It took me more than three weeks of begging and pleading and pounding my heels into the floor before I figured out I'd have to try something else.
I may only be twelve, but I've seen a lot of things and sometimes they show up as pictures in my head that tell me what to do. This time it was a chameleon. It popped into my head right in the middle of my last freak-out which was doing absolutely nothing to help me get my way anyhow. All it did was give me a big purple bruise that's now turning yellow in the middle. My ankle still hurts when I walk. No way will I be kicking any more hotel furniture for a long time. Lucky for my other body parts, the chameleon showed up and reminded me what I should have done in the first place.
Not only have I seen chameleons on TV like everybody else, I've seen them up close. You probably don't believe me, but I have seen them. Actually just one, but I saw it very clearly and watched it for long enough for my Mum to think I got lost again.
But I'm never lost, I keep telling her that.
She's been weird about things like that the whole time we've been here in Spain. Like I'm going to get lost more easily in a place where people don't speak English. I tell her I speak the same language and have the same brain whether we're here in Spain or in Toronto or Calgary or New York or wherever else we've been on film shoots so it shouldn't matter what they speak. I tell her I keep track of where I am. That's the kind of thing that makes sense to me, but not to her. That's because we're different. She gets swept up by places and people; I don't.
"Do you know how big a deal it is for me to have this gig? Three months overseas. On a series, yet? You're not going to blow this for me by getting lost."
This is what I hear from her all the time. Everywhere we go. Every gig is a big deal. Every place is going to change our life forever. So is every guy.
None of it has ever changed me. None of it will. At least not the way it does my Mum. Spain is just another place. Santander is just another city which at least I actually like this time because of the zoo right on the ocean where the polar bears get their pools filled up by the high tide spilling in. The hotel is better here too: the guy in the restaurant brings me as many maraschino cherries as I want, whenever I want, no matter what I order. They're better than jam on toast.
Spain is also where I saw the chameleon. Not up here in Santander; they don't go that far north. I saw it on the shoot with the second A.D. when we were down on the Mediterranean coast side.
The chameleon was on a leaf so lit up by the bright sun it was almost see-through, but it was still very green, almost a cartoon green. The leaf, I mean. But so was the chameleon, sitting there in his green disguise, like he was alone and safe and sound in the world and pleased with himself for his trick. The whole time he was twitching his tongue out of his mouth and if it weren't for that I swear you couldn't have seen him, he matched so well. Later, when he finally skittered over to the bark part in the shade, everything changed and he looked more like a stick. He truly did. The green was completely gone and he looked like a different chameleon altogether, but then I guess that's the point of being a chameleon. Otherwise he'd be just any other kind of lizard.
Meekness isn't what anyone would think I'd be good at, but it's just another thing you can be, that's what I think. And you can be a lot of things. Actors do it all the time. They have to just change and be convincing about it, enough for everyone to believe them anyway. I'm going to be an actress so I figure it's all training, every time I have to make myself be different. For awhile I thought I might be a marine biologist or a model, but I'm getting better and better at acting so it would be a waste to give it up now.
The most surprising thing I've figured out so far is that getting people to believe something isn't as hard as you'd think. It's actually hilarious how quickly you can fool them. But, the thing of it is, it's not really fooling them because when you really do change yourself like the way I mean, like a true actor, none of it is a lie. You actually do change. You honestly feel different inside. When I started the quiet, meek girl act, I actually started to feel more drawn in. My body felt sucked in a bit like I was even smaller than I am, with my arms stuck closer to my sides. My feet walked almost shyly like they didn't belong on the pavement or anywhere else.
Soon, I couldn't help myself. It was impossible to just step along like normal.
The new way I started to walk had definitely gone way past an act the day of my big klutz-out. It must have, because I'm not normally such a klutz and this was a klutz-out on a blockbuster scale. And of course it would have to happen the exact day I finally won the battle to take the train to the tutor by myself.
