The Boy from Virginia Goes Up the Water Spout

Finally a Master

“I really don’t know what to say.” For most people, this phrase means: 1) The person is trying to be nice because what they actually have to say could hurt feelings, 2)That the person really has tons to say, and just used that phrase to preface all the ramblings that were about to follow, or 3) The person actually has NOTHING to say.  I’m on the fence between reasons 2 and 3.

Three nights ago (November 19th, for those of you who don’t feel like doing the math) I attended what was probably my final graduation ceremony. I say “final” because I have no intentions on getting a doctorate degree (college loans are expensive enough as it is without adding more debt to the debt I can’t pay off now). Usually one’s graduation day seems to hold about the same weight as someone’s wedding day. There’s hair to be tended, clothing to purchase, gowns to order for the ceremony, and tickets to request as every family member you know has been invited; Not the case for me in Scotland.

It was agreed a long time ago that to have my family over here from the US would be more than expensive. So, my mother agreed to let me go it alone (but only if I took pictures, which I did). I have enough trouble finding a barber over here that can actually make me look presentable without messing up my hair  -or lack of- too much, so I’d gotten the grooming taken care of Saturday before work. And since we had a dress code of sorts indicated on our graduation instructions, I realized I had to go no further than my closet to find what I needed for the ceremony. What I’ve just mentioned, however, were the least of my worries.

Last Monday, I developed a tiny cough. I thought nothing of it, but I did hope that it wasn’t the makings of a terrible cold. But something in my heart kept telling me, this is something to worry about. Just the day before, I was on the bus looking at a fellow passenger with disdain because she coughed without covering her mouth. I instantly thought ‘This is how people catch swine flu, because of people like you.’ What a coincidence that on Tuesday my cough rapidly became a scratchy cough (which hurt my chest), congested sinuses, and a stomach that didn’t know if it was queasy or not. I was losing the battle to stay in control of my body.

My job at LUSH only had me scheduled to work on Wednesday. I figured, my sickness should be gone by then, but of course it wasn’t. That night, when I tried to go to sleep, I had to sleep in a hat, gloves, and socks and I was thisclose to actually putting on a coat as I was freezing cold. The heat was on full blast and I had actual goosebumps. To top it all off, I couldn’t touch my skin, let alone hair follicles because they hurt. Mind you I didn’t get proper rest that evening. But somehow the next day, I made it to work, with a running nose and a persistent cough and managed to make the money I so desperately needed…and still need to see to believe (I also got the devastating news that jobs only pay once a month here………can we say livid?).

Anyway, I slept from 2:30 that afternoon, until 10:45 that evening, and didn’t eat (as my appetite wouldn’t allow).  At that point, I hadn’t cared about what I was wearing to graduation. All I cared about was getting the piece of paper I’d worked all my life to have. For me, I have never known a time when I wasn’t in school. This would symbolize the end of academia and the true start of my life, whatever my life is supposed to be. Somewhere deep inside me is that excitement that one is supposed to have when he finished something big. But to be honest…It hasn’t manifested itself.

Yes, I smiled a lot during graduation day. I smiled during the ceremony (though all I wanted to do was blow my nose) and I smiled afterwards when I shook the hands of many and thanked tons for their kind words. Yes, I’d worked hard for this day. But something still felt like it was missing.

I wasn’t missing my family’s attendance (I did have a couple friends who showed up to support me). And of course I wasn’t missing “a special someone to share the moment with” (Do I look that pathetic?). But I was still unsettled. It would take two more days for me to discover why….

Last night, I was out to dinner at Oko Express, a small Japanese restaurant (which always makes me feel like I’m in New York). We were saying our goodbyes to a classmate who was heading back to Canada the next morning. It was all very chilled-out, no frills fun. When I was waiting at my bus stop, I saw a bunch of drunken Scotsmen yelling something indecipherable at the top of their lungs, causing a ruckus. Some uncouth guy, wearing a sweatsuit (yes…they wear sweatsuits and full tracksuits over here in the UK), had his hand completely down his pants, while another drunk man was trying to make some woman’s baby laugh (while the baby kept swatting him away). The bus finally came and as I sat watching the city of Glasgow race by me, the realization hit me hard….Just because I have a Masters degree doesn’t mean the world will change.

Now most people reading this are saying “Aw, C’mon, don’t say that,” while others are wondering “What does that mean?” Well…here goes….

My having a master’s degree is not going to make the world a better place. It makes MY world better, supposedly, but drunkards will still be yelling offensive shit at the top of their lungs. Young kids will still have premarital sex and father/mother babies they don’t know how to take care of. People in Philly will still cling to their stoops for solace and comfort.  And racism will still simmer under the surface of the new presidency.

At my graduation, I was the only black man present. The only one.  And I was seated smack dab in the center of everyone. (No lie) There was no way you could miss me. In Scotland, I will continue to stick out and I will continue to be made fun of by ignorant people because I would rather dress up and look presentable than be frumpy, or pretend to have “swagger” (whatever that means anymore). More importantly, I will still be financially struggling until “my day” comes. Lastly, just because I’ve achieved this goal doesn’t mean it will stop raining in Glasgow (which I’m sure is influencing my mood).

But all hope isn’t lost, people.  I’ve not completely out of touch with my faith. You see, my cold has subsided. And there is a song that has been on my mind since graduation day:

The eensy weensy Spider went up the water spout

Down came the rain and washed the spider out

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain

And the eensy weensy spider went up the spout again!

 

It’s a wonder we don’t see hidden messages in songs until we get older. I am that eensy weensy spider. And damn if there haven’t been many times when the “rain” hasn’t come down and washed me out, made me feel bad about myself, and hurt my pride, or whatever. The sun always does come out eventually, and in the song the spider, as eensy weensy as he is, chooses to go back up the spout, knowing the danger of being washed out again. That is bravery. That is having faith in yourself. That is also persistence and patience.

That spider waited until the rain was done to try again. What is never said though is whether he makes it to the top of the spout, which leads me to believe, this up and down journey is something this spider will just have to deal with, as will I. It’ll be tough, but I want this spider’s resilience. Eensy weensy, he may be, but they wrote a song about him, and he’s making a difference in my world. That leads me to my next question: Did I really need a masters degree to make a difference?

At the end of my graduation ceremony, The Chairman said something to us graduates that will always resonate with me. He said, “You were extraordinary before you came here.”

If that were the case, then why did I feel I needed that piece of paper? To open doors? To make my family/friends proud? To join the upper echelon of Masters? What’s the significance?

