I Spoke at Oral Fixations Last Night and I'm Somehow Still Alive Today
It's an hour until showtime. We've been struggling with synchronized bowing for the last half hour or so. There's a V formation we have to make, but it relies on our dear departed former arts editor Jamie Laughlin, the last speaker of the evening, depositing a stool backstage and running, in her delightful boots, past me so that I can go out last. As the tallest, I must form the point of the V. It's a struggle. I don't know when to bow automatically. I rarely bow in everyday life. Never with other people around.
Courtesy of Oral Fixations The confusing "V" formation.
We're on stage in Hamon Hall, off to the side of the big ol' Winspear Opera House, and seven brave Texas residents are braved to deliver personal talks for Oral Fixations, the local real-life storytelling series. Having built this program from the ground up, director Nicole Stewart is selling out every night of the run.
When we finally all have mastered bending over, we retreat to the Green Room, where we can watch the crowd shuffle in on a wall-mounted TV. A sell-out of some 250, the room quickly fills up. Jamie, who is not a fan of public speaking to put it mildly, is shaking while trying to apply make-up.
I seem to keep signing up for these things that seem like a good idea until the big night. Perhaps I don't have any foresight or imagination. Either way, as the guy third up, I will be stepping behind a curtain to have a microphone pack attached to my butt as soon as the first speaker is done. I hope I don't fart, but then I realize that the microphone pack isn't the actual microphone, so I can probably get away with a sneaky one.
Stepping out onto the stage, the stage-fright friendly lighting bathes me in so much light that I appear to be some sort of holy figure risen from a curtain, only hairier. I cannot see a single member of the audience. I know my wife is out there somewhere. I look down at the page, printed out in handy gigantic font so I don't lose my place, and I begin. This is what I say:
I had been living in Cardiff, Wales for seven years. I was studying for a Humanities PhD, a pursuit guaranteed to make me poor both now and in the future. I moved there with a girl as a teenager. It hadn't been going well for about the last three years. The eventual break-up was acrimonious. Given the last few years of downtrodden misery, I was in no mood to jump into anything approaching a relationship. I was, however, in the mood for... meeting new people.
While some people might be content to lay off for a while, to take some time, maybe get to know themselves again, I was not one of those people. I've never been a huge fan of myself, so I didn't feel like getting to know myself better would cheer anyone up. And so it was I launched into a period of several months that I will tell my grandchildren was their grandfather's "wild time." There were some women, most of them hugely inadvisable. One girl waited until we were in bed together before telling me she hadn't taken her medication for the last week, so she wasn't really "her" right now. Another girl came with her own personal stalker, which led to situations like him sobbing against her bedroom door while both of us were naked inside.
There was this one girl, Rachael. She was different from the rest. Better-looking too. We had a mutual friend. We'd managed to not meet each other, despite being in the same Facebook photos and attending the same events. On our mutual friend's going-away party, the last possible time we could have met each other, we ended up sitting next to each other in a bar. She was an amazing person, in both body and soul. She too had recently come out of an eight-year relationship. She was smart, beautiful, and her taste in music was better than mine. We talked for hours, to the point where people assumed we had come to the party together."