Cloak And Dagger

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To be or not to be famous…after once being an actress who struggled in a second-tier theater in Hollywood, that question was always a double-edged dagger too dangerous for me to handle. For eleven years I survived on my looks and all the indignities that came along with being young and innocent. I’d always wanted so badly to be a star, but it never got beyond, “You’re so pretty onstage.”
But then after all the legging around and humiliation of trying to get into Hollywood offices, my big break came after all. Suddenly there was success and I was the famous Marilyn Miles, a star landing my golden hair on all the magazine covers and my body in all the big films.
“No one can do lines like Marilyn Miles.”
There was no sidewalk I could step along and no doorway where I was not recognized. Everywhere I went I was jumped at by people on street corners. It was like others knew my name before I did. My image was a curse of expectations. For all this time I’d wanted to be a star, and when fame finally came it made me feel even more insecure. I wasn’t sure if I was liked for my acting anymore, or if it was all just my image. Was I still an actress?
Then came the day I’d met the doctor who promised she could fix my dilemma. She was also a scientist and close friend to my agent who recommended the use of a cloaking device to other stars. She promised the device could cure me of fame and replace it with the anonymity I desired.
The cloaking device could be worn as a pearl necklace and give me any new body desired. The image we chose was that of a young actress, Bella Liza, an unknown who disappeared in a boating accident a month ago in Tijuana. She was set to appear in a show at the Geffen Playhouse to launch her career with an emerging prominent director. According to the obituary, the rehearsals were to begin this Monday.
I was ever so curious to know if my talent would shine with a new face and name. And so I worked the necklace and became Bella Liza.
When I stepped into the first rehearsal, the director screamed, “My God, Bella…you’re alive!”
“Just out of the hospital. Do I still have the part?”
“Yes, yes,” he said turning to the lead actress. “I’m sorry but you’re the understudy now.”
And of course everyone wanted an explanation of Bella’s disappearance and playing the part my agent scripted wasn’t difficult.  I told them it was a blackout – four weeks in ICU in Mexico without identification. No one knew who I was.
The rehearsals were long and tedious, often in sweaty, cramped rooms, with many actors missing dates or showing up late.
The opening night was a big flop. I didn’t quite hit my mark and I still don’t know why. When the lights went up I was shattered by the lack of applause. At the after party, the critics said I lost sight of the character in the end. “You’ll never be as good as Marilyn Miles.”
I wanted to work the cloak and show them that I was Marilyn…but it would be the worst thing I could do. Being Marilyn was to be loved and remembered, not hated and forgotten.
I stepped out to the boulevard and saw all the Hollywood Stars in the sidewalk. No one even glanced over when I stood waving my arms over my own star…and why would they? I was carrying an image they didn’t recognize. It never mattered who I was inside, only who I was on the outside.
At Musso and Franks they laughed at me when I talked about my career, “Keep dreaming…Marilyn is one of a kind.”
Rudy, the bartender, didn’t even recognize me…and he’d always poured a few free drinks and kissed my hand. But not this time, since I was in another woman’s shoes.
I wanted to be loved again. Losing the fame wasn’t worth that. So I’d slipped into the ladies room and worked the cloak and turned back into Marilyn.
When I strolled back out to the bar and sat in the same stool, Rudy took my wrist and set his lips down affectionately. And those kind locals all shot up and hugged me, “Miss Miles! The greatest! You just missed a young lady who wanted to be you.”
All I could do was smile…after all I was an actress in Hollywood realizing that what people had seen in me never had anything to do with who I was, instead only what I’d appeared to be. For some it was my looks…and for others it was my acting, either in person or onstage.
To be or not to be what they wanted…that was truly the question I needed to answer…the same question all of us need to answer. And the answer became the question, a dagger with each side born from a different choice, each edge serving a different purpose – to be or not to be loved.
So I returned the cloak to the doctor and she sat me down to talk about my experience.
“Yes…we’re always different people at different times,” she said. “And sometimes to be yourself, you have to become someone else.”
Then she put the cloak on and smiled, “Now it’s my turn to be you.”
Ironic as it was…to see myself on the outside was different than what I’d ever imagined…to see someone else acting the part of me. My image could hold any meaning I chose to give it.
Fame is truly in the mind of the beholder.

About the Author: 
Joseph A. Pasquale lives in Hollywood, California. He is the author of 12 novels spanning various genres. He is also a short story, playwright and screenwriter. His work explores the various struggles inherent in the human spirit and psychological state of mankind.

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