“Just like any whore performing for money, I throw back a drink before I go onstage,” Sadie tells me.
Well, that’s not exactly true. She’s not a drinker.
We’re talking about public speaking, which is something Sadie has a lot of experience with but is yet another fun facet of my job that inspires fear in me. How do I manage to be in Public Relations without getting a charge out of being the center of attention, you ask? Well, let’s just say I embellished my resume a bit. The whiteout on my letter of recommendation was hardly noticeable.
So, with this outreach thing coming up at work, I decide I need to step up my game and head out to the local Toastmasters meeting.
I arrive at the meeting site, which turns out to be a Perkins restaurant up the road from me. I walk past the claw machine and front counter displaying their specialty. Hmm… Pie.
The room is surprisingly full, and I’m immediately accosted by a slim Indian man who asks me to sign the guestbook. As I begin to sign, I’m told to bow my head. We pray for various causes. Amen.
I start to sign again but have to stop again to pledge allegiance.
I’m finally able to complete my signature and contact information. It’s official. When I hear the man at the front of the room say that, as the one and only guest this evening, I’ll be asked to give my remarks at the end of the evening. Crap.
I find a seat at the front of the room across from a very nice looking man. Nice Rolex.
Maybe this won’t be so bad.
And it’s not. These people are having a blast. They laugh together and cheer each other on. There’s even a game where everyone speaking is supposed to incorporate the Toastmasters word of the night into his or her speech.
I find myself cornered at the break by two older men, but even that wasn’t hard to extricate myself from.
I make the mistake of winking at one of these men during a particularly unamusing speech about seatbelts, believing him to be in on the joke. He’s not. And when he seems to want to take it further, I blink both eyes furiously, pretending there’s something in my eye. It’s a nice save, if I do say so myself.
We come to the constructive criticism part of the night, where we cast votes for the speakers we think did the best job. I look at Mr. Really Good Body across from me and say, “Write big, because I’m going to cheat off you.”
He says, “I was going to cheat off you.”
I say, “Well, then, I guess we’re both screwed.”
At the end of the night, I stand up to address the room, thanking them for opening up their meeting to me and for making me feel so welcome. I even get a laugh when I tell one of the evening’s judges they call “The Hammer” that he scares the crap out of me.
After I sit back down, a woman at the next table leans back in her chair and whispers to me conspiratorially, “He scares the crap out of the rest of us, too.”
When I get home, I run into Lily, home from her trip to Kansas of all places. We take the dog for a walk, and when she points out an owl perched on a tree branch, I notice the stars are out, suspended and unfaltering against the sky. We walk a little while longer while Lily tells me about her trip. Lily would have fun in a paper bag. She’s that cool.
We get back to my place and end up talking for hours. Inevitably, the talk turns to the men in our lives, and I tell her about Dan calling, how his phone call gave me closure, and how nice it is to be friends with him again.
Then, I think of Jack, and I find I really don’t want to dissect that one. Whatever will be, will be, and right now, I want to just let it be. I want to stick a pin in it, suspend it in the sky, and come back to it another day. What happened between us will remain as it is for now, unfinished and unexamined, an enigma.
Incidentally, that was the Toastmasters word of the night.