With heavy eyes and a foggy mind, you enter your new room in Baltimore, Maryland. You spent last night partying with your older brother, absorbing your last bit of family time in Philly. You spent the entire week in Philadelphia spreading yourself thin by seeing as many friends and family as possible, all while doing the show each night. The injury, the celebrating, and the show force you to reevaluate the way you choose to live on the road. Since you have the rest of Monday off, you plan a lunch and grocery trip with your friend and fellow castmate, Sean.
Walking towards an empty both in Panera, you and Sean begin expressing the different challenges you both have faced thus far. Through your exhaustion, you continue the conversation. “Sean, I need a fresh start. I feel like I need a complete mental and physical cleanse. I’ve been so stressed and it’s weighing on me. I need to start making some changes.”
You agree to cut communication with your ex, cut back the partying, and you plan to alter your diet. In eleven weeks, you will be opening “The Bodyguard” at the Hollywood Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. You plan to take new headshots while staying in LA for 3 weeks, so you want to look and feel your very best. For the next eleven weeks, in addition to eating clean, you will create a workout routine that won’t overly exhaust you before showtime. Sean is one hundred percent on board and looks forward to witnessing your transformation. He’s the perfect friend to share your goals with because you know he’ll continue to motivate you towards a happy, healthy future.
After your first full day of clean eating and pre-show exercises, you have the perfect amount of energy for opening night at the Hippodrome Theater. The Hippodrome is providing an opening night party in the lobby of the theater. You didn’t bring anything nice to wear, because you weren’t sure that going to an opening night party would be the best decision after expressing the need to cut back the partying. Sean walks back to the hotel with you and escorts you to your room. You begin looking through clothes, still debating whether or not you should attend this party. “Bitch get dressed. You’re going. There’s free food and free wine. If the food is crap, we’ll go home.” Your gaze shifts from the mirror to Sean. “You’re right. Ok, let’s go.”
You walk into the theater’s lobby in boots not meant for fancy parties. Those boots have no heel, so until your ankle is closer to feeling one hundred percent; they’re your only option. Luckily, you’ve maintained the fresh blow out you got at a salon in Philly, so you enter the party feeling confident, at least from the knee up. You walk up the stairs onto the balcony and join the festivities. Immediately, you and Sean find the food table. They have a great salad option for you, so you fill up your plate and walk towards the bar. You quickly eat your salad so that you don’t have to juggle your food and your cabernet. You swallow the last bite, and wash it down with the first sip of wine. You begin scanning the clumps of people around the room. You recognize the clump of talented musicians, but one face doesn’t seem familiar. You look a little longer and realize you unfortunately have never seen that handsome face before. You were always going to say hello to your friends in the band, but now, motivation rushes you in their direction.
You enter the circle of men, intentionally standing to the right of the one you don’t know. You look up at the mystery man and only say, “Hi.” You say hello to the rest of the band members in the circle as you wait for mystery man to acknowledge you. They exchange their hellos, and mystery looks down to reply. “Oh. Hey!” As the conversation flows throughout the circle, you learn that this man, Harry, has been friends with the trumpet player, David since they were 15 years-old. David has been touring for the past 13 years, and ever since Harry moved to Maryland, David has stayed at his house when he plays a show close by. Since the whole cast and crew received comp tickets and plus-ones for this opening party, Harry came along. David continues to share his interest in making empanadas while staying with Harry. You look across the circle at David. “I love empanadas! When is this happening?” Dave smirks, noticing how close you’ve chosen to stand next to his best friend.
“I don’t know! Thursday?”
You smile wide, and invite yourself to enjoy the taste treats. “Thursday works for me!”
Conversation continues to swirl around the circle, but your eyes only see Harry’s. He hasn’t been able to keep his eyes off of you either. He begins asking you questions and the two of you continue to have a private conversation. Before you know it, you and Harry are the only ones left standing together. You both pause for a moment, realizing the rest of the band has dispersed, but you don’t want to lose momentum. You take the initiative to keep the energy going.
“So, Thursday?” He smiles. “Yes! Thursday it is!” Expecting him to ask for your number, you give him a verbal nudge. “Great! So, how will I know where to go, or what time to arrive?” Realizing he’s forgetting an important detail, “Oh! Walk with me.” He puts out his right arm to link with your left. You walk towards an isolated area of the lobby. “May I please have your number?” You give him your number and he continues to lead you towards a quiet nook near the bathrooms and the kitchen. “Ok, I have to ask. May I kiss you?” Your heart flutters and your smile brightens. Without showing how completely giddy you feel, you keep it cool. “Of course.” He gently places his hands on your cheeks and kisses you. He pulls back and looks up at the ceiling. “Ummmm, one more.” He looks into your eyes before placing a peck on your lips. Pulling away again he says, “Ok one more.” He repeats the act of endearment. “Ok just one more.” By the third one, you try to hold back the laughter, but you continue to chuckle as his lips are upon yours. You part ways, and meet with Sean. “I can’t believe I wasn’t going to come tonight! Thank you for getting me to this party!” Sean additionally swooning over Harry, “Girl he is fine! You’re welcome.”