Here’s the meat of why I feel I needed this degree…

To be blunt, I’m sure the number is small, but I know there are tons of people who could care less about my progress. Most of these people are black men. I’ve met these men before in my life and either we’ve had little in common, or they’ve never uttered a word to me. Instead these are the men who have ridiculed me from the age of 5 until even now, judged me because I never fit in with them or fit a stereotype like they did, and whose lacerating words/comments to me have been the reason I push myself so hard, even now. They dismiss me because my conversations are about substantial items as opposed to the mundane. Lastly, none of them wanted to be truly associated with me. (I dare people to refute this) Though my master’s degree will not change how they feel about me, it’s proof to some of these men that disliking me doesn’t stop my hunger for greatness and going about it through the proper channels, at that. These haters have reminded me, in little ways, of my father, whose heart means sooooooooooooo well…but he just never executed the job of being a father properly.

Though I love him, I always vowed to never be like my father, who I used to watch cheat on my mother. I vowed to never let opportunities pass me by, like he did. I also chose to not become the guy who “waited on foodstamps” to come to my house or use sickness as an excuse to not work. I needed my family name to be associated with greatness…not mediocrity. For far too long I needed full support from my father, but over time, he’s proven too inconsistent to trust, so I have to trust him to be inconsistent. That sucks, but its life.

I always had huge dreams and I had a mother who was there to see them flourish. She was someone who never got mad at my success and who ALWAYS found a way to support me financially and emotionally. She and I have been through too many rough times for me to even list, but it was always she in my corner. And she never thought twice about helping me. My mother  is the woman who told me two week ago that she has always been so proud of me and she’s happy I pursued the thing I loved the most and that she will continue to invest in me because she knows the outcome will be hugely rewarding. She is the woman who when I was in tears about having no money at all to my name here in Scotland, she said, “Shut up! And stop worrying yourself. I got something put away for you for a rainey day (so I could climb back up the spout).”

She also told me, “Tom, I have all the faith in the world that you are going to succeed. You just have to have that faith in yourself.”

I still have days where my faith in myself wavers a bit. How could it not when I’m alone in a foreign place? But I have my mother in my corner, my LIVE 5, my family, and my grandmother watching over me in heaven. I’ll be fine. 🙂

It’s still raining here in Glasgow…it’s light sometimes and sometimes it’s pouring, but you best believe, when there is a sliver of sun, I’m starting my journey up the spout again…

Life Changing Piece of paper

The Boy from Virginia Auditions

I bet that if I could have seen my reflection in the mirror of Studio 7 at Pineapple Dance Studios, I would’ve laughed at how ridiculous I must’ve looked. I mean, there I was, a skinny black American boy standing among a collection of around  30 or more black Brits, trying to keep a hold of my smile (or else I’d faint from Hairspray dance exhaustion). My royal blue stretch cotton T-shirt was drenched with sweat and about 2 pounds heavier than when I put it on at the start of the dance routine. Surprisingly, my feet were fine, considering I danced the whole routine in Converses. But the thing I couldn’t get off my mind was my face; ‘Do I look like a wet dog right now, or a runaway slave?’ I thought.  And when I was sure no one else was thinking about the sweat on their faces, I heard a female voice murmur:

“What kind of make-up are these girls wearing? Sweat proof? My face is melting!”

Well it was reassuring to know I wasn’t the only one concerned with how I looked post-dance call. The group of  us (guys and girls) were waiting to hear whether or not we’d be called back to sing for the casting director and his panel which included the Dance Captain (who’d pointed me out a couple times earlier that day for landing in a lunge instead of second position and for not “listening to my crotch”). The energy was fizzing in the room. We were all smiling for our lives…and secretly hoping that our names would be on the list in the casting director’s hand, if not the tip of his tongue.

“Well…I must say to you all,” he began, “this was the best dance call we’ve ever done! (I figured ‘that’s because black people know how to let loose, when we need to’…but I kept that thought to myself) “But, that being said…some of you are not right for our show. And it’s at this time that we are going to call the names of those who are. If your name isn’t called, you may gather you things and take your leave for the day. Those who are called back, we ask you to stay behind and sing for us.”

Talk about a Top Model moment. I half expected him to hold out our headshots and hand them to us so that we’d know we’d made it to the next round.

Thought it only took about three or four minutes to call my name, I felt like I’d been smiling for twenty five. (Actually, I’d been smiling like a My Buddy doll since I started learning the damn routine.)

“…Tommy Coleman…” and I didn’t hear anything else he had to say because MY name was the goal that day (though hearing my name with a posh London accent was quite jarring) and it was achieved! The world did slow down for a second or two once I registered that it was my name he called, but I didn’t have too much time to process it. I needed to think about what was next: the singing. I couldn’t believe it;  after all that hard work, dancing to such high energy music, and feeling like my heart would leap out of my chest, I realized I had done something right! But what exactly?

Was it all about wearing the right dance clothes or having the right headshot and resume (C.V. to you U.K.-ers)? Was it the fact that I shaved my face so I would look prepubescent? Was it the fact that I had continued smiling my happy, yet reserved smile even though I wanted to call up all my homies back in the U.S. and get a little hood? I’m quite sure that all of those things played a part. But the sure-fire answer was the following: I’d begun to take control of my life, and began surrounding myself with people who believed in me and my potential.

A week before, I didn’t even have an agent…and now here I was, being seen by a major casting director… all because I decided to sign with someone? How did I get here?

The Week Before

It was supposed to be a business trip and it was for the most part. I’d planned 5 outfits, for 4 days, to meet with 3 interested agents, who I’d wow with one of my  2 pairs of suspenders (braces to you UK people) and all so I could eventually find the 1 person fit to manage my career. The search was on!

I’d arrived in London on Monday evening, very happy that the only traffic I had to endure was that of the city. And after having a lovely ride down, I ended up at a classmate’s flat. (It’s funny how not seeing someone for four weeks makes a big difference) Well, because I’m secretly a fat boy, I was hungry and decided to try out this restaurant that so many people were raving about: Nando’s. During the MOBO award time here in Glasgow, the new boy-band group JLS ate at the UK chain, so I figured, if they eat there, why not me? When I tasted the infamous Nando’s “Hot” sauce…I knew why.

I had a tough time figuring out whether or not my mouth was on fire, but once I realized that it actually was, it became apparent that a glass of Sprite wouldn’t be enough to douse the inferno blazing on my tongue. All eating habits aside though, it was an experience I’ll never forget and one I’m sure my friends will continue to find hilarious.

