“And lastly, where do you see yourself in five years?”
You took a drink of water. After talking for over an hour, your throat started to feel raw and coarse. You were used to talking, but never about yourself and never for long periods of time. You leaned forward across the table, your hands folded.
“In five years, hopefully I would like to have found my ‘forever home’. My ‘forever’ school. I want to teach in a school where I can really make an impact on students and become an indispensable colleague to my fellow teachers and staff. I’m not looking to gain experience teaching in different schools throughout the course of my career; I’m looking to make a lasting impression in one school. Your school.”
The interviewer nodded, narrowing her eyes.
“I’m not interested in theater just as an extracurricular activity,” you added. “There’s so many aspects to theater and acting, and the skills gained working onstage and off can be applied to so many areas of one’s life, from learning to work in collaborative settings to giving students the confidence to be honest about themselves to others. To me, that’s what makes theater so essential for students. It prepares them for not only their future careers, but for the rest of their lives.”
She smiled, stroking her chin, her attention held by your argument. You decided to wrap up your answer and finish this interview strong.
You continued, “In five years teaching at your school, I want to be able to tell a student that I enjoyed teaching their older sister or older brother or that I’m looking forward to teaching their younger siblings, and that I hope that they’ll learn from me as much as I learned from them.”
She sat back, her jaw dropping. “Wow, that was...Pretty incredible.”
You smiled. “Thanks. So...did I get the job?”
She narrowed her eyes. “No...I’m sorry.”
She held back her laughter behind a piece of paper. “I’m sorry, but we already made a decision. We are giving the position to Ryan Gosling. He doesn’t have a Master of Fine Arts in Theater Education like you do, but...He is Ryan Gosling so....”
You rolled your eyes, sinking back in your chair. “Very funny, Daphne.”
Daphne guffawed and winked, handing back your practice interview questions to you across the dining table.
“I’m sorry, couldn’t help it. It’s just too much fun to play the interviewer. So? How do you feel?”
“Good…” You said, unconvincingly. “I mean, nervous. But good. Thank you so much for helping me.”
Though Daphne was seven years older than you, you’d known her for more than twice that, your bond forged over your time working closely together starring as sisters on a popular television series that ran for two hundred episodes. She was living that mom life now, having met her husband, a camera crew intern who later became a camera operator, on the show. She looked at her baby cam app on her phone to check on her napping 18 month old boy.
“Still asleep?” You asked.
“Yeah, he can sleep through anything, this one,” she replied.
It felt like a huge favor to ask a busy mother of three kids all under the age of seven to participate in your mock job interview, but she was the only friend in your life who you could trust to help you with something so personal and to give you advice.
“You know, you should try smiling with your eyes more. What’s it called? There’s a word for it..” She wrinkled her forehead as she tried to recall the word. “Smizing?”
You scoffed. “I’m not a model! I don’t need to ‘smize’ for a teaching job.”
“It might help make you appear more likeable.”
Your jaw dropped. “Are you seriously telling me I don’t look likeable before my job interview? How am I not likeable? I am a goddamn delight!” You took out your compact to check your face anyway and practice your smizing. “Jeez, smizing’s harder than it looks.”
“Yeah, forget what I said, it just makes you look constipated,” she laughed, making a grossed out face.
You shut the compact and threw it in your bag. “Daphne, I don’t need your teasing right now…”
“Ugh, I’m sorry, forget I said anything! Your natural smile is more than fine,” She replied, waving her hands. “No wonder they didn’t let me direct a second episode. I swear, I’ve forgotten all my actor’s instincts and training.”
“If it weren’t for my existing acting skills, you wouldn’t be able to know how upset I am at your comment,” you teased with a smile. You put your practice interview questions away in your bag. “And, by the way, they didn’t let you direct a second episode because you insisted Ryan Gosling guest star as the Swedish study abroad student you were trying to get busy with to get your ex jealous--”
“I’ve been told that episode is like in our top ten best episodes!” She argued.
"Daphne, you made Gosling do that kissing scene with you for five takes..."
"And, if memory serves me right, he made no complaints." She bit her lip with a far off look in her eyes. “I’m so proud they let me direct that one at the ripe age of twenty-four!”
You laughed, then looked at your watch. “Oh, I should get going.” You got up.
“Gosh, this brings me back,” she said, walking you to her front door. “Remember our first read-through together?”
