Monday, 16 September 2019

Two Drink Minimum

A prior submission that didn't make the cut:

Two Drink Minimum

For two weeks now, I've been trying to figure out if people are laughing with me or at me.

Back in the green room there's a ton of backslapping and "oh, have you heard that new guy from out Chicago way? No, not central, just outside, he does a bit about needing a coat, you know. Windy city, just outside, he's a real hoot."

I stare down and realise my second beer has gone flat, and warm. I take it with me to the restroom and pour it down the sink before splashing water on my face. All this and there's still a goddamn two drink minimum. I shamble back out to the bar for a third, and the barman notices my shaky hand but says nothing.

I stand in the wings before the curtains part, praying the words will rise up like bubbles, but instead they just burst somewhere around my chest. I feel myself tighten and the pressure in my temples rises. Two long slow breaths as I fumble in the pocket for the Aspirin. I drown them in alcohol and swallow hard, hoping I don't choke on my own anxiety.

I can't see, but I hear the footsteps and the creak of floorboards as they all come back to their tables. It all seems so unreal, despite it being right there in front of me. The clouds part, and lightning bolts strike from the heavens at my feet. Please, please, shake me from this paralysis, I can't, I can't.

The beeper in my other pocket signals my cue. They're out there waiting for me. I take one last sip from the beer, place it on the table behind the curtain and step out onto the stage, and stride up to the microphone.

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for the second half? We've got some great acts for you..."

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