Stage Light -- flash fiction by Tanvi Joshi
There’s a little chamber right underneath the lights at the very highest level. It’s not really a chamber at all, more of a pit with a railing. The view from there is the best in the entire theater, which is ironic because no one actually sits there other than the lights crew. I get to watch every night knowing that there’s no better seat in the house than the one I have. Two short wooden stools sit there as if someone knew it was going to be used by sneaky passers by. Just the right height so that when you sit up straight, a perfectly outlined shadow of your head appears on stage from the massive light behind you. There’s just enough space for the two stools to fit. Horribly uncomfortable, wonderfully cozy. It’s where I first met her.
It was a surprise that someone was sitting there before me this time, though sitting would be quite an exaggeration. A fraction of her tailbone was actually on the seat, the rest of her upper body leaned so far ahead that she hung almost beyond the railing. Hands desperately gripped the edge of the pit’s wall, nails painted a bright baby blue to match the hues of her costume. Her eyes glimmered with reflections of stage lights, her hair was sharply lit and shadowed by the light behind her. Lips mouthed the lines audible from the stage, a result of countless rehearsals, no doubt.
“Oh, sorry!” she whispered when she noticed me staring. “I took your spot.”
Embarrassed, I put my hands up in an effort of passivity. “Hey, there’s two seats for a reason, I guess.”
She chuckled, then immediately returned to her stoic position from before, careful to duck down and avoid the line of the light. I waited for her to continue at first, but realized the conversation was over. I crouched and gingerly placed my own butt on the seat next to her, unnecessarily feeling underdressed in my mandatory all-black attire. Then she moved a perfect ringlet of hair behind her shoulder, and that feeling intensified. I kept looking at the space between us, making sure there was enough for her to feel comfortable. My legs forcibly became stone—unmovable and therefore sustaining the distance between mine and hers. Though, I couldn’t see her legs underneath the layers of her dress. It poofed up like a big blue cloud, as if it was made of air and happiness. The dress then moved, soon touching the smallest sliver of my black-legging-clad calf. I froze. She didn’t seem to notice. She merely continued the increasingly desperate cries of fifth act Romeo calling for his seemingly dead beloved.
In a seemingly perfect opportunity, it was time for me to actually do my job. I shuffled to my feet and grabbed the handle on the light behind us, swiveling it to follow the movement on stage. A single line of brightness illuminated a channel mere inches from her head and slowly moved away. She noticed me then. Her head, then her body gradually turned to fully face me. She watched me slowly shift the angle of the bulb with a surprisingly steady and unwavering gaze, as if I was doing something most revolutionary. It was quite a shock I was able to do anything at all with the way she was observing me. Despite the reflecting lights of the stage now missing in her eyes, they still shone with a certain brightness when my gaze met hers. Magic was too weak a word to describe it.
We spent what felt like eternity like that. So much that both of us missed our next cues, that she had to rush out of the pit to arrive on stage in time, that the stool she was sitting on fell over as she did, and that I laughed at her so loud the audience looked back in confusion at the mysterious giggling coming from the highest light.
Every show after that was spent this way, and every show we exchanged more words, words I kept safe to listen to again when she wasn’t there. Words I would hold in my heart until I saw her next. Words we spoke so softly, so freely, spoken like it was the easiest thing we both knew to do.
Tanvi Joshi is an aspiring writer from West Grove, Pennsylvania. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing a variety of mushroom doodles, and redecorating her room for the hundredth time. As a junior, she hopes to get some experience in getting her writing published to finally be considered the cool friend.