As the youngest actor in the cast at the age of ten, it was a terrifying experience to sit at a table surrounded by adults while you read from the script for the series premiere episode. All of them--from the executives, to the director, to the costume designer--were staring at you, listening to your every word, judging you. Your parents had told you to just be yourself and do it just like you practiced with them, but this wasn’t like anything you had ever imagined.
You were glad to have Daphne at your side at the read through with all the cast and crew. The first time you met her, the casting director had asked you to come back and audition opposite her. Your parents couldn’t believe that you were getting called back, let alone that you would get to read scenes with a seasoned actor like Daphne.
Before the audition, she pulled you into an empty room to do some vocal exercises with her, something you had never done before, and she did a couple of the scenes with you for practice. You regarded her as a pro. At her age, she had done so many shows and movies, you would’ve followed her into the ocean if she had asked. When you both went into the audition, she was charming and hilarious, putting the casting directors and yourself at ease. You read a couple scenes together and after both of you were dismissed and left the casting room, she hugged you.
“You and I are going to get this,” she whispered. She took a knee so that you had to look down at her. “You were amazing in there!”
“I don’t know…” you mumbled. “I’m not like you, this would be my first show ever.”
“Everyone’s gotta start somewhere! You think I want my sister to be played by some bratty child actor who thinks she’s better than me?!” She said, slightly outraged.
You cowered a bit and shook your head. “No?”
“That’s right! No!” She replied, then softened, noticing your delicate state. “Look. You’re fresh and new, and you’re going to learn so much and grow on this show. You know, you seem pretty shy, but you really shine as the Molly character. It really makes me wonder if that’s how you really want to be in real life, like spunky and energetic.”
“Thanks, Daphne,” you said quietly, not knowing what else to say. She was right that you were naturally shy, but you had fun getting to ‘act spunky’ with no consequences.
“____, do you have an older sister?” She asked seriously.
You shook your head. “No..Do you have a younger sister?”
She smiled. “No, I don’t. That’s why we’re going to get this. We’ve got chemistry. You felt that in there, right?”
You nodded. You did like that though the script was well written and funny, the way you delivered lines to each other made the story even funnier. “Yeah, I..I felt it.” You replied.
“Me too, kid. And so did they.” She pointed back at the casting room. “This is going to change our lives, just you see.”
She was right. Daphne, the child actor who started acting at the age of five landed her biggest role yet as the hilarious older teen and major character of the series, and you, the up and coming actor in your first role, were playing her precocious little sister. Little did you know that the family friendly comedy series would become a big hit, seeing you through most of your adolescence. You were thrilled to be casted, but even more thrilled to be working beside someone so kind and generous, someone who treated you as if you really were her sister. You couldn’t imagine what it would be like to act with someone who couldn’t care less about their co-stars, let alone ones that would play their family members.
At the first read through at the studio, you were being introduced to so many people you wondered whether you could get a picture book with everyone’s photos stating their names and what they did on the show. Suddenly you could hear your character’s name being yelled all the way across the room.
“Molly! Molly! Molly!” Your eyes went wide as Daphne ran towards you. You braced yourself as she hugged you and lifted you up in the air. “You and I are going to have so much fun!”
You stared at her in awe while she read her lines at the read through, how she made everyone in that room laugh. When you shakily delivered your first line into a mic, she reached for your hand under the table and held it, the warmth giving you the courage to fully immerse yourself in the role and let go. Being with her gave you the confidence to perform to the best of your abilities. In many ways, she was your first acting teacher.
“How could I forget our first read through? It was so nerve wracking to have everyone there. God, even those executives brought their dogs.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry now. Job interviews should be a piece a cake for you. You’re just being interviewed by the principal right?” Daphne asked.
You nodded. “Yeah, this is my second interview with her, and I had an interview with some of the faculty before that.”
“Nice to know they’re being thorough.” She hugged you. “Don’t worry, you’ve got this. I’m kind of surprised you wanted to practice again to be honest. I know they’re not the same, but you’ve done how many auditions by now?”
“Too many to count. Not that it mattered,” you said sadly. “I could barely land any of them.”
She sighed, letting you go. “You’re an incredible actress...I only wish all those casting directors could see what I see in you.”
You shrugged. “Yeah, all they see is the child actor I used to be...A ‘has been’. They want fresh faces now.”
“Excuse you,” she sneered, “You’ve got a fresh face, I wish I aged as beautifully as you!”
