Rita paced the small area off stage, listening to the crowd pop for Kevin, biting back the observation that Kevin was in a world of trouble if he ever got past the open mic night stage. He had mistaken volume for passion, and Rita had sworn blind that he had appropriated a Eddie Pepitone bit about how hard it was being a male model. Still, she knew that making him look bad didn’t help her out.
People liked Kevin more than her. He had an earnest, sweaty charm that lowered people’s expectations.
Rita tasted the rust of envy on her tongue with every swallow. She chased it down with a sip of water, pacing to build the adrenaline up. She had a good ten minutes of new material, in addition to the five good minutes that she had refined over the last year. Travelling from clubs to parking lots, a whole tank of gas for a good hour’s performing and yet she could not explain how it filled her head with white light, heat and excitement. Sacrificing her nerves on the altar of the stage.
She had bombed before. She was prepared to do so each time out, and that made her less afraid to take risks. Kevin moved past her, in a fog of flopsweat as he grinned at her without speaking. The MC announced her, and on legs that were hollow with nerves, she went onstage.
Her voice was high pitched, and the lights were harsh enough to make her squint. She had to adjust the mic stand which fed her nerves as she struggled with it.
‘Having some trouble there, short stuff?’
That came from the table to her left. Four guys, ties hanging from their neck like flaccid silk genitals, high fiving one another at how clever they were. Rita was willing to bet that none of the guys had gotten shit. She swallowed, her teeth were like plates of tin wedged into tender gums and she smiled as her mind screamed at her to GET THE STAND FIXED.
She gripped the microphone, her nerves and tendons shook with the current as her teeth chatted together, her eyes surging forward in their sockets.
the universe, all made sense as an emergent structure, viewed from outside it was a symphony, a climbing vine on a building and oh god she wanted to make eye contact with what peered through the windows. Gaseous angels with carnival glass wings came to her, offered her revelation, told her that a higher world called and all she had to do was let go.
She looked into the eyes of one, saw a child like joy and acceptance, and it’s smile was glorious, sunrise on an alien planet and asked what she wanted, what kept her chained to the meat.
‘What do I want?’
Not to keep being asked if men are the problem every fucking time when it’s other women who’ve knifed me in the kidneys if there’s a chance I might steal their spot, not to see posting blogs or trolling comments as a way of getting their name out, to not be judged on how i look. To have a special on hbo or comedy central, to make awkward conversation with trevor noah. Not the music of the spheres, not bliss or nirvana or samadhi, not even fame or fortune really but one thing.
To move this fucking mic stand.
It closed it’s eyes, wrapped it’s glass wings around her, touched her face with hands cool as mountain stone and nodded once.
She gasped as the stand lifted and she did the swiftest body check ever, relieved that the heat between her thighs was anxious perspiration rather than having pissed herself. She grinned and stared at the guy who made the comment.
‘I bet that’s a question you get asked more than me, buddy. Especially when you’re naked, yeah?’
The peal of laughter washed over her, it felt like home, a validation that made the chill embrace of the previous moment become detached from her present. After that, she really was home. When she came off stage, she was taller, stronger even as her hands shook with emotion. The MC patted her on the shoulder, told her that she had done good out there. Meant it too.
After that night, Rita began to walk her path with uncanny focus. She ended up doing Joe Rogan’s podcast and Comedy Bang Bang, each time out, she would be asked about her process and she’d smile, shrug her shoulders and feel the cool hands on her face each time, knowing that she had chosen well.