Once More Unto The Breach
Tales of my second go-round with breast cancer before the age of 40, and everything since.

A First

On a lark, tonight I went to a reading and music series called Tongue and Groove. I’ve been on their mailing list for a while but had yet to make it to one of the monthly shows.

And this particular month, in addition to the scheduled lineup of three writers and a musician, they had a few open-mic slots.

I was intrigued, and I went.

I wrote my name on a piece of paper, dropped it into the paper bag that stood in for a hat, and sat down with Zach in the dark and overly air-conditioned bar, wondering if my name would be called.

Our host, Conrad Romo, took to the stage and introduced the musical guest, Maria Orieta, who played a beautiful song, Between Us, on the guitar.

One of the main performers was stuck in traffic, and this seemed to upend the schedule a bit. Romo decided to pull the first name from the “hat,” and before he read it aloud I could see that it was mine.

Somehow I thought I’d have more time to get used to the idea.

I walked up to the stage and was immediately blinded by the lights, not one of which sufficiently illuminated the paper from which I would be reading. I don’t understand how it is possible to be simultaneously squinting from dimness and brightness, but that is the state in which I found myself. Perhaps this was a good thing—distraction dampens nerves, as I discovered.

By turning slightly to the left, I was able to capture enough wattage to see the words on the page. I confessed to the audience that this was my first foray into reading my work in public, and, after supportive applause from the dozen or so in the crowd, I began.

At Zach’s suggestion, I’d chosen to read a slightly revised version of an old essay, Words Failed Me, which promised to stay within the five-minute limit.

So I stood on that stage and looked awkwardly to my left, balancing the pages between the encroaching shadows as I read my own words to strangers. I gazed every so often toward the dark fog before me, hoping my blind eyes might make convincing contact with whichever sentient beings had graciously laughed in a couple of the right places.

The minutes passed neither slowly nor swiftly, and I finished the piece with no more than a hitch or two in my speech. The applause was brief yet hearty, though whether for the work or the willpower I wasn’t sure.

Having declared myself a writer before these witnesses, and having given an offering of my work, I returned to my seat, initiation complete.


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