You laughed, “What are you talking about, you’re gorgeous! You look just as amazing as our last day of filming.”
“Darling, you flatter me,” she rolled her eyes. “Anyway, those ‘fresh faces’ wished they had what we had. Two hundred episodes under our belts. There aren’t many family series that go that far anymore. And we’ve got enough residuals from syndication to live comfortably for the rest of our lives...”
“Yeah, but you know I was never in it for the money…” She opened the door, walking you out onto her front porch. “I just wanted to tell stories…”
“I know...At least you did all those indie films you wanted to do, and you played your dream role as Laura in ‘The Glass Menagerie’.” She added, trying to cheer you up. “It was so heartbreaking to watch you be so vulnerable on that stage.”
You smiled sadly, thinking about the play you did two years ago. It might as well have been ten years ago. You were so sure that that role would catch someone’s eye and that you’d finally be taken seriously as an actor.
“Sometimes, I think Laura is as close to my real self than any other character that I’ve ever played.”
Daphne shook her head. “That’s not true. You’re a Molly--you’re brave and energetic and loud when you want to be.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not Laura or Molly anymore now...I just...have to be myself. Whoever that is.”
Daphne knew you wanted something more after the television series ended when you turned eighteen. You wanted to be an actor for the long haul and had grand dreams of working on independent films and theater, of becoming a seasoned actor in major films in the same vein as your heroes Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet. You were lucky enough to get as far as acting in indie films and in several long run plays, but breaking into the bigger films was harder than you imagined, even with your experience. In the end, you used the money you earned to go back to school and get your masters.
“Do you miss being an actress, Daphne? Or are you happy you got out?”
She looked away. “I miss it sometimes. But, I think I’m a better mom. Anyway...Come here.” She held her arms out.
You begrudgingly walked over to her and she held you tightly. “You’re wrinkling my clothes!” You whined.
“You’re gonna get this,” she said in a warm voice, ignoring your comically loud groans. “You’re going to help kids tell their stories. And those kids are going to be so lucky to have a drama teacher like you in their lives.”
“I hope so, Daphne.” She let you go and straightened your blouse and blazer, her hands brushing at your shoulders. “If you hadn’t asked me to do that charity event with you all those years ago, I wouldn’t even have my masters right now.”
“Aw, don’t make me cry,” she said, fake teary eyed. “You know how good you are at delivering cheesy lines. Now go, break a leg. Let me know how it goes.”
“I will. All my love to Jake and the kids.”
Daphne waved bye to you from your front porch, and you pulled your car out into the street, stopping at the stop sign. There was no one behind you, so you took a deep breath, trying to center yourself, a practice you always found helpful during high stress moments.
You didn’t want to burden Daphne with this, but you had been experiencing a crisis of sorts, your future as a teacher becoming more and more real after you received your master of fine arts in theater education and landed several interviews for teaching positions. It was just like all those audition rounds for parts that you wanted. You’d keep getting closer and closer to the role, only to find out that it was going to some actress new to the business who was younger and prettier than you. Something you couldn’t help, but it still hurt.
Your agent Lori kept telling you that things would turn around, that you’d land something big soon. She knew you were serious about your path to becoming a teacher, but she convinced you to keep her on, just in case you changed your mind.
“Listen, you’re only going to be teaching for part of the year or at least part-time, right? What if I find you something that films in the summer? Who says you can’t still be an actress and teach?”
You held onto that dream she kept afloat for you. Maybe you could be an actress and teach at the same time. But you’d have to get a teaching job first.
But the competition to get a teaching job seemed just as fierce as landing a role. That glass half empty part of you believed that what happened at all those countless auditions might be the same for this teaching position--only the opportunity would go to someone more qualified with more experience. That you could work with, that was something that could be fixable. You couldn’t exactly lose ten pounds again like the network asked you to for your last season. You couldn’t turn back time and look like your eighteen year old self again. But, if you couldn’t land this job at the high school, you could start by working part-time at a community theatre, or become a private acting coach. You could work your way up until you landed the right teaching job that would make you happy. Your ‘forever’ school.
You took another breath, inhaling positive energy and exhaling your negative thoughts. When you finally felt centered, you looked left to check if the intersection was clear before moving. When you turned to your right, you saw a figure on a bike heading straight for you. He didn’t seem like he was going to swerve out of the way, and it was too late for you to go in reverse to avoid him. You winced as he braked and flipped over his handlebars.
