As usual the universe heard my boast of confidence and even though it was bogus, decided to reinforce the lesson that humility is a desirable attribute.
Last night I stepped forth to take my place on the stage, many years and countless hours of therapy in the making, my spoken word poetry debut was memorable to say the least. That I have been through a number of very scary decisions and situations since I began living my life as Rachel is probably the understatement of a lifetime. I thought, “Oh I am going to be nervous but I’ll be OK” all I have to do is stand and speak, what’s so hard about that?
Well after much reflection and a bit of practical application I can attest to the following. Casual reflection on the difficulty of a particular task does not necessarily reflect the actual experience. In other words….
I was scared totally shitless, my legs shook uncontrollably and if not for the fact that I had worn a long skirt the audience would certainly have concluded that I suffered from what was undoubtedly a fatal neurological disease. I felt at several points that I was actually in danger of falling down. Wow that would have made quite a debut and provided ample warning to any would be poets considering a trip to an open mic.
The love and encouragement that my friends and community have shown me leading up to this has been absolutely remarkable. They were all so excited for me as I expressed what a huge milestone this was going to be. They all had inquired as to the details, what day is it? Where is it going to be again? I assumed that most were being polite and that their interest and support would not include driving to a little dive bar on the other side of town just to watch me speak. I do after all, speak all the time, in fact after apparently saying very little for sixty years, I have exploded verbally and can’t seem to shut up.
What actually occurred is that a number of them, in fact, what I considered to be a large number of them, showed up to watch. These were the members of my local queer community, to which were added the members of my slam poetry class and the fearless leader of that tribe. They apparently either feel I have some talent or as a Nascar fan would confess, came to watch the slow motion of the wreak. Could also possibly have something to do with my being an old trans lady, but I’m still working on that possible connection.
The evening began as always with the slam master. He announced the open mic portion of the night would be first, the order of appearance of the poets to be at his sole discretion. I stood at the bar, and as each successive poet took the stage, I felt more of the blood slowly drain from my body.
When I thought I couldn’t stand it any longer, I heard, ”OK here’s someone I’ve been waiting to hear from, let’s welcome… no never mind I think will hold off on that one for a bit longer. I don’t know if he was looking at me but he was certainly speaking about me, and everyone knew it. The clapping, shouting and general uproar slowly died and I released a gasp of air and slowly deflated.
I decided that would be an opportune time to take a pee, the beer I had at the bar (which should have been 3 shots of whiskey) would undoubtedly pick the middle of my poem to make its presence felt, so best to go now just in case. Naturally as I’m coming out of the bathroom I hear my name called and everyone is yelling and shouting, I’m on….
Let me take this opportunity to tell you I have memorized my poem, about three weeks of my walks at the park, reciting it out loud and incidentally I walk a lot. I know it forward and back, inside out and upside down, I have got this.
Well back to reality. I’m wearing a skirt and caring my cell phone. The skirt has no pockets and the cell phone which is my life preserver if all else fails leaves me without two free hands to adjust the mic. That’s OK it’s a smallish room I can be heard. In fact the people on the other side of the bar cannot in fact hear very well.
I start the words flowing from my lips in a profound torrent, sharing the pain of my lost friend with this room of strangers. I’m rolling, well that is until my mind takes notice of my shaking legs. I say to my brain we’re reciting a poem pay them no mind. My brain says what poem? I am lost, I skip a line or two, in fact it could have been half the poem for all I know.
OK I’m going to have to read this, the memory thing is out of the question. I look down at the phone, it gets very quiet in the room. I’m looking for my place and looking. How long before they begin to get restless? When I need to scroll a bit is when I discover how badly my hands are shaking. This gets better and better.
It was a struggle but I finally subdued my phone and finished the poem.
I was gratified at how well it was received, the words seemed to connect with the audience and I believe they may understand a bit more about what it’s like to be transgender, at least that is my hope.
I think it will be better next time, I hope to find out soon.