He was walking next to me, one step ahead, turning to face me, pausing so I could keep up. “You’re going to a bar? Off campus? With people who aren’t students?”
When I was in college, I got to get out of my college bubble because I dispatched as part of my work-study. I was poor, so I had work-study, grants, aid, and a small loan. Being a security dispatcher meant that I talked to and hung out with people who weren’t students, professors or staff. My college was pretty great. But honestly? Between that dispatching job and interning for Janet T. Millsfor two summers when she was the Androscoggin County District Attorney? It’s where I learned the most about the world and people.
The other student stopped, turned to face me and said, face full of raised eyebrows and slack lips. “Why?”
“Your face is a question mark,” I told him.
“You are devastatingly weird,” he huffed and walked on. A second later, he said, “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Why not?” I liked the people at work and at my internship.
“Because it’s unsafe,” he said. “You don’t—They are older than you.”
“Not all of them.”
“They aren’t students.”
I stopped now, right on the edge of the campus where the student housing ended and the Lewiston apartment buildings began. “So, students are safe, but regular people aren’t?”
He didn’t have a real answer. I went out to that bar because I was always doing things back then that made me uncomfortable, that made me learn, and I watched a coworker sing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with a skinny, pale guy on the fiberglass karaoke floor in a bar that smelled like 90s cops’ thick deodorant, chewing tobacco, and beer. Half the bar was cops and people from the DA’s office, though not the DA, and the other half were people that the cops had arrested before, that I’d seen in the courthouse. They all mingled together. Or at least they did that night.
The guy my coworker was singing with had a criminal record and a frame that barely held up his skin; brown hair leaked past the ridge of his t-shirt. She sang a song she hated, but she knew her voice sounded good when she crooned out Streisand, even when she had too many.
“Thank you,” she said to the totally inebriated guy and to the drunk audience. She thanked the guy out of professional courtesy not because he sang well. He didn’t.
“Welcome,” he replied so loudly that it came over the microphone and we all laughed. He took a bow.
He didn’t leave her side when she walked back to our table. He ordered two margaritas and paid.
“I might sleep with him later,” she told me, leaning in, all alcohol breath.
He said to her, still so loudly, “You’re beautiful singer.”
“Thank you.” She flipped through the book of karaoke songs and the guy was off to the john. She looked at me. “You never go up there and sing.”
“Can’t do it,” I said.
On the way back, he-who-was-not-afraid-of-sucking clapped along and took the microphone away from a man serenading some fishnet wearing girl with a country song I didn’t recognize. He strained to wiggle his hips to the rhythm while he sang. He couldn’t. He tried some pseudo sexy pelvic thrusts.
“Carrie is afraid of singing,” Jessie announced.
He eyeballed me and his hand clung to the curve of Jessie’s back. “Carrie looks like she’s afraid of a lot of things.” He leaned forward so all I could smell was him; beer sour, tobacco stained-breath. “You are afraid of your own damn voice, aren’t you?”
I was. Jessie wasn’t. He obviously wasn’t. But I was and I still kind of am, but I’m working on it.
Every week, I’m trying to learn that it’s not the end of the world to get a small detail wrong and that you can correct that detail and that it’s way more important to focus on the act of speaking, writing, singing, reporting, doing. It’s way more important to enjoy and be a part of the process.
But it’s so hard sometimes.
How about you? Are you finding ways to be brave, to put your voice out there, to sing and not worried that you might not sound awesome? I hope so. I hope you do.
Also, I made a QR code for my art place. How cool is that?