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The Understudy

by Emma Toreau


I knew I was in love with you because I never got jealous.

I never got jealous when I heard woos of wonder when you wondered by girls who don’t know why you worship the color red on women.

I never got jealous when you described every detail of the damsel in distress that you believed would fulfill your destiny of discovering the Donna to your Eric.

I never got jealous when she was the one you chose to add the title of girl to in front of the already present friend.

I mediated my mood through meditation on the mantra that movement towards your maximum happiness was more important than mine.

Because seeing your smile every time her name spills out of someone’s mouth makes mine want to mirror the parabola of your pride.

Because the crimson of your cheeks after a call with her is the same color as the heels I was wearing when I first met you.

Because seeing the person you love in love is like looking through a stained glass window; a beautiful barrier of color that allows you to feel just enough warmth to make you realize that you are still cold.

It’s not the kind of cold that can be fixed with a few touches of the top of a thermostat.

It’s the kind of cold that corners you into reaching for the coat that smells like you because a single sensation won’t satisfy the source of the skepticism.

The skepticism I have in the first half of this poem.

The skepticism I have in the phrase, “Saying something out loud makes it real.”

The skepticism I have in myself.

Because the first half of this poem is only what I wish I felt.

I wish I could be the girl who never turned Oscar the Grouch green with envy, but call me an everything bagel because sesame seeds of jealousy are planting themselves along the street leading to you.

I wish I could be the girl who never constructed my confidence concretely around my connection to my consciousness.

I wish I could be the girl who never made the ridiculously reckless decision of spring boarding into secretive feelings for a friend.

And more than anything, I wish I could be the girl who never developed destructive love for my best friend.

But here we are.

Not you and me.


But me and an audience of strangers because it is so much easier to shine a light on the shadows of myself for people who don’t know my middle name, than to say three little words to the person who knows what my voice sounds like at 3:17 in the morning.

To the person who can tell you exactly how many drinks it takes me to want to talk to an Uber driver.

It’s 5.

To the person who knows he is the only one I will share my pink Starbursts with.

And though that gesture feels small, it's as grand as I can be without jeopardizing the understudy part that I am cast as in your life.

Understudies never get the respect that they deserve.

And even though I may never get to be the girl who feels the warmth of your spotlight, I will cling to the stained glass window for the life saving warmth that it provides.


Emma Toureau is a poet, playwright, and owner of the Tower Theatre Company based in Los Angeles, CA. Originally from Washington, DC, she discovered poetry and spoken word while studying at AMDA. She regularly performs her poetry in the LA area and beyond, and is hoping to publish her collection soon! @emma.toureau


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