| The View From Inside
by Alexis Siefert
Copyright © 2002
This is a work of adult fiction and should be read only by adults. It
is also my work. Although I receive no compensation other than your
comments, it is still my work. Please respect this and do not repost
it somewhere else without talking to me first about it. If you are not
allowed to read works with sexual content, either due to your age or
by virtue of the laws in the geographical location in which you
reside, please do not continue.
When things got really bad, Nathan used to bring me a cocoa, and we'd
sit by the fire, wrapped together in a blanket. It wasn't always
cocoa--he used to bring me an Irish coffee or maybe a glass of wine.
Eventually we both realized that it was becoming more Irish than
coffee or it was a bottle of wine instead of a glass, and by slow
mutual consent he stopped bringing it, and I stopped needing it. I
never stopped wanting it, but as long as I was wrapped in his arms and
could feel the strength of his chest against my back, the need was
never quite as strong as I remember it.
I still sit by the fire. I still drink cocoa, and I still wrap myself
in the blanket and watch the flames flick their orange and tongues
against the charred brick. But without the feel of his heart against
my back, I'm starting to feel the need. And it scares me. A little
Back in the beginning we met. We were both in the University Theatre
Department. I was there to perfect my craft and emerge the next Dame
Judi. He was there to revolutionize technical design and theatre
management. We both fell a bit short of our dreams, but we always
joked that we weren't dead yet--so who knows what could still happen?
That became our catch phrase. When I'd fuck up an audition and
convince myself my career was over, he'd tell me, "Lucy! It's not
over. Stop playing dead!"
That was back when I was Lucy. I hated the name, but when I was just
starting out it seemed to fit. I was the wide-eyed innocent, blonde-
blue-thin-pale-fragile, and it played well. I could play "Our Town"
without breathing hard. I was brilliant as the ingenue.
Nathan and I got the day after graduation, and we moved into a
tiny apartment --a third floor, non-air-conditioned walk-up that cost
us more than our University tuition, books, and housing combined.
But we loved it. We were there to fulfill our dreams.
We were young, ambitious, and in love with the idea of struggling for
our goals. The starving artists--noble and admirable. Nights we
weren't working we spent up the roof, under the stars. We'd drag a
cheap folding lawn chair to the roof and lie together, side by side.
The apartments in the building all had fire-escape balconies, and we
were the youngest tenants by 30 years or so. Most of our neighbors
spent their evenings sitting outside their own windows. We had the
roof to ourselves.
We took advantage of the roof-top breeze and the isolation, and we
discovered wonderful ways of making each other come using our fingers,
our lips, our hands, our tongues. He'd press his mouth against my
pussy and tease, nibbling with his lips, flicking my clit with his
tongue, until I'd forget the heat and bury my hands in his hair and
tug him up, over me, desperate to feel him inside. He knelt between my
legs and held his upper body over me. He watched me as we fucked.
Our eyes locked together, and he always held off his own climax until
I had mine. My hand worked between us, hard on my clit. No matter
how slow or comfortable or lazy it started, I couldn't come without
the rough friction of a finger or his tongue. And always, as I
clenched around his cock, he'd thrust three or four more times, hard.
Deep into my pussy, intense thrusts. And we'd finish together. Sweaty
and slick, sliding against each other as the lawn chair creaked and
groaned under our combined weight.
Being was easy, but living in the city was hard. I waited
tables and rode my bike as a messenger to keep my legs slim and my
waist fat-free. I got an agent and a portfolio. I went to auditions
and did staged readings for the exposure. Nathan got on with the
union and started in gofer jobs in the off-Broadway theatre houses.
Then I started really getting roles--stage roles and small film roles.
Commercials that highlighted my innocence and sweetness. Off-brand
shampoo and dish soap. Paper towels and toothpaste. Fast food. All-
American stuff. There are hundreds of actresses at my level.
I was the middle-management of actresses.
One day my agent had the paperwork for my Screen and Stage Actors'
Guild card, and she told me I had to pretty much decide who I wanted
to be for the rest of my life. Fuck. The rest of my life. No
She said that I was going to have to lose 'Lucy.' Too many
associations. "You're not a comedienne. You're not funny. Don't let
it go there."
