We made quite a splash.
Dr. Fritz, of course, looked-- No -- glided like a true professional, like the embodiment of lyricism out onto the stage, smooth as the surface of a peach, crisply timed like the juicy snap of a green bean. All my friends formed ranks backstage. I interrupted Dr. Fritz for a small detail and then he began to speak.
...Ok, Ok. He didn't really quote Henry V act 4 scene 3. But to watch him speak, he might have. I walked to the stage entrance and turned to watch my friends and comrades prepare to enter the stage.
"Did you notice, Nate?" said Clayton, "that the stage is bigger than the auditorium?" The stage we used was only about half the size of the actual stage, the curvingly rippled walls and fancy ceiling an adjustable, modular inner stage. Behind the faux stage, beams of light glowed at the seams, like a lightbulb hidden under a wicker basket in the dead of night.
I stood next to the entrance and watched my friends file into the light, armed with folders and water bottles. It was very dry. I took another sip and mulled over 16oz I already drank in the last hour. I wondered if my recently-filled bottle was enough.
The last white shirt bobbed through the glowing portal that was an entranceway, blocking the light for a brief moment, then passing inside. It was time, and I breathed deeply.
I stepped out from the shadows, from behind the curtain, into a new state of mind. The bottle slid into the podium's inner shelf. Good. The folder was open. Looking up, I smiled.
Pause. I remembered my ventriloquist training. Create some space. Give them something to anticipate.
Breathe deeply. Doublecheck the first words.....memorize......look up again......smile...
I was no longer conscious of the musicians behind me, sitting patiently, intently listening to my discourse. I forgot about Dr. Fritz's carefully brushed bed of curly hair. I certainly wasn't paying attention to the orchestra, who were probably sneaking extra peeks at difficult musical passages.
The audience? I looked at them, but only for effect. I even made frequent eye contact. But they weren't really there. I was at the edge, the musicians behind, the dusky crowd before. I was at the center of focus, and the text was at the center of my focus. What was the camera doing?
I read, and the words came, soft, smooth, and liquid, sliding off my tongue precisely, bubbling upwards gently first -- the hard-caked drips of Sarracino's pen surfacing and soaring from the fountain of my heart.
The stage was dry, but I dared not drink until the poem's end.
As the poem ended, Dr. Fritz, who had rested in a microsmally unnoticeable slump, perked up a millimeter. They noticed and prepared to sing.
The poem ended.
Turning sharply to the left, I walked back behind the curtain.... without my water bottle.
Downbeat. The warm breath of music filled the dusty air. But I had no water, no drops to cool my tongue.
Could I walk the winding hallways in time to be back and speak on cue? No. What to do?
I noticed a water bottle perched on a wooden box in the corner.
No. No. No. I'm not that dumb.
I licked my lips, my tongue a piece of bitter taffy.
I looked again at the bottle.
The bottle looked at me.
I stepped closer. The music would end soon.
Stupid Stupid Stupid! but did I have a choice?
I hid behind the tall rackmount that controlled the hall's lights. I was alone with the bottle. Tilting my head back, I poured the water into my throat, trying not to touch the mouth. I set the bottle back down.
I loathed myself. Then I realized it wasn't enough. I looked at the bottle again guiltily.
What if they notice? I had no choice; I took another swig.
This happened two more times.
I set the bottle back on the block of wood and walked onstage, for it was time to read once more.