Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming out tonight. Wasn’t that last poem great? It was so emotional. So real. It was nice having the background about his mom being sick when he wrote it—and Chad, I’m sorry for your hardship—so that we knew the whole dryad returning to the dusty seeds of earth thing was supposed to be a sad metaphor. And let’s be sure not to forget our wonderful MC tonight: Sarah, stand up and take a bow. Amazing. She’s in the bathroom? There was just a ten-minute break and she was in here the whole time. Well, anyway, if you can hear me in there, Sarah, take a bow. And let’s make sure to thank the bartender. He’s had a long night on his feet but at least he got to listen to all of the great readers. Oh, and I’ve tipped him extra to not dig through the ice bin while I’m up here so maybe order beer.
Okay. So what I’m going to be reading tonight is a thing that I’ve been working on my whole life, in a way, and it’s for all of you, of course, but it’s really just for one special person. She’s perfect, and I wrote this for her and only, she’s not quite here yet, but I bet you she’s going to come through those doors at the back any second now, and when she does I’ll hopefully have started reading at that exact same moment, like it was fate, like it was impossible for her to have missed this. Maybe I should just start going, right? Start with the first word of my story and in she’ll come, that long black hair tangled around her small, sweaty face, apology in her eyes, wearing that dress I like with the sash and the sneakers that she keeps in her bag in case she decides to go for a run, holding her heels in her hand. Let’s do it.
No. It didn’t work. But, for when she does come in, this is how I would like you to listen to this. Lean forward raptly with your elbows on your tables. If you are a poet, close your eyes like a really professional level woman dancing the tango, give the impression that you are thrilled to be following along. Laugh when I smile, freeze with tension when I increase my cadence as we come to the action, store my descriptions of bodies for later, for when you’re alone. If you must drink, pick up your glass without looking at it, take a tiny sip, and place it back on the table with exaggerated care. Maybe sway a bit. Cast envious glances at the girl who came in at the exact same moment that I started reading the story, and speculate over how great she must be. Stare in resentment at your own work, at the pieces that you just read out-loud, and watch what you thought were highs and lows be relegated to middle ground. Unobtrusively pull out a pen and plagiarize, dip into my language. Photography is permitted. Recording of all kinds is permitted. Draw me, draw me fast so that the edges of my hair look like water. If we make eye contact, sit stark still and just enjoy the electricity. Sigh at the end, loudly, or stand and cheer. As a favor to me, do all this when I start reading. This is a team effort.
So I’ll start talking now and she’ll come in the door, maybe holding the lost child she must have found on the street, or bleeding a bit out of her elbow from diving to push a sweet old lady holocaust survivor out of the way of a cab running a red light, or with her mascara just starting to dry on her cheeks because her mom called and said she was sick—oh, sorry Chad. Alright. Let’s do this, people.
Okay, false start, sorry, we’ll wait a few seconds and try again. What? I have how much time left? I haven’t even started reading yet. This is all preamble. You said we could introduce our works. You let Chad do it, didn’t you? No one interrupted Chad when he was talking for like three hours about how his mom always loved to garden. This is important. You know, before I wrote the story I tried to write her a poem for this too, and I even did write her a poem, and it sounded like nothing else I’d written.
Or how about this for an introduction; I wrote this as a back-up: This is what it boils down to. I have a little virtual post-it note—the idea of which, when you stop and think about it, is pretty absurd, a virtual post-it note. Okay, sorry, Sarah—so this thing pops up right in the center of my computer screen every time I hit f4 to see how many layers of winter clothes I need to wear if I go outside. It says in all caps
So that’s what I tried to do
And, you know, I’ve read that there are countless universes that contain every possible alternative, every outcome, every flip of the coin from cosmic to microscopic levels. That means there are universes where I’ve never met her, where we don’t exist, where we kill each other in bloody warfare on a post apocalyptic battlefield, where we are ectoplasm, but I don’t care about that, any of that. Because in one of these alternate spaces in infinity, the only variation is that she is already here. One flip of the coin, one variance, one misplaced word, that’s all it took, and even if in 99.9 percent repeating universes I end up never knowing her, if I exist at all, the idea that somewhere out in the 5th dimension in a universe super like this one, she’s already applauding, already hugging me, is ridiculous. I know what she said. I know she said that she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it, that she explained all this to me already, that we’re not together anymore and she doesn’t have to go to any more ‘goddamn readings,’ but this still could be an okay universe. Right?