Mary Lou Sanelli
Mary Lou Sanelli

It may look otherwise to someone who has never tried, but it’s hard.

Nothing about a performance is easy. The atmosphere is focused and expectant and hyper-aware. 

And no one but you is thinking about this. 

And no one but you should be. 

Because you, only you, must carry the room. 

And if you tremble, you crash.

But once you begin you know, with heat spreading through your chest warm as tile in the sun, nervous or not, that you are not going to let yourself down. You are not going to botch this. You are not going to crash.   

You put so much of yourself into this. You feel all your loose ends come together into one poised self. More than anything, you want the whole evening to work.   

And it does. Face-to-face, it does!   

Then the worst thing possible happened. 

I woke up. 

Suddenly, even the coziness of my bed seemed to belong to a previous time. 

Here is what else I remember: Everyone looked happy, so happy, and the event felt like one of many like it and, yet, what made it different was that no one recalled such an upended, lava-lamp of a time like  this.

We had forgotten all about the coronavirus. Or never heard of it. I could not tell which. 

One woman held up a sign that read, “I GAVE FEAR UP FOR LENT.”

It takes a strong stomach to laugh off fear in our time. Her knack for independence inspires. I wondered if she had come to tell me to stop worrying and live my life, wash my hands and be smart about contact, yes, but LIVE, and I thought maybe I should believe her. 

She was only one voice, but sometimes one is enough. I suppose what you are reading into this is that I  need  one voice to be enough and you are right. 

Then suddenly, like a dream within a dream, soft solar lights come up along the aisles adding to the magic, and my excitement leaps over the edge of the stage and does a cartwheel. And no one — well, maybe there was one person looking down — needs to Tweet about the cartwheel to feel that they have seen it.

I even remember wondering if the tweeter could hear what I was thinking: There will always be those who repeat the mistakes of the past. Or what the man beside her was thinking: When bad manners become the norm, most people don’t recognize it as bad anymore. But I do!

It was a dream, after all, a fairy tale. 

No, I am lying to you. I made that last man up for effect.

All I am trying to say is that some people long for lovers the way I long to sit next to you at a theater.

I may even want to hold your hand. It seems like the least I can do after all we’ve been through. I have never been remotely interested in not touching people — I mean, I don’t ever want to be  that  wary. 

So, when the day arrives, by which I mean when we come close,  closer,  let us take to the edge again, which has never been safe. (Although, I may be a little sorry when we don’t have to wait in line at Trader Joe’s anymore. When that happens, I will be less apt to dress presentably.)

Let us get caught up in the thrill of live-performance, increase our level of happiness, decrease our anxiety, come fully alive.

Let us pay for theater tickets because hope is always a luxury. And just as often costly.

Let us morph into superior appreciators.

Let us thank the production staff as they welcome us back like long-lost friends. 

Let us thank our lucky stars. A thousand times a day and counting. 

Let us note the parallel between joy and embracing, and how one lingering hug has never been more beneficial than now.

Let us remember that now is this — and we will get through this, we will — the past was that, and the years ahead will be something different.

And if this anticipation is not enough to be grateful for in this time of thanksgiving, well, then, I do not know what thanksgiving is.

— Mary Lou Sanelli has published three works of nonfiction, including “Among Friends.” Her first novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs,” was recently released by Chatwin Books. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.