We all have something buried alive inside of us.
Whether it’s a forgone dream, a proclivity, or an old, now-kept-secret self, it has a beating heart, and like Poe’s body beneath the floorboards, the beats just grow louder as time passes. We all know a secret’s fate: It comes out eventually. The heart will tell its tales.
But a dream, in its confession, is not inherently satisfied. My dream is no secret, but it still won’t go away. I’ve tried to bury it. It makes me damn frightened, and I’m not even sure if, in reality, it will be satisfying. That said, I think I’m done trying to keep it buried. I have David Bowie to thank for that.
On one of the last evenings in October, Noah and I got married. After, we went to London, where it was chilly and gray and beautiful. The hours belonged to us, and we filled them with long walks and old paintings and lingered-over breakfasts.
One night, we went to the theatre.
If you know the Bible a little bit, you know that the story of Lazarus is about a man who died and was brought back to life. If you know Bowie a little bit, you know that “Lazarus” is a song on his last album, the one he released two days before he died. You may also know that it’s the title of the musical he wrote with Enda Walsh.
Inspired by The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazarus is about a man who, unable to die, numbs himself with alcohol and swims in memories of his past love. The story picks up where the movie left off, only David has been replaced by Michael C. Hall.
I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, but any resulting story gaps in my head were filled with a riot of sound and vision. Lazarus cast a spell. It wormed into my skull and re-pigmented my perception with its surreality. For two hours, I was mad.
When the lights came up, something had been stripped: The drawer where I’d buried my dream had a broken hinge. My throat felt stabbed – I was the young dude having his computer-generated blood splayed across the stage. Heartache bloomed. Noah cried at the beginning; I cried at the end.
After we got back to New York, I bought the cast album. I hadn’t bought a cast album since 2010, when I took a turn as the Witch in my high school production of Into the Woods. I began to listen to it, and as with the Sondheim, I could not stop. I followed each song through to its conclusion over and over, day after day. I came to know them, the way you come to know a song beneath its music and its words. I regarded the Bowie covers as their own entities, and I walked with the characters through their pain and their anger and their wonder.
I was inspired. Though I’m nearly a decade older than Sophia Anne Caruso, I fitted her character’s shoes to my feet. It has been so long since I’ve wanted a part.
In a sentence, Lazarus raised a piece of me from the dead. Specifically, the piece that used to act and was happy doing it. I have continually buried it. I have been afraid of it. What if I don’t like it? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t make it?
Those questions terrify me more than nearly anything. But burying the piece of me that asks them has been unsuccessful. The heart still beats. And I am nervous – an absolute beginner. But I am beginning.
Bowie continues to break through doors. Or floorboards, in my case.