The room was full of friends, families, and well-wishers. Although Sarah knew almost half the people gathered at the reading, she was painfully aware that out of all the people she invited, her friend Susan was the only person who had come just to see her. A few, like Bob, Tom, and Marilyn, had apologized and let her know they could not be there. The others didn’t acknowledge the invitation at all. Sarah had followed up on only one invited guest – her Mother.
“So, Mom, did you get the invitation?”
“Something from UMass, Mom. An invitation to our reading.”
“Oh, that. Yeah, I remember now.”
“Are you coming?”
“I don’t think so. I might have to work.”
“Could you maybe see if you could not have to work that day and come?”
“Because I’m reading and I love you and I want you to be there.”
“I’ll see. I don’t think so, though.”
And, of course, she didn’t show up. So Sarah sat with Susan and visited with the people from her writing class and their families and friends and the people she knew from the University who were there to support the group of writing workers.
The teacher handed out the assigned order for readers. Sarah was last. Was that good or bad? Leslie smiled at her and said, “We wanted to finish strong.”
Sarah envisioned a room full of people starting to nod off through the thirteenth and fourteenth readers, being sound asleep by time she got a chance to read, the sixteenth reader on the list.
She wouldn’t admit that she was nervous, but she was ready to jump out of her skin. At last, the reading began, and her friends got up one by one and read their delightful stories and poems and prose. She was so proud of them — but she was sure she couldn’t do as well. She noticed a couple of them were nervous — and showed it somewhat — but they still did great. She noted the video camera set up in the middle aisle, whirring through the whole thing. Aaargh! She’d never done that before.
As the list grew shorter and there were only three readers left, Sarah left to go to the bathroom. She always had to pee when she was nervous. She came back into the room immediately, but something had happened. They had jumped ahead a person or two. Susan explained that Carl hadn’t really read. Sarah was up next!
She heard her teacher introduce her to the audience. She walked slowly to the podium, hoping no one could see her shake. She said a prayer that her voice wouldn’t quiver.
And then, Sarah opened her mouth to read her story. As she heard her voice through the microphone, and looked out at the audience gazing at her with love and kind expectation, she felt strong and proud. She was telling her story — she was jumping from the voice of the old Italian stonemason to the voice of his little Italian-American grandson. It was a little tricky with the Italian words and endearments thrown in, but Sarah was exhilarated — she was telling her story — even the parts in Italian. She felt taller than when she’d walked up to the front. She felt strong enough to swim the Seven Seas. She spoke loudly and clearly. Sarah was telling her story.