Center Stage – 8

 

Sunday night, Alex opened the door and smiled, welcoming Jared, Will and Adam into his apartment. “Welcome, gentlemen. Welcome to my ever so humble abode. You all remember Chris Washington?”

Jared nodded, shaking the imposing man’s hand. “Yeah, Alejandro, we’ve been living here the past fifteen years. Just because you left, doesn’t mean the world stopped turning.”

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense,” Alex rubbed the side of his face, internally cringing from his faux pas.

“Good to see you,” Chris grinned, clapping Alex on the shoulder. “He doesn’t realize I have my own stool at Curtain Call.” He winked at Jared and Alex rolled his eyes.

“Alright, alright. Fine. You’ve all made your point,” Alex conceded. “But the point of tonight is to reminisce, catch up, get piss drunk and perhaps even spark some creativity. ”

“Welcome home, Alex,” Adam grinned, giving him a high five. “We’re glad to have you back and as a resident of Everhouse.”

“Thanks! How goes it?” He took their coats and led them to the kitchen island that was masquerading as a bar. “What can I get you guys?”

Jared pointed to the bottle of water and Alex handed it to him. “Gracias.”

“Still alive and kicking after all this time,” Adam shrugged in response. “I’ll take a Jameson. Neat.”

Alex gave him a look of admiration. “Man, you are an inspiration.” He grabbed a glass and poured the shot of Irish whiskey.

Adam smirked as Alex handed him his shot. “Ha! HIV and I are old friends. It hasn’t killed me yet.” He pounded the shot in one long swallow.

Alex looked at Jared and Will. “Is he always this nonchalant?”

“Pretty much,” Will acknowledged. “I’ll take a Stella.”

Alex opened a bottle of Stella Artois and handed it to his producer.

“I’ve gone through many phases of this disease. Depression, denial, pleading, hopelessness, now, I have come to accept that I am HIV positive, but I am not symptomatic thanks to amazing medical breakthroughs in past the twenty some years.”

“It’s amazing,” Alex agreed, pouring Adam another shot of Irish whiskey.

Adam nodded, nursing the second shot. “When I was diagnosed, I thought it was a death sentence… but now, I have hope that I’ll live another twenty years. I’m just going to relax and take it one decade at a time.” He smirked.

Chris raised his glass. “To one decade at a time!” They all touched glasses with a gentle clink.

“So, I talked to Marina last night,” Alex announced. “She is on board. I probably owe it all to you, J.”

“Nah,” Jared dismissed him with a wave.

“Well, now we can start the process,” Will said. “We should sit down next week to hash out a time frame, cast list, crew… schedule a read through…”

“Holy shit!” Alex blurted out. “It’s really happening?”

“Yeah,” Jared nodded. “It’s really happening.”

Will frowned. “Well, there is one little hiccup we need to solve before we can move forward.”

“What’s that?” Alex ask, ready to panic.

“A name. Your show needs a name.”

Chris and Jared erupted in laughter at Alex’s expression.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

“Keep drinking, maybe something will come to you,” Jared suggested.

“Does anyone else see something amiss with the AA member encouraging my drinking?” Alex wondered aloud, taking a sip of his gin and tonic. He had woke up feeling the effects of the margaritas with Marina and vowed to take it easier tonight.

“So, I want to hear this music,” Adam announced. “I looked over the score that Will had but I want to hear what you’re thinking, not just read it off a page.”

“No time like the present,” Will encouraged.

“Spoken like a producer who’s getting some work in off the clock,” Jared quipped.

“And why not?” Will replied. “We’re all friends here. If this goes the way I think it will, money will be the least of our worries. We’ll be selling out extended runs.”

“But only if he decides on a title,” Jared reminded them, raising his water in salute.

 

Early the next evening, Alex gave Tristian a friendly wave as he headed upstairs to Curtain Call’s dining room and parked himself at an empty table by the window overlooking 8th Avenue. He had planned to work but was distracted by the view. People were constantly in motion – people on scooters, people walking briskly or even leisurely meandering as they occasionally stopped to take in their surroundings. Yellows, usually in the form of taxis, and reds, being flashing lights and neon signs, were the primary colors against a gray back drop.

It felt good to be home, even if he did still feel a bit disconnected – like one of those tourists on the double-decker buses he could look down on from his table. He was there – in the middle of New York City about to launch a show of his own creation and yet New York City was different than he remembered. Or maybe it was he that was different. Marina would probably argue that.

