It's Super Bowl weekend, and it is half empty at Suite 106 tonight. Usually, you have to really get here early because the small place packs up quickly. Today, people are probably cooking and shopping so, come Sunday, all they have to do is sit back and watch the Giants take on the Patriots.
My heart is pounding like a herd of Mali elephants stampeding through an African desert. I have decided that tonight is the night that I read for the first time.
I lose my nerve to sign the board until the Ugly Poet asks me if I am reading. Reluctantly, I nod my head. Shaking, I sign my name on the small chalkboard that lies on the floor by the front door. The club is having a live poetry recording, so only five will read this night; I am number three.
Right before they call the first poet, I walk over to the newly renovated cabin-style bar on the side of the room for a glass of Moscato to calm my nerves. After a few buzzing sips of the sweet liquid, I tell myself that this should be easy because the room is half empty. Suddenly, I hear my name called, and I look over with a blank expression on my face.
"Wait a minute!" I think to myself, "I went to kindergarten. One, two, three. What happened to number two?"
DJ Sean spins a quick snippet of Biggie's "10 Crack Commandments." I look on at the sea of faces blankly staring back at me. From my vantage point, the whole scene reminds me of VH1's "Storytellers."
"H-How are you doing?" I stutter, and I jump back slightly at the sound of my voice. I hate the sound of my voice when recorded, and because I prefer to send a text instead of leaving a voicemail, my nervousness goes up to the next level.
At this point, I lower my gaze and will not look at the crowd again.
"If Jim Morrison of The Doors performed in his early days with his back to the audience, I can perform with my eyes on the floor," I tell myself.
I go into a small piece that I wrote only two weeks before called "A Rookie's Anthem," about a rookie basketball player in the NBA getting himself hyped up for his first game. Hmm. How apt for this situation. My words come out fast and furious—not because I'm so good, but because I want to get off the stage!
I hear laughter, but I realize that it's not aimed at me. It comes at me like a blowtorch on a block of ice, and I start to move a little more, but not much. We have to read two pieces, not one, so I read my second piece, "Private Dancer."
Catcalls echo through the crowd as I smile outwardly, thinking to myself how it's not the private dancer that they are thinking of. I go into it quickly and set up the scene of an exotic dancer who hates stripping, but desperately needs the money to pay for chemotherapy for a sick child—the dancer has no health insurance. Strangely, the crowd is into it, by the hmmph sounds that I hear.
When I drop the bomb that the dancer is indeed a man, the vibe falls a bit. I guess the men in the crowd didn't appreciate my interruption of their fantasies of a buxom bombshell gyrating on a pole.
My breath catches a little as I slowly announce I'm finished. The crowd claps, and I let out a breath as I walk back to the couch in the back of the room. Bob, a tall, lanky white dude and a respected poet, nods to me and smiles slightly. I smile slightly in his direction, wiping my brow.
"Let's hear it for the private dancers out there," Herbert Brown, aka The Ugly Poet, says as he asks for another round of applause. I immediately start to clap like a trained seal.
"Real bonehead move," I think to myself.
On my drive home, I realize that I am partly disappointed, not because of anything I did or didn't do, but by the fact that while people clapped for me, I couldn't receive it.
When I think of my experience standing in front of an audience and reading what I wrote, I think of the song "Blackbird," by The Beatles.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
I'm still waiting for that moment, but now I feel like that moment could be awaiting me, just around the corner.