Whom Do You Hear?

Can’t Stand Me

The lights are blaring into my mind, and the chattering of people engulfs my essence.  There is just an audience of strangers ready to judge and comment on my performance. “Why am I doing this?” I question my reasoning’s as I stand behind this curtain about to take the stage. The curtain hides my figure and my fears. I have never wanted to be a singer; I have always been the girl who just quietly hums to herself. In my head I sound like this musical angel and there are no cracks or squeaks in my voice; I just hear soft, smooth, lyrics pour from my mouth without much thought.

The curtain is a stiff material and smells of alcohol, grease, and an unmentionable. I step away from the curtain, but then I feel revealed and less safe.  Because if the moment came that the curtain would rise I could clutch onto it and disappear into the darkness above. But I stand there, cowering behind the curtain, almost center stage, waiting for…

“Next up we have, Emily2Jane! Clap for her it is her first time here!” Thunderous applause erupts after his last syllable.

My hands are sweating and I drop the mike. The echoing sound causes my head to pound and ache. I snatch it up and the assistant off to the right gives me questioning look of, “Are you okay? You can give this up now if you still want to.”

I ponder this choice. Give up…that is not in my vocabulary. New Year’s resolution was to try and be courageous no matter the result. Although, if I leave now I could still keep this as a daydream…No do this for yourself. I answer with a firm shake of my head and the assistant cues the curtain to be raised.

Again I am flooded with light. I can see no faces. That makes this bearable, until the light dances off to my side and I see every face staring at me. The machine to my left brightens and the music begins to play.  My chance is here and everyone is waiting. I pull the microphone to my mouth and…squeak! I stop dead not wanting to continue. “I already accomplished my fear. I stood in front of an audience and put myself on the chopping block.  Can this be enough?” Looking back to the assistant. He is bright red but he circles his hand, telling me to continue.

I continue, but it is awful the whole way. I cannot hear my own voice, but I imagine it is what everyone usually experiences.  My throat is dry and weak with nerves as I continue; I imagine I must sound like I am just mumbling the words off as they appear on the screen. Nerves are not a fun thing to have; they make everything twice or three times as bad.

The song ends and I hear nothing. I want to run off the stage and through the door into my quiet life. But of course, I freeze with fear and my feet are glued to the center part of the stage.

“Well that was great, wasn’t it?” the announcer tries to diffuse the silence. If we were outside you would hear crickets. Nothing. Silence. And every eyes still trained on me. Mouths gaping open with wide eyes. My hands are sweating again. I feel the microphone slipping and I clench its handle tightly spraying sweat over my knuckles. I can hear a mumbled voice speaking, must be the announcer, only my heart beat is penetrating the silence. A hand opens, pointing off stage, trying to lead me out the right side back behind the curtain. Still there is silence. I reach the curtain and there is a small clap. It is slow and steady; then another clap joins in. Until the audience is clapping in unison. I stand halfway behind the curtain and half on stage. I thank them with tearful eyes and a small reassuring nod and exit to my right.

I have no idea if they clapped because they liked me or because I was brave. I have no recollection of my performance and I couldn’t describe it to you now. I only slightly remember the squeaking and this could have been my imagination. I am drenched in sweat and smell terrible. I need a bath and a large bowl of chocolate ice cream to help me recover. I move towards the exit and many hands congratulate me with a small pat on my back. I wish they wouldn’t because I can feel the sweat dripping off of me. I reach the coat rack and move towards the exit. The announcer calls back, “Come again, Emily2Jane!” and I leave.

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