Page 14

“Not mine,” he said, and looked at me, “not yours. Trust me on this, Buttercup. It has to be Michael’s idea.”

But no matter what we say to anyone else, Robert, Jeff, and I know that the idea was mine.

I’m nearly desperate for it; the craving is so powerful I’m buzzy. If Michael agrees we can bring a guitarist in to take over the part Seth once played, I will have contributed something irreplaceable to this production. I’ll no longer be on the sidelines, useless.

I will have silently earned my place.

Robert meets me outside the theater at 11:45. Calvin is coming at noon.

My uncle catches my eye and grins before we turn, heading in the side door. It isn’t crowded backstage, but it’s not dead, either. Most of the cast start showing up around three for makeup and lighting, but the principals in the orchestra often come in earlier on Tuesdays, after a day off, to have lunch together, tune their instruments at a leisurely pace, meet with Robert.

At first, everyone is joking with one another; no one else feels the weight of this. It’s not uncommon for Robert to bring in musicians to audition when one or another of our orchestra leaves. However, there aren’t currently any guitarists in the ensemble. When word circulates that a guitarist is coming in to play, interest spikes: Seth is gone. Luis is leaving. And now we’re auditioning a guitarist? I see people bending over their phones, texting. Soon the theater is full of cast, crew, and orchestra.

Brian is in a quiet tizzy, asking everyone within earshot who invited this new musician, what’s happening, why didn’t anyone update him sooner?

Robert doesn’t get nervous—at least, not about things outside his control, like this. He was smart not to overpromise. And now he stands near the head of the pit, talking to Michael, both men feigning obliviousness while energy buzzes around them. The doors to the lobby open at twelve sharp, and Calvin walks in, his guitar case in his left hand, right hand tucked easily in the pocket of his jeans. A hush falls over the group, and it seems an eternity passes while we all watch him walk from the top of the aisle down to the pit.

Robert doesn’t bother introducing him to everyone; Calvin is here for him, Michael, Don, and Richard. Anyone else is a bystander and it’s up to them to listen in if they choose. From where I sit at the edge of the curtain, I can only barely make out Calvin’s face. Even so, I can tell he feels the weight of eyes on him. He’s a little hunched, smiling and nodding a lot. He pulls out his ChapStick twice.

I want to know how he got here, to this moment. How does one go from Ireland, to Juilliard, to busking and cover bands? People camp out in front of the theater for single tickets to Possessed; they pay insane prices on resale sites. How connected is he that he managed it seven times?

He shakes hands with Michael and Robert before turning to greet the quieter, more observant Don and Richard, and then is invited to sit down in a folding chair that has been placed right up front.

Calvin sits and then pulls his guitar out, quietly tuning the instrument. His smile is easy and infectious. Inside my chest, my heart jackhammers.

Looking up at Robert, he asks, “What would you like to hear?”

Robert pretends to think. I don’t know what he’s going to say right now, but I know him well enough to bet my life that he has an entire playlist already strategized.


Smart. It’s bright, and catchy—reminiscent of the energetic opening number of Possessed without being too on-the-nose. It also perfectly showcases Calvin’s training, because it’s a piece that requires precision, speed, and several changes in tempo.

With a little nod, Calvin bends, eyes closed, and strums the first, brilliant note.

I feel the collective intake of breath, the way bodies behind me in the shadows shift forward now to see, not only hear. I see the way Michael’s eyebrows seem pinned high on his forehead, the way sullen Richard has released his arms from their omnipresent cross and tucked his hands more easily in his pockets, rocking back on his heels.

I see Calvin impress the entire fucking theater, and clap a hand over my mouth. Is it weird that in this second I see my street musician, Jack, up there and want to scream? Is it weird that I sense how much this means to him, even if I don’t know anything else about him in the world?

I want to dance across the stage, I am so proud.

In all, Calvin plays three and a half pieces for Robert and the other show executives. The half comes into play when, mid-“Blackbird,” Michael stands and claps twice, saying, “I think we’ve heard enough.”

No one responds as if this is at all abrupt—not even Calvin. I’m sure nearly everyone here was amazed he got to play as much as he did.

Calvin stands, gathering his guitar and case, shaking hands again, and leaving without a look back.

“Let’s head upstairs to the room,” Michael says, referring to the small boardroom-type space we have on the second floor, with a large round table and a random assortment of enormous and tiny chairs—some of which are so high they’re nearly thrones, and some of which are so low, the people seated in them invariably feel like they need booster seats.

Robert turns, leading Don and Richard backstage. Brian follows. Michael greets a few cast members and then rounds out the back of the group, but pauses when he gets near me.

“You coming?” he asks.

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