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As Franklin drove through Los Angeles to his audition at a small community college theater, he could not bring himself to smile. How could he when he would not lie to himself?

He was terrified. It would be absurd to him to pretend otherwise in the face of a turning stomach, sweaty palms, and restless feet. Besides, he knew that he was now mature enough to deceive himself. Therefore he pouted and pouted like a bulldog.

Despite his experience with auditions, he was nervous.

He had done dozens of them from the age of six, the period of his life which was marked in his memory by his parents first noticing his extremely photogenic qualities and then exploiting those in front of cameras for the benefit of certain sugar-teeming cereal brands.

It’s difficult to say whether his great gift for acting came before or after these parts in commercial after commercial. Be that as it may, it is certain he had ample time, support, and funds to develop that gift.

We may even say Franklin had too much of all that, for by the time other pre-teens begin to descry small, wayward hairs on their upper lip, he was starring in a Christmas-time comedy blockbuster, opposite one actor making the rounds in tabloids for dating someone twice as old as he, and another desperate to buck the trend after a string of multi-million dollar busts.

After that movie, it seemed as if there was a starring role expressly written for him in at least one major production per year.

Could anyone fault him for it? He had grown into a handsome figure and acted well—well enough to garner an Oscar nod and wild acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival one year.

Trials and tribulations serve to humble mankind, reminding them of their mortality, the fleeting nature of time, and the futility of pride. But here was Franklin, with as much celebrity and money as he could ever fathom, and only at the age of seventeen, not knowing what to do with himself, while filled with Icarian energy. What next?

Heavy partying became an excellent means for expending that energy of his, and his financial circumstances allowed it to remain so for a while; but his excesses drew public criticism.

His response was—as unbridled youth are wont to do—to double-down on his excesses, to spite his critics.

Before long, because movie studios must care about their brand, and can therefore spot liabilities from a mile away, Franklin became un-hirable; and for becoming un-hirable, he wallowed in the deepest self-pity for a number of years.

It is the strangest law of the universe that nearly dying lets people see how they have been hardly living.

The eye-opened for Franklin was a horrific car accident that he survived scratch-free. Something had wanted him to live, and if that something had wanted him to live, what was the reason?

He asked himself this every morning until the answer appeared to him in the form of a flyer on the only table available at a coffee shop. It announced an audition for the role of Hamlet at a small community college theater.

He was nervous really only for the possibility that this day (exactly a month after his turning 30 years old) could be the start of a new chapter in his life.

He entered the theater’s parking lot, and, after finding a spot where he could breathe in deeply for a bit unobserved, smiled to himself. He stepped out of his car for the theater’s entrance.

Keven Balderas

Keven obsesses, nearly to the point of madness, over a new interest every two years. So far, his interests have included Latin, drawing, skateboarding and photography.

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