Cannonball Run

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I hope my dress stays up.

I hide in the wings, about to go onstage and face 200 people.

Read stuff I wrote. Will they like it?

Breathe.

I am past hungry. To fit into the bright red, floor length, strapless gown, I have eaten mostly lettuce and handfuls of cherry tomatoes for a week. I would have eaten carrots, but I was afraid I would turn orange.

Does my skin have a Lycopene tinge?

I fantasize about chocolate.

I am squeezed, shoulder to shoulder with a partially plastered brick wall to my right and taught drapery cords on my left. Loose electrical wires are against the brick wall. They sway slightly with the movement of the dancers and performers backstage.

I have a vision of myself touching a crackling cord and being launched, cannonball-style out onto the stage before my cue.  Upon closer inspection I am relieved to see that the wire ends are wrapped with electrical tape.

Breathe more.

The hanger ribbons are sticking out the top of my dress. Quick! I hide them from view, sliding my right and left hands into my bodice.

Pull up the dress…again.

I wish I had a breath mint.

No one should know that I smell like tomatoes.

The stage, softly illuminated before, is now in blackout.

My cue.

Walk out, stand alone.

To a Spotlight. A Microphone.

The audience, I can see only their legs.

Row after row of legs.

Words. I wrote about words. About writing words. The weight of words.

Somehow the words come out of my mouth.

Beat Poet inspired, but me: Highbrow, Lowbrow.

I am calm.

How can I be calm? Don’t I remember how afraid of public speaking I used to be? How the memory of reading my third grade book report in Miss Bomba’s class still gives me chills?

There is a split. The girl I was is standing next to to the woman I am now.

I see her, that other person. That other me. She’s wearing knee highs and culottes.

She watches me on the stage. Giving myself to people.

She lets me.

By the second night of a three performance run, I am enjoying myself. We are enjoying ourselves. We look out to the audience, a lot. When the audience looks back, are they seeing the scared girl or the confident woman?

I barely register the applause. It’s the giving I was after, not the thanking.

Later, the scared me and the confident me share handfuls of chocolate chips. They’re her favorite.

Besides, I’m all out of vegetables.

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