Sunday I woke up and two thoughts immediately occurred to me:
1. Tonight was the night that the 10 minute play I had written in 48 hours would premiere as part of the White Elephant Play Festival.
2. I wasn’t going to freak out.
No, I wasn’t going to freak out, even thought the 10-minute alien play, which I sent off with total confidence on Tuesday, was not looking so great in the cold pre-show-actually-getting-seen-by-people morning light .
And yes, the director had called me three days ago, asking about the appropriateness of the aliens laughing at extinct human race, apparently not realizing how scientific and serious these aliens were supposed to be, though I had written the quite explicit alien description of “serious to the point of innocence” in the very first frickin’ stage direction – but I wasn’t going to freak out.
Everything would be fine. And even if it wasn’t going to be fine, there was nothing I could do about it, because unlike a proper play, this whole thing was totally out of my control – so I wasn’t going to freak out.
Like I started doing when I thought about all the things that could possibly go wrong and being embarrassed in front of the few people I had actually invited.
“I don’t think you should go,” I said to CH as we were looking at trees in Boy Scout lot in Glendale.
“I don’t know what to say to that, since I’m obviously going,” answered CH.
So I decided to just let it go. To not even think about it. To completely clear it from my mind.
“I mean the great thing about L.A. is no one expects good theater when they come out to your event,” I observed to CH while we were unpacking the ornaments we had gotten for the tree. “So if it’s terrible, people won’t be upset with me, they’ll just—“
“It’s not going to be bad,” said CH. He sounded kind of tired.
“How do you know?”
“Because you’re a good writer,” he answered. Still sounding really tired.
“So’s Stephen King,” I pointed out. “And he’s written some really, really crappy books. What’re you going to do if it’s terrible? I think you should dump me. There’s no reason to date a terrible writer.”
He paused. Mind you I had warned him repeatedly in words and with my last play that I was really neurotic. But I think he was just now starting to really get the magnitude of my affliction.
“It’s not going to be terrible,” he finally said.
“Dude, you’re going to feel really bad if it does turn out to be terrible."
CH then gave me like my kazillionth hug of the day and tells me to stop worrying.
So I did.
I focused on enjoying the perfect California weather and our perfect tree on this perfect, perfect Sunday.
“I think we should both just stay here and not go to the play,” I said to CH, two hours later at the CMU annual holiday party. We were eating hor d’voures, and they really were yummy, despite the rising taste of total hysteria in my mouth.
“Stop it,” he said.
“You have to go,” he said.
“No I don’t,” I answered. “I don’t have to do anything but BE BLACK and DIE.”
And, yes, I said it that dramatically, because my terror was so great, it had come to this. It had come to cliché.
After nine hours of my non-stop Woody Allen impression sans the icky adoptive daughter aspect, CH finally started ignoring me.
I admired him for lasting that long. And as he changed the subject, I finally took a hold of myself. I decided for once and for all that I would control my fear and not allow it to control me.
Seriously, like I had read Jane Fonda once say, “Courage is fear that’s taken a really deep breath.”
So I took a really deep breath.
And I said sorry ahead of time to all the friends that came out that night for my play.
And I somehow managed not to faint when the director said, “We’ll see,” with a wan smile before the show.
And I drank two Jack & Cokes before the curtain went up.
And I wondered before my play started how it was possible to be so cold yet sweating at the same time.
And I finally made the connection between the term “cold sweat” and what I felt every time I watched a play I had written performed in front of an audience.
And then I decided to never ever write anything again, because this emotional shit wasn’t worth it.
And then the play went great.
The actors playing the aliens were totally serious to the point of innocence.
Everybody laughed – even me . . . once.
Afterwards, the director, gave me a happy hug.
And all my friends called me a big, fat, liar.
“Honey, it really was great,” CH said to me later that night as we were putting the lights on the Christmas tree.
I just smiled and said, “Thanks." Like no big deal.
I mean, seriously dude, it was just a play.
Much more importantly, the tree turned out really nice. Check it out: