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  • Aaditri Jha

All The World’s A Stage

I hadn’t gone to the theater in seven years.

The realization came from an incident that, when isolated, was completely unrelated. I got a call from Sara, my co-worker. She asked me if I could cover her shift on the coming Friday. The prospect of working on a day I had off, a Friday evening after a long week no less, was not tempting, but Sara had a way with words that made you feel compelled to do as she requested.

Sara would speak to anyone who was willing to listen, so it did not surprise me when she kept on talking, even after I had told her I was willing to help- “I really do hate to spring this on you on such short notice. I told little Johnny that he has to start warning me about these things beforehand, of course, but you see, he’s got a play that evening and he’s the main character. I’d feel awful if I couldn’t make it, you know?”

I didn’t hear a word she uttered after that, completely consumed in my own thoughts. I loved plays when I was in my youth. Never acting in them, I was never good at that sort of thing, but I enjoyed watching them nonetheless. I had been an avid visitor of the local theatre downtown, although that had felt like ages ago. How long had it been since the last time I had gone to the theatre? No less than seven years, if I was correct.

As Sara continued to speak, her voice a faint ringing in my ear, words like indistinguishable babbling, I marvelled over my new found revelation. Surely, it could not have been so long? Seven years. It had not felt like that much time, but I remembered correctly. I always did. It really had been seven years.

Later that night, I checked which performances the theatre was putting on during the coming weekend. ‘My Fair Lady’, was the option which I found most to my liking. I had heard of the 1964 film of the same name, but had never watched it. I certainly had not seen it on stage. So, I booked tickets for the Sunday show.

Sunday afternoon, before the performance I was due to watch, I went down to the florists. The front of the shop was covered in canary daffodils and deep pink carnations, gifts of early spring. I purchased a bouquet of assorted roses. It was strange how, after all those years, I fell back so easily into my old pattern.

I loved watching plays when I was younger. The way the actors, in their carefully made costumes, would move about their stage and deliver their dialogues. The music and choreographed dance pieces. Even the smaller nuances that most overlooked weren’t lost to me. My seat was so close to the stage, I often felt as though I was right there, beside the performers. I could see every sparkle in their glittery makeup, the way their eyes crinkled after a particularly successful show. Every gesture, expression and action came together so magically that I thought there was no greater experience in the world.

‘My Fair Lady’, had been a nice play, overall. I enjoyed the musical numbers, complete with coordinated dances, and the acting was delightful. Something about it, though, felt unexplainably extraordinary to me. I felt like a child again, watching my first ever performance with awe and wonder from the audience. I could not remember what it had been called, but I remembered how it made me feel. That amazement with how no one seemed to miss a single beat or dialogue. I suddenly recalled why I loved coming down to the theatre.

It was also only after the play was over did I realize that I had bought a bouquet of flowers but had nobody to present them to.

The walk to where I needed to go afterwards was not very long. The crisp evening breeze was pleasant, as March weather tended to be. I did not know how my feet led me so easily, to a place where I had not gone for perhaps as long as I had not gone to the theatre.

The sky was darkening by the time I arrived, the winding oak trees and iron-wrought gate looking especially sinister in the dim light. I was not afraid, though, of whichever evils lurked behind that entrance. Maybe, it was because of the confidence it had taken to even go to the theatre. The same confidence that took me to the cemetery.

I placed the bundle of roses on my sister’s headstone. I always used to buy them for her when I was younger, giving them to her after each of her performances. Appropriate, I mused, even if I had not known it at the time. Roses signified passion, love and dedication, didn’t they? My sister had been passionate about acting, and always so dedicated to her art. It was what made her shows so beautiful. That love for the stage. Love which I shared, but had neglected for seven years.

I leveled myself in front of her gravestone, at a loss of words for a few moments. Then, when I gathered my thoughts, I said- “I went to the theatre today. It made me remember how much I loved going there. I hadn’t gone ever since your last performance. I guess- I was scared that the magic you brought to the stage would disappear. It wasn’t the same, of course. No play could ever be, but I think I found a new kind of magic.” I got up, brushing stray leaves off my pants and turned around to leave. 

My mouth broke into a small sad smile as I softly whispered, “I hadn’t gone to the theatre in seven years, but I went today and I think you’d be proud of me.”

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