Bound by the perplexing language of law that a layman would fail to grasp, Sarah Goldman was contractually booked with appointments for the forthcoming year. Her phone had plenty unread mails and missed calls from more folks hoping to book her time for the year after. Six years ago, she would have reveled in such attention. Spending many months in unpaid theater circles and paying rent with less than successful acting workshops, she could only dream of becoming famous. But it was only after achieving fame that she realized her roles in theater were far more pronounced, and required far more depth and spontaneity than cinema and its glittering retakes could ever produce.
Farah Alkhat carefully adorned her light blue hijab which complemented well with her orange kameez and brown salwar. She dusted off her old bike, put on her backpack carrying few items of stationary, and made her way to the local library. It was a blessing that such a treasure of wisdom was only a few blocks away and Farah respected it much the same by bringing only an inquisitive mind and keeping her phone at home.
Reading books and listening to the radio were her most beloved ways of connecting to other souls. The unexpected nature of which song on the radio or sequence of words in the novel was to emerge next and the little control she had in that partaking was most freeing to her. It was as if she was deeply familiar with the characters in the book and the artists on her favorite indie channels without ever having met them. That kind of a bond was rarely experienced with any other form of entertainment.
Her rise to fame in the world of entertainment was by becoming someone other than herself. Today, she was a caricature glam doll, a PR tactic to sell her movies. Sarah’s only real means of feeling valued were the digits of her fan base on her celebrity social networks. Any acclaim bestowed upon her was based on her friendships with the critics who attended her house parties. Any serious roles were not a genuine extension of her art form but rather, a ploy to get pity awards from the same personalities who wanted her to attend a friend’s wedding, sell a controversial beauty product, or perform at biased award functions in exchange for more fame.
She flipped through the morning newspaper to find a popular author showcased under the “Writer Spotlight” section of page 3. The chick lit genre and banal writing were employed to sell to the masses. The fact that the author had received such glowing coverage for writing such garbage made Farah terribly angry. She set aside her newspaper and decided to pay attention to the news on TV. A recent interview of Sarah Goldman at a movie premiere appeared on screen. “Goldman has gained some pounds and lost her oomph!” “Are her choice of movies as poor as her choice of dressing?” were some of the major headlines referring to her. Farah switched off the TV that instant.
She maintained her stream of pleasure-writing by focusing on the acclaimed artists who were authentic to their spirit. Her favorite writer of all, Toni Morrison, shared the one piece of wisdom that allowed Farah to keep writing, with or without fame –“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Once Farah reached the library, she would tune out from surrounding humanity and dive into the author’s mindful plot. Her best days were when a new story-line would flow from the depths of her mind, down to her fingertips and onto her notepad, print or paper.
Fame had done well to take away Sarah’s authenticity.
The youth of her body was tied to her shelf life as an artist. She did not hesitate to mask her flaws with as many cosmetic corrections as she could afford. Showing off her outwardly appearance was a prerequisite to remain popular with an audience who fed off her fake self. She struggled to maintain any meaningful relationships with those who could easily see past her inauthentic spirit.
Sarah became envious of the simple tasks people could enjoy in their daily lives. How she wished she could visit a grocery store without being recognized for her insecurities; read in a park without having people jabber about her personal life; go running without being inundated by shutterbugs who were desperate to capture any part of her body in their film rolls.
She wished to become invisible.
As a child, her mind could envision multiple ideas for screenplays from any small stimulus. The little girl who was once complete in her simplicity had now turned into a woman she could no longer relate to.
The next morning, her agent made frantic calls, urging her to reach the venue where she was due to promote a new line of cosmetics. Sarah wiped her face, the paper tissue failing to absorb the pain from her tears that refused to halt their flow. Reluctantly, she made her way out. As she stood on the podium, her agent egged her to say something appropriately good about the product.
“Today, I wish to be honest with all of you. This beauty serum is a piece of shit. It doesn’t work. It never will. I hope you will forgive me for lying to you as an artist. I must do the same with myself.”
Farah was watching the same interview on her TV set. She smiled at the sheer honesty that her once favorite actress had just shared with the world.
The paparazzi rushed to talk to her after her startling speech. Disguised under the veil of a blue scarf, with Morrison’s Beloved in hand, Sarah had already escaped.
“Bit by bit . . . she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another” – Morrison
Writer’s note: Many artists secretly harbor hopes of such ego-pleasing fame but the wise know it comes at great cost to their authenticity. Those who succeed in preserving it are, in my eyes, the most successful artists.