“Uh, let me take your purse?” Barret tentatively suggested as he reached for my brown leather bag. “Why don’t you go to the bathroom?”
My chest was still heaving from running one and a half miles alongside the late afternoon Sydney traffic-jam. The last stretch from Circular Quay to the Opera House had been the toughest because of the lack of shade.
Walking through the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My cheeks unfortunately matched my scarlet lipstick and my hair was plastered against my scalp. This was not how I had imagined the night would go. I left my house feeling like a sophisticated patron of the arts and arrived looking like I had swum the Sydney Harbour.
Within the privacy of the stall I rolled up a wad of toilet paper and pressed it against my drenched face. The seat was damp and clammy, which irritated me. Then I realized that I was the reason the seat was damp and clammy.
I took a few deep breaths to relax and tried to focus on something else other than sweat.
The stall doors had an unusual wavy shape. That’s kind of cool, I guess.
My eyes drifted down to the tiled floor; nothing exceptional there. C’mon- you are at the Opera House I told myself and ruffled my limp wet bangs.
Feeling more collected, I went to wash my hands. The cool water made me feel less sticky until I glanced one last time in the mirror. Like a boy learning how to shave, there were little white styptic dots clinging to my face.
No matter how I felt at the moment, I was determined to enjoy the evening. I had put a lot of energy into getting these tickets.
My day had begun that morning at 3:40am. By five I was in line at the Tix for Next to Nix booth. I was not the first; there was already a small crowd with dogs, sleeping bags, comfortable shoes and hiking pants. I had picked a seat on a bench underneath a street light and waited for three hours for the booth to open.
By the time 8:00am rolled around I was completely awake. My heart was racing because of coffee and because the booth was about to open. It was the last weekend for the Sydney Festival and my only chance to get tickets to the sold out showing of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Not only were these tickets the last available, they were also a fraction of the price- $25 compared to $120.
Five minutes after the booth opened I had two tickets and I was on my way to work. After managing to keep my head in an upright position for six hours, I took a nap at home before jumping on a bus headed downtown. What had been a 20 minute ride in the morning had stretched to almost an hour. When I realized the pedestrians were walking faster than the bus, I jumped ship and ran the rest of the way.
Two minutes before show time I wiped the toilet paper off my face, reclaimed my purse and put my blazer back on- as if completing my outfit it would help restore equilibrium.
Inside the angular hall the lights began to dim while the orchestra remained illuminated. From the hushed shuffle of feet and the distant clearing of throats emerged a double low C note. It was singular, powerful and pure. The note rose till it could not go any further and just before collapsing, a brass fanfare exploded to encourage the note on again.
BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM
The commanding reverberations of the bass drum gave me chills. I squeezed Barret’s hand.
Double basses and contrabassoons took heart once again and responded with the same evocative and sustained note. Barret squeezed my hand back; he was just as excited as I.
Sunrise was the name of the first part of Richard Strauss’ composition Thus Spake Zarathusta. It filled the acoustically perfect auditorium with the feeling of promise and rebirth and hope. Stanley Kubrick had chosen well. I felt like a new person.
How to get to the Sydney Opera House: Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000.
The best way to arrive on time for your show, regardless of traffic, is to catch the CityRail train to Circular Quay. Trust me.