His large body landed on the hood of your car and rolled off and onto the ground in front of your car.
“OH SHIT!” You screamed.
You put your hazard lights on, turned off your engine, and ran to the front of your car.
“Oh my God, oh my God, are you okay?” You shrieked, staring at the body lying stomach down on the ground. You were thankful he was wearing a helmet. You bent down to examine him for injuries and lightly poked his shoulder. “Sir?”
“Don’t touch me,” he growled.
You stood back as he slowly got up, a behemoth of a man that towered over you. He wore baggy gym shorts, trainers, and a baggy black hoodie with the sleeves raised up to his elbows. He rubbed the little pebbles of asphalt off his exposed arms.
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” He bellowed, his wide crescent eyes piercing yours. He unclipped his helmet and ruffled his black hair. You looked around, was he...was he yelling at you?
“Me? I-I-Are you okay? You’re not hurt?”
“I’m fine,” he said, flustered, bending down to inspect his bike that laid at the right side of your car. He stood back up and sighed. “Didn’t you see that stop sign?”
“I did, I stopped, I wasn’t in motion at all.” Did he really think you hit him? “You’re the one that biked straight into my car. I wanted to reverse to avoid you, but it was too late.”
You took a second to look over your hood and the side of the car. Though his body had slammed into it like a slab of meat on a chopping board, everything looked fine.
“I didn’t hit you, you hit me!” He yelled, his chin jutting out.
You waved your hands. “Wait, just hold on a second, I was stationery! And look, your bike isn’t even damaged. You braked late and flipped over your handlebars.”
“Uh uh, that’s not what happened,” he said, shaking his head.
You took a deep breath, you didn’t need this right now. You scanned the sidewalks for anyone who could act as a witness to no avail. As a last resort, you looked to Daphne’s house behind you to see if she was still on her front porch, but she was gone.
“Look, I’ve got a job interview--” You started.
“Oh, good for you--” He rolled his eyes.
“I really don’t have time for this.” You said as calmly as you could, “If you’re really hurt, let’s do this right and exchange info right now instead of arguing.”
“I’m not arguing! Who’s arguing? I’m just saying that you didn’t stop!” He blew up, waving his arms, the veins in them prominently bulging. God, he could pick you up and throw you across
the street if he wanted. You wanted to shrink away but you took a deep breath and stood your ground. Okay, time to bring out the big guns, you thought.
“You see that house over there?” You were thankful that Daphne lived right on the corner of the intersection.
“Yeah, what about it?” He folded his arms.
“You see that camera above the front door?”
His shoulders slumped. “Yeah.”
“I just came from there, it’s my friend’s house and it’s got a great view of this intersection. Maybe we pull up the footage and see who’s really at fault here--but after my job interview. Please.”
He sighed and looked down, his arms dropping to his sides. “Forget it.”
You narrowed your eyes, studying him. Did that really work?
“What? Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” He looked at you, his dark brown eyes boring into yours, his thick lips in a slight pout.
“You don’t want my info?”
He paused and narrowed his eyes, tilting his head slightly. They always did when they can’t place your face right away. “No,” he answered.
“So you sure you’re not injured?”
“Yeah…I think so.” He took one more look over his body, and you allowed yourself a glance as well. From the waist down, he was definitely an avid biker. His expensive brand name road bike and his muscular calves and quads told you that much. The waist up told a different story, he was broad and lean with a wingspan of an Olympic swimmer. He had huge hands with long, slender fingers. Biker. Swimmer. Maybe he did both. His sun kissed skin was lightly tanned, a few cute moles dotted his face. He must be enjoying his free time outside during the summer.
“I’ve had worse," he sighed, after he finished his body check, putting his helmet back on.
“Then I think you should consider different means of transportation.” You headed to your driver’s door and instantly regretted your smart alecky remark. "You're sure you're okay?" You asked in a gentler tone.
“Yeah...Sorry I, uh, blew up. Today's not my day," he shook his head, distraught. "My mind was somewhere else. I wasn’t paying attention, just mindlessly biking. And I just had to take my frustration out on something, someone, and it was you."
You pursed your lips, you kind of felt bad for the guy. What could get him so distracted enough that he would bike into a stopped car?