Natalie, Jared’s very friendly waitress brought him a pint of Stella.

“Thanks,” he grinned, opening his laptop case. He had some tweaking to do on his script and Curtain Call was as good a place as any to accomplish it.

“Can I get you something from the kitchen?” she asked with a sexy smile.

“Not just yet. I want to get some work done first.”

“Okay, let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” he tasted his pint as he computer booted up. It had been an eventful weekend. He moved into his new apartment, much to the disappointment of his parents, spent the day playing tourist with his beautiful niece, spent quality time talking to Marina which was a step in the right direction and finally, hung out with some of his oldest friends. All of that activity, of course meant that he had done very little writing and as Will had pointed out, he needed to come up with an official title, something that could grab attention and captured the essence of the show. For a moment, he contemplated going back downstairs and basking in the glow of Jared’s infinite wisdom about all things New York, Marina and life, but he knew that was just a procrastination tactic.

He took one more cleansing breath, another sip of his pint and started reading his script from the beginning, tweaking things here and there as they popped out at him. The story, influenced by his work on Blood Wedding and his real life tragedy of losing his brother, had dark scenes as well as light-hearted ones. It was told from the point of view of Diego, the younger brother of a NYPD cop; a writer and dreamer, Diego realized too late that the women he loved was engaged to his brother. Marissa, a high school friend of Diego’s married Manny and shortly after discovered she was pregnant. Then two weeks after the birth of their baby, Manny is killed in the 9/11 attacks. Diego battles within himself to mourn his brother or be there for the woman he loves in her greatest time of need. Of course, Alex would play Diego and Marissa was written for Marina, Manny would be played by Chris and Marissa’s brother Jack was written for Jared. There were a few other characters that helped to move the story along, but really the story was about the four of them and how they rebuilt their lives after the horror and guilty that followed the attacks.

Suddenly, Jared was seated across the table from him, startling him back to reality. “Hey, man. You okay?”

Shrugging, Alex drank his Stella. “I’m terrified,” Alex confessed to Jared.

“Terrified of what?”

“The musical theatre scene has changed so much since I left. Everything now has been Disney-fied or has huge stars attached to the productions… Ticket prices are astronomical, so patrons expect a lot for their hard earned money. What if I can’t pull it off? What if all of this flops? I had all of these grandiose ideas coming back, but I never realized how disconnected from New York City’s new reality I’ve been.”

“Wow… meltdown much?” Jared cracked a smile.

Alex ran both hands through his lustrous hair. “I am in a complete panic.”

Jared knew the time for jovial conversation was over and that Alex needed a good old fashioned pep talk before the self doubt annihilated him. “You are lucky, Alejandro Marquez. You don’t have just one specific talent. You have many.”

Alex scowled. “You have to say that, you’re my friend and I wrote you a part in my show.”

“Yes, I am your friend. And while I appreciate the part, my life was just ducky before you waltzed back into it.”

“Touché.”

“I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true, I’m not that nice a guy.” He remembered the way Kelly would talk to him whenever he got down on himself. It was because of her that he never gave up his dream of being a working actor. “Your show is a story that needed to be told. People are going to pay their hard-earned money to witness your brilliance. It’s a huge endeavor, no way to sugarcoat that, but it’s one you were meant to do.” He smirked. “Once you come up with a title.”

Center Stage – 7

 

“I knew it would be good. I never doubted it. But…” she met his gaze. “It’s phenomenal. Will is right. It needs to be seen.”

Alex realized he was holding his breath, so he let it out slowly. “Thank you. I can’t tell you what it means to me to hear you say that.”

“I’ll do it, like I said I would.”

“You won’t regret this,” he promised.

“That remains to be seen.”

“Mollie asked me if she could read it. I told her that was up to you.”

“Thank you. I think she’s old enough to understand it. It might even help her connect to Danny better. Thank you for thinking of me before giving her carte blanche.”

Alex savored the taste of the margarita, letting the alcohol warm him. Part of him was afraid to speak for fear he would ruin the moment. There they were, two old friends having a drink, chatting. He was terrified he would say the wrong thing and she would storm out.

“How are your parents? They must be over the moon to have you home.”