The next day started later than I’d wanted it to, so of course that meant I’d have a late day. I was supposed to wake up at 9, get some breakfast and then leave for my 12:30 meeting at 11:30 so I wouldn’t get lost. I woke up at 11 instead, threw on a pair of gray pants, a long-sleeved, ribbed, navy blue shirt and finished everything off in red (red suspenders, red belt, and red Converses). I chucked on a hat as I raced out the door with my headshot and CV in tow. Dammit…I didn’t know where I was headed.

In a nutshell, I got off at the right stop luckily…10 minutes after my meeting was supposed to begin. Panicked, I called the interested party to explain that I was on some crowded corner looking for a landmark. She giggled at my confusion, but directed me to her office and in 5 minutes I was sitting across from her, sweat collecting under my hat.

We introduced ourselves. I apologized. She asked me what I was looking for in an agent. I actually didn’t know the answer to that question. I apologized again. I searched deep for questions and answers that sounded feasible and honest and I managed to successfully fumble my way through my very first agent interview. The woman was great (though she asked me to perform a monologue and of course…I froze…and apologized once again) and made me feel comfortable, but at the day’s end. Something just didn’t spark. And it was all me, not her. I couldn’t help but feel inadequate and unprofessional. I mean…I’d arrived late, didn’t have any questions to ask, didn’t know what I wanted, and I felt completely lost.

Then I went home, complained about how awful my day was to my friend, checked my e-mail….and found that I had an offer! Well, I guess befuddlement was still an endearing quality to have.

The next day, was a day I was happy to see come. I’d be meeting with the woman who tracked me down after my showcase (a good sign with me. It meant that she was truly interested and wasn’t afraid to show it). So I threw on a new concoction of colors (gray jeans, red shirt, turquoise suspenders, and my red Converses) and headed into London-town.

Arriving on time, I was happy to see a familiar face. We’d chatted, got to know one another, talked over some items….and then we started talking about my grandmother. And during that topic, she confessed to me that she read my blogs (which is when my heart said “JUST CHOOSE HER NOW!!!”) She’d gone the extra step to find out who I was before taking me on? That’s a woman I wanted on my team. At the end of our meeting I’d agreed to a trial contract and she was submitting my details to Hairspray and Wicked (two shows I would kill to be a part of).

Thursday was a simple day. I toured the city of London and caught up with a friend from Glasgow, a friend from high school, and some friends from this past schoolyear.

Friday came. It was my final day to meet with an agent (another woman) and again…I was late…this time 20 minutes late. (I should’ve seen that as a sign) Traffic was atrocious during midday and the Tube was moving at the speed of snail. I was appalled at myself for getting into this mess a second time. Lateness? When did that become what I was famous for?

I was to meet this woman at a Starbucks and when I got there, she wasn’t. But my phone was vibrating and when I answered it was her telling me that she hadn’t received my messages until that very minute was was on her way back to meet with me.

She came in, bought me a coffee, we talked. She was very pretty. Nice, even. She was very smart and knew all the right things to say….but my mind was made up. Yes, she did see one of my shows from this summer, but would she ever know me? (Basically, would she ever read my blog?) I felt like it was a no go. She was brilliant, but just not for me. No spark.

But something else was igniting. My phone once I had returned to my friend’s house. It was the Wednesday agent calling to say that the casting director for Hairspray was interested in seeing me for an audition the next week! All I could think was ‘not only did she believe in me enough to read my blog, but she is already willing to put me out there. She’s the bomb-dot-com.

The Next Week

And so, I ended up at Pineapple Studios in Studio 7 preparing myself to sing for the Hairspray panel. After the others were dismissed, the remaining people were told that we needed to sing the part of our song that had the “money notes.” Well, there went my first song option. I was going to sing a cute Sam Cooke song that was a personality piece. Time to pull out the Stevie Wonder! I hurriedly thought of a new way to cut and paste “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and quietly rehearsed. The lobby of the area was swarming with dancers: people for Hairspray auditions, people for dance classes, and the sweaty remainders from my session. I’d changed from my wet clothes to my gray skinny jeans, my red button-down with white sweater overtop, a navy blue tie, and of course my red Converses. I also took in my newly shaved baby-face. I wanted to make sure I looked relatively 60s. They called my name Lucky for me, I was already standing by the door, trying to control my perspiration, and ready to sing.

I ran to the piano, went over the song-cut with the pianist, and I trumpeted Stevie’s lyrics and melody from my mouth. I was happy to have gotten this far and I know it showed. (Besides, I can hit an A flat now…when only last year I was not singin above E flat) I watched as the choreographer’s eyes widened in surprise. (I bet she was surprised I could actually carry a tune), and I watched the other panel members smile, and relax a bit. Good sign! Once the song was over, I gathered my music, smiled a polite exit and jogged out of the door (literally, I had to jog because they were needing to see people rapidly)

This was only the beginning, but it was what I’d hoped for: a chance to be seen, to prove my worth, and to show people that I am a fighter. Now I’m just waiting to have the chance to fight some more whether it’s for a role on the West End of London, a role in a Broadway show, or even a role on television. But, I feel, fighting is what gives a person clout in this industry. And I can tell you now…I WILL have clout! I will have to do some waiting, but boy-oh-boy when the time comes to fight, I will rock’em and sock’em. Until then, however, I ain’t gonna worry ‘bout a thing…

The Boy From Virginia Begins Anew

Yesterday was my grandmother’s birthday (I know, I know. I am still bloggin’ about her).  It was also the day I awoke from a very disturbing dream, in which a girl (who looked very much like someone I fancied in high school) told me, “I would like to be your friend, but my mother said that if I am friend’s with you, I’m going to hell.” Hmm. Now, I can choose to remember yesterday as the day I had the bad dream….or I can remember yesterday as the day I did my trial run at LUSH! (I think it’s obvious the choice I’m going to make) If you are unfamiliar with this store, here is a link to their website: www.lush.com .

Yesterday wasn’t as overwhelming as I anticipated, but I did anticipate something (which is why I was awake at 4am believe it or not). Could it have been that I was worried about the Visa Application I was filling out? Or the fact that next week, I will be venturing down to London to meet with agents so I can further my career in this field in which so many people think they can “make it?” Was I thinking about the show I’m going to be doing at the end of the month or the fact that I have not made any money this month to pay my rent? The answer to all of the inqueries above is a resounding “yes!” My thoughts have been focused on survival lately. Were they not focused before? Well, yes, and no. But the weight of the “yes” is heavier than that of the” no.”

