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Fata Morgana...The Crave for Mirage

amidst the desert rose

By Paulina PachelPublished 4 months ago 7 min read
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photo credit Westend61

My partner has mastered the art of stoicism. We both had a combined total of a dozen years in the public eye together; whether it’s a guest starring appearance on TV, a radio show, a rope cutting of a new chic restaurant or a guest appearance on Dr. Phil, we’ve garnered quite the crowd of loyal watchers…

“And in this life, Beverly, you can either be admired for your work or enamored by the work. In other words, you’re either in on the action or watching from the sidelines,” my acting coach, Fenton Brown, echoed in my ear as I was experiencing my first real bout of doubt in my career.

Being in the public eye was one thing, not letting others see you sweat was another. I say this as I am fully drenched in sweat, in the boxing ring, working out with Fent to get ahead of the day. The sun was just about to rise, teasing with its rays through the blinds, engulfing the entire gym with its golden streaks. The sweat was dripping down heavily, weighing me down, meanwhile his forehead glistened beautifully.

Stoicism - he was so good at it, but it was all about perspective, wasn’t it? There he was, physically sweating right before me, yet no one could ever predict what was going on inside his mind, including me.

“You’re a winner. You’ve proven yourself before, you can do it again,” he turned to me, winked and draped a cold towel around my neck.

I didn’t respond, but rather grabbed my duffle, water, boxing gloves, turned on my heel and headed towards the lockers. Fent’s super power was pretentious confidence fueled by delusional positivity, while mine was mysterious melancholy sprinkled with bursts of mania on occasion.

I smirked at that cross comparison as I was ready to gulp down my assortment of supplements for the day. Fent was my acting coach, but he was also my partner in life…although at times I felt like it was all one-sided. Somehow, somewhere all the late night meetings and calls found their way to my bedroom and in between my sheets…and soon Fenton was taking care of more than just my schedule. I suspected that he was slowly getting tired of my shit and my moods. I peeked inside the side pocket of my duffel where a month’s worth of antidepressants were tightly bound, untouched, ready to make my day should things ever go awry. I zipped it shut, put on my jacket, grabbed a pack of cigarettes and headed out the door for a quick smoke.

In my life, not much was private, but a quick morning cigarette in the safety net of the gym’s alleyways was always a safe haven. As I indulged in my post workout treat, I received yet another Google alert about the latest review of the tragic indie film I had chosen to be a part of. The movie bombed. We didn’t even break even in the box office. Rotten Tomatoes destroyed us. YouTubers were having a field day, gnawing at me bit by bit, and fueling the watchers to spew even more ridicule my way.

I rolled my eyes as I jumped down a rabbit hole of hateful commentary, trolls, and people laughing at my expense online.

“You’re always so chronically wired in,” Fenton said as he came out the back door a few moments after me. I looked up.

“Fent, I told you. This might be it for me. Sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead,” I responded.

“Is that the kind of wimpy attitude they teach in Chicago?” he asked.

“Don’t come for Chicago. We handle things differently there,” I said as I inhaled another blissful hit of smoke into my lungs and exhaled through my nose. When it came to my city, I defended it with my entire being because I hated LA. I’ve been here sporadically…purposefully choosing not to move and live in a place that has physically and figuratively been suffocating me.

“I’m going to disappear,” I said after a moment. Fenton chuckled and gave me a pessimistic look, “and go where?”

“I don’t know, Fent. What would Sting do?”

“Chasing after its desert rose?”

Next thing I knew, I was in my rental car heading for the desert. I needed to humble myself. I needed to see things from a different point of view. When you have so many “yes m’am” people around you, you start to lose sight of what’s truly real.

I’ve lost the gift of immersion. An actor’s biggest weapon is their ability to shift and adapt, immerse and fully become the very character that has been bestowed upon them by its makers, the wonderful writers behind so many pieces of art we take for granted. I thought of that as I gripped the steering wheel even harder. Right here, on Sunset Blvd, I was surely recognized. On Instagram, people liked, shared and reposted my content. TikTok and YouTube all ranked up millions of views and likes. All of this reinforcement, yet I felt so outside of myself.

The light turned red and I started to heavily contemplate that feeling. Ever since the taping of “Madam LaLaurie”, the indie film that was getting spliced by critics left and right, I had felt a strange, eerie presence following me and a surge of prejudice course through my veins. Fent blamed it on method acting and me taking the assignment way too seriously for such a prolific role.

The light turned green and I floored it. Sting’s “Desert Rose” played on the radio and I turned it up even louder, the closer I got to the desert, the fainter the radio signal has gotten. At this point in the journey, I was running on pure adrenaline and need for answers. I needed to get away from everyone, disconnect from the internet…the gas tank was also running empty though, but for some reason, I didn’t care. I needed to experience something otherworldly than what had overtaken my body. I craved a mirage…and then the car had officially ran out of fuel. I let it slowly come to a stop and looked around. The desert was calm, it was quiet, it was waiting to be explored.

The next thing I knew, I was outside of the car, doors opened wide, walking in the desert with nothing but my thoughts.

“Who are you?!” I screamed. The wind whistled…as if to tell me that mother nature was here and she was listening.

“Who are you and what have you done with Bev? Where the hell is she?”

The filming of “Madame LaLaurie '' took seven months and in that period of time, Fent had me study the real Madame Delphine LaLaurie down to her very last masochistic act of murder. Her spirit was inside me and I needed her out. This was not me. I wasn’t full of hate and vitriol, but part of her shined through those cameras and in that respect, it didn’t sit right with the watchers. It certainly sparked controversy. It rubbed many people the wrong way. It was a turning point in my career, much like Evan Peter’s turning point with his role in Netflix’s Dahmer.

I dropped down to my knees and started crying.

Then it happened…the mirage.

It was me, pulling on the sleeve of my sweater, at age seven.

“Stop crying, Bev. You’ll make them mad again,” my seven year old self said. My vision was still adjusting from the tears running down my cheeks and I shook my head.

“She’s not real, it’s not real,” I said to myself while I rubbed my eyes, but if she wasn’t real, how come I could feel her?

Then I saw myself staring back at myself in the mirror at the gym. But it was two different reflections; one of a tired, worn out amateur boxer and one of a devious smirk on her face.

“Which one will you be, Bev? Which costume would you like to put on today for the watchers?” she asked.

I gulped, but I had to be stronger than this and so I fully lunged at the image which descended into thin air…panting heavily, heart beating out of my chest and tears smearing my makeup, I felt my spirit coming back to me. In that moment, engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but a grain of sand in the wind.

Fiction
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About the Creator

Paulina Pachel

I am an intricate mix of flavors and you'll get a taste of them through my writing pieces; versatility and vulnerability go together like a fresh-baked croissant+coffee.

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  • Naveed 3 months ago

    That was exceptionally well written. I was thoroughly impressed and enjoyed it immensely.

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