He nodded. “Elena was not happy to hear I was immediately moving in to Everhouse, but I figured it would be more conducive for the show, and spending time with Mollie. Brooklyn is awesome, but it can be a hike and luckily Adam had a one bedroom available.”

“It makes sense.”

“I thought so,” he nodded, draining the last of his beverage. He motioned to the bartender. “Ready for another?”

Marina studied her glass, “Why not?” She shrugged, gulping down the rest of her margarita.

“What about you? Are you happy living uptown?”

“I don’t hate it,” she shrugged, noncommittally. “Our apartment is gorgeous, our building is safe, the view is to die for, but it’s not Everhouse. Jared and I were just lamenting about that the other day. I am grateful though, that I’ve been able to give my kids a safe, comfortable home, so I won’t complain.”

“You don’t strike me as one of those uptown snobs I grew up hearing about.”
“Thanks, I think,” she giggled.

Alex grinned madly, starting to relax as the bartender brought their second round. “Everhouse

seems like a palace compared to the place I had in London. I guess I never really expected to stay as long as I did, because I never moved out of the studio I found when I first got there.” He frowned. “I always intended to come home. It just took me longer than I expected.”

She nodded, sipping her fresh drink.

“Sorry,” he shrugged self-consciously.

“It’s okay. You did what you had to do.”

“Let’s talk about something else. Know any good jokes?”

Marina smiled. “Mollie is better at jokes than I am. You two had fun today?”

His whole face lit up. “Yes! We just walked around, talked, shopped, had lunch. It was interesting to see the City through her eyes. She is a firecracker.”

“That’s one way to put it.”

Alex let out a hearty laugh, which consumed his whole body.

“I’ve missed that,” Marina commented.

“What?”

“Your laugh. I forgot how infectious it is.”

Alex picked up his drink, trying to hide a smile.

“I used to get so jealous of Mollie every time she went off to London with your parents. You were all she talked about leading up to trip and all she talked about when she returned. She loved every minute she spent with you. I found myself jealous of my kid. I missed you. I missed that laugh. Danny had a sense of humor, but nothing like yours. He’d give a polite chuckle, but you laugh with everything in you.”

He felt his cheeks flush with pleasure at the compliment. When they had been in Everhouse’s production of Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca with Jared, they had spent a lot of time together laughing to balance the heaviness of the show. Marina was cast as the Bride, Alex as Leonardo and Jared as the Bridegroom, in a tragic story of a woman and the two men who loved her. It was a dark production, with angst-ridden characters and Alex’s sense of humor had been a welcome distraction.

“You and Jared were the worst onstage. You both always kept trying to get me to break character,” she remembered chagrined.

“That was J. He was the worst,” Alex argued. “He would mutter one liners under his breath every time.”

“Uh uh,” Marina countered. “It was you that would always tickle me whenever we were supposed to be… you know, intimate.”

“That was my way of masking how much I wanted you in real life,” he retorted and instantly regretted it, his face flushing deeply.

 

Marina let herself into the apartment.

“Hola, Momma,” Mollie greeted her from the couch, where she was curled up with a book.

“Hey, baby,” she smiled, hanging up her coat. The ground felt slightly uneven after the multiple margaritas she had consumed with Alex. “How was your day?”

“Awesome! Uncle Alѐ is el loco.”

“That he is,” Marina agreed. She felt conflicted again. The margaritas had helped remind her of the Alex she had been friends with, but she still couldn’t get past the Alex who ran away.

Marina sank into the couch beside Mollie. “I’m glad you had fun. You can see Alex and Abuela and Abuelo whenever you want, you know that, right?”

“I know,” the teen nodded, frowning slightly. “You know what I would really like?”

“What, baby?”

“Going to dinner… you, me, and Uncle Alѐ.”

Marina let out a long tense breath. Alex admitting how he felt about her during Blood Wedding, had brought their evening to an abrupt end. Her memories of Blood Wedding, a violent story of love and loss, were tempered by the fun she had with the whole cast, but especially with Alex and Jared. On the A train home, she found herself reliving every scene she shared with Alex, looking for all the clues she’d missed.

“Anything is possible,” she told Mollie, placing a kiss on her temple.

Daily Prompt – Uneven

Marina let herself into the apartment.

“Hola, Momma,” Mollie greeted her from the couch, where she was curled up with a book.

“Hey, baby,” she smiled, hanging up her coat. The ground felt slightly uneven after the multiple margaritas she had consumed with Alex. “How was your day?”

