I saw tonight what it was like to be me. I attended the grand slam of urban storytelling at BLVD, basically, the bowery dressed in "Crash Mansion" clothing. Every single storyteller had qualified to be there. They lost sleep last night, wondering, taking their quiet moments with God and praying, even if they didn’t believe in a God. It couldn’t hurt, so they said something aloud in the dark. “Please God, if you do exist, help me to find the talent, to actualize the talent to win. I know I can’t ask to win, so just make sure I do the best and beat everyone else.” It’s all they wanted; I understood that want.
I cried again, and this time, it wasn’t over a guy. I was certain in my conviction that no tears would fall tonight. I’d done enough crying last night, in my bed, in my sweats with the stars across the ass and the Rhett Miller on repeat. Tonight was for celebrating, for laughing, for applauding my friend’s efforts. It wasn’t about me.
When Kim began to speak of the inner black woman who had kicked out her scabby, abusive boyfriend and painted her upgraded one-bedroom apartment bright red on her behalf, I pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth to obstruct any emotion from working its way out. Oh no you don’t; this isn’t about you. Kim went on speaking of an empowered black woman, someone with a name resembling Watumba, who lived inside her and did things on her behalf. It wasn’t anyone with the name Kimmy had recognized. But Kim, sad stories don’t win these types of things. Stories about eating your wife’s placenta, stories by anorexics begging for thrown tomatoes, about impaling hairspray caps and having to get them surgically removed, stories about happy endings at “is this place a gay massage parlor?” win… not sad stories that show vulnerability and depth.
I’m going to spare you the, “It didn’t matter what the judges gave her because she was already a winner” crap. She made my resolved mouth frown a bit and let a tear escape. I wasn’t crying because I was proud, though of course I was; I was crying because her story touched me. I’d been in that place, where I needed to fight for myself, and she recreated it with a deep voice from someone neither of us knew. She was up there, on stage, before a clump of strangers, doing what she was put on this earth to do. And it made me so happy.
After she read, I couldn’t wait for an intermission, I excused myself, hitting people over the head with my bags, and leapt into her arms. “You should feel so proud. You were absolutely wonderful.” Then I told her boyfriend that he better watch out. "I have such a crush on her you know. Not a dirty crush, but a crush just the same.” I am in awe of storytellers, up there doing their thing.
“Excuse me, aren’t you…” A woman hesitated, looking up at me. I thought for certain she recognized me from the blog or my reading at KGB, “aren’t you worried about your ovaries? You’re radiating them as we speak, ya know.” She pointed a mauve, rounded nail at the Treo 650 in my jean pocket.
“Thank you. You’re quite right. But tonight isn’t about me, or my ovaries.” I removed the phone just the same. What a jackass… I am.
On my way out, I came face to face with a talented writer who was drowning himself in the drink. "You know," I lectured, "you should feel very proud. You were really great up there."
"Thanks," he murmered, "but I’m not going to win. I got screwed by the judges."
"But everyone laughed when you wanted them to, everyone really liked what you had to say. You’ll always get rejection, and it will always suck, but tonight your alcoholic tendencies should err on celebration not condemnation." He shrugged and thanked me. He didn’t realize his talent, like the pigtailed girl who would grow to be a supermodel. Some of us don’t know our worth until we’re overwhelmed by it. Tonight, in all the talent, not at all about me, I somehow saw myself and recognized my own worth, and it felt great.