Slowly the room filled up with the halogen lights, blinding everyone who dared to look at them directly. The lights technician moved from one light to another carefully adjusting them, sometimes by an inch, before he sat down, finally satisfied.
In the now visible room, a handful of people scurried around, picking up strewn garbage, wrappings of props past. Another two carefully straightened the photos on the wall once more before the set designer quietened down and waved them away.
In one corner of the room, stood the script writers tightly huddled together, haggling over the wordings of the scene. Sometimes a voice would raise but then immediately lower, the culprit furiously glancing here and there, as if afraid someone would hear him.
Not far from them, sat a man, a couple of monitors by his side, watching the scene unfold before him. He had that proud air around him, the air of an owner; the air of the one in control.
Their discussions complete, one of the script writers broke apart from the group, and in a low voice communicated the final decision to the Director.
Content, the Director nodded, and the script writer sped away back to his colleagues. Like flies to a decaying carcass, assistants swarmed over the director.
It was then when he walked into the room.
They said he all the women wanted him, and all the men wanted to be like him. But as he strode forward from behind the stage, a dead cigarette dangling from his lips, a bottle of wine banging against his torn pants, yesterday’s stubble still glaring from his cheeks, he looked no one’s idol.
Above, the technician sniggered. Back home, his wife would blush a bright red if he mentioned him, as if he was talking about God. If only she knew, if only she knew.
On the sidelines, the cleaning crew exchanged money, consequences of old bets being placed. Bets that had being placed for quite some time now, the losing men now losing hopes of ever winning them. He was down in the drain now.
He once had been perfect.
Yes, he had been.
But when the world comes crashing down on you, all that turns to dust. Not once do you think about what you may be like on the outside, because for once, the inside becomes overpowering.
Stumbling now, unconscious of the numerous stares he drew, the Man sat down heavily on one of the chairs lined up in front of the make believe bar. The bottle slipped from his limp fingers, and rolled out on the floor. The dangling cigarette finally broke free and fell to the floor. All around him the entire crew looked breathlessly on.
Not even a chair squeaked.
Finally he stirred, as if suddenly aware of the stares that tried to bare his soul.
With an effort, he got up, and bend down to pick up the bottle. An assistant ran over to help him, but swaying on his feet, he waved her away. Not now.
His shoulders hunched, he made his way towards the back of the room. As if on cue, the head scriptwriter broke away from the pack, and went in after him.
Sighing, the director thought back to his first meeting with him, before the breakdown. Producers had literally refused to come on board without him as the lead role. So, he had reluctantly agreed to have the suave, clean shaven ‘proven’ hero portray his broken down, love struck hero.
But then the breakdown occurred.
About two weeks ago, he had been sitting in this chair itself, when the phone call came. He couldn’t make it. He was going through a lot, the agent explained. He cannot make it now, maybe tomorrow. His entire day’s hard work down the drain, the director had made two female assistants cry. Bloody actors, do they think it’s all about them?
The second time, it was much worse. He did turn up, but drunk. He had smashed his car into one of the vans outside, damaging a truckload of props. Costly props. Who was going to pay for them?
The Director didn’t want to look like a fool again, but the agent had called in the morning. Make the arrangements, he will be there. The Director swore loudly. He was here, but in what shape?
Almost half an hour passed before the Man entered the room again, the bottle still in his hand.
For the second time in the day, the entire crew was breathless.
Slightly taken aback, the Director nodded to the cameraman. With a whirr the aging machinery started rolling.
The Man kept the bottle behind the table, and sat down.
The scriptwriter had tried to explain while the hairdresser had milled around, fighting a losing fight. It was a monologue, the scriptwriter had said. The character’s wife had died. In the bar, he was reminiscing. The scriptwriter then pressed the paper in his hands. Please read it, we’ll wait.
He had put away the paper as soon as the script writer had exited the room. He didn’t need it.
Sitting there, in front of the fading over-used backdrop, the actor took a deep breath.
He was not the man, he was the Actor.
For fifteen minutes the Actor spoke.
And everyone listened.
When he finished, no one moved.
The Man got up from chair and picked up his bottle from behind the table. Taking a swig out of it, he stood there, staring into space for a while, before snapping out of it. Tipping an imaginary hat to the audience, the Man made his way out of set.
With an obvious effort, the director spoke. “Cut”.
As they loaded the last of the chairs on the van, the younger one just couldn’t resist.
“What happened to him?”
The older one grunted, and gave the chair a final push before pulling down the van’s shutter.
“Who knows? Some say his wife and daughter died last week, others say he finally cracked under pressure. Whatever. Maybe he is just wrong in the head.” He shrugged, “Come, I’m buying tonight.”
With a honk, the van sped out onto the main road, the set now completely deserted, the Man all but forgotten.