A + A
Today is first open rehearsal. About 30 people come. One of them is a child. For the purposes of this report I'll call him A.
The score is an hour and a half. We each have a shift. Mine: first 30 minutes be a visitor, last hour be in the score. So, I watch A. secretly, from the edges of the black carpet. I wonder, how is he experiencing the nakedness?
A. isn't a baby. A. isn't an adolescent. A. is a 9 year old boy; A boy that knows what nakedness is; A boy with his own thoughts and feelings. I see A. looking at the floor a lot. Is he embarrassed?
I don't plan to have a conversation with A. At some point, I just find myself near him and, his mother. Because of the way we use our eyes during the score I actually can't see very much especially on the level of the horizon. So, it's only when I get quite close that I have a sense of who I'm about to speak to, or not.
So, there I am, resting, sitting, breathing, near A. and his mother. To speak with him is not a straightforward decision. I take my time. It's a process. I feel them looking at me as I pad closer. Are they expecting me to begin a conversation? Am I expecting that of myself? Yes, yes. So I wait. I wait for what feels like a long time. Then I wait some more.
It takes A. a while to meet my gaze. Both he and his mother turn to me at the same time. I look only at A. "Hi", I say to him. He pauses, smiles a bit. "Hi", he whispers. I tell him my name. He nods. I say "can I ask you a question?". He nods again. I come closer.
"What is growing like for you?"
He tells me about learning; about life skills - maths and english - we talk about other life skills, like talking to people - we agree talking to people is an important life skill - we talk about how one day you can feel one thing and the next day you can feel something else - A says" "like one day it 16 degrees and the next day it can be 31 degrees" - I say, how "sometimes it can be 16 degrees for a whole week" - we talk about growing pains - I ask him if he can feel his body growing - yes, he says, he can feel his shoulders broadening, no, it doesn't hurt all the time, just sometimes - we talk about how his legs are growing - we talk about language - he tells me that growing means learning new languages - I tell him that when I was 9 years old - exactly his age - I came to Melbourne, from Sri Lanka, and I spoke English and Singhalese and how I stopped speaking Singhalese in order to grow as an Australian - we talk about how sometimes growing means letting things go - he tells me about the different kids from different cultures in his school, how sometimes on certain special days they get to say 'hello' in their own languages - like what kind of languages? I ask - he thinks a bit, he can't remember, his mother helps, it's the only time she speaks, otherwise it's just between me and A. - "Spanish" says mum - "Hola" I say - A. smiles, for the first time, a bit shy - I tell him that I think Australian schools have changed in the last 30 years - he agrees - we laugh at this together - he tells me his name - he tells me how to say his name properly - "a lower pitch".
When I leave him, I say "it's been great talking to you A." He replies, "It's been great talking to you". We look each other and know that we both mean it.
Later, in the circle his mother says to the group how amazing our conversation was. A. doesn't speak. I say about how much of an exchange it was for me too. He looks at me. That same direct gaze. A to A.
I wink at him.
He winks back.
I feel like, we will never forget each other.
- Amaara Raheem, performer.