His name was Colon. Why anybody would call their child a name which brought to mind the digestive tract was beyond Brenda. Still, he wasn’t the one who had chosen his name so she couldn’t blame him for that.
They met at a literary reading at Le Divan Orange on St Laurent. She had noticed Colon before. Who wouldn’t with his longish hair, opened leather jacket and white scarf twilled around his neck? With a beer in one hand and a notebook in the other he came up to her. She noticed the studs on his cowboy boots. He reminded Brenda of Jude Law in Cold Mountain. She hoped he wasn’t gay.
“You planning on reading?” he asked her.
Speaking in public filled her with unbearable anxiety and already just the thought of it was manufacturing painful juices in her stomach. “I’d like to,” she said, “but I don’t know if I have the guts.”
“Sure you do,” he said as if he knew her better than she knew herself. He excused himself and before Brenda knew it he was back with the organizer of this event standing before her. “She’d like to read tonight,” he said.
The organizer, a kind looking middle aged woman, told Brenda she could go up right now.
Brenda’s knees began to shake. Yet, by some miraculous force she made her way through the crowd and stood in front of the mike. She took out the pages from her knapsack. Because of the rain outside that had seeped into her knapsack, the pages were tattered and their unprofessional look made Brenda even more nervous than she already was.
She placed her hand on the mike and a loud static made her jump. The organizer came up on stage and adjusted the mike for her. Brenda looked at the crowd staring waiting for her to begin. She felt like an alien standing there. Her hand began to shake rattling the paper against the mike and so she tightly held the sheets with both hands as if she were about to be shipwrecked. In fact she was beginning to think that she would have preferred that than where she was right now.
Yet, her vocal chords opened and a excruciating weak thank for coming dripped out of her mouth like a annoying faucet. That she managed to tell them she was going to read a chapter from her crime novel seemed a monumental achievement in itself. But she did and in a voice as squeaky as a door that needed oiling she blazed through the opening paragraph of her novel, not even stopping to catch her breath for a comma or a period.
With the same breath held tight in her stomach she attacked the second paragraph and the third. When finally she looked up from her shivering sheets of paper she saw Colon who gave her a thumbs up. He must be an idiot she thought to think this was all okay. It was horrific. The humiliation she felt reminded her of an incident when she was back in grade three and her classmates had made fun of a composition she had written and had stood in front of the class to deliver.
She drew in a second breath and turned the page but as she did so her papers went flying on the floor and by the time she picked them up the crowd, her dear audience, had forgotten about her and were loudly chatting amongst themselves. The organizer now stood next to her and before she knew it people were unenthusiastically clapping their hands and the thought did cross her mind that they were perhaps happy to see her get off stage.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” asked Colon.
“It was horrible,” she said. She began to put on her coat for she didn’t want to stay another minute here. Colon asked her if she needed a lift home. She looked at him and his sweetness seemed to melt away the pain inside of her.