Really it wasn't a train, just a metro, and really the tutor wasn't much of a tutor, but that part I wasn't fighting to change. Just the part about not having to walk to the train holding my Mum's hand the whole time so she could put on her stupid, motherly act in front of her new boyfriend.
I mean, how did he think I got there before? And if she had always brought me to the tutor herself, why did I have to tell her which was the right metro stop to get off at? God, men are dumb sometimes. At least my Mum's boyfriends are.
Before Mr. Early Bird showed up on the scene and started making her coffee in the morning, Mum could never wake up on her days off, not ever, before I left for the train. And when she was working and had to be on set early, I still always went to the tutor by myself. But, of course, new boyfriend man shows up and suddenly we're a Disney family walking all together to the train and he's waving goodbye (like we're the ones going to the war and he's the lonely one on the platform in the wide shot) and my Mum is stepping aboard with me to take care of me the whole big seven stops there.
I can tell you one thing, Larissa (that's my Mum, she likes me to call her that) is definitely not a good actress. Maybe good enough to fool Frank, the early bird, but not me. That's why she's just a production assistant. And that's why he's just a grip and not a director. But they've got dreams like everybody else, right? She wants to get into makeup and he's going to be a lighting guy.
STUpid. STUpid. STUpid.
I walked to the rhythm of those words in my head every stupid morning when they went with me to the stop. I still get mad thinking about it so I just don't.
Especially not now that I've won and can finally go by myself again. The meek act might have helped me a little to get my way, but I think mostly it just turned out to be an acting exercise in the end. The real reason for my freedom was Mum and Frank losing interest in the early morning walks after they got an extra killer batch of the white stuff I'm not supposed to know about.
That's another thing that's stupid. Everybody knows Derwin supplies everyone with everything. He walks on to the set and calls a "safety meeting" and instantly it's party time. Everyone is so cheerful, pumped up. For awhile, anyway. I've learned to clear out and go hang outside when they all need quiet time later on. My Mum is freaky when she's coming down.
But I don't want to talk about Mum's freakiness, I want to tell you about the day I klutzed out and met Lucia, the day I found the best kind of acting teacher you can find, a real mentor like they're always talking about. Lucia's the mentor and I'm her apprentice. It's actually like I'm understudying, even though I started out just by being her biggest fan.
It was when I finally got to go to the train by myself again that I wiped out and dropped every single book and my pencil case out of my backpack and almost killed myself. Okay, maybe not almost killed myself, but that is for sure what anyone would have thought if they'd seen me trip when the doors of the train started to close on me. It was definitely a stunt that would have fooled the pickiest of directors.
That was when this lady stopped to help. Some guy pushed the button to hold the door while she took my hand and pulled me up and got all my stuff, just like that, in one beautiful motion. Her hand flicked around picking everything up super fast and how she did it was absolutely great, especially since the whole time she was holding a cigarette. She maybe took one puff the whole time, but for the rest of it she just held it in her fingers, just like the old movie stars did all the time, with the smoke all wavering around their heads, looking elegant.
That was her. Totally elegant.
Right then I knew that she was the perfect acting teacher for me. Someone like that is more helpful than the most expensive acting coach because they don't even know they're teaching you. It's totally authentic. All you have to do is make sure you know how to watch and I do. My eyes are open wide all the time. Someday I'll make myself just like her. If I'm good, I'll be an even better version of her. Like the chameleon I saw that popped into my head again then. But not one that turns green just sort of like the leaf and you can still see it a little bit – at least if you've got eyes like me. I mean one that turns the exact same colour so nobody could ever discover its trick. Ever.
She had to be at least twenty-five so I've got lots of time to perfect the whole deal. She didn't have the most awesome face either so I might even have more to work with in the glamour department, at least with makeup. But that elegance and those quick, perfect motions – I'll need all the time I can get to figure that out. And fashions change, but this kind of look was classic as far as I'm concerned, totally classic.
