The casting director looked over her sides at me, and waited. The casting assistant looked away from the camera’s built-in monitor, and tilted his head to one side, slightly, as he also looked at me.
What an odd detail to notice, I thought.
To the casting director’s left — my right — a handful of producers and executives sat in chairs, some with arms crossed, some with legs crossed, all looking at me, expectantly.
I tried to remember my lines, but I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t even know what project I was in this callback for. I could remember that I hadn’t adequately prepared, but I couldn’t remember why. This was an important audition, for a project that could change my life, and I hadn’t properly prepared. I felt cold, and my stomach felt weak.
I decided to improvise, to say the lines that made some sort of sense to me, based on what the casting director had said.
“I understand your concern,” I began, and there was a knock at the door.
Well, not a knock, exactly. It was more of a thump, followed by a scrape. I tried to ignore it and stick with my plan. “I understand your concern,” I began again, “but I th–” there was another thump and a scrape.
Why aren’t they stopping the audition? I thought. And that’s when I knew that they knew that I knew that I had no idea what I was doing, and they were enjoying my struggle. The problem was, I was in too deep now, and I had to stay committed. I would do such a good job with my improvisation, staying true to my interpretation of the character, that they’d have to give me a chance to go learn the lines, adequately prepare, and come back.
“Will you let the dogs outside?”
The cold I felt vanished, replaced by the warmth of my bed.
It was a dream. Another goddamn stress dream, but at least it was just a dream.
One of our dogs, probably Seamus, hit our bedroom door. Thump. Scrape.
“They’re fine,” I muttered. I rolled onto my side and tried to stay in sleep’s softening embrace.
Some time passed. Whether it was seconds or minutes, I couldn’t say.
“They need to go out,” Anne said.
Sleep released her comforting hold and I opened my eyes, expecting to see the cold grey light of dawn outside our windows. Instead, it was the deep dark of night, the blue-tinged glow of the moon barely touching the edges of our blinds.
I exhaled heavily, and sat up in bed. The covers fell away as I swung my feet to the floor. Seamus and Marlowe were both on the floor. Marlowe sat up, ears perked up atop her head. Seamus was near the door, settling into a Sphinx pose, his ears back. It was as if he wanted to say, “I’m sorry that I woke you up, but I gotta go.”
I got out of bed and walked toward our bedroom door. I took two steps before both dogs stood up, tails wagging. “Okay, you two. Let’s go outside.” I said, quietly.
I opened the patio door and they ran out into the yard. Air that was just above freezing rushed through me and into our house. I closed the door, leaving just enough space for me to peek through it, and watched them run up into the darkness. The sky was pitch black, a few bright stars shining with a brightness that only happens over Los Angeles in the cold, still air of our winter sky. The moon was about a quarter full, as bright as a headlight. I looked away from it, and it left an afterimage in my vision.
The dogs came back to the door, and pushed past me into the house. More frigid air spilled around me, and I imagined it like a wave, crashing through a crack in a seawall during a storm.
I locked the door, and shuffled back into my bedroom. Marlowe had already claimed a spot between Anne’s pillow and mine, curled into a tiny ball that shouldn’t be possible for a 53 pound dog. Seamus was on his side, and when I got back into bed, he leaned his head over to rest it on my hip. Marlowe nuzzled at the side of my face, and exhaled. I leaned my face against hers.
The cold I’d brought into the house was scrubbed away by the warmth of my bed, and I fell back into a dreamless sleep.
39 thoughts on “portraits hung in empty halls”
I love that song. Always makes me cry.
Thank you, Wil, for letting us read about your life.
Dreams like that are the worst. I often have dreams of being back in high school or college, lost on finals day. And telling myself things like “I don’t even know what class this is for! Why haven’t I been in class all semester?” Makes you wonder what our brains are trying to work out to make us dream such things.
I hate those dreams. But at least they’re not as bad as the one where the big guy corners me in the parking lot just as I get back to my car, knocks me to the ground, and I wake up screaming as he pins me down and starts to take off my pants.
… Or is that just me?
Ye gods, I have those exact dreams from time to time. Almost 30 years out of college and yet I find myself back in classes wondering what the hell I’m doing here and why I can’t keep up with the lecturer or answer the questions on the test… I hate those dreams.
Amazing how our brain comes up with a boilerplate stress dream. I haven’t been on a ship since 1995 and out of the CG since ’98 yet I have plenty of ‘oh crap I am missing deployment/am late for getting underway’ dreams including missing my uniform and not remembering locker combos or where my locker even is.
I used to dream I lost the bolt for my C7, or that I couldn’t muster the physical strength to pull its trigger. These were intermingled with lost kit or forgotten deployment dates. I still sometimes get them, and I got out in 2000.
Doesn’t happen often, but yeah. 25 years out of the Army and now and then I still get “Late for formation/first call/deployment” nightmares. The worst is that feeling I’m letting someone down, and someone important to me.
You write about ordinary events in most peoples lives with such eloquence, I could imagine I was reading a novel about your life.
You’re very kind. Thank you.
Nicely written. Thank you.
Have you considered that Seamus didn’t need to go out as much as he just needed to wake you? Dogs know stuff…
So very true.
Thanks for sharing! I hope I don’t sound creepy, but I enjoyed the read.
I love the way you write. You can tap into the mundane human experience without ever making it boring or hackneyed. Thank you for sharing!
I will read this book. Please keep it going.
Evolution at some point decided that being prepared was so important that it should give us nightmares.
