She sits a little too close to me on the couch because she is drunk and happy and she shows me all of the pictures on her phone. Her fake nails are too long and she swipes hard at the screen. “Here’s where I grew up,” she says, “back here along the coast.” She is from Hawaii and she tells me the names of the islands and I have never even heard of them before but I nod along as she points them out in the picture she took from her airplane window seat. It’s raining outside, it’s that sort of drizzle that hangs in the air while at the same time falling and making unavoidable puddles on the ground. Everything is wet and everyone’s hair is turning into frizz and the man with the large beer belly passes out beers and pours strong drinks into tiny plastic cups. I cut lime slices for him and stand behind the rickety table that was never meant to hold so many bottles of alcohol. Everyone adds ice to their cups and the ice melts and their cups stay full and strong and no one ever needs to leave the couch for a refill. People sit closer and closer together and talk louder and louder over each other. “More ice!” Says the beer belly man’s father, bringing a fresh bucketful and sliding it onto the table in front of all the bottles. The table is littered with half-squeezed lime slices and half-moon rings of water and empty cups and full cups and beer bottles and pieces of ice slowly melting. Outside the workers from Jamaica pass back and forth with their maid carts and luggage carts and garbage cans and wagons full of grass clippings and hedge clippings and gardening tools. Everyone is interested in the people who are so clearly from somewhere else but are so friendly and hardworking and kind. I think about the boy I knew in college who was from Jamaica, and knowing someone from there makes me all-knowing. “I knew a boy from Jamaica,” I say to the people on the couch. “He was happy, too.” I watch the people as they pull their wagons and carts and cans and I wonder if they are happy or if they hate all of us for being loud and fleeting and cheap, for not tipping when they bring our bags to our hotel rooms, if they want to go home, if they are excited for this adventure, if this is just an easy way to make money, if they hate this island like I do sometimes, if they love it like I do most of the time. It is raining and my bike is outside rusting even more. The man with the beer belly is loud and he thinks he is very important. He is happy pouring drinks and talking to everyone about sports and hurricanes and the one time he was in a tornado and his father’s lack of hair and the city he is currently living in. He tells us all about the earthquake last week and the flooding in Texas and the tornadoes in Missouri. My drink is finally gone, the one tiny drink that became an endless, watery drink. I walk outside into the other watery drink, my hair curls more, people ride by on bikes and others pull wagons and carts and cans. I walk and I wonder if the man I pass hates me, if he cares at all, probably not, he’s fine, he’s happy, I’m sure, I’m not sure. They go on walking and I go on walking and the drizzle hangs in the air and the woman pushes hard on the screen of her cell phone and shows everyone who will listen and the beer belly man scoops more ice cubes into cups and tells everyone about floods and earthquakes and Ann Arbor and how he shaves his head because he’s bald now just like his dad.
I updated my resume. “What does this space here say about me?” “Should I be risky and use italics?!”
It’s kind of a terrible thing in a sketchy system of filtering and shuffling, but I guess it works. Hopefully it works for me. If not, I’ll go back to regular, non-italic font. It’s cool.
Since I’ve been sitting here, staring at blank spaces on my screen, thinking about what they make me look like as a person, I’ve decided this is just pretty weird altogether. Me, sitting here staring at this light-box of technology. This blinking line that’s waiting for me to type something else. Blink. Blink. 100 years ago there was no blinking line! We’ve created it! What does it all mean?!
This is who I am now. My online persona. Self. (Selfies.) A new, third consciousness, built in and by the internet, this thing that exists that most of us don’t understand.
We exist in this new space. Where else will we find ourselves in the future? In 100 years? What other options will there be for my font besides bold, italic, and underline?!
Speaking in front of large (or small) groups of people? Presentations? Oh god no.
I now present to you, my seven stages of presentation anxiety:
1. The excited, naive Jenni.
Oh, yay! This presentation topic sounds interesting.
Oh, look – I can use that picture on my powerpoint slide! I’m sure the audience will think it’s as hilarious as I do!
What color scheme should I use? Blue? Red? Black and White?
This is going to be so great. They are going to love this! I am so funny. They are going to think I’m so funny!
2. The increasingly shaky Jenni.
Oh, god. My presentation is in an hour!
Are my hands shaking? My hands are shaking.
This sucks. I don’t want to do this. Can I get out of doing this, in any way possible? No. I have to do this. Crap.
Are my hands shaking? Yep, still shaking.
Ok, You’re going to do fine. Calm down. Calm down.
3. The inner peace Jenni.
Ok, deep breaths.
What does this online article say to do to relax?
Ok, deep breath in. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale.
Yep, this is working. Calm down… It’s all gonna be OK.
Maybe this weird yoga pose in this bathroom stall will help. Ah, yes. Calm. I am calm.
4. The incredibly un-calm Jenni.
Oh, god. Oh, crap. No. Please, no. Why?!
My heart is beating so fast. Sheesh, why is my heart beating so fast? Am I getting a good cardio workout out of this?
My hands are shaking. I’m not even going to look at them. I’m going to pretend this is all perfectly normal body behavior. Yup.
Deep breaths? Is that a joke? Yeah right. Crap. Only 15 minutes until my presentation.
5. The deathly calm Jenni.
Calm. So Calm. Was I ever worried? I feel fine.
My presentation is going to be fine. I know every word I’m going to say. I have my notes right here – they’ll be right in front of me while I’m talking.
So calm. Deadly calm.
This will be fine. I’ve got this.
6. The presenting Jenni.
Am I talking too loud? I don’t know how loud I’m talking.
Did I pause too long just then? Crap.
Am I going too fast?
Did I just stare blankly into the audience? What does my face look like right now?
Am I turning red? I’m turning red, aren’t I? Crap. Every time, man.
7. The I-am-super-great-at-presenting Jenni.
I did so good. Look, they’re clapping for me. Yeah.
Did I talk too loud? I don’t know if I was talking too loud.
Ok, my face feels really warm. How red did it get up there, anyway?
Are my hands shaking? Yep, still shaking. But, it’s OK because I’m done!
Until next time…
“My favorite thing to do at work is scribble down poetry in secret.”
Don’t be afraid to write it down.