Tap, tap, tap.
I hesitatingly tap the stage mic with the faltering pads of my fingers
just as I would tap the shoulder of a stranger;
I tap the head of the mic, even though I know it works perfectly well, I tap it;
On a stage, under the spotlight, with a lump in my throat,
I stand before an expectant crowd;
I have avoided this situation more times than I count.
I recall the endless videos I have watched of confident poets
painting the air with their hands on the stage;
the rhythm in their rhymes, the twangs in their ‘I’s,
the mystery behind their pauses and the drawls in their sighs;
“You’re meant to be just a writer, you could never perform.”
I hear the words of my traitorous and trembling hands;
“People are staring, don’t you dare mess up.”
I hear the hiss of my conditioned mind;
I hear but I don’t listen.
“It’s okay, go ahead; you’re doing just fine.”
I listen to the soft whisper of my rapidly beating heart;
it’s thumping so loud, the mic finally catches some sound.
It’s so quiet, I can hear the walls whispering to each other;
I close my eyes and take a deep breath,
as I would before I dive into the endless ocean.
I feel the side of my lip twitch and I unclench my hands;
I open my eyes and they shift to the clock on the right;
it’s been twelve seconds since I stepped up onto the stage.
And then, I spoke on my first fourteenth second on stage alone:
“Let me tell you about the day I overcame my stage fright,
in this hall, before this crowd and under this very spotlight.”