I was genuinely concerned until I read the phrase “I hadn’t properly prepared.” I can picure Wil being passed over in an audition due to typecasting or because chemistry conflicts. But I can not image forbone minute that Wil Wheaton failed to prepare for anything. (except the inevitable aftermath of taco tuesday)
Can totally empathise with those sorts of dream, I regularly get the ones that trap you between waking and sleeping and the only way to shake it off is to fully wake up. Glad you were able to shake your’s off and get back to sleep 🙂 Hope you can get by without the dreams for a while
Dreams are strange places. I have been disabled for 6 years and frequently have bizarre dreams about being back at my last job. I very much enjoy your writing style. You have a true gift of making the mundane moments of life fascinating.
This is really good, Wil. Succinct brush strokes that tell me just enough to draw me in. It’s cinematic and subtle. Thank you for sharing it.
Needs more Bil!
The reality of being in a state of bliss in a warm bed must have been exhilarating for that moment in time, Wil. Dreamless sleep means that your waking state had realized your dream come true, or perhaps even something more revelatory.
I was on the air doing my show live at the University of Memphis Saturday night when I suddenly forgot the call-in phone number that I’ve been announcing for many years now. The music I was playing and listening to had scrubbed my memory. The bands Pretz and Saint Germain Cafe’.
Sometimes, when I play the guitar, I hear more than just the strings of the the instrument. More like sonorous harmonic orchestrations, similar to the device the child was playing in “When the Bough Breaks”. The evolution of a dream.
The University of California at Santa Cruz has an interesting dream site:
Hope you’re having a great evening.
Thanks for the slice of life. Well crafted, I could see such an amazingly evocative scene play out. Well done sir.
Thank you for such a lovely story. Made me miss my wonderful Lhasas, Sian and Ming Toi. Too, your tale is filled with so much. You have an amazing talent for showing the beauty in the everyday pieces of life. As an aside, your title makes me wonder if you are concerned (subconsciously?) for your fellow man and another artist? MacLean had recently been in the news for a negative behavior/event. I do love the song, though.
Wow. Gorgeous. I felt every moment. Thank you.
At first, I wasn’t sure where this was going but I knew I WANTED to know. It could easily have gone into monster-fiction or any of a half-dozen other directions. I wish I could write a quarter as well as you do.
Thanks for sharing.
… Which means you’ve got the eyes of an observer.
Nice style. Love when you go into everyday details like that.
Can you control your dreams?
If I could write half as well as you, Sir, I’d write twice as much.
Of course, the real problem is that I don’t write much at all…
I echo the sentiment that you write with eloquence. I enjoy your vignettes, how you let us glance into your life and your head. Thank you.
Oh boy, I hate those dreams. Mine’s always…what class am I supposed to be in and am late for? I haven’t been in school for over a decade 😛 In fact, just had that dream the other day. Thankfully, it wasn’t so bad as it has been.
As other’s have posted, you write the mundane with great eloquence. It is always a pleasure when you let us peek into your life, and an honour. All I can really say is, Thank you! Also, a big Thank you to the rest of your family for allowing the same 😀
I had a dream about you but if you had it would’ve been an anxiety dream like this, so perhaps i took one less anxiety dream from you, probably not. So anyways you bought this mirror and you hung it in your house. and you looked at it, but everything in the reflection looked like it belonged to a late 80s early 90s sitcom including your clothes and furniture and just everything, because of being on TNG during that time. So your like am I going crazy? so you bring your neighbor over who is also your age, but was a child actor in the 1950s (don’t ask how this works, dream logic is kind of weird sometimes) so everything in the mirror was in black and white and looked like a 50’s sitcom. so then i get scared because how do I know about this, I’ve never been in your house, but it turns out your posting about it here, making youtube videos and posting them. So I get more suspicious and was about to ask you how you were making the videos. then i woke up and never got an answer. I don’t have a lot of anxiety dreams, my last one was last night wear i got a friendly hug from a mastiff that had a taste for human flesh and so i was scared it was buttering me up to eat me off guard.
btw you looked very spiffy in your 50s clothes.
You sir, are definitely writing in full technicolor. Masterfully described detail. A pleasure to read….no, strike that, to experience.
I very much enjoyed reading this. I appreciate this style and skill in storytelling. The line, “Sleep released her comforting hold and I opened my eyes” blatantly slapped me into the realization that it’s time to return to quality writers. The last couple trash novels I’ve read and could not enjoy had me just grinding through and losing track of how much turn of phrase matters.
Thank you for sharing.
That flowed so well. You are really inspiring me to make some miniscule attempt at writing. Though I’d imagine I’ve got a long way to go. On another note I wrote some thanks that you needed to be included in. It’s here https://forums.geekandsundry.com/discussion/7681/an-open-letter-to-geek-and-sundry-and-crew
That was really nice, Wil.
The moment with the dogs jumping in bed is one of my favorites. Of course, twenty minutes after mine does this, she becomes a raging furnace and I stumble out to the couch to escape the heat.
Brilliant. I enjoy reading your work because it so real to me. I don’t think I have read anything from you that doesn’t leave me wanting to read more. Mike
Wow, you have a lot of fans, Wil. I hope you can motivate a majority of them to “Feel the Bern” come November. I am pouring consuming your Table Top episodes like candy and it’s the only reason my husband, who’s a huge Bernie Sanders supporter, doesn’t roll his eyes every time he catches me indulging. My board game budget has increased significantly thanks to you and it’s fun to see you writing for all to enjoy, here. Onward! 🙂
My therapist says that he sees dreams as a way your mind integrates emotional experience while your brain isn’t restricted by the reality of waking experience. I guess I could agree with that although for me, it just makes me feel like I am losing my mind. I have been having a hard time with dreams/nightmares lately.
Thanks for always sharing of yourself and being able to put words to emotions and experiences that some of us aren’t able to. It means more than you will ever know.
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