Professor X is the most popular professor in the English department. Students want his attention, but his quick opinions scare me. I try to stay out of his way. –which is easy since he isn’t aware I am in his class.
I am walking down the hall when he notices me. He calls out my name and marches over. His sweater is unraveling on the edges and he needs new loafers. I hug my books to my chest. “Yes, Dr. X?”
He tells me about the faculty lunch. Would I read three of my poems? He tears off a corner of one the papers and scrawls the day, time, & location down. I nod. You don’t say no to Professor X and I’m flattered anyway.
When I’m introduced to the room, I’m standing with a group of English majors. They aren’t really my friends. I don’t have many English major friends.
I take a step towards the podium. And a moment later I’m standing next to a classmate again. He says, “Great job. See? You had nothing to be nervous about.”
I frown. “What?”
“You did great!”
“Is it over?” I ask. “Did I read them? All three of them?”
He looks at me funny. “Of course you did. Just now.” The pages in my hand are shaking and he laughs. “You’re still nervous?”
I don’t answer him. I’m trying to remember reading my poems and all I can remember is darkness. Other people come over to me and say nice things. I nod and nod. “You didn’t even look nervous,” they say. “You were great.”
Twenty years I’m getting ready to read my work in front of a room of people again (though not poetry, thank god). Even when I practice in my living room, the lights go dim.
How do you feel about being up in front of people–with your own work? Do you look forward to reading your own writing for others or not?