After the man with the checkered polo shirt
and thinning hair left the room
I instantly became the oldest man
in the house. I wondered what one earth I was doing here.
I was glaringly out of place.
The cafe was filled to the brim with young people,
mostly undergrads. Many were eating composedly at their tables
while the rest were howling at the person reciting poetry
on the stage. This is exactly the sort of place
I dreaded and avoided when I was their age.
But there was no turning back.
I had given them my name and they had written it on the list.
The waiter sought me out and found me
at the back of the room near the door
and he asked, “Where can I place your order?”
I said I did not have a table so he handed me
the bottle, and as I drank on my feet,
I wondered how long it will take for my anxiety
to leave me before they will call my name.
When they finally did, I staggered to my feet,
barely aware that I was walking.
A girl adjusted the microphone stand in front of me
to accommodate my height, and I began reading,
but I couldn’t hear the words that I was speaking.
My ears were ringing and my voice sounded muffled
under my throat, and although I was standing still,
I felt like I was moving, zooming out, drifting.