I was at the tail end of my first year of college, and on one of my too-frequent trips back to The Valley to putz around doing not much of anything. I dropped my friend off in the parking lot of one of the many strip malls that litter the suburbs of my hometown, popped two hits of acid into my mouth and drove away in no particular direction. After three or four aimless turns, I decided to head back to see what my friend was up to for the rest of the night.
“Sean!” I heard a female voice from behind me that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and I turned just in time to catch the embrace of one of my former classmates from AP English in 11th Grade. We hadn’t hung out much, but she was always someone that caught my eye. She was always dressed in ridiculous, haphazard outfits, her hair and makeup were always a finely-tuned mess, and she was absent from class about as often as I was.
“Me and my friends are going to a poetry reading across the street – do you wanna come?”
“Sure!” I eked out, as I swallowed the two small pieces of paper that were still moistening under my tongue. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and per usual, I was in the mood for a new experience.
The event was in the back room of a piano shop. I was ushered in along with my lady friend and her hoard of regulars. It was dark, had a blue hue to it, and was filled with your standard hippy amount of local art, tapestries at odd angles, and stray cushions. I sat at a table by myself, and waited to be entertained.
“Welcome to the [I forgot the name of the show] Poetry Night!” boomed the overweight, heavily-bearded host with an ironic and expensive black hat covering his receding hairline. “As most of you here know, each and every one of the people here is required to come up on stage and perform something!”
Oh shit… I thought. Maybe if I just sit quietly, I won’t be noticed. There are so many people here… They can’t know everybody.
They can. “You there!” The host was pointing directly at me. “I don’t recognize your face, and I noticed that you’ve yet to go up on stage. It’s the end of the night, which means it’s your turn to get up here!”
Just then the effects of the acid started peaking. I hesitantly got up out of my chair, went up on stage, and sat on the stool in the center.
“My name is Sean Farrell, and this is my first time.”
My memory clicks off here. I don’t know what exactly it is that I said, but I spoke for about five minutes. My memory clicks back on as I thank the audience and walk offstage into a sea of applause, hooting, hollering, and women wiping tears from their eyes.
The host came up to me, clasped me firmly by the hand and said, “That was truly incredible, man. You’re welcome to come back here and do that again any time you want!”
“Thank you, but I really don’t think that I can.”
The rest of the evening is a blur, as I was whisked from place to place with this new group of poet friends, and one old classmate who I had managed to woo with my performance. Bottles of red wine were passed around, I drank heartily, endearing myself to the group all the more as that’s what artists do, and to them, I was an artist.