Why not? I’m an adult now.”
“The fact that you’ve got an identity card doesn’t make an adult of you.”
“I can also vote and drink and make love.”
“I’m going anyway.”
“No! You know that you can’t.”
“You’re wrong. I can and I’ll go.”
“You know you shouldn’t.”
“Oh yeah? Why shouldn’t I?” her mother remained silent and Jane went on: “Say it? What are you afraid of? Do you think that if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, it will disappear or the like?”
… and inside her.
Finally, after an eight-hour journey, the bus arrived in a remote town. It was getting darker and she did not know this place at all. Next to the station, she found a phone box and tried to call a friend of hers. Nobody answered. As she could assume, he forgot to pick her up.
“I invite you to my performance,” he said to a group of friends.
“I’ll come,” she had only recently started to make snap decisions.
Having found a crumpled piece of paper, on which there was a hand-drawn map, she shouldered her rucksack, zipped her autumn jacket and set off. Actually, she could ask about the way in three languages so there was a possibility that she would not get more lost than she had already been.
She was strolling along narrow alleys. There was a black cat sitting on a windowsill. It was piercing her with its luminous eyes as if it knew something about her that even she was unaware of. Just behind the corner, there was a homeless person lying in a sleeping bag. Jane went by carefully and tried not to gaze at him. At the end of the alley, there was a well-lighted market square with a town hall and town houses in a variety of colours. Having reached a fountain, she sat for a while on a bench. At this point, if she were a typical tourist, she should take a few pictures. But she did not have a camera. By the way, she felt that all towns were the same until she could combine them with some memories.
The town hall clock chimed half past seven. A young student wearing wire-framed glasses and a shabby sweat-shirt showed her the way to the theatre. The street was straight but seemed to be lengthening. Time was flying and she would run if she had not been out of breath already.
Despite her great effort, she came late. The bell had rung a couple of minutes ago. She looked around in despair. Seeing a feeble pale girl, the gatekeeper let her in. It sometimes pays to look childlike.
She crept into the dark room and stood in the back. Actually, she could see more standing than sitting. In the next scene, she discerned her friend, who played one of the supporting roles. But it seemed to her that he stood out against the other actors. Did she come for him?
The performance totally engrossed her, dialogues invaded her mind, music penetrated her soul. She was hypnotised by the scenes unfolding in front of her eyes. No, she did not come for him. She came for the experience itself.
“Let’s throw a party!”
She did not protest when a group of actors took her with them. After one glass of wine she felt quite dizzy. Someone was laughing. Someone was taking photos. Someone wanted to pour her more wine. Someone was cuddling up to her. After a few minutes, she felt totally giddy.
Feeling a chilly wind which was making a pass at her, she tried to move her stony legs. She was pretty sure to see some stars in a puddle. Only in a puddle because she could not raise her cumbersome head. She was also quite certain that she was guided by someone.
“Jane, you all right?”
“Dunno,” she managed to mumble.
“I’ve made some tea,” he gave her a smudgy mug.
She drank greedily and did not complain that the tea was sugared, which she normally hated. Definitely, she needed some sugar. After a while she was able to take a look at the room where she happened to come round. It was lighted with a lamp, there were lots of posters on the walls, a pile of vessels in the sink, a guitar in the corner and a radio next to the bed. Her head was still throbbing and spinning around. But she could recognize a friend of her sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Is it your place?”
“Sorry that I ruined your evening.”
“But you had to leave and take me back.”
“I didn’t. You could sleep there on a couch.”
“So, why are we here?” she tried to prop herself on her elbows.
“I…I…it’s rather personal.”
“What do you mean by that?” she felt more sober at once.
“I don’t know how to talk about it.”
“Imagine that you act on the stage and it’s only your role.”
“Ok. So, actually, it’s quite dramatic.”
“I’m all ears,”
“I’ve fallen in love with…” he hesitated. “An actress. She played Blanche.”
“Oh. She was amazing.”
“Yeah. She is always amazing. She was at the party. But she was kissing with another actor. Actually, he is my roommate. Don’t worry. He’s not going to sleep here. Perhaps he’s not going to sleep much tonight.”
Should she also bare her soul to him and brag that her life was more theatrical than an ordinary one? It seemed to be a perfect occasion to act with absolute honesty. Suddenly, she felt overcome by a feeling of nausea and threw up on a dusty floor.
Next day she had to go back to her everyday reality. Her stage was a well-beaten path. Her dialogues were seriously limited and repeatable. The script of her life was deprived of any breath-taking moments.
One day she received a letter from her friend. She opened it with both curiosity and anxiety. It turned out that he sent her a few black-and-white pictures from her memorable visit.
A group of actors was posing in front of the theatre and she was among them, on the right, between two handsome men. They were having a party after their performance and she was there too, between those who played Stella and Stanley. A friend of her, who played Euinice, was singing something with the others. What did they sing? They may have been pretending. It was only a photo.
In one picture, she was kissing with Mitch – she did not know his real name. Ok, it was only a pretend kiss. They were kissing an empty wine bottle from the opposite sides. They were only acting. Still, she got a picture of her first kiss.
That town was no more an anonymous and unfamiliar place. It evoked memories and she could even keep them alive in photographs. She could if they were ever real. She might if she were still alive.