She blew out the candle that had illuminated her table. The flickering flame could toy with her anxiety no longer. She tried to will every other candle in the room to go out but to no avail. It’s true that if telekinesis existed it would be born of rage or extreme tension but this would not be the night she found out.
Her drink was almost finished. She thought it was no use sparing the tepid remnants any longer and downed the last finger of overpriced gin left in the glass. The stage she had occupied and the microphone she had held not five minutes ago were only a few feet away from her. She loved spoken word but hated how shaky her hands got and how crackly her voice became when reciting.
Her nerves were further tested by two people in the crowd staring at her with different types of potent intent. From the microphone’s point of view, two tables to her left, a man in his 30s, sharply suited but missing a tie. His hair was styled to a ridiculous degree and was a day past clean-shaven. He had barely touched his beer while she recited. He tried to lock eyes with her but the focal point that was her notebook proved to be a handy, nondescript shield from this attempt at imposing a momentary bridging.
Meanwhile, two rows in, right down the middle, a blonde middle-aged woman looked at her with what she interpreted as a disdainful coolness similar to that of a seasoned judge. Every two stanzas the woman would jot down something in her journal. She did not clap at the end, shrugging off the peer-pressuring effect of the crowd with ample ease, but nodded vaguely once the reciting ended.
She closed her eyes and waited for the break to finish and the second half of the night to commence. She noticed the man getting up. He finished his beer, looked towards her table and started walking. He walked purposefully, his head always looking towards her. His stride finally aligned with her table but he continued walking. He reached the bar, paid his tab and left.
While her focus had inadvertently been drawn to his movement the middle-aged woman had discreetly approached her. “May I sit down?”, the woman asked. She was befuddled but this seemed less threatening than the man asking her the same question so she easily replied ‘sure’. “I loved your poem. Did you actually live in Paris? It was too vivid and specific for you to not have lived there.” “I have, yes. Four years. Moved back to London last year.” “I knew it”, the woman said. “I lived there between ‘87 and ‘92.”
There was a hint of web-suspended tension in the seconds of silence that followed. “Listen”, the woman continued, “I know this is all too sudden but do you have more pieces like the one you recited tonight? Would love to publish a collection. Maybe, say twenty?” She wondered if haste could feel infinite. Though time felt viscous her tongue cut through the sludge to articulate a rushed “yes”.
Stumbling onto the opportunity of being published is such a serendipitous event you can’t afford to entertain the thought of declining. “I’ll give you some time to pick your favourites and maybe do some editing before we have a look. Is a month good for you?” Again, she nodded overzealously and said yes. “Excellent. Here’s my card. Email and number are on there. I’ll be in touch soon to confirm and arrange everything.”
She had hoped that the tremors emanating from her perma-honest hands didn’t travel up the woman’s thin arms as they went through the customary shake. Her anxiety had resurfaced with renewed determination a few moments earlier. It reminded her that a paltry three poems occupied the pages of her shamefully untattered notebook. Three poems that had taken the best part of a year, somehow managing an audacious escape through the array of filters her self-examination puts everything she produces through. Seventeen more to go.