Before I walked into LUSH yesterday with my black and white (the required) ensemble, ready to fill customers heads with new ideas about why they should purchase soaps made from natural products as opposed to Dial or Zest,  I’d been spending a lot of time just thinking about my next step. Granted, many people know that during that “thinking” period (which lasted about 2 weeks) I was lucky enough to be a dancing extra on the British MOBO Awards (after which I attended one of the best after-party events I’ve ever gone to in my life thus far) and I worked behind the scenes for the Royal Scottish Variety show as an “Artist Liason” (…basically I chaperoned the artists and made sure they had their tea or whiskey, or –insert random request here–  if they asked). The opportunities were great ones for resumes and other things you put on paper. But the truth of the matter was I wasn’t making any paper myself. No, instead, I was trying to figure out ways to get my life in order.

I finally (after years of not having one) made a work CV. (My Theatre CV is already done and up-to-date) I stayed up until 4am creating the CV as well as a letterhead to match it and now I have something I think is worth sending out. Some of my readers will be receiving samples of it in the mail soon enough. So the questions that many of you have is…well what were you doing before you ended up doing paperwork? I was finishing my school work…for the last time ever!

I finished the Musical Theatre Performance Course here at the RSAMD on the 17th of September with a showcase that, I feel, showed me off quite well. Singing “Azure Te” (sung formerly by Nat King Cole) and performing a scene from “Rabbit Hole” (written by Milton Academy alumni David Linsday-Abaire), I couldn’t go wrong. From what I’m feeling in my gut, I know that I haven’t. I just say to those of you who have been waiting to hear from me…the fact that I am finally finished with academia still hasn’t hit me yet. (Maybe because our graduation isn’t until November)  All in all, however, I have my Master’s now. What’s even better is that I have a Master’s in an area of study that I chose and did not have forced upon me. I was supported by a myriad of different people and so many people kept in touch along the way. This isn’t the end of my journey, by no means. Instead, it begins after next week’s meetings with Agents 1, 2, 3, and 4.  (I am not naming anyone right now as I would rather notify everyone once the final decision has been made.) But what else is to begin after next week? The answer to that question is still in the running to be Tommy Coleman’s Next Top Answer!

For a second time in my life, I am going to be forced to just ride the wave and see where it takes me (for those of you who aren’t artists, I must inform you, this is what we artists do;  ride waves of hope). This is going to mean that I will be broke for long period of time (to my family, this is not me being facetious. This is just a fact, I want you all to know. Sponsorship would be greatly appreciated), and it also means that LUSH (if I am successful) may be my only job for a while, until I can start teaching hip-hop classes or teaching drama classes even. I’ll be riding down a  bumpy road until…somewhere along the way, I make a right turn and end up on a freshly paved street. Luckily, I’ve been hurt in more ways than one (so I can check “pain” off on my list), I’ve lost some loved ones and friends already (can check off “resilience”), and I’ve survived with help from the woman who loves me most (my mother, of course) and my family.

Only a year ago I started this journey to Scotland and I’m at the end of it….triumphant. I didn’t fail and most importantly, I did what I intended to do…I followed through! So why not follow through with the rest of my life? Therefore, I’m gonna take this ride of uncertainty. Am I scared of what’s next? Well….certainly!

The Boy Virginia Made Follows Through (Conclusion)

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival started on August 4th for me. Ever since then, my life has been waking up, catching a bus (where the seats don’t recline) for an hour and twenty minutes to Edinburgh, strategically maneuvering myself through people who lack walking etiquette up to the Royal Mile (a place as busy as Times Square), flyering and promoting my shows with classmates (who are either enthusiastic about doing so or negative about doing so) and then of course, performing in the shows I just advertised. Once the show is over and I’ve returned my costume to its hanger, I return to my routine of walking back to the bus station before it gets too late and I sleep or read on the way home. I’ve done this almost every day now for the past 2 and a half weeks.  Yes, the trip is consistent, but I notice every day, how much the people aren’t.

            When I’m at the bus station, I tend to either just get on a bus, or I have to wait for one, but regardless, there is always a bus to catch. The people who get on that bus are different, however. The types of people who board and later leave a bus are innumerable. They all have histories and baggage which I’m sure would fill that space under the bus a million times over. But that’s not what I initially see when I board the bus with them. No. Instead I see a person who can’t move out of my way quick enough for me to get to the seat I want near the front. Or I see a person who I’m praying will sit next to me instead of the old woman who I’m quite sure might try to spark a conversation with me. Sometimes, I don’t see them at all because I’m looking out of a window thinking about how afraid I am that I will not be a successful actor one day as I’m sure many of my classmates will be.

Regardless of what I see, again, all of us have in common the fact that we are passengers with stories. Before we get on that bus, we live a story and we will continue to live our stories after we get off the bus. Do we affect each other while we ride? Sometimes we do. On a bus ride earlier this week, a man kept going to the bathroom to smoke a cigarette. He made me short of breath and angry. But I was also sitting near the bathroom. The people in the front of the bus may not have felt his affect at all. Occasionally, on a journey, I am affected. I expect to be affected in some way…to make my journey memorable. Who knows…I might actually affect someone else. This all being said, I am reminded of something my grandmother said to me a while ago. She used to tell me that life was like a bus. People get on and people get off, but we all take a journey. The only thing that will eventually stop us is when we reach our destination. But even then, we start another journey. I think of those words and realize how much I miss her, and how right she was. Her journey ended, but I’m sure she’s begun a new life in Heaven as an angel. And then I think of all the children and grandchildren she left behind and I think if she finished her journey, maybe us, the children, are actually the ones who continue it. That is what I will do. I will push myself to continue on this bus ride that is my life, while remembering the work of  my grandmother who rode with me for a lot of my life and affected change in me all the time. Today I finish my memories of her, knowing I have a ton more to share, but feeling it is time to go on. Below you will read my Eulogy to her. I’d written it while on the plan back to America the day before her funeral. I never got a chance to read it to my family or anyone else, but the words have been on paper since March 6th 2009. Have a gander…and to my readers….keep riding!

The Final Say

            “To die loved is to have lived.” I’d come across this quote a while ago and was so intrigued by it that I was compelled to write it down. At the time I’d come across it, though I knew the word to be true, the concept was so out of reach for me that I never grasped it’s meaning…until today. “To die loved is to have lived!” Well all of you here loved my Grandmomma so much that it confirms the truth that she definitely lived. And contrary to popular belief, she is still living! Don’t let that body fool you. Nellie Jones’ spirit is free of that broken vessel and she has a new home and a perfect body waiting for her upstairs.

