Okay, so before I get to the part of this story where I tell you how wonderful and life-affirming my LTYM experience was, lemme first say a few things about the 24 hours leading up to my reading. A few drug things.
Remember how I was all worried that I'd give everyone in the audience the literary equivalent of botulism or salmonella poisoning? Well, that may have happened. I don't know yet. No one in attendance mentioned cramping or fever, but deadly toxins can take a few days to percolate.
What I do know is that, thanks to a miserable and horribly timed spell of migraines, my doc put me on a heavy dose of steroids 1 day before I had to take to the stage. And steroids, my friends, are awesome . . . if you're into having unlimited ambition coupled with very, very limited intellect.
Being on the roids feels like, how do I put this? Like:
Go! Go! GO FASTER! No sleeping! Get that thing done! DONE NOW! Wait. Wait a minute. What thing? Here's a thing! Do that! How do I do it? So sweaty! Need CHEESEBURGERS! Wanna exercise! Time to walk the dog! Just try and keep up with me, dog! WHY ARE YOU SO SLOW, DOG? Let's go home, dog, and eat cheeseburgers and do CHORES and exercise and write a poem and feel nervous and HUG THE BABY. Energy! Cheeseburgers! Did I pay my credit card bill? NOTHING CAN GO WRONG! Where are my pants? I feel like LIGHTNING! Sweat. Sweat. Sweat. I'm a CHEETAH! I'm a sleek and mighty tower of CHEESEBURGERS! Let's buy shoes! Gotta go potty.
Obviously, this is exactly how I had hoped to feel as I prepared for show day. But given the choice between wanting to Hulk smash and feeling like I'd been Hulk smashed, I opted for the steroids rather than for the migraines. And, yes, the drugs made for a physically pain-free experience. But psychically pain-free? Well, I know at least one husband, one child, and one dog who may have some trust issues to work out with me.
I had wanted Saturday to be a day of rehearsing, of ironing and polishing and moisturizing, of giving in to the excitement and joy. Instead, I bought and returned 3 pairs of shoes, bought and returned 2 sets of jewelry, and asked my husband 5 times, "Why is it so damn hot in this damn house, damn it?"
Shelby, bless his heart, was beyond patient. He opened windows and turned on fans. He occupied our son as I jetted off to yet another store in search of the magical accessory that would make me both talented and pretty. He nodded and nervously eyed our dog when I declared, "I'm taking the old girl for a romp!"
I had wanted to thank them -- my little family -- because, without them, there would have been no show to prepare for. There would have been no story to tell.
Instead, as my brain detonated like Jiffy Pop above a camp fire, I stomped around the house, fretting and sweating and never once saying, "You are the loves of my life. Thank you for loving me back." No. What I said, come Sunday morning, was, "I gotta go! I need to hit a McDonald's before I drive to the theater. I'm so hungry for a damn cheeseburger!"
And that's what I did. I sped away, hit the drive-through, and arrived at Synetic loaded down with a duffle bag containing: extra-strength deodorant, 38 pounds of makeup, a bottle of water, a tin of breath mints, Advil, Tylenol, Pepto, an extra pair of underpants, an extra dress, champagne, red Solo cups, hairspray, hair gel, hair pomade, hair brushes, and a double-cheeseburger meal.
|That's me in the blue dress, front row, third from the left. Use one of those|
solar eclipse boxes if you plan to stare directly at my calves.
There was much hugging and primping as my cast mates gathered backstage. Everyone was brimming with anticipation. And, as I watched them apply lipstick, borrow safety pins, and pass around homemade cookies, I wanted to thank them -- my new friends -- because they are kind and funny and nurturing. Because, without them, I could not have told my story.
Instead, juiced to the hilt, I experienced some kind of mild Rachel Zoe stroke. I heard myself say, "Bananas!" I heard myself say, "Shut the front door!" I shouted, "Does someone have shiny white eyeshadow? I really need shiny white eyeshadow!" I gobbled up the chocolates supplied by our producer and reassured everyone that I had brought an extra pair of underpants in case of an underwear-ruining emergency.
Then it was go time. Of 14 readers, I was lucky #13. As we took our places on the stage, my Hulk heart thudded and then, miraculously, it slowed.
The stories poured over me like a salve. The audience gasped and laughed and cried, and it was soothing music. When it was my turn to stand in front of the microphone, I wanted to say, "I don't know how I got here, but I know I have you to thank."
Instead, I told a story about a runaway baby turd. (You're welcome.)