Open Return

by Susan Resnick

Amanda lay half-conscious in the recovery room of a clinic in Brussels, Belgium, waiting for the plastic surgeon. The storm outside rumbled in her head like the distant sound of applause. It was her first trip to Europe. She recalled that it was raining the day she left her house in Atlanta en route to the airport. The roads were slippery and her husband drove more slowly than usual. He didn't want her to leave. When she arrived in New York, it was still raining. The plane was late getting into La Guardia. Traffic was tight all the way into midtown Manhattan, where she stopped off to see a show between flights. She wasn't sure she's make it to the theater on time. Amanda had chosen a Broadway musical, a matinee preview of a 40's revival updated for the late 90's, maybe even for the new Millennium, if the reviewers were kind. Her brain hadn't yet landed from the high altitude sunshine of anesthesia. She thought she was still in New York and that it was almost time for the curtain to go up. The house lights dimmed. Amanda's limbs started to tingle as she settled into the stiff orchestra seat. Her hair needed combing, but it was too late. The musicians were already in the pit. A young blond woman with high cheek bones approached Amanda in a green uniform. It was the usherette offering her a vodka-martini with a napkin and a syringe, telling her not to drink it until after the show. Amanda couldn't imagine why she had been singled out for the attention. She was only a spectator sitting just right of center. The curtain shifted. Hushed whispers and last-minute coughs flowed into applause. Amanda's seat became unhinged. She was being rolled down the center aisle, head first. She was a time-bomb scheduled for old age that was about to be dismantled. She vaguely remembered that this had all been planned in advance. Weeks had been spent rehearsing this moment in front of a mirror. She was over fifty, about to look forty, maybe even thirty-nine, if the production was a success. In the arithmetic of confusion Amanda was experiencing stage-fright. She wanted one more rehearsal, just one more peek in the mirror before leaping into the spotlight. The orchestra conductor was beckoning her forward with a confident smile. She would have to trust him. He was her surgeon. He said it wouldn't hurt. She barely felt the pinch in her arm from the needle. "Ready or not, the show must go on. I'll take a deep breath and leave the rest to him. He'll touch me with his knife and I will turn into music." "You are perfect," he said. "Purfect...peur..fect..."

Writer's excerpt courtesy NYWIFT (NYWIFT.ORG)