They were lined up outside the door to the Actor’s Union, seated in chairs on either side of the hall. There was Dima and Tolya, Ilya and Luka, and that bore Vladimir Antonovich Pugachov, who would never cease to remind you that he had studied at the feet of Stanislavski himself. Boris Nikolayevich lifted his hat to say hello, but he received only a few nods of recognition in return. Everyone was going over their lines. The hallway buzzed with that earnest mumbling peculiar to Jews in prayer and actors before an audition.

There once was a girl who was lost in a storm. She wandered this way and that, this way and that, trying to find a way home. But the sky was too dark, and the rain too fierce; all the girl did was go in circles.

Then, suddenly, there were arms around her. Strong arms-–good strong arms. And they picked the girl up and carried her away.

When she woke, she was lying in bed.

In the halcyon days of professional mimics, shortly after they’d outpaced their predecessors, the vernacular storytellers, who had, a decade earlier, wrested the comedic throne from the one-liner royalty, it would have been difficult to name a town of ten thousand souls that didn’t possess some venue where performed those artists who made their fame and fortune with stunning mimicry of the period’s political leaders and actors, athletes and musicians, scholars, and men of science. And at every performance inside those theaters, whether located in the Badger or Beaver State, all seats were filled, as were the aisles and exits, prompting accounts of fire marshals arriving with the intent of stopping the show, only to get so caught up in their own laughter and enjoyment that they would forget their professional function as disperser of those bunched so close together as to create a hazard. Even the streets and sidewalks outside the theaters: they would be massed by citizens who’d shown up too late to purchase tickets yet wouldn’t depart; those closest pressed their ears to the doors and relayed to the others the identity of whomever the mimic was, in the parlance of the trade, “doing.” And though many couldn’t hear a word from inside the theater, they could content themselves with memories of routines, reveling in their proximity to the men whose altered voices entertained them during radio and television broadcasts every night.

“I guess this is it,” Joel said, leaning into the doorway of our apartment. His eyes darted as if he was trying to memorize every detail of the turn-of-the-century New York two-story, the one we’d bought together five years ago and renovated—in happier times. It was a sight: the entryway with its delicate arch, the old mantel we’d found at an antique store in Connecticut and carted home like treasure, and the richness of the dining room walls. We’d agonized about the paint color but finally settled on Morocco Red, a shade that was both wistful and jarring, a little like our marriage. Once it was on the walls, he thought it was too orange. I thought it was just right.

ONE

After I killed my father, he taught me that honesty is optional. But, of course, I’d always known that. This was why I loathed being naked—my choices were stripped away.

It was the first day of Staff Training, forty-eight hours before I would meet Eden Bellham, and I was naked among strangers. Well, naked enough. We all whispered, “I feel so naked!” and giggled, awaiting commiseration, because who wants to be the Most Naked Person, to let her body blab her secrets? We stood in bathing suits and flip-flops. We were goose bumps sheathed in towels. We were vulnerable knees, scars with stories, fading bruises, February flesh. We were yellow-tinged toenails, awkward tattoos, scratched mosquito bites, suspicious moles. We were shamefully unshaven. We were birthmarks meant for lovers.
We were eyes stealing glances. We were eyes pretending not to steal glances.

What should I wear tomorrow, jeans, fine, t-shirt, sure, what color, does it matter, not sure, did we pay the mortgage, yes, maybe, okay, what about the electric bill, not sure, phone bill, yes, definitely, but why is the texting portion so high, is there an unlimited plan, and why do I need to text anyone, couldn’t I call, or e-mail, yes, I could even Twitter, though what is that really, and why would someone do it, does anyone besides Liz care what I’m up to all the time, every second of the day, why is that fun, maybe I am too old to get it, Monica, man she’s smoking, and the locks on the door, did we lock the door, last night, yes, tonight, maybe, but both locks, can’t say, should I check, no, yes, no, no, probably, maybe, is that moaning, yes it is, weird, and shit, is the alarm set, yes, yes, check, checked, check again, cool, and the door, just ignore it, nothing is going to happen anyway.

She watched his heart have a small fit under his black T-shirt. Its unsteady rhythm was a bridge between them. Lost in the possibilities he offered her, she studied his thin face, aquiline nose, tobacco-yellow fingers. In the moment, which swallowed her whole, she admired his need to smoke. She wouldn’t always, but not being able to stop meant something, now. Certain damage was sexy, a few sinuous scars. He’d be willing, eager maybe, to exist with her in the margins.