She was wearing a thick, very glossy black leather coat, tightly cinched in at her waist. Her pants were black too, in a drapey kind of smooth cloth, not shiny and not velvet, but totally crushable and rich looking. Never have I seen such great shoes, either, not even on Larissa who takes me shoe shopping sometimes on her days off. They were very high, block heeled sandals in lime green suede and I honestly sucked in air when I saw them first. Oh god shoes, my Mum – Larissa – calls shoes like that. She would have eaten her heart out for sure.
I even loved that she had the collar of her white blouse flaring out perfectly over the collar of her jacket. Right away I pulled my collar out too, but mine wasn't the right length and there's no way it looked near as good. To be honest, she might have seen me fix my collar like hers, but I didn't feel embarrassed since she just winked at me and then looked out the window which somehow made everything okay.
Like I said, totally elegant.
Men notice that kind of elegance. It's the kind of thing that wins you parts.
I pretended to look out the window, but it was her I kept staring at. In the reflection on the window I could see her hair was swept back in something way cooler than a normal pony tail, but that still looked casual. Like she wasn't even trying to look chic, which is the best way to look chic. I saw a girl's hair exactly like that in last month's British Vogue.
That was when the man got on the train and walked straight to the back of the car to sit beside her.
"Lucia," he said, and gave her a kiss. For a second I thought it was just the normal kind of kiss everybody gives each other over here to say hello. But it wasn't. I saw him sneak his hand in under the front of her jacket when he said his hello and gave her the kiss. His hand didn't move off her in a hurry either and then it brushed down the front of her before he sat back in his seat.
This guy was older, definitely at least 35 or 40. Maybe 50. On guys like that you can't tell. Dark hair, thin chin, very slim and wearing an expensive suit: he looked exactly like one of the actors who was in the mafia movie Mum worked on in Brooklyn before she had me. I've seen the movie so many times I know it by heart. I even know how they did the special effects for when his head got blown off. For a second I was sure it was that actor, but when I looked closer I could see the Spanish guy on the train wasn't him. This Spanish guy's nose was a little different, just a little thinner. He has a double, though, in this world, no doubt about it.
It feels weird to know a secret like that and not tell.
You're not the only one of you.
Even if I wanted to tell him, I didn't know how to say "double" in Spanish. Usted es double? It was going to be the first thing I asked my tutor.
Lucia sat up straighter and played with her hair while she tried not to smile. He sat forward enough facing her that his one knee was between hers.
Watching them was awesome. It gave me kind of a thrill and I almost missed my stop. Only when I was going up the escalator to the street level did I wonder how that guy knew what car she was going to be on, at what time, and in what seat. But he knew so they had to have planned it all out.
I saw them every second morning after that, always at the back of the third coach on the 9:40 a.m. train to Cabezon de la Sal. And so it shouldn't be any surprise that every second day I was late for my tutor.
* * *
Love scenes I'm not supposed to watch. They clear the set. Maybe not every director is as careful about getting everyone out, but this one sure is. The trouble is filming the scenes in such small hotel rooms. There's no place to hide from the director, his highness, or the biggest threat to my acting lessons, the new Director of Photography. The old D.O.P., Earl, never really cared if I was there as long as I was quiet and crouched away somewhere out of view. Creepy, but I think he actually liked me to watch. Yuck. I mean, I liked to watch but I didn't like him liking it. Perv. Anyway, if Earl saw me he'd never tell so I got to watch a lot of them. The new guy, Dwight, doesn't know me at all so has no problem kicking me out of the room. I don't call him the D.O.P.. I call him the D.O.P.E.
"Out, young lady. It's time. "
He always says it like it's a big production, exaggerating his eyebrows until they're scrunched up into his low forehead. His voice gets all forced up into a sucky trying-to-sound-proper whine when he says it too, but I know for a fact he's just getting sweaty about the scene that's about to start.
But, he won't be out, young lady-ing me this time.
This time, for what feels like hours, I've been tucked in the corner down by one of the reflector boards. They've been adjusting the lights forever and it's so sweltering hot I can feel the blood throb through my ears.
The actors will be lucky to be naked.