On a chilly Sunday night, you sit in the passenger seat of Harry’s white Mercedes with ice saran-wrapped around your ankle to decrease swelling after an eventful five-show weekend in Baltimore. You can’t believe Harry picked you up from the theater to enjoy a third night together. You two have been smiling and laughing since your first date on Thursday. As he zooms onto the highway, your heart sinks a bit, realizing this is the last time you will take this drive with him for a long time, or maybe ever. Will he want to continue seeing you knowing you signed a contract that will keep you away for another 15 months?
Back in his house, Harry holds you in his arms as you continue sharing life stories, learning and loving more about him. Loving? Yes. Crazy? Maybe, but you can’t help this overwhelming, unfamiliar sensation. Something about him feels right without explanation. In complete awe of what has come over you, you soak up this beautiful moment. From your experience on your last two tours and other regional productions, you thought people could never find anyone worth pursuing while on the road. You thought people could only wind up in a temporary showmances that ends soon after the production comes to a close. You never thought you would have the chance of meeting someone worth pursuing beyond a first date, let alone someone who isn’t in the industry. You’ve always wanted to meet a man who isn’t a performer, but still understands the lifestyle. When a show consumes your world, the chances of meeting a wonderful someone who isn’t a performer seems slim to none, but Harry could be the man to prove your all of your theories wrong.
The doubt of seeing Harry again fades as conversation flows deeper into the night.
“I really hope to see you again. I know you were thinking of coming to San Diego for David’s birthday, but it would cool to see you before six months from now. I’d like to keep talking if want to.”
“Yea, of course. Just text me tomorrow. If I hear from you, I’d love to keep talking.”
“I will for sure.”
Based on his past, he reluctantly says, “Ok, we’ll see if you do.”
The following morning, Harry drives you and David to the airport to join the rest of your cast for a one-way flight to Charlotte. Parked in front of Southwest Airlines, Harry helps you remove your luggage from the trunk, and you share one last kiss. “I will be sure to text you when I land.” He smiles back at you. “I hope so.” He drives off, leaving you flustered with a mix of emotions. You drop your luggage off, pass through TSA, and settle onto the plane. Remembering that he’s not allowed to have his personal phone at his office, you begin drafting a text that he will come back to after a long work day. You’ve dreamt of a man like Harry for a long time. You don’t want to let him go. This is a great first gesture towards a man who could be a positive addition to your journey towards an all around healthier life style.
You gaze out the window as the cast bus rolls on from Columbus, Ohio to Philadelphia. Your phone alerts you of a new email from Allen Foster. Foster, along with other Bucks County press, have been calling you the past two weeks to do an interview before arriving in your hometown. Foster’s article is titled “Megan Fulmer, Bucks County’s Treasure, appearing in The Bodyguard.” Your heart fills with joy and feels as if a bright yellow light shines through your puffy winter coat. After sitting for a week in Columbus and watching the full show from the audience to rest your ankle, this headline makes any pain go away. Your ankle has reached about 85% health, and good fortune has healed you just in time to dance for friends and family. Your eyes continue to gaze past the window’s barrier and you begin to recognize familiar venues like the Wells Fargo Center, where you performed as a 76ers Jr. Dancer from 2003-2005. Now, 12 years later, you will fulfill your dreams of performing onstage at the Academy of Music. Your cheeks spread to a warm smile as the bus takes you closer to the hotel where your parents anxiously await your arrival.
You feel like a little kid running home from your first day of kindergarten as you peer into the hotel lobby where your parents stand grinning. “Meggy!!! Hi honey!” After the the stress that built towards the end of your time in Chicago, and being out of the show for an entire week, hugs from your parents heal every emotional and physical wound. Your younger brother lives in Philly and meets you and your parents at a restaurant two blocks away from the hotel. As you enter the pub and walk past the bar, you suddenly recognize classmates from high school. Before you know it, you see more old friends that you haven’t stayed connected with since you graduated.You choose not to say anything to them; you’re enjoying time with your family. Once you leave Philly to head to the next city, you won’t see your family for five months, so you want to soak up every second of time you’ll get with them this week. You finish your meal and get up to use the bathroom. In that time, some of your drunken classmates greet you and you take ten minutes to catch up. You gesture to your family, they meet a few of the other Pennsbury alumni, and then you walk back to the hotel to have just a few more minutes of family time before you shut down and rest. You need plenty of sleep to ensure a strong comeback in front of loved ones that plan on seeing you live your dreams.
