It was about ten years ago, in Chicago. I lived in this great apartment in Ravenswood with my best friend at the time. We had a walk-in pantry, dining room, sun room, corner spot, top floor…
Back then, I was an actor. I had a White Devil Agent, one who was notoriously evil among actors and whose public shenanigans were legendary. I call him the White Devil Agent because, in addition to being an agent, he was a White South African of British descent – the real mother fucking deal! (Though, I should note that the other two White South Africans of British descent, whom I know, are not devils, but amazing people. One (my mentor and acting yoda) did interracial theater – underground, with his actress wife – in Cape Town, at a time you could be secretly executed for doing so…)
My White Devil Agent, though he seemed to be against racism, had a raging sense of entitlement from which most of his bad behavior emanated. He could look you in the eye and tell the most amazing lies. He was charming and intelligent and so passionate about theater, especially Shakespeare. Ok, he was also bitter, petty and cruel, but not all the time – only when you were vulnerable…
Later, while killing time at an audition, I would share personal tales about this guy to a circle of fellow thespians, who all had their own White Devil Agent horror stories. Upon finishing my turn, everyone was silent for a bit. Finally, one of them put his arm around me and said in a quiet, soothing tone as if I were an injured animal, “Wow, Peter had his own special kind of hell for you…” Yep, I had been special…
One particular day when I was still deep in hell with the White Devil – to whom I had foolishly given my dreams – I was in the kitchen, chopping. My roommate was at the stove. It was early. We were making frittatas.
My roommate was upset because I had received a strange card, the day before, from my White Devil Agent, following a spat where he had deliberately excluded me from post-class drinks. This was immediately after a session that my agent and teacher had led me through an emotional break down and had been oddly physical. White Devil Agent had feigned innocence when confronted, fawned endlessly about how he would never deliberately do such a thing to one of his most talented clients, and promised to make it up to me.
Soon, I received a card in the mail decorated by two intertwined golden hearts with a lovely, though ambiguously toned, handwritten note inside. Happy, but confused, I left it on the table and dashed to rehearsal. I had hoped making it up to me would mean an audition at Steppenwolf or the Goodman Theater; but oh well, as long as Peter cared…
When I returned, my 5′ 6″, 140 pound roomie was in a rage, waving the card he had found in my opened mail: “What is this, honey?!? What the hell is this?!? What? Is this asshole making inappropriate advances on his client or is he a mother fucking manipulative queen being all fussy over his diva?!?” My roommate was gay. My agent had been rumored to be bisexual. I had a crush that he liked to use against me when I caught him in professional lies. My roommate did not like it.
It came up again while making breakfast the next morning – the aforementioned frittatas. My roommate had worked himself into another little fury, probably because I had remained so passive. In a raggedy white T-shirt and his tri-colored, near knee-length sleeping shorts, my little buddy pounded his spatula against the skillet, “Honey, I know you do not play games, but other people do! Would you get that in your fucking head before somebody kills you!!?!!”
Nobody has killed me yet. But, sadly, I do finally realize that people play games. When people play games with your dreams, it is hard to extricate yourself, because you believe someone other than you holds your hopes in his or her hands. When you play games with your own dreams, you might as well throw them into the incinerator.
If you must give them away, hand your dreams to God. They do not always come back, but they do rest in peace.
After defining myself in a certain way for almost twenty years, I accepted that I am not an actor anymore. I accepted that, because it made me happy.
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