I was in the middle of an off-off-Broadway production of Othello, and
I was packed houses and getting rave reviews. Nathan
suggested 'Desdemona.' "It's a new life for you, Lu. Desdemona was
beautiful. She's the ideal of womanhood."
My agent thought (and I privately agreed) that it was too dramatic.
We settled on 'Lydia," although now I can't remember why or where it
came from, but it had a nice ring to it. Nathan still called me Des
when we were alone.
My still called me Lucy.
My never wanted me to act, and I know that they secretly
assumed it was a phase. Something I'd get out of my system and grow
past. Do something sensible. Move back home. I'd send them
clippings, reviews from the trades and the New York Times theatre
section. They'd send me clippings from the local newspaper back home.
Every week there was a 'phone call, and every week there was something
"The high school is looking for a drama coach, Lucy," would tell
me. "You'd have to teach a couple of English classes, of course, but
you'd get to teach a drama class and run the drama club. Doesn't that
Next week, "Lucy? You remember Martha Preston, don't you? The
community theatre director? She's her back, and the theatre
company is looking for someone to take her place. You'd be perfect
for it, darling. It doesn't pay much, but you'd be back at home, so
you wouldn't need much. It would be enough to hold you over until you
found a real job."
I was 25, and I had three names. Fuck. No wonder I started drinking.
That's not completely fair. I started drinking long before I had
three names. You can't spend time around actors and not drink. It's
part of the scenery. It's one of your props. A bottle of champagne
on opening night, frozen cocktails at cast parties after the show
closes, beer in the dressing room after rehearsals, wine during
casting meetings. It was inevitable.
There are two groups of theatre people who don't drink: children and
the "recovering" ones. The children were ignored, and the recovering
ones were revered. Not admired, really, but looked on as oddities.
Respected, but not really a 'part' of things.
Actors are unbelievably selfish creatures. They're shallow and petty
and jealous and vindictive and phony. They love you as long as you're
not upstaging them, but the minute you look better or have more lines
or more time, they start looking for ways to cut your ankles
out from under you. The booze was pretty much the only thing that
held most casts together. The booze and the back-stage, backstory
God, the affairs. The tabloids hint at the torrid and steamy sex that
happens during shoots or theatre runs, and most readers seem to
accept that the tabloids exaggerate. They don't. If anything they
miss half of what's really happening.
You can't work in close quarters with 16 other actors and not have
sexual tension. And since most actors are shallow, ego-maniacal
beings, they jump at any chance to prove their sexuality, their
attractiveness. The cliché of the casting couch is wrong only in that
it doesn't stop at casting.
Anyone who could possibly have any positive influence on your career
is fuckable. You want to show up the other actresses on stage? Give
the costume designer a quick, sloppy during a fitting. Let him
come in your mouth, and you're guaranteed to look 10 pounds lighter
and a thousand dollars better than your female co-star. Worried that
the late nights are starting to show as dark circles under your baby-
blues? Stroke the head make-up artist through the fabric of his
Levi's, and you're guaranteed to glow under the harsh stage lights.
I know I said that being was easy. Being WAS easy.
Being and faithful was hard. Too fucking hard. I had three
'affairs' during my marriage. They were all work-related; they were
all over once the production closed. It was expected. I didn't
particularly like it, but they were baggage-free and they didn't
reflect on my relationship with Nathan at all. I know he must have
had his affairs as well. I would expect nothing less. He spent his
days surrounded by beautiful people looking for self-worth through the
admiration of others. They offered their bodies, he'd have been a
fool not to accept. But we never talked about it.
So we fucked and we drank.
That was fine, as long as it all stayed professional. But actors are
also obsessive. They have so little personality of their own they
become brilliant at 'borrowing' the personality of others. That's why
the good actors are so convincing. They don't have any of their own
"selves" to get in the way of the character.
When the show is over it's hard not having a personality to fall back
on. For me, that's when the booze became personal as well as
Nathan had become a success faster than I had. Within a couple of
years of coming to the city, he had proven himself to be the backstage
Superman that he knew he could be. He worked hideous hours -- longer
than mine. Stage managers have to organize everyone, from actors to
lighting to the clean up crew. He was made of energy and never seemed
to take a breath that wasn't directed towards furthering his career.