Without socks, my feet are sticking to the inside of my runners and, since I'm trying not to move and remind anyone I'm here, I'm forcing myself to hold perfectly still. Inside my left shoe, though, the action is crazy. My toes are squirming away, trying to smooth down the gluey liner that has scrunched itself up under my foot. The heat from all the effort is making my bangs stick to my forehead, silent movie pincurl style. Suddenly I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself that I'm stuck here with no relief in sight.
Already I have a pretty good idea the scene will be a disappointment, at least not worth anywhere near all the trouble I've gone through to hide and watch. The fact is I haven't been learning anything worthwhile at all from this cast.
"TALENT ON SET."
Don, the guy starring in this one is supposedly on his way up, but I wouldn't bet on it. He plays a gun smuggler. So far they haven't shot much of the underground smuggling stuff, just all the scenes where he gets naked with the women who stop him along the way. From the scenes I've got to watch – and the day I sneaked into the rushes – Don is way too flashy when he's making love to all these women. I heard Mum say she thinks he's gay. I just think he's a lousy actor.
"MAKEUP. WE NEED MAKEUP OVER HERE."
Some of the women are spies, some aren't, but the point of the show is they all end up naked with Don somewhere along the line. The woman in today's love scene is new to the set. Jan has got a British accent that sounds a bit fake to me, an AWK-cent, like maybe she only ever visited there twice and is trying to play it up. When she finally floats onto set, draping her cheap satin robe all over the place, everybody gets all serious and important. Like they are all behind the scenes of some Academy Award winner in the making.
"QUIET ON SET."
I want to burst out laughing.
"SCENE 18A, TAKE 1."
Jan leans back against the pillows with her computer and spy computer discs and rearranges her satin robe.
Her robe is supposed to have fallen open enough to show part of her boobs while she works on her spy stuff before sexy Mr. Smuggler bursts through the window and takes her by surprise. Typical night of spying, I guess.
"ROLLING FOR SOUND."
Jan wiggles her robe open a bit more.
I already saw Jan naked when she was in makeup, when Donna, the makeup artist, joked that Jan should put strawberry lip gloss on her tits to see how Don would react. Big laugh. But not from me. It was my new Bonne Bell Strawberry Lip Smackers she saw me with and I didn't want any of it smeared on Jan's boobs. I left with it before they could get any other bright ideas.
The scene is totally over the top, like everything on this stupid movie. They way they gasp for air you'd think they were fish flopping on a dock. This kind of acting might work on Dwight the D.O.P.E, but it just looks fake to me. And looking fake can be okay if it's the right kind of fake, if it's regular movie acting fake – the kind of fake that looks real because we're used to seeing it. This wasn't that kind of fake.
She should have arched her back more, for one thing, when he pulled open her robe and pushed her onto the bed. I saw another actress do that and it looked way better.
It's little things like that I know to look for.
And that's what's definitely going to take me a cut above this kind of movie when I'm the one on the screen.
They stop mid moan from Jan, Don's sweaty butt poised and shiny under the lights. Then, after a bit of head shaking, the director leans in to the D.O.P.E. to whisper all intensely about how to get Don from the window over into the throes of passion just a little more smoothly.
Everybody else relaxes and I do too – a bit too much. My foot squirms a little more than I mean it to and bumps the light stand. It makes a wild clattering against the wall and everybody's heads swing around. Nothing breaks, but I'm thrown out of the room before they even check the gate for Take 2.
As I climb over the cables and dolly track, the British starlet looks disapprovingly at both me and my Mum so Larissa scowls at me and pretends to be shocked herself for everyone else's benefit. But, just as soon as I pass her, she forgets all about me and eyes Frank instead. With her mouth open and her tongue sticking out, wetting her upper lip. Guess that's supposed to be a little performance just for him and that's lucky because I sure wouldn't buy it.
No Oscars on the horizon for any acting here today. In front of the lens, or behind it.
* * *
I know I'm not lost, but I had no idea they were taking the train so far the days they met. So far it's got to be way over half an hour from where I got on in Santander. Maybe an hour, I forgot my watch.