            To be completely honest with you, I’m a little envious of Miss Jones. I mean, she gets to go to this perfect kingdom, convene with all of the ancestors who came before, AND she’s about to be the close proximity to the miracle man himself: Jesus Christ! All I can say is, “I see you shining grandmomma. Shining like new money!”

            But I’m also a little jealous because she has the luxury of escaping all the negative things about this life: sadness, war, pain, the lying, the deceitful, and those who try to take advantage of her or hurt her pride. I’ll tell you this; she won’t have to worry about things or people like that anymore. She has the advantage now. And knowing her, I know she’s in heaven this very minute talking to one of the Saints saying, “Please keep an eye out for every seed I planted. Help them grow and be bountiful.”

            Planting seeds and living the best way she knew how. This, to me, describes the woman I know as my grandmother. The fact that all of you are sitting here today to pay and show your respect to her proves that she planted something in all of you, as she did me.

            Allow me to share something with you. It is one of the best stories I think I was ever told. My grandmother was present for every minute of my birth. Thought it was my mom who actually had me, my Grandmother still says it was the hardest she ever pushed in her entire life. But when she was done “pushing,” she held me (was the first to hold me to be honest) and our connection has never been broken to this day. I don’t think it ever will be.

            You see, she didn’t just help push me into this world at that moment. Upon witnessing new life being brought into this world, she pushed me to be greater by believing in what I could potentially give the world. She pushed her children to be better than herself because she didn’t want them to struggle. That’s what I call a mother! Some of us are still on that journey to being the best we can be. If it weren’t for the love, hope, and faith that my Grandmomma had in me from the beginning, I know I would not be where I am right now. I know many of you can say the same thing. See, Nellie planted seeds inside all of us and when a seed grows it produces more seeds resulting in exponential growth. We are products of that growth.

            I am hopeful, because of her. I am constantly driven because of her. I am overjoyed at the happiness and peace she is experiencing right now! My grandmother is more than grand. She’s angelic! I will miss her physical presence and think of her all the time, but I will not be sad. Instead, I will  “Snatch Joy” (to borrow a phrase from an author friend of mine)! I will snatch joy in the name of Nellie May Gilliam Wilkerson Jones because she planted a seed of hope in me and loved me enough so that when I die, I will have lived!

So to Grandmmomma I say: have a safe trip, have fun living, and as always, I love you!

My grandmother and me

The Boy Virginia Made Follows Through (Part 4)

(Beware…if you are a faithful reader, this is a somewhat long entry. Please forgive me! Had a lot on my mind…)

As many of you are aware, I have been in Scotland since September 29th of 2008 working towards getting my Masters degree in Musical Theatre this upcoming November. What that means, of course is that I am pursuing a career as an actor (which means I will have definite highs and lows, and financial hardship until I am considered “the bomb-dot-com.”) As an actor, it is my duty to bring a character to life in order to tell a playwright or screenwriters story. I must employ every tool I’ve come across to make that happen. But of all the skills that I use the most, it is my ability to observe things very closely and in detail. As an actor, the more I can listen while in a scene, the more honest my reaction will be. Honest in this sense refers to how truthful I can be to the character I’m portraying while he is in a scripted moment. Therefore if someone does something to please my character, he might respond by singing a song, or throwing his arms around the love of his life. If someone or something angers my character, he plots revenge, or pulls out a weapon and handles his business, or defends his reputation. These are all the things we expect actors to do: tell a story, be in the moment, and react to situations honestly. To fail at all of these means an actor isn’t doing his job

For the past couple weeks, I have been juggling with the idea of reacting honestly to situations. You see, in real life, it seems as if people are criticized for reacting honestly to everyday situations. Example: I came to Europe because I was quite sure that doors would open for me and that I would be able to play a variety of roles once I got over here. However, just as in America, I have been told that more than likely I would be up for race specific roles. Not that I am against playing black characters. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I yearn, however, to play a role that has a universal appeal. Why should Will Smith or Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman be the only major crossover black men? And why do I have European men -who mean well- pushing me into the direction of The Lion King or (insert name of black musical here)? I have so much more inside of me. My mission statement for my life, as some know, is to redefine the image of what it means to be a black man in this world. I know that I am doing that with each passing day. But I digress.

Once it was suggested to me that I look into shows like Lion King and things more soulful, I got angry (an appropriate emotion, if I must say so). Here I was being labeled without someone actually labeling me. Soulful has just as many connotations as other names I have been called in my life. Why shouldn’t I be defensive? And why shouldn’t I fight to do something that isn’t so limiting? I know there is so much more to me than meets the eye, and yet…it remains that I will always be judged by what I look like, and outward everythings until someone takes the time to get to know me. But this is something we all know and have heard thousands of times before, right?

Then there are small-scale moments when you react honestly to something and get a stigma attached to you. Example: I have been to a lot of parties with friends of mine. But back in January there was a party I attended where I was displease with a lot of my friends behavior when they were drunk. They did not seem like themselves and instead of confronting them (since I have abstained from confrontations these days) I got pissed about it. My anger manifested itself through under-the-breath commentary and some snappy comments made to people’s faces. In the moment, I was responding appropriately. However, I would be known as the party-pooper who unnecessarily made people uncomfortable. My logic was, “if you saw that I was angry or felt uncomfortable, then don’t come near me.” 9 times out of 10, if you give me a good 30 minutes to an hour of me time, I can get back in the swing of things. However, most people try to diagnose me, fail miserably, and then hold it against me for the rest of my life. And all because I reacted honestly.

After my grandmother passed, I decided that being angry may not have been the way to live my life. Cool. I accept that. However, if I felt something, I wasn’t going to suppress it by keeping it inside either. Why should I suppress anything? I’ve heard too many stories of people who have heart attacks or turn to alternative methods (i.e. drugs) to help them show emotion. That cannot and will not be me. Unfortunately, for someone who set out to write about reacting honestly, I’m not doing a good job of being articulate about it. Therefore, it requires a bit of discussion as some people will still be unclear as to what I’m talking about, while some people, I’m sure are bound to disagree with me entirely (which I’m finding out gradually is becoming the case).

However, there are some moments in life when reacting honestly is appropriate and not the blurry line that I’ve drawn above.

