The stage seemed small to her when she had first entered the room. But now as she sat in the front row, looking up at each performer, she felt like it might swallow her whole. The beads of sweat on each performer’s face, the spit that flew from their mouths when they spoke, how their pupils shrunk in the bright stage lights, all screamed “HELP! DEAR GOD ABOVE IF YOU EXIST, PROVE YOURSELF NOW. PLEASE END THIS SUFFERING.”
In 60 seconds, it would be Sidney’s turn to suffer. There was not a world in which she could imagine her legs carrying her up those steps and onto that stage, but there was nowhere to run or hide. Her only option was to do the impossible: get it over with.
As she heard her name leave the announcer's lips, she realized that every regret she had ever had in her life had led up to this. Now that this was about to happen, she was about to perform stand-up comedy in a dive bar in Boston, all of the other stupid things she had ever done were zapped with insignificance. She had taken a laser gun, and pew, pew, pew! There they all went. Into the air, or what was left of it.
“Our next performer goes by the name Sid.” The announcer stole another glance at the lineup sheet. “Yup. That-that’s it. There’s no last name. So let’s welcome Sid to the stage!”
Sidney suddenly froze, like a dog who caught a glimpse of a squirrel. Come on. Shame tugged at her leash and Sidney rose to her feet without a fight.
The announcer smiled a pitiful smile as he was accustomed to these types, college graduates with degrees in English or Comparative Literature, brains buzzing but their souls drained of wonder; the pleasure of not-knowing. They hoped to rediscover their passion and themselves by doing something bold and seemingly-fun. Stand-up comedy was nothing that a college grad with a steady job in marketing for fibromyalgia medication couldn’t handle.
They didn’t realize how much scarier the crowd at the bar was than the lecture hall. At school, everyone wanted to know what Sidney had to say. Or if they did not, they kept that to themselves, perhaps rolled their eyes or yawned. Here, in this small, sticky room, the people were more than judgmental. They were hungry. They were out for blood. They wanted to laugh if they did not, they would kick and scream, crying for all that they deserved and didn’t get. The girl. The job. The drink they had ordered 30 minutes ago. It’s not your fault, the announcer wanted to tell Sidney. You just can’t save them.
But he never has and never will warn anyone, because warnings cannot teach like failure. No warning has ever changed a person’s life. And there is always the possibility that a single failure could.
Sidney swallowed her fear. It burned her throat.