Every time I see Lucia and this man who meets her, I've been going one stop further on the train. Then I just catch the train going back to my real stop. Not once in all this have they noticed I've been getting off at different stops. A different stop, every single time. Sometimes Lucia even waves goodbye to me. That's how little they see anything outside themselves.
People are so funny; they just don't pay attention to detail.
I've been following them a little further every day before I take the train back to the stop for my tutor.
Today I got off the train where I did last time and again they didn't notice. Lucia didn't even see me at all today, I don't think. But what is totally different about today is that today I got off the train and then got right back on the same train, one car down. There is a door with a window between every train car and I can see them through the glass. No way am I budging again until they do.
I'm not going to the tutor today. She thinks I'm sick.
Instead, I'm going to see where Lucia and the Spanish guy go to and what they do when they get there. I know for sure that following them the whole way to wherever they're going will teach me more than any tutor could in a month. It's always better to learn from real life.
What I had first thought was that they were going just a couple of stops further than I'd ever followed them. They belonged in some trendy, very chic part of town or maybe some really romantic old time village kind of area. Then they would rush to go to make love secretly in some fancy apartment with marble tiles on the floor and painted saints in the doorways.
That's why I'm here. I'm sick of boring scenes where actors make all the typical choices. The bland choices, one acting coach calls them. Maybe it's just the fact I've only ever been on North American movie sets, but there has got to be another kind of reality. Another kind of life.
I thought this shoot would be different from the movie-of-the-week shows Mum worked on last year, but it's not. It's worse. I'm starved for some real drama. So, I've decided to make sure I see it, starting with a real love scene. A real foreign film version, not a B-movie, or semi-porn version, and not just the sloppy hanging around in bed that my Mum and Frank get by with.
The real thing.
All I need is to see something once. If I can get a good look at it, I'll have it memorized forever.
I'll have it in my head as a picture.
So far, though, the foreign movie isn't playing out like I had figured it would. The two Spanish lovers are still just sitting there and the stops are getting further and further apart. The train has been jarring itself in and out of tunnels, bumping its way from one set of tracks to another. It shook off Santander ages ago when we came out from one tunnel into a slower, even rhythm of wheels on track and a long, endless stretch of green hills.
For a while I've been starting to think that today, the day I finally decide to follow them all the way, is maybe the day they're not going back. Maybe they're suddenly going to switch to a RENFE line somewhere and head all the way to Madrid to start a new life.
But there's no luggage. I know for a fact Lucia would bring at least one bag with her, even if she were trying to look like it was casual, like it was just another day riding the train to work. She's got too good a wardrobe to leave it all behind.
No, if any kind of new life is beginning, it isn't starting in Madrid, but at the next stop. I finally see them rustling around in their seats, peering out the window at a town that looks no different from the last one. Thick green trees with bark patterned like camouflage, wavy red clay roofs, signs that say "Bar-Restaurante-Saja". Everything dripping wet and slick from the grey drizzle that's been sliding down the windows for the last half hour. The train wheels are squealing but, overtop of that howling, the taped voice comes over the speaker and says "Cabezon de la Sal." The map above the door shows it's the end of the line.
Lucia gets up and Mr. Mafia Movie follows her. He tries to stroke her neck, but I guess she doesn't want to look obvious because she shrugs him off. After they step off and turn to walk down the platform, I climb off too and trail them at a lazy, loose-looking distance.
They snake their way along the dark asphalt and curve around what looks like a stone walled fortress, but it's just the church. A man in a long black gown and a priest's collar steps around the side of it and stops to talk to a cab driver. Both guys look familiar to me and then I remember the first movie where I got to be an extra. They both look like they're the hit men discussing the murder in the movie. That's how the story went. The guy in the movie wasn't a priest, but he had the same stocky build as this guy, the same squinty eyes that couldn't care less.
