My heart beats like a thousand pounding war drums. In the darkness, I can barely hear the murmur of our host and matron of honor above the atrial clamor echoing through my veins.
I can feel my hands shaking, the firm pull of my index finger tearing gently at the ring binding the flimsy notecards for my presentation together. The tension releases with a snap, my twitching digits quickly shuffling the cards to make sure there will be no snags when I splay them across the pulpit. I focus on the idea of flipping the cards one-handed, wondering if I could throw them aside and still remember every bullet point and fact without them. The menial fears help me ignore the larger ones, the questions of whether the reputation that somehow preceded me into this collection of strangers will be dashed in failure.
Cheryl waves her hand at me, my introduction complete. The polite smattering of applause, coupled with a few cat calls and cries of excitement are drowned out by the deafening roar within me. I step into the burning oasis of the spotlights, my name splayed and glaring on the projection screen beside my perch. The audience immediately fades into a morphing shadow, lens flares playing across my glasses obscuring any detail but the bubble of light around me.
“Are you ready?” I hear the mistress of ceremonies whisper from below. I don’t respond audibly, wanting my voice to say nothing extraneous. Instead, I blink once for yes, wondering if my comatose state even allowed my nod to show visibly. “Kill it,” she instructs with a wry smile. I hear a small click, a brief flash of light the only other indication that it’s begun.
“First you’re born,” I recite, my booming strength surprising me, as if someone else has reached inside me, muppet-like, and granted me mobility and a voice. “Then you cry. Then, eight days later, they get you drunk and cut off the tip of your cock.”
The laughter cuts through it all. I can feel the eyes that had been trained on cell phones only moments ago look up rapt, the mouths carefully waiting their moment to heckle deform into smiles, and the half-dozen friends I have in the audience recognize my telltale bluntness.
I take a moment to snicker, knowing that I’ve nailed my opening, that there won’t be a moment to for me or the audience to catch our breath from here on out.
And then I step on the gas and I’m off.