april and astrid excerpt

If I had a therapist, and that’s a funny thought in and of itself as I would never get one, they would probably tell me I have mommy issues. Most girls get to see their moms as that soft, adoring, maternal figure. Maybe, or perhaps there is no normal.
But from a young age, I was already seeing my mom on stage, in film, encapsulated as the sexed up April Wong. She was tasteful about it, always, but the media did not pay her the courtesy sometimes. They saw her as exotic, merely because her skin tone, her eyes, and the overarching heritage she had been born from was different, even though she spoke that accent-less, perfected English of the acting persuasion. This image of my mother was hammered into my impressionable mind, both as an idol and an enemy. It haunted me, this standard I had to live up to, beginning even before I had seen the first spots of blood on my underwear or the first growth of breast. It was an invisible devil that pursued me, as much as I pursued it, until we were wrapped together, inextricable.
I wanted to be April Wong, I already was April Wong, I was her daughter and her mother and her lover. But most of all, I was her killer, because the more I grew and the prettier I became, the more life I took away from her and the more she withered.
These days when I glance at my mother only casually, her lined face and thin lips are what strike me.
Well, I tried to live up to her, infinitely so, as may be apparent by my long list of conquests and those silly little stage plays I performed in at school. Each time I auditioned, I hid it from my mother, because I did not want it to be as if I were doing it for her, although all the while I was. Then when I was called back for a second audition, I painted it as the night I stayed over my boyfriend’s house, a.k.a. the night my mom believed I lost my virginity, although said occasion had already occurred two years prior.
I returned home fresh-faced and perky, more than I had been in a while, and there is something to be said for genetics, for I love acting too much like my mother does for it to be a coincidence. It lights something within me, that had been there all along but whose presence had dimmed along the years. It awakens a spirit that I had known long ago and reunites me with that long lost friend. In acting, I can escape my present situation and pick up the burdens of someone else. In doing so, I extend my being, grow more selfless and gain vision.
They gave me the female lead, a punk rock, do-or-die femme fatale who would rather get high than listen to some man. Some of her lines made me laugh, but I felt we were kindred spirits at the heart of things and that I could get along with her for years.
I had to sing and dance in the part, but although I was mediocrely passable at both, I somehow muddled through.
The male lead was gay which somehow made all of my scenes with him better. I didn’t need to worry about anything forming between us, considering I was still seeing someone else at the time.
Everyone liked my performance and the director suggested I go to acting school for college or at least pick a fun liberal arts school where I could major in theater and mess around. But all along, I couldn’t shake the feeling of April Wong following me, pinned to my back like a snake, tightening its grip around my throat, until I would run off the stage during breaks, unable to stand it anymore, heaving and sweating, staring at my reflection in the grimy bathroom mirror in distress.
I hate doing things for other people. That’s one of the fundamental quirks about me that guys come to either laugh about or simply hate. It’s why my mother writes angry letters to my dad when she thinks I’m not paying attention. It’s why my gym teacher wants to fail me but she’s not really allowed to.
Acting could be, and should’ve been, something I did all for myself. But because I felt my mother in all my actions, and because her prickling presence was driving me up a wall, I couldn’t go through with it. It was a shame, even I thought it was a waste, because it was the one thing I had a real talent for, one that, tempered with work and training, could have become a career, especially with my mother’s fame aiding me. But perhaps because of that, because of how easy that was, and how reliant I’d be on my mother, I refused to do it.

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