Of the three thousand, six hundred and seventy-one people who were in attendance on the evening of the 23rd, one hundred and forty-seven people shifted in their seats, with fifteen of them squirming uncomfortably, because from their angle she seemed to be chewing the water rather than drinking it.
Twenty-nine people spent the pause idly exploring their pockets. Of those, four withdrew hard candies, ten grasped only lint, two recoiled at burst fountain pens, eleven took out handkerchiefs, and two pulled out funeral programs, unable to believe it had been so long since the last occasion they’d worn nice clothes.
Of the eleven who took out handkerchiefs, two blew their noses. The other nine hesitated, not wanting the honking sound to be overheard, or worse, recorded for posterity.
Fifty-nine people got up to use the restroom, figuring that this was maybe their best chance. Five-hundred and sixty-one people decided, no, they could hold it a while longer. One hundred and one people were in the midst of returning to their seats, and twenty-six of those people simply gave up on fidgeting their way over and around the crowded sea of knees and plopped right down in the aisles, New York City fire laws be damned.
Four bodyguards eyed the crowd warily from the wings. In the orchestra pit, nine musicians plucked strings, shuffled sheet music, or released spit valves. One clumsy stagehand got himself tangled up in the curtain. And at least thirty-six members of her retinue could guess the real reason she was so dehydrated, but they all kept their mouths shut because that was a national asset out there, alone on that stage.
As the brief hush settled into an awkward pause, nine people briefly considered yelling out a request for “Embrace Me”, hoping that when she finally put the glass down, she’d respond Oh heavens, I’d love to. Later, none of them could say exactly why they’d chickened out.
One thousand, six hundred and sixteen people wished that she could be their mother. Nine hundred and forty-two people wished that they could be her mother. (Substantial overlap has been noted between these two groups.).
Fifteen people mentally sent her messages. Ten people’s messages were in the Take as much time as you need vein, while four others were more along the lines of If I could refill that glass or bring you water, I would. One telepathized a simple I love you. Me too!, she sent back.
Fourteen hundred and forty six pairs of feet practiced plantar flexion. Sixteen thousand yards of crinoline crinkled. Seven thousand seven hundred and seventeen red roses wilted in their cellophane packaging. Five long-stemmed glasses of Liebfraumilch sat undrank backstage. Fifteen milligrams of Seconal depressed a peripheral nervous system.
Three thousand, one hundred and thirty-six people clapped their hands. They clapped their hands because they knew she would hear them above all else. They clapped their hands because she was a high wire act their applause could keep aloft; they could buttress her on the latticed steel circuitry of their enthusiasm. They clapped their hands because of a shared belief that they had something greater than water to give. Drink us, instead, they said.