Normally I’d balk at the idea of advising him at all on how to more masterfully play his guitar, but I’m wrapped up in his glow and feeling emotional from the impending start of his theater run. “Lean into the deceptive cadence in ‘Lost to Me,’ to draw out the tension just a bit more. You and Ramón are both letting it resolve too soon.”
He stares at me for a full ten seconds without speaking, and my stomach sinks. I’ve never criticized him before, not once.
I think I’ve just done something catastrophic.
The quiet continues over dinner. He eats quickly at the coffee table before reaching for his guitar and, bending over it, forming a private cocoon. Retreating to my bedroom, I hear him playing the section again and again until I fall asleep to the sound of it, and dream of chasing him through the woods.
But the next day, onstage during rehearsal, he meets my gaze just as he’s playing this section, and the emphasis of the notes, the astonishing beauty of them, makes tears spring immediately to my eyes.
I was right, and this is how he tells me.
Trust your muse.
Later that night, for the first time in months, I’m able to write. It’s only a paragraph, and it isn’t the fictional world I’m desperate to find—it’s about the way it felt to hear Calvin and Ramón play, the sensation of having my chest so full of emotion that I nearly felt weightless—but I typed. I put words on a page.
Every evening, from the wings, Calvin, Ramón, and I watch Luis and Lisa perform together. I can almost hear Calvin mentally reciting the lines and cues, and—at the opening note of each show—counting down the remaining nights before he and Ramón debut.
Months ago, Michael Asteroff released the news that Ramón would replace Luis in mid-February. But the showrunners have made no statements yet about the changes in musical direction—namely Calvin on guitar. While it’s common knowledge that the lead violinist left, the press seems to assume that Lisa will continue on in his place. I know Robert is waiting until the work permit comes through before announcing anything, but given the crew’s reaction to Calvin and the way he’s treated like a new celebrity backstage—not to mention the way Lisa is being mildly bashed on social media in the more hard-core Broadway circles—I don’t think it would hurt the production to get some buzz rolling about Calvin soon.
Three weeks after he started rehearsals, and just under a week away from his first performance, there is an official-looking letter waiting for us when we get home. We tear into it like starving dogs.
Our application has been accepted and, according to Jeff, that’s good enough to move forward with the paperwork Michael needs to submit to get my husband officially hired.
Within hours, Michael’s assistant has called to schedule joint photo shoots and interviews for Calvin and Ramón, to launch during their opening week. Although the primary media focus will be on Ramón, Calvin still gets a haircut, a fancy shave, a manicure—though he politely declines a chest wax.
We’ve opened a joint checking account, which required that we share the very basics of our finances, and they are equally bleak. Other than the three hundred dollars in our shared account, I have some money in savings that I never touch. Calvin is in much the same boat . . . minus the savings. For various interviews and appearances, he’ll have to buy a suit, some dress shirts, new shoes. Our balance dwindles, but it’s so much less stressful with someone else at my side . . . and any stress we do feel dissolves as soon as we step into the theater and frenetic energy explodes around him.
Our last few days before the debut performance should be accompanied by a soundtrack. Ideally Chariots of Fire. More realistically, Jaws.
There is a looming baseline thunder, and I swear it’s not just in my head. Social media is on fire speculating about the person replacing Seth—that it’s a guitarist is sparking a lot of controversy. Fans mob outside, hoping to hear any bit of music to quench their curiosity. We practically live at the Levin-Gladstone. Michael, who rarely comes by the theater, paces the aisles, listening in on every note of rehearsal. The Law brothers—who, before, were never around and trusted Robert to run the production just fine with their money—are occasionally spotted in the balconies. Brian is a maniac backstage, barking out orders, laying into the crew if they’re caught hanging around when they should be moving things. Robert is tense and bellowing at the smallest mistakes. Ramón is a perfectionist and demands to do something again, and again, and again until he’s nearly hoarse and Calvin’s fingers are practically bleeding. But Calvin still finds me backstage after every grueling rehearsal, with a giant grin. It’s as if he’s been waiting years for this, and he is Pressure Teflon, or maybe the thrill outweighs the terror.
I see the cast and crew eyeing him, eyeing us. We look like any other married couple. Calvin touches me freely and kisses me—on the forehead. We come together and leave together, even though I’m not needed here a fraction of the time I’m around. And while I’m not completely unfortunate-looking, I know everyone is half wondering how I ended up with someone like him. I’m that girl with the freckles, the one with snagged tights who spills her coffee awkwardly on her boobs, the one who knocks into everyone with my camera. Calvin, by contrast, drifts gracefully in and out of spaces, and we’ve already established how he can eat a salad without greasing up his chin.