The Funeral

            That morning, I awoke knowing it would be the day we buried my grandmother. March 7th 2009. I also knew when I awoke that my sister would be forever haunted by this day as it was her birthday. I showered, and put on my 3 piece suit from Pri-Mark (a store almost like Target but with better clothes). I made sure to wear a version of pink and blue (two of the colors optioned for my grandmothers casket). I wished my sister a Happy Birthday and I watched as my family got everything together to leave the house. The next couple moments were a blur to me. I real leaving Suffolk, Virginia to head to Norfolk, my hometown (and the town that has changed considerably since I last lived there). I ended up at the barbers shop to make sure I looked fresh at the funeral. Grandmomma would’ve wanted me to look presentable regardless! And never the one to look like a slouch, I shaved everything off. When I was done, I headed over to the funeral home. I’d missed the wake, but I would still get the chance to have a private moment with my grandmother before she was interred.

I saw her and I smiled. Yes, she was at peace and she was beautiful in her blue casket and her baby blue shawl. I touched her hands (making her the first dead person I’ve ever placed my hands on) and I understood for the first time why most people associate death with cold. For a woman who gave me nothing but warmth, she was glacial in temperature. But I only felt heat.

The heat began to sting my eyes first and then dripped down in two parallel lines. The tears caught in the upturned corners of my lips. I was crying like crazy but smiling. My cousins and my mother came over to me and kept saying “Tom, it’s alright. See, she’s at peace now. Look at her.”

I was looking. And I saw that she was at peace, but I had a war going on inside of me about what emotion to let out first. I was happy that she was in heaven. That was a given. But then I wondered if my being happy for her was me convincing myself of that truth. Then I immediately thought back to the way she died and was pissed. I kept thinking, this beautiful strong woman did not deserved to die alone on the fucking floor of her house. Where is the justice in that?!? My oldest uncle (one of the incarcerated ones who was allowed to come see her at the funeral home) was also livid. He soon caved, however, and his bawling outdid mine (as I was trying to figure out what emotion was appropriate to have). In the end, we all wiped our tears and headed to my grandmother’s house.

A reunion. That is the only way to describe what happened my family and I reached my grandmother’s house. I saw family I hadn’t seen in a while, friends of family who were always in attendance at cookouts and family functions, and I saw family who could probably care less about me (the latter being a group that talked so negatively about me but were so surprised that I grew up to be such a smart, well-spoken, attractive example of progress). We departed the house together, the bulk of the family dispersed between 3 black stretch limousines.

I remember thinking, as we drove to the church, how beautiful the day was. The sun was shining brighter than I’d ever remembered it. It was a big difference from a lot of the rainy funerals I’d been used to attending. I did the “catch-up” conversation with my cousins while on the way to the church and awaited our arrival at Second Calvary Baptist Church, the only church I knew from birth until I was 18.

Stepping out of the limo was like being a celebrity, but there was no paparazzi. Only the glimmering eyes of the mourners who were sad for all of us, but mostly sad (I could see) for my mother who walked with grace and carried herself like a true matron. We all entered the church, and it happened. I saw my father. The last time I saw him was when I left for Scotland. If my Grandmomma could bring him out of the dark and into the light, then she was truly a woman who had an effect! I embraced him and the funeral commenced.

I could go into detail about the service and about the song I sang and about the underlying feeling of betrayal that occurred midway through the service, but that would make this entry longer than necessary. And it might cause a lot of anger among a lot of my family who may read this. So I will give some highlights:

  • I sang a musical theatre song from “Parade”, for which I re-wrote the words. I tagged another song called “Don’t Cry for me” to the end of that because it was my grandmother’s message to her family. My voice cracked a bit, but I didn’t break into tears.
  • The Pastor made it clear that we’d only have time for 2 or 3 people to share memories of my grandmother (ex-squeeze me?). And these memories were to be limited to no more than 2 minutes.
  • The Pastor chose to focus on “how much my grandfather did to take care of my grandmother” when it was more than apparent to outsiders that my mother and my grandfather shared the task of caring for her.
  • The Pastor did not reference my mother at all or acknowledge her presence during the service, nor did he acknowledge mine as we were members of his church for the bulk of my life.
  • My grandfather did not shed one tear.
  • I zoned out of the eulogy when I realized that my Pastor had no clue who my grandmother was, and was only spitting out bullshit rhetoric which ended up sounding nice, but to those of us who knew better…we knew that the encouraging words he spoke could’ve been said by a character on sesame street and had more sincerity.

At the end of the day, the Pastor got one thing right. My grandmother was prepared to leave this world. Getting her funeral together was the quickest and smoothest thing I’ve ever seen happen. She got everything she wanted, right down to the color of her casket and she ended up in a mausoleum. Apparently, there were 5 levels in her mausoleum, the topmost level being called “Heaven.” Nellie Jones always had a spot reserved there when making her funeral plans, and knew she was destined for that place. So not only is she in “Heaven” in the figurative sense, she made it there in the literal sense as well.

I keep trying to figure out why I’ve written this blog, which is not the greatest when it comes to being articulate. Maybe I was just reacting honestly in the situation.

The Boy from Virginia Follows Through (Part 3)

When I last wrote, I had every intention on completing this series of “following through”. However, since I’ve started it, I have been either too busy to dedicate time to this, or have been too lazy to sit in front of the computer. Either way, I haven’t followed through and completed one of the only things I possibly care about, which is writing, and communicating what’s going on with me while I’m living in Scotland. So today, I begin again…

Since the last time I wrote, which was in April, I have done the following things:

  • Planned and performed my one man cabaret, which I names after my blog “The Boy Virginia Made.”
  • Finished my classes.
  • Started rehearsals for Jerry Springer the Opera to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • Also started rehearsals for Rocket Science, a new musical for the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
  • Performed in Elgin, Scotland with my classmates.
  • Filmed a short student film called “Slag”
  • Been approached by an outside venue here to do my cabaret again in October (Yay!)
  • Made some new friends outside of my college.
  • Heard about Michael Jackson’s death.
  • Saw Thriller Live, a musical tribute show that included ALL of MJ’s hits.
  • Celebrated July 4th (again…no fireworks)
  • Been broke.
  • Watched Michael Jackson’s memorial service.

