down, my cheek against the hardwood
    The audience is gasping, the darkness
spinning, voices calling that name which I covet.

Chapter 9
    the night He won the Oscar * back in the
green room * scares them with the threat of vomiting * makes an
exit * going home * a hypothetical conversation between you and
Lance (indulge him)
    One of my best memories is watching James
Jansen step onstage at the Academy Awards that early March evening
ten years ago. He hadn’t been picked to win the Oscar, but when
they announced his name, the crowd roared and rose to its feet.
    He won for his lead in a film called Down
From the Sleeping Trees . Played this guy who’s a junior in
college when his father kills himself. What happens next is his
mother freaks out and moves from Boston to this cabin in the North
Carolina mountains, and Jansen, or his character I mean, drops out
of school to help her. I won’t say how it ends in case you haven’t
seen it, but it’s genius. The actress who played his mother won an
Oscar, too. And the movie got best picture. I’ve watched the
tape of that Academy Awards at least once a week for the last five
years. Sometimes, I even dress up and order in Chinese.
    Anyway, he stepped onstage and gave the most
gracious acceptance speech you’ve ever seen. Didn’t even use a
cheat sheet. And he was twenty-nine. Unreal.
    Sometimes, when things aren’t going too good,
like now, I think about that night, and pretend I’m Jansen saying
all those brilliant things to the crowd, just charming the hell out
of everyone. You’d be surprised at how good it makes me feel. You
really would.
    I’m trying to do that now as I lie on the
couch in the green room, but everyone’s talking to me, Matt
especially. He keeps asking what the fuck happened out there, and
Wittig’s in the room, too. I hear him talking to Ben, saying, “I
just don’t know. I just don’t know.”
    Jane keeps asking when the ambulance is
coming, and this stagehand is trying to shove a glass of water in
my face.
    All of the sudden, I get this very panicky
feeling because of all the people around me and I say, very quietly
and calmly, “Could everybody just leave me alone for a minute?”
    But they don’t hear me, because Matt asks me
again what the fuck happened, and Wittig continues to tell Ben he
just doesn’t know.
    “LEAVE ME ALONE!” I shout, and man does
everybody shut up in a hurry.
    Matt orders everyone out, even Ben and Jane
and Wittig.
    When it’s just Matt and me, I sit up on the
couch and lift the glass of water off the carpet and down the whole
    “I want to ask you something,” Matt says. In
(you guessed it) black again, he kneels down by the couch and
stares at me through his black-framed glasses. I haven’t been
looked at like this since I left Charlotte. It makes me feel like
Lance again, and I don’t have to tell you how awful that feels.
    “What just happened out there,” he says.
    “Well, I was standing there and—”
    “I’m not asking you. I’m telling you. What
happened out there was the most fucked-up piece of theatre I’ve
ever seen. You froze.”
    “Stop right there.” I hold out my hand,
because if he says what I think he’s going to say, I don’t know
what I’ll do. “I think I’m going to puke,” I say, and sort of make
this highly regurgitative sound. Matt instantly backs off. I guess
the fear of being vomited on pretty much trumps all.
    “I’ll be right back,” I say, and I rush out
of the room.
    Everybody’s lined up against the wall of
dressing rooms, and before they can say anything, I mention how
I’ll be upchucking momentarily.
    Since I don’t know where the rear exit of
Hamilton Studio is, I accidentally walk right out onto the stage as
the dramaturge is telling the crowd how there’s been a medical
emergency and that I’m being ambulanced away as he speaks.
    I walk right up the aisle between the most
bewildered playgoers you’ve ever seen, and stop at

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