Monday, January 30, 2012

Aloud

Chuck's prescription for me: Two stiff drinks. "How about one beer?" I say. I can control one beer. Controlling two stiffies, well, that's drunken roulette. It might work. But it might result in noodle limbs, drool and hugs for everyone.

I have a recurring dream that I'm hammered. So hammered that gravity has doubled, tripled, and that I am unable to get up off the floor. That I'm dizzy and I can feel the air and that air is like a giant hand on my forehead pushing me back to the ground. Two stiff drinks could take me there.

***

"I was thinking: You should come down here and interview this high school senior. She is really amazing. She's class president, Homecoming queen, people just love her and she only has one leg," my mom said.

"For what?" I asked.

"For your reading. Isn't the theme 'New Beginnings'?" she said.

"I'm not reading a news story," I said, frustrated. "God."

"Oh? Then what are you reading?" she asked.

"It's like a poetry reading, except not poetry," I tried to explain. "I'll probably re-work something from my blog."

"Why don't you read poetry?" my mom asked.

"I don't write poetry," I said.

"YOU DON'T WRITE POETRY?!" she said. "Since when?!"

"Um. Like, since I was 8?" I said, picturing my last chapbook, heavily influenced by Shel Silverstein, bound between the pages of gift-wrapped cereal box cardboard, bound with yarn and presented to my Great Aunt Jule, who flattered me by keeping it on her coffee table for guests to read.

***

I had about two months to prepare and I spent about seven weeks of that time thinking about everything but what I was going to read. During that time I became Facebook friends with another woman who was scheduled to read. Luc sent me game-changing advice:

"Read the story that you tell at the bar while gesturing wildly," she wrote in a message.

"Well, that story isn't very appropriate," I told her. It's true. Describing a vagina as a "dark cave, no windows" might sound like genius-level humor, but no one wants to pay $5 to hear that.

***

I cobbled together two old blog posts. Actually, I didn't. I took the gist of two old blog posts and completely re-wrote them as one. It was about living in a duplex with drug dealing neighbors. Bounty hunters, that sort of thing. It got a lot easier when I realized I could turn jagged truths into a smooth mostly-true and hell, if I wanted to, someday I could write a completely not true at all!

"The weirdest part about shopping for khakis with Jason Bateman was ..." 

***

About six hours before game-time I sent it to Jodi for approval. I was looking for a Yes or No, but sensed it would be tricky for her to read it without editing it. I was right, thankfully. She found me using a word wrong. I do that a lot. If this was the Acknowledgements page of a book, I'd bump up the font a few points and thank her. (She's used to getting her name in books).

***

Terrified? I'll say. Before we left the house and I thought our printer wasn't working I caught myself about to hit shrill octaves that reminded me of my mom having a pre-Thanksgiving Dinner freak fest because there were still gobs of toothpaste stuck to the bathroom sink and someone in our extended family might see them.

Chuck put his hand out and said calmly: "I'll take care of this." And I stood by and nearly fretted myself a bald spot.

He checked with me twice to make sure I'd brought my piece.

"It's in my purse," I told him. "Next to a similar sized bunch of papers, a summary of my last trip to the urologist. Worst case scenario I'll read that: 'The patient experiences a searing pain when ...'"

***

I went with a single beer. About an inch into it, I felt ready to rumble. I nursed it for two hours.

***

I stole this from a local blogger. I think that's legit, since it's me. 
There were 10 readers, a mix of poetry, fiction, personal narrative, scriptless storytelling. The Great Archivist read a grocery list, in part, which he is funny enough to pull off. The podium was dark, I couldn't see a single face, just an occasionally pocket of chuckle here or there and a gasp when I got to the part about the downstairs neighbor getting attacked with a baseball bat by her roommate.

People said nice things afterward.

"I think three people told me they liked my story and nine people told me they liked my belt," I told Chuck.


***

Afterward at the bar I found out the beer had 10 percent alcohol, which explains why it only took an inch to numb my shy place.


I took this photo after 2 and a half 10 percent alcohol beers to send to CHRISSIE! to explain what all the belt excitement was about. 


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