Date: May 31, 2010
Downtown, NYC - East Village
Off-off-off-off-off Broadway, there's an experimental indepdendent theater called Interurban, which is currently putting on a production of "Nobody Loves An Albatross" - the show is okay, but the real thing is the post-show party, in the lounge upstairs from the theater. No guest list, but the show's been extended just so the parties could keep going. Broadway bigshots are rubbing shoulders with hopeful glee-clubbers, young professionals circling each other like fighting fish in a too-small bowl, and although since there's no guest list, Lee can't be technically party crashing, it's obvious that the free food and drink was too much to pass up. "Look," he's explaining to a hot redhead who just got the brushoff for her eighth audition in a week, "Wordsworth's literary criticism is probably the best insight into how he thought about poetry, even better than his own poetry. Now that's circular, right?" A friend extricates her, Lee gets a refill on his drink. Gotta love New York. The party has just reached the "notorious" level - where people involved in the theater subculture know about it and how to get there. After a few more installments, it'll be "over".
It wouldn't be a party without the quiet wallflowers that hang on the edges of the crowd. They stand there, rocking back and forth on their feet, from toes to heels, while wringing their hands and silently trying to muster up the courage to go talk to that cute lead actor across the way. While Aster is among them, she doesn't seem quite as engrossed in the attractive male as the group of young, out of place, teenage girls beside her are. Rather, her range of awareness is much larger than just a single person as her eyes flicker from body to body, focusing there briefly before moving to the next person. Even so, her eyes, blank and cloudy, give the impression of blindness to most that observe her. Having grown tired of sitting on the edges, Aster moves further inward, seeking a partner to converse with, like she had originally intended. She doesn't know much about theatre, but it's among her few interests; many of her afternoons are spent staring at posters of musicals, wishing she had the money to get a ticket. "Who's Wordsworth?" she asks, overhearing the conversation between Lee and the pretty redhead. She redirects herself towards the man, following him as he goes to refill his drink after observing that he's redhead-less, now. "Was he important…?" she wonders, her face growing ponderous, as though she were trying to recall something.
Lee grins at the young woman, "William Wordsworth. English Romantic poet, one of the founders of the movement. Strange fits of passion I have known, ahh, I wandered lonely as a cloud, and so on." he says cheerily. "Hey, do you want some shrimp, it's pretty good. Are you with one of the cast members? Sister or something?"
"I… I don't remember learning about him," Aster replies, rubbing her palm against the side of her noggin, lips pursed. "And I've studied a lot of poets and playwrights. I should remember…" she says, breathing slowly outwards. Soon, she gives up on the challenge of recalling her studies, then turns her attention back to Lee with a shift of her eyes. The offer of shrimp garners a brief, considerate look to fall upon her face. "No, thank you," she politely responds, "shrimp are just so precious. Just LOOK at them." She reaches a hand out and picks one of the shrimp up, letting it dangle between her index finger and thumb. It looks… well, dead. Not precious. "I'm not, actually. I just kind of walked in. It was surprisingly easy to find my way in. I must look theatrical," she says, pointing to the blue triangle painted onto her cheek. "What about you?"
Lee says, "I pretended to know a guy who knew a producer who just left. It's not exactly a high security shindig. I'm Lee. You studied poetry but not Wordsworth? Where?" he seems incredulous. "Anyway, it's a great party."
"I'm Aster," the young woman says, glancing over her shoulder to check up on the wall flowers she left behind. Their shyness still keeps them from engaging in any conversation except for the few words exchanged to each other. Turning back, Aster slides her hands into her pockets and leans her weight to one side, off her right leg. "Yeah, it doesn't look like they have a guest list. We might be pretty crowded in here after a while," she says, frowning over at the entrance way as more fans begin to flood in. She'd rather the party not be ruined simply by over population. "I studied it. Just me. I don't think I've ever gone to a real school…" she tells Lee, before she extends a hand towards him. "It's nice to meet you. Who was your friend?" the young woman wonders, gesturing towards the redhead that Lee had just been speaking to.
Lee seems to like the big party, the bigger the party, the bigger his smile. "Her name's Regina, she's an actress. Hard times. You didn't go to a real school, what, were you homeschooled or raised by coyotes or something? I'm a schoolteacher so you basically just said 'hey, ah, breathing, eating, sleeping, they're pretty optional for me.'" he teases.