So as one can see, the past couple months have been a blur of activity. However, it took Michael Jackson’s memorial service to bring me into focus. I actually cried yesterday when they sang “We Are the World”, and “Heal the World.” And Stevie Wonder singing “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” will always bring a tear to my eye. I never thought I would see MJ’s pass before I turned 25. But then, seeing his coffin yesterday, as well as the thousands of mourners who were at his home-going, I knew it was the end of an era. This man, who despite his flaws (and everybody who criticizes him, needs to stop acting as if they don’t have any. One’s personal opinions of that man have nothing to do with the music he made and the impact he made on this Earth. Not a lot of people can say that they affected people around the world), still found a way to give his heart to those in need of love. He got me to thinking about myself and the field I’m in. I have now asked myself, in this career, where performances are being forgotten with every new movie, song, or music video, how does one remain relevant? My first answer would’ve been: make a comeback! But after the memorial service, I’ve realized, you will always remain relevant if you live how God wants you to live. By staying true to yourself, and acting with God’s love, you’ll never go out of style.

I have feared, lately, that I might be going out of season. The people who I once used to be friends with are scattered across the US or the globe. I’m disconnected from people I used to talk to all the time. It may seem to many that I’ve forgotten them, but I haven’t. I’ve been working my butt off to ensure that my future will be a secure one and that I will soon –hopefully- change lives through the medium of theater and cinema. In many ways, writing this blog is my comeback and I have every intention of sticking around! And in an effort to stick around, I will finish what I started so long ago… (There are about 2, if not 3 entries left of it and I NEED you all to know what happened…so I can finally put it to rest.)

Friday’s Flight Home

      Everything was in order for me to come home that Friday. I’d packed enough clothes for 10 days (including extra shoes just in case I went somewhere special.) I made sure to wear the boots my grandmother said she liked when I was home 2 weeks prior…when she was still alive. I was going to arrive in Norfolk, Virginia in style, because not only would my grandmother have wanted it that way, but it would also shock the many family members who hadn’t seen me since I left Virginia at 14 years old.

God had a different plan for me, however.

I’d left my house that morning (around 7 am) realizing that I didn’t have taxi fare and I had to get the cabbie to pull over at a gas station so I could pull out the past 30 pounds I had. Whatever, I thought; at least I’ll make it to the airport on time for my flight. I ate breakfast at Starbucks, boarded my plane…and arrived in London where I had to wait until noon to depart. We left London late…2 hours late meaning when we’d pull into the Philadelphia airport my flight would either be boarding or taking off. I hadn’t made any contingency plan for something like this happening and I was panicked.

Back-story: I was supposed to arrive home at around 7 or 8pm. Once I got home, I was going to be zoomed to the funeral home, where my grandmother’s body was on display and I would also see my family who had been convening together at the funeral home and my grandmother’s house all week. But get this: the funeral parlor was to stay open late that evening because everyone knew I’d be arriving a little late. Of course…someone upstairs was having a laugh.

As soon as the plane touched down in Philadelphia, I knew that this city would burn me as it did when I was living there. It was quite warm for a march evening, but I couldn’t relish in the weather. I had running to do. I hurried off my flight and zipped in and out of people to hurry to customs and grab my luggage which I’d have to recheck anyway. Everything was checked…immigrations knew I was American…cool. Keep running. I get to baggage check and I ask quickly, “Has the flight to Norfolk left yet?”

“It’s boarding now sir. There’s no way you’re going to make it.”

But my grandmother just passed away and I’m supposed to be at her wake. (and I’m wearing the shoes she liked I wanted to say.)

“Well…at least you’ll make the funeral.” (Side note: this bitch didn’t hafta say that!)

“WHAT?” I had two choices. I could’ve acted a fucking fool…or calmly figured out an alternative. Unfortunately, I dejectedly chose the latter. (Had to. I was wearing dress clothes and suspenders. “Acting a fool” clashed heavily with that ensemble.) “Um…ok…so where’s the terminal and how do I get there?”

I was directed to where I could catch a bus to the terminal. A looong bus ride later….I knew I’d missed my flight, but something in me still hoped! I prayed hard and then looked at my cell phone for the time. According to my phone, I still had 10 minutes until the flight would take off, which meant that they could still be boarding.

I raced from the bus, past the food court, and rushed….to an empty gate. I knew the surly, young chick at the counter wouldn’t be at all helpful, but I had to ask.

“Did the flight to Norfolk just leave?” It was a stupid question and I was pissed I’d even asked it.

“Yeah,” she didn’t make eye contact with me…nor did she try to calm me down. She nonchalantly gathered boarding passes and prepared to leave the gate.

“Is there another flight I can get on, then?”

“Go down there.” She turned her head in the direction of a very long line. I would’ve loved to tell her that customer service means greeting people with a smile or trying to keep customers feeling secure, but I decided not to bestow any wisdom upon her as it was evident she didn’t want anyone’s help, nor did she want to be truly helpful. A head turn was as much help as I was gonna get.

I got in line and asked the woman behind the desk what my next step was. She and the woman from the gate must’ve gone through the exact same job training because she pursed her lips and looked at me like missing my plane was my fault. She gave an exasperated sigh. “I can book you for another flight that leaves at 8. (Yes, I thought), but since that flight is overbooked (Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you), you might not get a seat. But I will also book you on a later flight that leaves at 10.”

I didn’t say anything. I accepted my overbooked tickets and went to Sbarros. Pizza, one of my favorite foods, couldn’t even comfort me in my time of need. I was so close to my family, yet so far away. And there wasn’t a word for how I felt. I called Treasure and she was pissed to know what I had gone through. Then I called Rena, my homegirl from Philly.

“Well, you know how Philly is, Tommy,” she said, being a real as ever.

“I know which is why I promise to never book a flight that has a layover here again!” She laughed. I was feeling a little better. My new gate was being announced and I rushed over to the overbooked flight.

After waiting in that damn line…someone else who booked their overbooked ticket after me got a spot on the damn plane…I’d have to wait another 2 hours until 10pm.

I questioned God again…I wanted to know what his purpose was in making me wait to see my grandmother. Why was I being punished? Why Philly!!!! Was Philly taking its revenge on me for leaving and not saying goodbye? I didn’t get it. I called my homie, J, to chat with him. He calmed me down as I headed to another terminal. While I chatted with him, I noticed there were a lot of people waiting her, including some intimidating athletics brothers. Turned out, they were part of a college basketball team from South Carolina. Their plane was supposed to leave at 9. When I looked at the board again, their plane was delayed until 9:45 and five minutes after I saw that change…I noticed that their flight had been cancelled. They were pissed…I was finally happy that my plane was not cancelled in any sense of the word. 10pm came; I briskly walked onto my flight.

