I am going to read a story out loud to some people.
I've booked an open mic slot at a reading night in town, and I intend to turn up and perform.
It's bizarre, actually, how alien standing up and reading something out can be to the writer. It's not as if publicly performing is literature's natural end-point. Most of the time (and this is both a wonderful and frustrating thing) a person writes down some words, prints out some words, passes the words on to someone else and quietly moves on to the next thing. They need never even meet the reader.
So why, then, do I want to stand up in front of a bunch of people I don't know (and some I do - which will be worse) and say unto them: 'Hullo. Sorry to bother you, but... I wrote a story. and for the next ten minutes you will have to listen to the story. I ask only two things: don't laugh and don't leave. Please.'
There are five possible answers to this question:
1. I want to be loved/adored/praised/talked to.
2. I think I have something interesting and/or important to say.
3. I want people to listen to me. And look at me. And like me.
4. I am a twat.
5. All of the above.
What do you think, Morrissey? Don't hold back. I won't be offended. Honestly.
Jesus. It's not for another week and already I am uncontrollably nervous. I'm not even sure what I am going to read yet.
Maybe I won't read anything.
Maybe the crippling anxiety and crushing panic will, at the very last moment, prevent me from sidling up to that stage, and to that microphone.
Maybe I will run away.
Maybe, in front of all those gathered, my throat will close up and I will be unable to speak.
Maybe I will die on stage. And not in a turn-of-phrase sort of way. Not like: 'How did Jack's reading go?' 'Oh, awfully. It bombed. He simply died up there.' Not like that at all.
I mean actually die. Literally. In full view of everyone. Like Tommy Cooper. (Is that insensitive? I don't mean it to be.) Expire. So that the following conversation might take place:
GIRL: How did Jack's reading go?
BOY: Oh, awfully. He had a heart attack and stopped breathing. It was horrible.
GIRL: God. Is he alright now?
BOY: No. He's dead.
I really hope this doesn't happen.
I don't think it will.
But you never know.
Perhaps I should have thought about all this before I booked the slot.