We used to gather. I used to attend these gatherings. Outside the gathering, I’m taking a few breaths. Deep breaths. This is my routine, preparation for who I will be once I step inside. And then I step. No one stares. No one breaks conversation. I grab a drink and scan the room for a familiar set of eyes. All of these eyes are colourful.
We’re gathered but I’ve retreated to the corner of the room. Voices are still around me till someone approaches the microphone. The room becomes hush. I finally notice a familiar set of eyes and they wave. Maybe I should go stand beside them. Maybe they’ll stand beside me.
I take another sip and the eyes are gone.
The readings have started. One after the other reciting beautiful scenes I don’t recognize. I wonder if they will describe my reading in the same way. I wonder how much I’ll sweat when I get on stage.
My name is called and I slide through the crowd. I’m reading a new piece this evening, the same piece that caused some confusion in my novel-writing class the night before in a room that was similar to this one.
They didn’t understand the excerpt and asked me to make changes. I told them the people I’m writing about would understand. The remainder of the class was spent explaining.
On the stage, I hear applause when I finally look up from the page. Smiles and nods of congratulations. I walk back to my corner and order another drink.
On my walk home, I stop at the convenience store. The man behind the counter looks like Irrfan Khan. He breaks out into patois. I tell him I’m from Trinidad. He pauses and says, “Irie.”
I’m still close enough to the gathering to see everyone else still filtering out. Body after unfamiliar body. Gaze after tentative gaze. One person walks by the convenience store and tells me how much they enjoyed my reading. I tell them thank you and they ask if my reading was based on real life.
I let them know it was and they seem pleased. They have more questions but don’t ask any. We part ways in opposite directions.
It’s warm enough for me to walk home, far enough for me to replay my day over and over again.
I’ll be back on stage again in a few moons.