Soon he was the sought-after one. It was, "call Nathan if you're
anticipating production problems."
I had climbed nicely to the top of my fighting class, and I was at the
upper range of my Golden Age. I could play anything from an innocent
17 (admittedly with some extra help from makeup) to a sexy 20-
something, a sultry early-30s and (with extra help from makeup) a
convincing matron/mother/unmarried aunt. I had range. And I
was hot. No longer was I stuck in off-off-Broadway. I had a Name.
Casting directors called my agent first. I got to "review" scripts.
I wasn't a top headliner, but I could play the supporting lead, and I
was damn good at it.
And I was struggling with every fiber of my being to hold on to it. I
was about to turn 29. A death and dying, make-or-break age for
actresses. I had made the transition from Ophelia to Lady MacBeth,
from Desdemona to Queen Elizabeth. And I didn't know if I could keep
it up. This was a trial production for me. I was playing Hedda
Gabbler in an Ibsen revival. It was huge. It was all over the trade
papers. The director was taking a massive risk casting me. And I was
Rehearsals were not going well, and someone had leaked that little
tidbit to Variety. It wasn't a large paragraph, as publicity goes,
but don't believe what you hear. There is such a thing as bad
publicity, at least for an actress in her mid-twenties (fine, late
twenties) who is struggling with her "identity." I wasn't getting
along with the crew, and I know who leaked it. My understudy was
slavering for a chance to play opening night--which was two weeks
away--and she'd been purring up against the director any chance she
could get. So when the bit appeared in the Friday morning trade paper,
a little "we hear that Lydia is having difficulty melding with the
supporting cast." I knew where it had come from.
Fucking petty little bitch.
So, when 'someone' left the article at my dressing room door, I did
what any good actress does. I screamed at the prop master, locked
the door to my dressing room, and opened the bottle of wine that was,
as always, chilling in the mini-fridge.
Nathan had moved from off the program to the first listed name under
"Production Management." He was running things wherever he went, so,
when I threw my temper tantrum, he was one of the first to know --even
though he was working in a different theatre on a production of
'Cats'. It must have taken all of 96 seconds for the gossip lines to
start ringing, because he knocked on my door about eight minutes after
my tantrum started, and about half way through the wine.
"Des? Let me in. We can make this go away." That's my Nathan.
Always the calm one.
There was some discussion on the other side of the door. I recognized
the stage manager's voice. He must have been giving Nathan a key to
my door, because when I turned to answer, he was standing there.
"There's nothing to fix, Nate. She's a bitch. She wants this role so
bad? She can have it. She'll fall flat on her face, and they'll be
begging me to come back." I must have been drinking faster than I
realized. The bottle was empty and I reached for another. "She knows
it, you know it, and that piece of shit director out there knows it as
"Enough, Des. Let's go home. This will all have blown over by
Monday. Wait and see."
Nate always knew what was right. I went home, and we hid out for the
weekend. We stayed by the fire and Nathan held me. He stroked my
body and he stroked my ego. He convinced me that I was still and beautiful and talented and desirable. I cried as we made love.
But it helped. I forgot my understudy as Nate's fingers twisted and
pulled at my nipples. I clawed at his back as he thrust between my
spread legs. I dug into his biceps, leaving deep fingerprint bruises
on his skin, and I wrapped my legs around his hips holding him tightly
against my body, trying desperately to mold our bodies together,
And when it was over, he brought me cocoa, with a shot of whiskey, 'to
help me sleep.' And it did.
By Monday it hadn't blown over, but things were quieter. I finished
rehearsals, the play was a success, Ibsen was popular again, and I was
on my way to being a headliner instead of an "also starring." I
started splitting my time between stage and television. I took a
recurring role on a nighttime crime drama -- not a regular, top billed
name, but one that earned me an "also starring" or "special guest
star" billing whenever I was in an episode. I did voice-overs for
luxury car commercials. I signed a contract for cosmetics print ads,
and I started seeing my face on billboards and the sides of buildings.