"I get it...just..be careful," you gestured to his bike. “I’ve got pretty good reflexes when it comes to driving, but if someone else blew through this stop sign and didn’t pull over to check on you...This could’ve been a lot worse.”
He nodded, your chastising remark making him blush in embarrassment. “Yeah...I guess, I should be glad it was you, huh?”
You shook your head. “No, I’m so sorry, that’s not what I’m saying, I wasn’t looking for gratitude or anything...Anyway.” You shyly looked away. “Maybe you should walk when you need to quiet your mind, or listen to music, write in a journal. Maybe something that doesn’t require wearing a helmet..."
He smirked. “Is that what you do when you need to quiet your mind?”
“Well, yeah. Deep breathing helps too. And I definitely listen to music. I like Chopin.”
He raised a brow. “Oh? Chopin’s great. I love his Nocturnes. I’m listening to a lot of Nujabes lately.”
“Nujabes? I’ll have to look it up,” you replied. “How do you spell that?”
He smiled, making a wide grin that formed deep dimples in his cheeks, his eyes kinder now as he spelled the name out slowly while you typed it into your Spotify on your phone.
Were you seriously having a conversation about music with a guy in the middle of the street? Despite his imposing figure, there was something about him that was easy going. He was cute--for a hulk of a man. Like those giant Saint Bernard dogs that save avalanche victims. You considered asking him if he didn't want to exchange contact info again.
His brows furrowed as he walked his bike closer to you. “You look so familiar.”
“I get that a lot.” You teased, hoping he would recognize you. You put your phone away.
“We haven’t met before, have we?” He asked as his eyes studied your face.
You shook your head. “No, I don’t think so...” Maybe you met me through your television, you thought. Look harder, it will come to you.
“Did you go to UCLA or UCI?” He asked. “Have you been to any weddings in the last three months?”
You shook your head again. He must be a student there or went to those schools in the past. As for the wedding question, you didn’t know what to make of that one.
“You’re not going to tell me your name?” He asked.
“Will you tell me yours?”
He got back on his bike, his pause before answering made you raise a brow, the suspense is killing you. You take his hesitance as a no.
“If we meet again under better circumstances...,” he mused. “Then I’ll know it’s meant to be. Then I'll tell you my name.”
“Meant to be?” You laughed. “Like destiny?”
He nodded and smiled. “Yeah. Like that movie…Serendipity. The universe will bring you back to me.”
This guy watched Serendipity? A tall, handsome athletic type who liked Chopin and had decent taste in contemporary romantic comedies? You regretted playing hard to get with telling him your name now.
“Hopefully, you’re walking, and not in a car,” he joked. Your jaw dropped slightly at his light dig.
“Hopefully we’re both walking.” Maybe there was some way to persuade him to give you his name. “And what if we don’t meet again?”
He looked into the far off distance. “If we don’t then..this’ll be an interesting memory for me. I’ll write about it in my journal,” he smirked, looking back at you.
You laughed, his playfulness putting you at ease. God, they don’t write meet-cutes for movies like this anymore. He cleared his throat and did a stretch, raising his arms up to the sky. His hoodie rode up a bit, exposing his navel and the waistband of his black undies. You bit your lip and looked away. He brought his arms down, and you looked back as he stood up straighter, your eyes going wide as he reached his final form, that arm stretch probably made him seem like he gained at least three inches of height.
“Good luck at your interview. I hope you get it.”
You blinked. Oh right. That. “Thank you...I guess...I hope I see you again? Under better circumstances?”
He shrugged, putting his feet on his pedals and biked away. First that show-off arm stretch and now this? What a tease. You were halfway hoping he would yell out his full name as he left you, something. Anything. Instead, he turned his head so you could see his profile.
“I hope so too!”
“Keep your eyes on the road!” You yelled after him, annoyed. You could see his shoulders shaking from laughing as he turned away and shook his head. He gave you a thumbs up and kept biking.
In all your life, you never met anyone so fascinating and intriguing. Unfortunately, you’ve met plenty of men, most not by choice. While you were working on the series you were taught by tutors and didn’t have much occasion to socialize with boys, and after the series ended all the guys interested in you were mainly actors looking to make it big themselves by using you. You learned pretty quickly who was genuine and who wasn’t. For the first time in a long time, you realized you could start putting yourself out there, and what better guy to start that with than someone who had no idea who you were.
“If it’s meant to be...Bring him back to me, universe,” you said to yourself, hoping the universe would listen.