by Michael Rahhal

It’s raining. I pull into the enormous lot of the Sunkist building—an island of brick and wood surrounded by a gray moat of blacktop. Signs direct me toward the visitor’s parking area, and rain hammers the roof of my pick up as I park. I’m as far from the main entrance as I can possibly be while still technically remaining on the premises. My raincoat hangs useless in my closet at home. I study my sides again, remembering my session with my friend, the acting coach I had hired for this audition. “It’s the lead character,” I said, “but I think I’m too small for it. They’re looking for really tall guys. I’m not sure why I got called in.”

“You never know, dude,” Randall said, “let’s just do the work and see what happens.”

The rain sounds like tiny hailstones now. The distance to the entrance has to be 200 yards. I’ll be soaked by the time I’m halfway to the door. I’ve still got some time I think, about 15 minutes. Maybe I can wait out this heavy burst of rainfall and run in during a lull.

I’m starting to get nervous. I remember how Randall and I poured over the sides—two three-page scenes. I remember feeling good afterward, like I might have a shot at actually booking this—or something else—on the series. That would change my life forever.

Ten minutes left. The rain is now deafening; a continuous roar of what sounds like steel pellets being dropped outside by the billions onto every car. I go over the sides again, nearly memorized now, though knowing full well that when I get into the room, the memorization will, as it always does, magically abandon me. The rain begins to taper off.

I take a chance, open the door, and with sides in hand, make a run for it. By the time I make it up the 35 steps to the entrance, I’m soaked. This isn’t the front door. Everything on this side is locked and, through the windows, I can see only empty offices, unfinished renovations, industrial garbage cans and drop cloths. No people anywhere. I run around the building, back into the rain.

I finally reach the front door. Sunkist building main entrance it says on a piece of paper taped inside the glass. There’s no one at the security desk. Five empty Diet Coke cans sit where a computer used to be—its outline still visible in a pattern of construction dust. Another sheet of paper is taped to the wall: Casting 3rd fl. I walk to the elevator bay, construction dust caking my wet sneakers.

I take the elevator to the third floor. When the doors open, I’m greeted by another taped-up sheet of paper marked “Casting” with an arrow pointing to the right. I follow arrows on no less than six sheets of paper taped to half-finished walls, unoccupied desks and sawhorses. Now and then, I pass tiny rooms occupied solely by a series of overweight hipsters, beard stubble, pegged jeans and wing tips with no socks engrossed in their laptops. The walls are blank and the rooms are windowless. They ignore me.

I arrive at the final sign, the hand-drawn arrow labyrinth finishing with the words “YOU MADE IT!!! Casting just ahead!” Below the words, a crudely drawn smiley face is barely visible in yellow highlighter.

I have a shot at this.

I sign in and take my place among the other actors in what can only be described as a holding pen: a box made of cubicle walls, which sits in the center of an otherwise empty and cavernous room. At six-feet-tall, I am the shortest person in the pen by at least four inches and the lightest by minimum 30 pounds. I look like the water boy of a smart-casually dressed all-white basketball team. I smile at a few of them. They ignore me. It’s raining hard enough now, that the whole building hums with white noise.

This is the end of part one; check back tomorrow for part two.