Since I don't want to lose them, I step more quickly past the hit men guys and see the secret lovers turn down a narrow lane made dark by the towering old, grimy looking stone walls. The cloud overhead is still heavy and dripping cold down my neck. I can see my breath. I would stop to get my sweatshirt out of my backpack but that could make the difference between staying with them and losing them, even in a town as small as this.
When you're really interested in something you can never look away, even for a second, otherwise you could miss the crucial moment. At home, in front of the mirror, I practice not blinking just to help me with that. Besides, it looks better on camera if you're not flapping your eyelids all the time.
As they walk, he tries to put his arm around her, but she wriggles her shoulders away to say no. He doesn't get it so he tries again and I hear her say, "José, no!" a little sharply.
His name could be better. Practically everybody here is a José. In fact, if I were directing this, he wouldn't even be Spanish. She would be, but I'd have him be French or Italian.
Lucia has got her arms folded around herself and she's walking quicker than ever. Finally they get to the door of an apartment and Jos&eacut; starts to open it, but she just stops short. She stares at him for a second, then swings around and tears off down the street. This sends Jos&eacut; hurrying after her, but he's working really hard to make this look normal, like it's not bugging him at all. His voice is low and he never breaks into a run, just strides up and tries to take hold of her arm. She shouts something and immediately his hands spring back, palms facing out, just as if someone said, "Stick 'em up". It's an I'm innocent, see I'm not doing anything kind of gesture. At the same time he tries to smooth his mouth into a calm expression, but he doesn't look happy about any of this. He's one of those guys who doesn't like girls who make a scene, you can tell. My Mum went out with someone like that once.
Lucia is practically spitting out anger and tears. She walks one way, then swings around and heads in completely the opposite direction. Where she'll spin off to next, I have no idea so all I know is that I have to stay way back until the scene settles itself down. Which it does. José finally gets her under control and they move to a bench not too far from the big fortress church. Full circle.
After all these mutterings and shouts and foot stamps of anger and hurt, I realize there is one word ringing in my ears. One word I could make out.
And I don't need to open my backpack to look it up in my Spanish dictionary because I already know what it means.
"Here comes the criatura." Frank says that to me every time I show up on set, or at the hotel room, or anywhere else they don't want me around. Then it spread to the entire cast and crew and now they all call me that.
Criatura. They think it's hilarious because it sounds like creature. Which they also call me. And it means creature too, but it also has another meaning in Spanish that's way more boring.
So this drizzly little get-together in this stony, dark town is just about a baby. She's pregnant is all.
And not only am I not going to get to see anything close to a real love scene, the scene playing itself out in front of me is nothing more than the most typical American soap opera.
Lucia's face is shadowy with muddy tear tracks striping her cheeks. She should have worn waterproof mascara. Now that she's a bit calmed down, José keeps stroking his chin and trying to give her what sounds like it'll be okay sympathy. Trouble is, his face still can't help breaking into a kind of what the fuck have you done look just before he loses it and sounds snappy again.
Either way he loses.
His whispery soft voice only makes more tears rain down her face. This goes on for a good five minutes until her crying gets even more out of control at which point he snaps himself back from her. And, when he gets all annoyed and sarcastic sounding and flicks his lighter to light up a cigarette, she goes wild animal all over again, all raging. Then he has to pull her back to sanity with the soft voice again and the scene replays itself just like it did the first time.
The rehearsals aren't changing a thing.
I don't need subtitles. The scene is plain and simple boring. As I stomp back to the train station, twice I nearly wipe out on the slippery cobblestones.
* * *
Never have I had so much attention. Dwight the D.O.P.E. gave me a candy necklace like the kind I loved when I was little and the director told me I'd get to have a line in the scene they shoot tomorrow. All I have to do is smile and run to my tourist parents and yell, "Hey, did you see that?" It's going to be shot at the docks. I get to be in one other shot too, when the tourist family boards the cruise ship and we walk past Don who plays the smuggler guy. He'll be talking to Jan, the spy. This is when they first meet.