“Awesome! Uncle Alex is el loco.”

“That he is,” Marina agreed. She felt conflicted again. The margaritas had helped remind her of the Alex she had been friends with, but she still couldn’t get past the Alex who ran away.

Marina sank into the couch beside Mollie. “I’m glad you had fun. You can see Alex and Abuela and Abuelo whenever you want, you know that, right?”

“I know,” the teen nodded, frowning slightly. “You know what I would really like?”

“What, baby?”

“Going to dinner… you, me, and Uncle Ale.”

Marina let out a long tense breath.

Uneven

Daily Prompt – Infinite

Alex gave Tristan a friendly wave as he headed upstairs to Curtain Call’s dining room and parked himself at an empty table by the window overlooking 8th Avenue. He had planned to work but was distracted by the view. People were constantly in motion – people on scooters, people walking briskly or even leisurely meandering as they occasionally stopped to take in their surroundings. Yellows, usually in the form of taxis, and reds, being flashing lights and neon signs, were the primary colors against a gray back drop.

It felt good to be home, even if he did still feel a bit disconnected – like one of those tourists on the double-decker buses he could look down on from his table. He was there – in the middle of New York City about to launch a show of his own creation and yet New York City was different than he remembered. Or maybe it was he that was different. Marina would probably argue that.

Natalie, Jared’s very friendly waitress brought him a pint of Stella.

“Thanks,” he grinned, opening his laptop case. He had some tweaking to do on his script and Curtain Call was as good a place as any to accomplish it.

“Can I get you something from the kitchen?” she asked with a sexy smile.

“Not just yet. I want to get some work done first.”

“Okay, let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” he tasted his pint as he computer booted up. It had been an eventful weekend. He moved into his new apartment, much to the disappointment of his parents, spent the day playing tourist with his beautiful niece, spent quality time talking to Marina which was a step in the right direction and finally, hung out with some of his oldest friends. All of that activity, of course meant that he had done very little writing and as Will had pointed out, he needed to come up with an official title, something that could grab attention and captured the essence of the show. For a moment, he contemplated going back downstairs and basking in the glow of Jared’s infinite wisdom about all things New York, Marina and life, but he knew that was just a procrastination tactic.

 

Infinite

Daily Prompt – Specific

Jared knew the time for jovial conversation was over and that Alex needed a good old fashioned pep talk before the self doubt annihilated him. “You are lucky, Alejandro Marquez. You don’t have just one specific talent. You have many.”

Alex scowled. “You have to say that, you’re my friend and I wrote you a part in my show.”

“Yes, I am your friend. And while I appreciate the part, my life was just ducky before you waltzed back into it.”

“Touché.”

“I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true, I’m not that nice a guy.” He remembered the way Kelly would talk to him whenever he got down on himself. It was because of her that he never gave up his dream of being a working actor. “Your show is a story that needed to be told. People are going to pay their hard-earned money to witness your brilliance. It’s a huge endeavor, no way to sugarcoat that, but it’s one you were meant to do.”

Specific

Daily Prompt – Float

Alex continued muttering to himself as he observed the remaining Honey Nut Cheerios float in the remnants of milk in his bowl. He was in the process of scooping them up when his cellphone rang.

“Hola?” he answered, his mouthful of cereal.

“Hey, it’s Josie,” replied the assistant stage manager.

“Oh, hey,” he replied after swallowing. “What’s up?”

“I know it’s your day off and you’re planning on working on the script, but you have to eat, so I was thinking…”

Alex raised an eyebrow, waiting to see where this was going.

“Meet me for dinner?”

He frowned, not sure how to respond.

Float

Daily Prompt – Doubt

“I’m terrified,” Alex confessed to Jared.

“Terrified of what?”

“The musical theatre scene has changed so much since I left. Everything now has been Disney-fied or has huge stars attached to the productions… Ticket prices are astronomical, so patrons expect a lot for their hard earned money. What if I can’t pull it off? What if all of this flops? I had all of these grandiose ideas coming back, but I never realized how disconnected from New York City’s new reality I’ve been.”

“Wow… meltdown much?” Jared cracked a smile.

Alex ran both hands through his lustrous hair. “I am in a complete panic.”

Jared knew the time for jovial conversation was over and that Alex needed a good old fashioned pep talk before the self doubt completely annihilated him.

 

Doubt