Fiction – Mapping a Character

Naomi looked out of her living room window as she sat on a sofa, her feet ensconced in the slightly worn out carpet beneath, as she placed her phone on the side table. She didn’t see the road or the neighbor’s homes that she normally peered at through the window. Lost in a maze of thoughts, she felt elation—disturbingly agitated. The “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity had arrived at her door, but her silly inhibitions and fears stood like tall dragons obscuring what lay beyond. They loomed large, urging her to take the easy way out. She was no dragon-slayer. She turned her back at them and walked off until they disappeared.

Facing her was the door to her bedroom. A place where she spent a lot of time listening to songs and enacting performances in preparation for the day she would be on stage. A dream since childhood, she had spent so much time preparing and enjoying these moments that when the time had come to make them real, she preferred to say in the comfort zone of her dreams.

She had met a journalist, Diana, last week at a friend’s place. Diana was doing a piece on wannabe singers for a music magazine, and when she listened to Naomi sing “Tyler Swift’s “I knew you were trouble”, instantly recommended that Naomi go for an audition with Kepler Records the coming week. She knew someone there and could make it happen easily. The story in the magazine would come out soon after.  Diana had just called her a few minutes back to confirm the date of the audition and said she would visit on Sunday to discuss Naomi’s singing and the audition.

The week went by with Naomi vacillating between excitement and nervousness. In her late 30s, knew that she was well past the stage when a singer made a debut or was presented to the masses. Tossing her curly hair off her rounded, Venusian shoulders, she looked at herself in the mirror for a moment–completely devoid of vanity—checking if she liked what she saw.  She always tended not to make a decision when faced with tough choices, believing that she was playing safe. Wryly, she also knew that the choice not to make one was, in fact, a decision, too.

Diana arrived on Sunday morning just after breakfast, when the birds had settled down after their early morning chattering and the house had been swept clean by the house help. The lawns were wet with the watering and the leaves glistened where the sunlight peeped through the branches. The main door of the house faced west and the sun was hovering above the roof, making its way to its mid-afternoon prominence. The air had a fresh, clean feel, mirroring Naomi’s appearance. Only her face showed self-doubt and the shadows under her eyes indicated a few sleepless nights.

Diana, dressed in a smart black skirt and white blouse with pretty ruffles at the neck, walked in carrying a dark brown tote bag. She accepted the hot tea and biscuits that Naomi offered, and they sat there with the front door open, talking and listening to the mid-morning buzz. They soon began discussing the audition and the upcoming schedule, what she would wear, the rehearsals and so on. Diana also gave her the spiel on the owner of Kepler and his musical preferences. “Rumi is the guy who makes all the decisions, the final say, so to speak. And, he likes singers who are humble and ready to learn. He can spot talent a mile away but is very, very selective. Don’t worry too much about impressing him, though, and speak when you are asked to”, said Diana.

She uncrossed her legs, revealing neatly waxed legs that fit into suede Baldini shoes, the same color as her bag. Picking up the dainty tea cup from the table beside her, she walked towards the painting of an English countryside on the wall, and peered at it closely. The knife edge style in the painting made the lush, green landscape come alive, giving it a three-dimensional feel.

 

Said Naomi, “Sure, I’ll keep these tips in mind. Thank you so much for helping me. Regarding the story you are writing about upcoming singers and their progress, I want to know more. Can you tell me what you will cover?”

Diana turned around abruptly and said, “Why do I think that the story matters more to you than you being selected at the audition? Are you missing the trees here, Naomi? The story will happen in its own time.”

“No, no, it’s not what you think. I am not interested in the coverage or being written about. I come from a different place. I’ve been wanting to sing and make it to the stage for a while now, in fact, since I was 20 which was some eons ago.” She smiled nervously. “It never happened until I met you. And, now that it is, I am worried that my age will work against me. Don’t’ people wish to see young, nubile women on stage? I know that being a singer these days is also about good looks and a stage presence, neither of which I have.”

“You’re right about one thing, Naomi, which is stage presence, yes, but definitely not age. What you bring to the stage is your character and personality; something you can foster as you shake off your inhibitions along the way.” She gave her a mischievous smile. “And, it need not happen overnight. If you are worried that this introductory article will work against you because I will be mentioning the age of each singer in the article, I’d say do not give it further thought. Let matters fold out the way they should and, instead stop trying to over imagine your future. The voice and the singing will take center stage only if you allow them to.”

Naomi smiled and said,” I know an optimist when I see one. Your positivity makes me bolder. Although, I know it’s easy to feel confident when you are sitting here in my home, taking the same nonchalance to the audition and then to the weeks that lie ahead, is not easy.”

 

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