Yes, I was out of middle management, into the corner office stuff.
There were no longer hundreds of actresses at my level. Dozens, yes.
But not hundreds. I was a Top Name. But I was now a Top Name with a
reputation for being difficult.
I moved on from Ibsen in a theatre at Montgomery and Grand, to
Sondheim at 44th and Broadway. Three miles, double the cost of
ticket prices, triple my nightly performance pay, and quadruple the
size of the crowd outside the stage door after performances.
That's when things started to get bad.
At first I relished the attention. Groups clamoring for my autograph
on Playbills -- I learned to sign my name with a delightful flourish.
Flowers from anonymous admirers delivered to my dressing room. I
could get a good seat in any restaurant with a phone call. I loved
it. I basked in the attention, and passed out smiles and waves like
the Queen of England during a procession.
Of course, the attention brought its own problems. No longer could I
run to the corner store in sweats and ratty hair for vodka and a loaf
of bread. Now I called down to George, the doorman, before getting on
the elevator to find out if I'd be better going out the front door or
the back door.
"It's like living in a fish bowl, Nathan." I whined to him over
dinner one night. "Everyone looking through the glass as I swim
around, showing off my colorful fins. And there's glass all around.
There's no place to hide."
The next night I found a small box in my dressing room. It was
wrapped in gold foil paper and tied with a silk ribbon. 'To Des, my
angel(fish). Here's a place to hide when you need it. Love, Nate.'
Inside, nestled on a square of cotton, was a castle. One of those
plaster castles that sits in the gravel at the bottom of a fish tank.
I kept it in my jacket pocket and wrapped my fingers around the
pointed spires whenever the crowds surrounded me. If Nathan wasn't
with me, his castle was there. I hid my mind in its windows and
smiled at the fans gawking at my colorful fins.
Every performance became life-and-death for me, and I was drinking
almost non-stop. Never enough to lose control, but always enough to
keep a soft buzz happening. I had convinced myself that was why I was
drinking. To soften the edges. "Actors feel things more deeply than
regular people, Nathan. You know that. That's why people come to see
us." Normal egomaniacal performer bullshit.
Then it got very bad. I missed the second half of a show, and to this
day I can't remember why.
It was a Tuesday night performance. Tuesdays are usually sedate,
quiet shows. Minimal crowds, not the tourists. The tourists are
there on Friday and Saturday, maybe Sunday if they waited too long to
get their tickets. Tuesdays are almost always local crowds. City
residents. Tough crowd.
Actors feed off the audience's energy. Their laughs, their gasps,
their spontaneous applause. That's what keeps the stage moving.
Tuesdays are tough.
It was a dead audience, and I was thrown off. My timing was bad, I
missed a cue, and I stepped on my dance partner's toes. As the
curtain closed for intermission, I stomped to my dressing room,
ignoring the berating the director was yelling at my back. I locked
the door, pushed a chair under the knob, and opened the mini-fridge.
I woke up on Thursday.
I was in bed, but not my own bed. It took a few groggy seconds to
realize it was a hospital bed and that Nathan was there beside me. I
should have stayed there. The doctor and the nurse and the
psychiatrist and the social worker and Nathan all wanted me to stay
and sober up. "Six weeks, Des. That's all it would take. Six weeks
then you can have your life back."
The theatre has a short memory, and in six weeks my life would be
gone. So I didn't stay. I checked out AMA and went crawling back to
my agent, who made me go crawling back to the director.
My bitch understudy (an understudy is always a bitch) had taken over
my role with gusto, and the director was reluctant to take her out of
it. But I did have a contract. So he took me back, with the provision
that I stay sober all the time. Even when I wasn't at the theatre.
Even on days when I wasn't performing. I did the role for five of the
eleven weekly performances, gradually building back up to nine, taking
two performances a week off. And it seemed to be working.
That's when Nathan started bringing me cocoa. Just cocoa. But it was
okay, as long as he was there. As long as he had my back.
I worked hard. I stayed sober. I went to quiet AA meetings in remote
parts of the city. Nathan drove with me in the cab and stayed
outside. I never went to the same meeting twice, and I rarely spoke.
