Suki and I went on the Sunday morning hike this morning. But my mind was already at the bookstore where I would be reading from my book in the afternoon. I’d practiced, reading to Suki every day the past week, eliminating excess words to fit into the allotted 8 minutes. But even this morning I was not satisfied and not confident that I could pull this off. If I read some parts quickly I might get by but I had to chop some favorite paragraphs.
Then there was the weather. I’d exhausted myself taking out the raincoat and then putting it away, trying on the long skirt and the short skirt and then pants, eyeing the sandals but considering the cowboy boots. It was a day filled with a bit of everything in alternating patterns: rain, sun, clouds, cold and warmth … I took a big purse with the raincoat, plastic bags, a sweater, and extra shoes.
The hourly changes in weather reflected my range of emotions. At home, reading to Suki, I cried and laughed. I punched the timer when it went off before I finished my passage. Arriving early at Buffalo Street Books, I worried that no one would come. I complained, I hugged. I nearly severed the director’s hands in my eager attempt to be helpful setting up the plastic chairs. Drawing my number for the order in which to read I was elated to get the second spot. But shortly after, I learned there would be no microphone. Looking frantically out over the small sea of chairs I fretted that my voice would not project. Sitting and waiting was impossible. I went to the ladies room twice. Finally people started to straggle in. So I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this was what I’d wished and worked for. And then Bob who runs the show says,
“How do you feel about going first?”
As I introduced myself I looked around. The audience was full of friends. They want me to do well, I told myself. And I wanted them to know I’m okay, that I’m back in the world after my years of heartbreak and sorrow, and that I have a story to share. And so I began.
When I read, it’s like I am slow-dancing with the words. Even when I read the works of others, I am transported to where the words lead, to their rhythms and the images that rise up around me. The book is my partner and I am wrapped in its hold, breathing in its scent, my cheek against a rough chin for a moment before burying my face in its warm pulsing neck. I am completely engaged in following, stepping quickly then sliding, slow.
Somehow I managed to read all my words before I ran out of time. The dance ended and I thanked my audience.
Right away I knew I wanted to do it again.