Another all too sadly TRUE STORY from the Pain Vault.
Opening the door to the blue room in the back of the chase cafÃ©, he expected the reading to be like the week before, just a few friendly folk reading to one another. At least twenty readers and listeners are already sitting around smoking and talking in the huge room, which to him almost seemed even larger because the ceiling and walls were painted to seem a dark blue sky with warm, sunset reddened clouds drifting everywhere. The denizens range from a table of old black men with beat up looking clothes and the faint scent of wine to hip hop looking black guys to kids too young to maybe even hear what he was writing about? They looked to him, as he steeled himself to stay and read and just do his best and not really care who liked it and who didnâ€™t, those people he stared into the table to avoid having to acknowledge seemed to range from punked out kids to death metal sensitives to book wormed up and otherwised
He realizes that he is just being angry because he is nervous, taking things too seriously. He looks up from the candle that he has been gazing into, seeing the entire room from his vantage point in the back. A voice that seems almost Satanic starts mumbling in the back of his mind, hating all the people around him, steeling himself to not care how they feel so he can get over his stage fright. The voice is cynical, afraid of being hurt, and translates his surroundings to his conscious mind; the fearful one on the edge of fight or flight finds a landscape of the most clichÃ© bunch of poets that heâ€™s seen. He feels out of place, too black and African in his beaded hat. Most everyone else is white, except the old men over in the corner who look like winos. He feels a bolt of hate for every punked out faced metal dude, book wormed up carrier of this and that weighty volume, angry black lesbo-licker shaped like wallaby. . .
He smiles and waves at an older woman a next table, a writer he has seen here before who is always friendly. She is shuffling papers about, going over her poems, too distracted to notice he was trying to get her attention. At the table past hers, a young woman does see him wave; she looks at him coldly for a moment without expression, then turns back to talk to the woman beside her and the dead, blank stare she gave him immediately becomes animated, a mask of friendship and interest. He feels way more alone.
He lights a cigarette and pretends to watch the smoke rising from his cigaretteâ€¦ waiting and waiting and waiting for the show to start and take his attention away from the fear of going in front of people and seeing if they could hear what he saw, feel what he felt.. . see all heâ€™d discovered along the path. He drinks all his coffee waiting; his muscles feels taut, ready to spring out of his chair and take the stageâ€”his stomach is a gray dull ache tinged with the green of nausea. Every play he was in during school had been the same. He knew it would pass. And after all, all poets read their work, and thatâ€™s what he wasâ€”â€˜not some goddamn clerk at Rudyâ€™s hot dogs, hell noâ€¦ â€˜.
He doesnâ€™t mean to say, â€œHell no,â€� out loud and almost canâ€™t believe he did as everyone around him looks over his way â€“ like he was being dissenâ€™ the reader. He wishes he could disappear and closes his eyes for a moment. He can barely notices the woman reading, canâ€™t follow her words because his own are so loud in his head, they are insistent, imperativeâ€¦
â€�Sorry,â€� he whispers.
He tries to concentrate on her poem, something about clean sheets . . . worrying about detergent? Her kids? Some bird nowâ€¦ kids and riversâ€¦. the planetâ€¦ somethingâ€¦
One after another they go up on stage and he doesnâ€™t look up to see what they look like, just stares into the candle and hears his own words pouring though his mind, some hating him and telling him heâ€™s nothing, that heâ€™s some crazy who has to see a shrink.. other voices bicker with the satanic ones, say heâ€™s a poet, an artist, a guy who faces the shit and sometimes it depressed him.. He hears his name and it doesnâ€™t seem to mean anything. He hears it again and seems to suddenly be coming up on shore, noticing he was in a room of people watching him slowly get up as the host called his name out, in a slightly annoyed voice, for the third time.
He raises his hand hesitantly, â€œUhh, hey, thatâ€™s me.â€� He sees the people around him looking at him like they donâ€™t expect much, like they are angry at him, like the host sounded, because he hadnâ€™t heard his name? He steps in front of the microphone and silently as he watches the host sit down, lights a cigarette and has a sip of coffee.
His new poem is a series of sounds and yells; words he corralled onto paper after he read that humans use just forty sounds to describe the entire universeâ€¦. He looks up finally and smiles at the crowd and remembers the woman who had read his poem a few days before, at the cafÃ©, and listened to how and why he wrote it and told him that he should come down and read on Tuesday night. Looking down and reading the poem he didnâ€™t think it looked like a poem at all and for a second feared no one else would think it was a poem eitherâ€¦ He had worried about this earlier, a day before, and settled on the decision that since the sounds felt like one of his poems, filling him with the same electric shards bouncing angrily through his chest, like heâ€™d touched some secret current flowing through the universe and acted as a conductor for words.