Mum has been especially nice to me too. She even told Frank to fuck off so she could spend the day with me today and take me back to the zoo. This time, when we watched the penguins line up and stand at attention, she didn't say it was time to go. She let me stay and wait right till their feeding time which wasn't for a whole hour. The whole time the penguins stood lined up, all orderly, and not budging for a second. They knew what was coming. They knew if they were patient, they would get their reward.
Fish, fish and more fish. Raining out of a bucket like a penguin's dream of heaven.
When the seals are fed like that, it's all chaos and craziness, above the waterline and below.
But the penguins just stay calm, gulp one fish at a time, and wait patiently for the next one to be tossed their way. They stand neatly in their places the whole time.
It's not what you'd expect. The penguins are my favourites now, just because of that. Mum said we maybe could come back and watch them again before we change locations. But I don't need to. Now that I've seen it, the penguin feeding time, it's in my head.
All of this, the candy necklace, the speaking part, even the penguins, is because everyone feels so badly about what happened.
It was a horrible, horrible thing to witness.
Everyone says so.
* * *
At first, I didn't know Lucia was behind me. And I don't know what happened to José, but I can guess. After she flipped out and started running back to the station, I'll bet he went into the bar for a beer or at least a tonica just to clear his head and shake all the emotion out of it.
I saw her run up onto the empty platform and stare way down the tracks like it was her life she was staring at. I wished she wasn't wearing red. Under the grey skies and considering the scene, it would have been better to be in something a soft dove grey. And with her hair down. Definitely down.
Some of the trains that went by didn't stop, didn't even slow. Maybe they were express. Maybe no one had bought a ticket yet to board at Cabezon de la Sal. Maybe not many people stop here.
So when I saw another one coming, of course I wondered if she'd jump in front of it. It might have been a bland choice, given the whole situation, but it still would have worked. I mean, a typical choice like that can work if the stakes are high enough, if the drama has reached a fevered enough pitch.
But she just stood there. She hadn't fixed her makeup and her coat was in her hands and dragging on the platform and she had a run in her tights. It was ugly to see.
She obviously wasn't crushed enough to play the scene out to its natural conclusion. But she wasn't strong enough, either, to push it into a different direction, into some kind of hold your head up high scenario that would let me imagine her going on without him, leaving her better off than before maybe.
Nothing. It was a zero. No drama. No climax. No strong ending like you always get, at least with a North American movie.
And I got filled up with this burning kind of feeling, a real raging inside, to see someone with her potential holding back like that, purposely ignoring how to play her own role in her own life story. I didn't completely give up the idea that she'd turn it around somehow, but as the train came down the track it was looking pointless.
That's when I moved straight to the edge of the platform, right behind her. It was like I couldn't help it. But then actors have to trust their first instincts and act on them – otherwise their scenes are fake.
With the squeal of the brakes and the roaring sound of the blood in my ears, it was all a bit of a blur. Everything happened so fast. In a film, this would be the kind of thing they'd normally do in slo mo, but if I directed something like this, it would be quick cuts. You'd hardly know what happened.
I remember her shoulder blades felt weird under my hands for the quick second they felt them, like little bird bones.
I remember the scream ended as soon as it began.
I remember I picked up her coat from the platform afterwards, when the people came running.
No one asked. They must have thought it was my coat.
Then they were all freaking out and comforting me. And even without dictionaries or subtitles I could understand how awful they thought it was for a young girl to witness such a thing.
Such a horrible, horrible thing.
I even cried. And it wasn't just turn your head and cover your face crying, either. It was crying with real tears.
And it was so cool to feel the salt in my mouth, totally authentic, in a scene like that. A scene that totally went for it, that went where it had to go with nothing held back.
I can see still exactly how I must have looked on the train platform, like there was a crane slowly pulling away for an extreme wide shot that showed me standing there, small and sweet, right in the centre of it all, Lucia's coat over my shoulders, me surrounded by people crossing themselves, and the policeman holding his hand up to wave people back from the edge.
I can still taste the real salt tears in my mouth.