In my favorite number, she sang on the moon in cowboy boots,
a wig full of spiral curls, and a blue-ruffled dress, buoyant with crinoline.
Off-stage right, I rested against a flat, wooden cactus, watching the white eyelet lining
where it fell at her ankles. As a volunteer dresser at the Erie Playhouse
I helped women out of sequined and shiny costumes. I thought
I’d get closer to winning a role. But all those zippers and hooks
with eyes frightened me in their delicacy. The girls all had last names from storefronts
and philanthropist fathers who donated to the theater. Seventeen, only a slip of a voice,
I’d always be backstage in old, black jeans holding a chorus girl’s sweaty leotard.
Knowing it made me want to touch her more.
She played the female lead: girlfriend, then wife. Her costume changes simpler,
no need for a dresser. Still, she stayed calm, never gripped or thrashed
at the flimsy materials like the other girls did.
After intermission, her wig came off and her hair needed to be fluffed
and light as meringue. I wielded the curling iron for her, as she relined her lips,
reapplied her lipstick. I smelled the pancake make-up deep in her pores
and the reedy scent of her tweed jacket. When I clasped her pearl necklace,
I believed the cold metal became malleable between my hot fingertips.
The final number, in which she waited for her husband in heaven, I never saw.
But I imagined the scar above her eyebrow, how it folded in on itself
when her face strained on a high note.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 16, Issue 1.
See all items about Emily Green