He clears his throat in the mic and it sounds loud. Someone in the audience whispers, â€œChrist, that sounds like shit.â€�
He starts using his lips to make a smacking noise that blast out loud as hell out from huge black speakers on the sides of the small stage. He is trying to make the noises and count them at the same time, so there are only fortyâ€¦. He loses count too quick to have any idea of where to even start again and just keeps making more noises; some annoying and horrible, like war, and others funny, , some sadâ€¦ he can feel the sounds as he stares into the black microphone and listens to the sounds of coming from the speakers, sounding so much more important at a loud volume, like he was hearing them for the first timeâ€¦ he closes his eyes and keeps making the noise until he is way past fortyâ€¦
A woman with a loud voice that he recognizes as a reader of drunken, slurred angry words slamming her ex-husband, yells at him from the back of the room, â€œThis sucks, get the fuck off the stage!â€�
Her voice slaps him silent . His eyes open wide.
The audience starts clapping and congratulating the woman for shutting him up. His poem slips from his hand and wafts slowly back and forth, then settles in the dust on the black stage His tears make him even more embarrassed. He pulls a black scarf out of his pocket and holds it over his face as he weaves through the tables of people never once looking up from his feet, completely and utterly terrorized by the through that if he looks up he will confirm his fear that the audience is silently laughing at him.
He gets back to his table and stops, stares down into the surface of his half empty cup of coffee and hears the host introduce the next reader. The audience gives the person following him a bigger applause than any one else yet â€“ way more than they offered him when he was introduced..
He has felt like there is no reason to go on living so often that he no longer fights the sensation, simply sits down in his chair, covers his head with a black scarf, and gives into the bitter-sweet melancholy of giving up, losing all responsibilities and worries and regrets and sins behind once and for all. A lot of nights he can only sleep if he reassures himself that he will kill himself when he wakes up the next day, rather than go through the torture of suffering again He stands beside his chair staring into his coffee as the host introduces someone new. . He wishes he was dead. Just fucking dead. Feels the urge to die so strong that it seems like his will alone should kill him. He sits down in a chair, carefully keeping the scarf over his head.
He tells himself that he should just leave, but he isnâ€™t sure he wants to be alone, thinks it might be worseâ€¦ he doesnâ€™t know why. He canâ€™t think while he is cryingâ€¦ keeps losing his train of thought as images flash through his mind of lying to his mother, stealing money, saying the wrong thing to a girl, having the wrong answer in schoolâ€¦ what the doctor called, â€œTiny embarrassments that over the years have grown into festering sores in your mind.â€�
He tries to think of somewhere he can go, shit he can do that will make him feel better?. His mood seems to sink even deeper into ennui as he realizes that he has been asking himself all his life to try and make himself feel what most people do, normal and comfortable in their skins. better â€“ feels like he has wasted his life locked in a battle most never have to fight, handicapped by having to expend most of his energy wrestling the demons in his head, instead of just going about a normal life of school, business and family and all the other signs people hold up to one another to signal that they have their shit togetherâ€¦that he was wasting his life just fighting off the demons in his head, had no time for shit like classes and work, and stuffâ€¦. sinking, has put these questions to himself what seems just then to be millions of times.
had the same thought so many times, put he recalls what seem millions of times that he has thought the same thought and feels even more weary, his body instantly exhausted. Nothing that comes into his mind inspires him with any real hope of avoiding the torture of being so embarrassed with himself that he seems unworthy to live.
Sounds break off from the words coming from the stage, become nonsense sounds like his poem . . . he wishes there was someone there who he could lean over and tell how the poems were similar in the way they sounded; be barely finishes the thought before another dark voice from the shadows of his mind tells him that he is full of shit, just pretending the poems sound the same?
A few hours later he is on the beach in a warm, summer night. He remembers how delighted he was with the water when he was young; the kid he was would have went swimming, splashed around, had no problem at all finding a little fun.
He walks out into the water until he is chest high, then begins swimming out toward the middle of the lakeâ€¦
Four days, a worried, tearful black woman in her early forties comes into the cafÃ© with his picture and asks the clerks if they had seen him? The woman behind the counter recognizes him as the kid who got a hard time at the reading, finds out that he never came home after the reading. Michelle tells the mother how he was criticized, how sorry she is that it happened, says she wasnâ€™t there herselfâ€¦ somehow she knows the kid is dead already. Confirmation comes a few days later when the police come around asking what happened at the reading that could have caused a kid to drown himselfâ€¦.