A few months ago I wrote about how I went to the Bethesda Writer Center in the hopes of reading my work aloud. In front of humans. Living humans. And I chickened out. Well, I’m happy to report that I went back for another helping of terror pie and this time, I did it.
There were about 20 or so people in the room. A few faces I’d seen last time. I took the last seat in the farthest corner of the room and pulled out my papers. Earlier that day, I’d gone through which poems and narrative I was going to read. You get anywhere from four to seven minutes, depending on how many people sign up. I think I was number 12. Person after person went up to the mic. I sat, listening to their words. I didn’t feel anxiety or fear. Actually, I didn’t feel anything.
That should have been my clue.
Before I knew it, it was my turn. And then it became real. I’d have to walk, from the back of the room, to the mic and stand there. And read. And not throw up. Or pass out. I forced my feet to move, one, then the other, carefully blotting out any peripheral vision. They’re not there. They’re not there. Or so I told myself.
I began to speak.. and then heard, “Can you speak up? We can’t hear you.” I kept my head low, but upped my voice. I knew the words were coming out too fast. But I didn’t care. And then I heard gasps. I lifted my head. And saw faces. Eyes, mouths, noses.. all focused on me. And they were listening. The gasps came at the right point in the story. I knew there were listening.
I slowed my pace, enunciating the words. At points, I even looked up. I heard snickers and then some laughs. Again, they came at perfect timing.
When I was done, I went to my seat, tuning out clapping (everyone claps for everyone). And sat. Recovering from my ordeal.
A while later, it was over. I began to collect my things when a man came over.
“Good job,” he said. “You spoke a bit low and fast at the beginning. But I liked your work. Hope to see you again.”
Yes. Maybe I will see them again.