I don't think anyone ever recognized me.
I finished that show and moved on to the next. Back to leading roles
and full schedules. Back to crowds and late nights and parties and
cast backstabbing. Rehearsals and performances started taking the
place of meetings, and it didn't take long for me to convince myself
that I was 'cured.' I could control it, and a little sip, a small
glass here and there couldn't hurt. It was just to smooth out the
Nathan knew. He had to know. But he never said anything. Maybe if he
had spoken up earlier. Maybe if he had gotten angry or if he had
called me on it, I might have stopped. I was convinced that he didn't
see it. We worked in different houses, and we only saw each other at
night, after the shows and after the parties. Late nights.
And then I forgot to come home. It was silly, and he never should
have been angry. I had spent the week rehearsing for a guest spot on
a television drama. Rehearse Monday and Tuesday, shoot Wednesday and
Thursday, off on Friday. Thursday night after the wrap I went out with
the cast for a celebration. We'd worked well together and the show
was flawless. Emmy-winning episode stuff. I was hot again.
One restaurant closed, and we moved the party to the bar. When the bar
closed, the party just flowed out to the street, into cabs, and over
to the star's apartment. I meant to call Nathan, but I forgot. At
least I convinced myself that I forgot. Tequila shots will do that to
So, Friday afternoon I came home, wanting only to shower and collapse.
I didn't have to work again until Monday, so I knew I had the weekend
to recover and get my glow back.
Nathan was waiting for me. His back was to the door. He was sitting
on the sofa, facing the fireplace, shoulders set square. He had to
have heard the key in the lock, but he didn't turn around when he
"I was worried. Where were you?"
I don't know why I blew up. I shouldn't have been angry. He had every
right to be mad and worried and furious, which is probably why I
yelled first. He was so calm. So stoic. So rational. He didn't give
me anything to work against, he just stood there, silently accusing.
He had no real idea how to work a scene. I screeched. I threw things.
He listened and watched me and was just so fucking and calm.
And I stormed out.
I knew he'd follow me. It was the carpet or the molding or the edge of
the step or my anger or my still-drunk fuzzy vision, but something
made the floor slip under my feet just as I was stepping off the
landing onto the stairs. The wall shifted, and I could see the floor
rushing to hit my face. Nathan caught me around my forearm, and I was
suddenly even angrier. I knew that would bruise, and I'd have to suck
up to the make-up artist to get it covered decently. But despite his
hand on my arm, I was already heading down, and instead of him
stopping my fall, I pulled him down with me.
And we went down. Fast. Sliding over the rough edges of the stairs
to the bottom. I hit the landing on my side. Bruised and battered.
Bloodied but not broken.
Nathan hit the bottom step with his head. The blood splattered on my
arm and chest was his, not mine. "One of those things, ma'am," the
coroner had explained. "He just hit at a bad angle. Two more inches
in either direction and he'd have had a concussion, maybe."
The police released his personal effects to me today. They ruled it
an accident, and they told me I could go home. They gave me his things
in an orange and bag marked "evidence." It was heavier than I
thought it should be, but I didn't open it until I got home.
I made my own cocoa tonight, and I made it just like Nathan used to
make it. I had to stop by the liquor store on the way home though.
That's okay, I enjoyed stopping. It felt like I was on my way home
The fire is burning. It's hot and smoky and I can feel its power on
my bare skin. I sit naked under the blanket, cross-legged, with the
bag of his things in my lap. One piece at a time I take them out.
His wedding ring, his wallet, and, finally.
I hadn't even realized that it wasn't in my pocket.
I turn the little castle over in my hands and watch the reflection of
the fire play on its surface.
I wonder if I'll still be able to hide behind its windows. Nathan's
not here to protect my back any more.
I put it back into my pocket and poke my fingers with its spires.
My cocoa is gone. Time for an Irish coffee.
Maybe just an Irish.
I'd love to hear from you - please, please, please let me know what
you think. Like most writers, I take what I do here very seriously,
and I'd appreciate any feedback, suggestions, or comments that readers
are kind enough to send.