Arriving home at 11pm was not what I had in mind for that Friday.  But seeing the smiles of my little brother, and my sister and my mother brightened my heart. I was home with family at least and even if I didn’t see the others until the next day, my core family was all I needed to be happy. I could now join the grievers and not have to do so from afar. We had some familial banter as we went down to the baggage claim and once downstairs, we realized…my baggage hadn’t arrived. None of the clothes I packed were there. But because Momma and Grandmomma didn’t raise no fool, I had to thank God for remembering to pack my funeral suit into my carry-on luggage. I may not have had all my cool clothes (and I ain’t gonna lie, I was kinda salty about it), but at least my grandmother would see me decked out in my best as I paid tribute to her the next day.

The Boy from Virginia Follows Through (Part 2)

The day after I turned 24, I was big on making To-Do lists. For some reason, I felt like I was being more productive than just sitting around all day, and it focused me. For example, I planned to go to Urban Male Retreat to get my haircut, my face shaved, and my body massaged. I followed through and did everything I set out to do. I’d even made sure I set aside some money to go to The Corinthian later on that evening. Each day after that, I would make a list of things that needed to get done each day and I had a pretty good system going…until school started again. And now, I sit here unfocused, unkempt (still waiting on my loan check so I can pay my rent and get another great haircut at Urban Male Retreat), and unimpressed with myself.

            Since school has begun, I find myself doing the one thing that I hate: not following through. With the amount of free time on my hands, and trust me, it’s a LOT of free time lately, I should have been able to produce a couple blogs, learn the 2-3 monologues that I set out to learn, as well as come up with a witty, yet totally Tommy-fied concept for my cabaret which I will be performing next month. Instead, I’ve started things and upon returning to finish them, I realize that I can’t be bothered. Why am I so motivated to be ultimately unproductive?

 

Life After Death

           

I think back to the day after I received the news. I woke up and found something black to wear. I figured I would mourn as early as possible, just in case I wasn’t able to return home for the funeral. My heart was heavy and I didn’t feel too hungry. But for someone whose soul felt so utterly aimless, I was on a mission. I needed to inform all of my teachers about what had just occurred. It would seem abrupt, considering I’d been in America two weeks prior to visit my grandmother before she died, but I didn’t care. Life was happening to me and I could only deal with it as best as I knew how: to find a way to get home without drawing too much attention to myself. Yes, for me, my grandmother’s passing was a huge issue, but I didn’t want to inform my classmates who would feel compelled to pummel me with embraces or awkward words of condolences. (I swear if I heard anyone say, “I’m sorry” I would’ve ripped out someone’s voice box. Why be sorry if you didn’t cause the death?)

I sought out the head of the Musical Theatre department and told him what had happened. I also told him not to tell anyone else except those who mattered (other professors). I was also quick to ask how I was to make up for the things I would learn. (For some reason, I had made a terrific to-do list that week. Funny how when bad things occur, the reactionary impulses guide you to be insanely rational…) My mind had never been so clear, and I had never been so adamant about getting through the week without unnecessarily cursing someone out. Thankfully, after inarticulately explaining myself to the head of the department, he seemed to understand where I was coming from.

Next, I needed to call my mother to see if and when I could possible come back to the states. There was no way I was going to miss the funeral!

“I’d kill myself before I’d let that happen,” I said to my mother, matter-of-factly. I wanted to her to know I wasn’t playing games.

            “Don’t talk stupidly, Tom!”

            “It just wouldn’t make sense to me if I missed her funeral. She is the only other woman besides you who believed in me as much as you!” Tears were coming up and my words were coming out garbled.

            “Tom, it’s okay. Let it out.” I hated when she got all Oprah on me. But I couldn’t make a coherent sentence at the time without gasping in between sobs.

            “I’m not sad-gasp-I’m just-gasp-so mad that she died-gasp-on the floor-gasp-alone” My hands were like windshield wipers. Suddenly a rush of anger swept over me as I realized the injustice. It’s just so messed up. She didn’t deserve to go out like that!”  (I was unexpectedly articulate).

            “Well…no…Tom. She’s at peace now. You should’ve seen her face. She was fine. She knew she was leaving and she made peace with God and said, ‘Alright y’all. I’m outta here. I just wish she would’ve told me she was leaving. She caught me off guard too, Tom.”

            Off guard. That’s how life catches us the most. Yes, it makes for some very interesting moments to deal with, but sometime, I swear God is just trying to test and see how much grace one can muster up during the tough times. I cloaked myself with grace, when I really wanted to say a big huge “FUCK YOU” to the world. Here I am in Scotland, I thought, with no one to talk to except my roommate, and no family. (That’s what I get for not being the most open person sociably in my class) But my mask of grace would pay off and eventually become my face, if I wore it long enough. But there were still things to do before the week ended…like book a flight home.

            Luckily, my mom was able to book a flight for me to come home on Friday. It would feel like a year getting from Tuesday to Friday, but I could do it (might have been easier if I had the assistance of a mind-altering substance or two). So I smiled through the pain, danced what I could, learned what I could, sang a very depressing song for my singing teacher (who also understood my low-key mourning) and prayed each night that I could just make it to Friday. I also prayed for protection. Not for me, but for others, because at this point, I would not tolerate inconsiderate babblings. (P.S. when someone really important to you dies, you suddenly realize that complaining about every little thing makes one seem very unappreciative of the life he/she already has)

            I spent the next couple days listening to people spew aimless talk about how badly their bodies were hurting from dancing (puh-leeze, try living with less limbs that you’re supposed to, or having cancer or something legitimate. When you dance, you fucking hurt!), or not getting sufficient rest the night before among other irrelevant items. I now think about the things I have control over and the things I don’t. A deteriorating body, I can’t fix. A good night’s sleep? I’ll use Nyquil or Tylenol PM.

            But that week, I used the salt of my tears to get me to sleep. The more I wept, the more exhausted I was. Eventually, a couple friends noticed the change and I had to tell them what happened. I had to tell my scene partner I would be gone for a week. I had to tell my classmate and new good friend that I would be leaving soon, but “thanks for not being overly dramatic” (He’d noticed a facebook status of mine). Lastly, I told my friend, the beautiful pianist, that I was leaving and she generously helped me prepare the song that I would eventually sing at my grandmother’s funeral that coming Saturday.

I’d done everything I’d set out to do that week, talked to the appropriate people, avoided the ones who didn’t matter, cried and questioned God (the thing you’re not supposed to do). Yes, I’d done everything except go home. Then Friday came….