"Aaah, well, she has nice hair," Aster comments on the redhead, her head tilting to the side to watch the woman for a fleeting moment. When Lee speaks again, she gives him a curious look. Her eyes seem to squint, while her brows furrow in confusion. It's not that the question is offensive or difficult — she's just not sure she has the answer Lee wants. "I don't know how I know things. I just do," she explains to him, her shoulders slumping after a quick shrug. "I know about others things, just not myself, that is. I can't remember…" Aster murmurs to him, her voice just audible enough for Lee to hear. "Which grade level do you teach?"
Lee says, "Uh….seventh to ninth grade, for the most part. A private school on the Upper East Side, Brubaker Secondary. Well, what other things do you know, then, Aster?"
"I think I'm supposed to be in… university by now," Aster says, when she hears which grades Lee teaches. "I think," she repeats once more, just to emphasize her own uncertainty. "So it's too late for you to teach me now. Even if I were younger, there'd be no way I'd ever make it into a private school. Not with my income," she tells him, finally cracking a smile for the man as she jests. When asked what else she knows, the young woman draws her mouth off to the side, sighing deeply. "Well… I know something about everyone in this room. Almost everyone—not the people who just walked in. They're the only exception," she says to him, once again pointing to the side just as another group enters the party. Then, she decides to shoot the question right back at him, "And what do you know, Lee?"
Lee says, "I got a Masters in French Literature and I got a certificate to teach civics and government, so pretty much my mind is full of all kinds of great stuff. You know something about everybody in this room? Really? Wow, you get around…ahh…tell me something about Regina over there, then?"
"French… I know French," Aster says, tapping her temple once again while holding her elbow with the other hand. In such a thoughtful state, she looks like a think-think-thinking Winnie The Pooh. With her forearms raised, the irritated skin can be seen as some sort of rash moves from her wrist and upwards. Fortunately, it doesn't seem as though they have been scratched at. "I know enough to get by, I suppose, but I don't speak it fluently. Not like I do Dutch," she says to him, before she averts her eyes back to Regina. Her stare is relentless, even when she gives an answer to Lee. A blue light, though dim, begins to shine behind her eyes. "Oh," Aster murmurs, eyebrows raising. "Her hair isn't red. That's a dye job," she tells him, and then continues. "She even went as far as to dye her eyebrows. She likes that man she's talking to. Well, she doesn't really like him, but he's a director—I can tell. I think she wants to butter him up…" From there, she doesn't go on. The scandalous implications stand by themselves.
Lee doesn't notice the eye thing. "It's a good dye job, she had me fooled. I…hey, are your arms okay? That looks pretty bad, did you burn yourself?"
The worry expressed to her by Lee breaks Aster's concentration. The light dies out, and her eyes return to normal once more just as they shift to look back at him. "I had suspicions before. I could smell her shampoo when she walked by. The kind of shampoo that treats coloured hair," she explains to him, nodding her head slowly in affirmation. "My arms?" the girl says, raising a forearm up to look at the rash. "I've had it for a few days… It's just a rash. From a plant, maybe, but I'm not positive. It gets really itchy sometimes, so I ignore it."
Lee says, "Should put some aloe on that, it'll help. That's a sharp nose you've got. I read somewhere that people who have a sharp sense of smell also have a very sensitive sense of taste? That would be so amazing. Of course, I pretty much ruined everything by smoking for I don't know how many years."
"It will be fine, sooner or later. Just can't scratch," Aster says, partially to be conversational, and partially to remind herself not to put her nails to her skin. As a further precaution, she pushes her rolled up sleeves down over her arms. "Well, all of my senses are sharp. It's part of why I know things," she says, though she suddenly becomes distracted by something near the door. She pivotes so that her body is facing somewhat away from Lee, neck craned to see around a cluster of people. Standing beside the exit is a young man, black-haired, and about the same age as Aster. He bears the same triangle on his cheek, only his is orange. The two of them share a long lasting stare, but no words are given. Then, the boy turns and leaves just as quickly as he came in. To Lee, Aster apologizes, "Uhmm, sorry to cut this short, but I need to go. My, uh, friend is here to pick me up." She begins to step away, parting with a pat to the man's shoulder. "Maybe we'll find each other again, hmmm?"
Lee says, "Oh, uh, sure, sounds good. Was great to meet you, Aster." Her last comment about her senses leaves him curious, though, and he watches her go, green eyes narrowing slightly. At least until a friend comes up and says "This party is terrible. Let's go sneak into a better one." Lee checks his watch, "I have class tomorrow….I guess we could hit one more."