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Star of the Show

Lisa Owens


I pinch myself on the arm hard enough to say “Ouch!”. I am awake...not dreaming as I first suspected...and have come to the realization that I am walking around Vanderbilt University looking for something. I don't know how I came to be walking around this stately campus and, more importantly, why I am here. Walking and walking and looking for a street name I can’t remember. Is there any money in my wallet? I don’t think so.

I pause to glance at a couple of girls giggling while watching a lone girl study her phone. One of the gigglers begins a woeful love song directed at the solo girl. Heartfelt and boisterous, tearful and tone deaf, she continues to the end not mindful of the gathering crowd. When she finishes baring her soul, I applaud and saying “Bravo!" move on.

Where is that street? Why am I here? Still walking, I decide to find a place to stay...maybe take a cab...then spying a gothic university hotel, remember my cash-poor situation and continue on. Bet it won't be cheap. I pass two young ladies talking and laughing, one leaning on the other in a moment of hilarity. A cab pulls up. I look hopeful. Maybe I can...the leaning girl motions me over.

“Are you lost?” she asks.

“Sort of and I need to get to a hotel,” I say, shifting my gaze downward.

“Want to share the cab? We can drop you wherever,” she offers, opening the back door.

We three pile into the back seat squished together like sardines. The leaning girl turns my way, face joyful and flushed, a small bead of sweat on her upper lip.

“I have a very important day. There will be a gathering like I’ve never seen before. All there just to see me. I’ll be the star of the show.”

Her companion, silent up to this point, smiles at me and nods, a tear forming in the corner of her left eye.

“That’s right. A special day. My sister is going to be the star. The one everyone is coming to see.” She is glowing with pride. “This is the moment we have all been waiting for and it could really change her life.”

I am stunned by the beauty of them; the older sister with her arm around the younger who is soon to be star of the day. Star of the show. The star is weak with anticipation. Is she a budding actress? Is this her big break, the one all actors dream of while slinging hash at demanding diners day-in and day-out only leaving to rush to the next audition?

The older sister reaches into her purse pulling out lipstick and a tissue, dabbing at the sweat moustache on the budding actress. Perfectly-Pink lipstick is gently applied next. “You’ll want to look your best for the team.”

The cab begins a right-hand turn into a parking lot. I reach for my bag ready to make my exit and leave these lovely sisters to continue on. Looking over, I see the older sister reach for the door handle as she hands the driver a wad of crumpled cash.

He glances my way, “We’re here.” I twist my head to see. Not a hotel. A hospital. No, a research center.

“I decided to drop them first. Okay with you?” I nod. They exit, the older sister supporting the star. As they make their way, a medical team meeting them at the door is all smiles. The glowing star is ceremoniously seated...a plastic princess crown placed atop her curls.

Her team begins to push her wheelchair toward a new life. She looks back at me. Smiles. Waves. Mouths, “I’m ready for my show.”

I think how being the oldest of three siblings, I found myself playing the role of "Mama" at a young age. I was expected to make school lunches, clean house, babysit and exist without emotional support of any kind; never allowed to whine or cry or even ask for help.

My reason becomes clear. I reach into my wallet pulling out a mysterious twenty, nonexistent up to this point. Thrusting it toward the driver, I exit the cab. “Wait up,” I shout running to take the older sister’s hand.

By Lisa Owens. Inspired by a dream.


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