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'Tanya Sama Hati', Day One


I was freaking out.

I don’t have to glance at my watch at all to know that it’s seven thirty-eight in the evening, as I could hear the azan from a distance, followed by a few of my Muslim production team members excusing themselves for their Maghrib prayers. Seven thirty-eight. Twenty-two minutes to the premiere of ‘Tanya Sama Hati’. My palms are sweaty. I sunk onto a plastic chair while Chang peeked at the auditorium, now half-full, to which I am grateful for.

“Nervous?” Chang asked, toying with a green guitar pick in his hand, a pick that he once mentioned ‘a good luck charm’.

I nodded, exhaling through my mouth every time, assuming it would keep me calm. “Very. You?”

“Trying not to pee,” he answered, fidgeting on his spot.

The half-crumpled piece of paper in my hand, I straightened it out messily to reveal a series of checklists in black ink – a few of us had the same checklist too, but in their own handwriting – in which most of the items are already marked with a pink tick. I went through it once more, there was only one thing left to do before the show starts. Twenty minutes is, hopefully, enough to get everyone settled in their positions – the actors, the musicians, the coordinators, the SE and lightings, the audio.

My job tonight, is to ensure everything goes on smoothly.

Ten minutes to the show, I was anxious as ever, and I felt the need to stick by Chang the whole time – being the closest to me in the production team, he was the only one who could ease my nervousness with his accidental humor. I ran around backstage for nearly three minutes in my black long skirt that I chose to style over a grey Guns N Roses t-shirt and my favourite emerald pashmina shawl around my shoulders, the very basic Devonne Jack look.

I was being very noisy, calling up actors and actresses, and everyone else, in their costumes and clothes, for a quick gathering. Our producer, Ruben, presented his short, motivational speech in much enthusiasm that I actually felt that our little musical show tonight meant the world to us all. Right after, the Christians gathered at one side of the room for a prayer with hands joined, while the Muslims gathered at the other side, reading their prayers with their palms up to their faces. The Atheists – if there are any, among us – joined either.

It was this sight that touched my heart the most, how everyone can be different but still work together like one big family.

Chang complained that my palms were sweaty, because he was holding my hand during the prayer but then again, everyone is nervous!

Five minutes to the show, everyone went back to their places, standby for the introduction. I, on the other hand, decided that it was good to join the musicians at their place, being surrounded by music instruments and the people who can play them. I had my thick manuscript in my hand, with loads of notes in green and purple ink scribbled on most pages, and the play’s brochure stuck out from in between those pages. I picked it out and read it one last time to savour the realization of my little dream.

“Tanya Sama Hati. Producer: Armara Ruben. Junior producer: Devonne Jack.” I smiled, though a nervous one.

“Dream come true?” Chang asked.

“Dream come true, definitely.”

You could always see the musicians if you are attending the show, because the musicians are always far left, exposed, only one level lower from the wide stage where the play will take place. My co-composer, Chang, was also the lead guitarist for tonight, joined by Akmal the rhythm guitarist, Dianna and Julia the violinist, Ariz the drummer, and Ashburn – a nickname translated from his real name, Abu Bakar – the bassist. Standing in their places, rubbing their hands either to keep warm or just to ease the nervousness, I was the only one there who wasn’t with any instrument, at all. The tall stool beside the lead guitarist, however, was for me.

We watched audiences filled the auditorium seats, and five minutes to showtime, it was nine tenth filled. We watched the audiences spoke amongst themselves, getting excited, fighting over drinks and popcorns with their partners. I scanned the auditorium for familiar faces.

And my heart dropped when I spotted one.

“It’ll be fine,” I heard Chang mutter in my ear, because our casual voices were drowned by the echoes from the crowd. But that wasn’t it.

“Devonne?” He called my name again, holding me lightly on my shoulder. “Devonne, you okay?”

I snapped the minute he began calling for someone else. He must’ve thought I had a panic attack when I froze on my seat. I quickly grabbed his arm, and pulled him back. “I’m fine, Chang. There’s no need to ask for help.” I tucked my hand into the hidden pockets of my black long skirt, and took out a transparent, sealable bag with colourful tablets inside it. Unsealing it, I popped one into my mouth. The raspberry flavour spread around the insides of my mouth, and though it sounded too ridiculous, the sweet taste slowed down my heartbeat. Sugar sends calming signals to my brain like nothing else in my entire food history.

Chang recognized it straight away – those Mentos he often call my ‘anti-depressants’ – and that made him even noisier, throwing questions at me. “Devonne? What happened? You okay? You saw someone? You saw who?”

I opened my manuscript, the first page, pretending to read it. Heck, I don’t even have to, not yet, but I couldn’t dart out to backstage right now, or else Chang would’ve come after me instead of getting ready for his job for the night.

“It’s Adam, right?” Either he was a good in the guessing game, or that I was being obvious.

I looked up at him, while he scanned the audiences for ‘Adam’ whom he had only once saw a photograph of, in my phone, last night while I told him the story after our dress rehearsal post mortem meeting, over a cup of hot Milo for me, and a can of Nescafé, for him. “Second row. Red and blue flannel.”

“Oh,” was all he managed to say.

“I thought I was prepared. To see him again. I knew he’d come to watch. To watch Rihanna.”

Chang placed his hand on my back, almost a gentle pat. “Devonne, you’ll be fine if you go backstage. But don’t go putting poison into Rihanna’s drinks. We worked hard for this shit to ruin it with our ‘Anastasia’ constantly visiting the toilet. And with little experience, I doubt her understudy could pull off the role as well as her.”

“I can promise you on that,” I told him. I was, for a moment, lost. My mind went blank, and all of a sudden, my mind had decided to ward of all the thoughts of the play itself, I couldn’t even tell how much time we have left to showtime! My mind went blank, the manuscripts in my hand seemed like a piece of junk I could just abandon anytime, and to fill of the empty spaces, my memory box is being such a devil, recalling all memories I’ve sworn to myself I never will remember since the last time I cried myself to sleep.

Adam was a fine, young man, with tanned skin, almost-brown hair, thin but chubby cheeks, two azure orbs which appear narrowed every time he smiled a slanted, but beautiful smile, if he’d ever smiled without him realizing it. Adam was a fine, young man, who took my hand and slowdanced to my favourite jazzy song on my twentieth birthday. Adam was a fine, young man, who taught me how to see the stars clearer in the nightsky, although they were often hard to spot when you are in a bright, busy city.

Adam was a fine, young man, who promised me the world, but left, leaving me with a damned thought to myself, that to him, I wasn’t good enough for him to fight for.

My phone wasn’t silent, but I couldn’t hear the tri-tone over the noises from the audiences. Only soft vibrations from my pocket alerted me of an incoming text message. My manuscript dropped, as my heart dropped, when I slid my fingers, tapped the phone screen, and read a message from a name I’ve half-expected to see in my phone messages inbox.

It read, “I didn’t know you’re the junior producer for Tanya Sama Hati. I saw your name on the brochure. Are you backstage?” and the sender’s name was – ignoring that one period of time in my life where I was obsessed with giving people Japanese suffix in my phonebook – Adam-kun.

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