Tuesday you arrive at the theater an hour early for physical therapy. The nerves flutter through your stomach, but your excitement won’t let it overwhelm you. At the end of your session, the physical therapist wraps your ankle for protection and assures you this will be a successful opening despite the injury. You hurry to the company meeting, and then begin stretching before soundcheck. Your stage manager’s voice rings through the monitors in your dressing room.
“Can I have the ensemble to stage for ‘How Will I Know?’”
With your mic in place, you step onto the stage. That light in your heart beams brighter than the ones that hang above your head. You look out and pan the theater. The last time you were inside the Academy of Music, you sat in the audience with your choir director and voice teacher supporting high school alumnus, and your teacher’s former student, Christy Altomare, who starred as Wendla in Spring Awakening’s first national tour. At that time, you smiled with a mouth full of braces, dreaming of the day you would be on that stage. Nine years later, the time has arrived. A rush of adrenaline guides you through soundcheck into the moment you stand in your opening position.
The confetti cannons pop and the crowd is on their feet, roaring louder than any other audience before them. You expect nothing less from the lovely men and women of Philadelphia. You grew up with enough Eagles and Phillies fans to know when anyone from Philly finds something they thoroughly enjoy, they will continue to support that thing with more passion than you could ever imagine. Your older and younger brothers, your cousin Kiana, and your ex greet you at the stage door. Your ex insisted on being at the opening just like he insists on sending you flowers for every opening in every city since he showed up empty-handed at the Papermill Playhouse opening.You appreciate the gesture, but your family is here and a dream just came true, so you allot your time accordingly.
You bring your crew to the opening night party held at The Ritz-Carlton. Your older brother holds his copy of a Deborah Cox album he bought when he was a kid. You two spent many car rides Jamming out to her albums, and now your brother stands beside you as you introduce him to Deborah. Your heart glows and lights up the dim room where your brother shares his story of searching many music stores to buy a specific album that had one of his favorite Deborah Cox songs. She smiles and thanks him for his support throughout the years. You see the 12-year old version of him try to hide his excitement as she signs his CD. This was the perfect cherry on top of a memorable evening.
The whirlwind of a week has already flown you into Friday morning. You’ve had family and friends come to support you at every performance thus far, including the choir director and voice teacher you sat with when you watched “Spring Awakening.” The support fills you with gratitude, and it looks as though that support will continue until the final performance in Philly. Those thoughts keep you smiling as you and your mom walk to a local nail salon to meet Deborah, Roni, Alejandra, Naomi, and Jasmin for a mani-pedi. Never did your 7 year-old self think you and your mom would be getting mani pedis with Deborah Cox. After a fresh coat of pink and gold polish, you all migrate to a hip restaurant for lunch. You sit at the table and your heart begins to glow as your mom and Deborah chat about music, the latest on “Love and Hiphop,” and what it’s like to raise three kids, and the difference between raising boys and girls. You chuckle after watching your mom behave the exact same way your brother did during their interactions with Miss Cox. With a full heart and belly, you go back to your hotel room and prepare for PT. You’ve done a great job of taking care of your ankle, but you just want to make sure you can maintain strength going into a five-show weekend.
Each audience fills the theater with love stronger than the night before. Radio shows continue to promote the show even though very few tickets are available for these last two performances. You walk into PT on this Sunday morning for your final treatment of the week. Your ankle feels tired and sore, but you want to close the week strong. You proceed to flow through the exercises that have been given to you by your physical therapist, Angelica. You leave to finish your wig prep, but return to have her wrap your ankle right before changing into your opening costume. Knowing you have parents affiliated with your high school’s theater department in the audience pushes you through the matinee before your parents arrive for the closing performance.
Your younger brother joins you and your parents for one more dinner before the last show. The pressure of performing through an injury, and all the time you’ve spent catching up with friends and family after each show, takes a toll on you. You even plan to meet your older brother after the closing show for one last hoorah before leaving Philly. Though your body feels heavy, and an overwhelming sensation is boiling up, the stress calms down as you smile at your parents across the table and release a sigh of relief. Having the people who helped you get to where you are today gives you everything you need rise above it all. You didn’t realize just how much you need them here to end the week strong. Tour is stressful, injuries and people come and go, but you will always have your family when you need them most.
©Megan Elyse Fulmer 2014