Horoscope warns of ducking a large cream pie heading straight for your face. I prefer to think of it as a bullet, so day five of not drinking, I take a cab home, even though I feel better about dark streets then spending ten dollars to escape them. It is very late. I have been in a loud bar where everyone is impossibly attractive and wearing Mardi Gras beads though it is not Mardi Gras and where the bartender charges three dollars for a club soda.
The cabbie and I are the soberest people in the world. My friend keeps pulling my hair.
We have gone to a play where the lead actor has fallen mysteriously ill. The play is uneven. Two of my friends leave early and meet me later at the loud bar around the corner. But I stay. I have fallen in love with the understudy. He comes in on the third scene. The plays gets better. The understudy is short and funny and has an Arkansas accent that reminds me of my dear friend Justin and is wearing a bathrobe and holding the script he has to read from as well as a myriad number of props: a plastic apple, a paper sandwich, a police badge, a gun. Whatever they throw at him, he holds, he juggles. He doesn't miss a line. We laugh, flushed, guilty, relieved.
I want him to do well. I will him to.
I suddenly remember being sixteen, backstage. ______has fallen ill with nerves from which she will recover, but in the meantime, no nonsense Mrs. Shawver is lacing me into a too-big dress. I have my own part. I have already done it. But I am trustworthy and tall and she is pulling tight on my corset and I am straining at the script in my hand, holding onto the edge of the dressing room sink, wondering if I want to risk shame by bringing the papers onstage or risk everything by leaving them behind.
I don't think I can do this, I say.
This is your life to do this, she says. Pull, pull. In, in. Breathe, breathe. Tight.
I think I see him in the loud bar, but I think I see many people in the loud bar and I say nothing. I say too much or I say nothing so I will say nothing.
Day seven of not drinking, I finish editing draft four of my novel. Day six, I skip a euchre party and write a poem.
Day five, from the second to last row, I am sending him love, a collective do it, do it. Stranger, risk everything.