The back room of Crush Bar is packed for tonight's event of the Burnt Tongue quarterly reading series. Stephen and I sit at a little round table at the back of the small room, he with a burger and a cocktail, I with a shameless plate of nachos and a glass of red, and ahead, through the crowd dappled with flecks from the overhead disco ball, Kelly Jeske stands on stage at the microphone, reading her essay - stories of betrayal, of death, of burial, of rage, of rising up, of life in this new world.
A lot of tonight's essays have been about life in this new world. One particularly favorite piece was entitled "The Morning after the Tangerine Apocalypse." We're preaching to the choir, yes, but it feels good to be here in the midst of all these good people, all feeling the same horror. The evening started with a shout, a communal primal scream that host Daniel Elder led all of us in bellowing up to the rafters or to high heaven or to the abyss, one very satisfying word: fuck.
With all of this, I'm only slightly distracted by the fact that I seem to have dripped wine on my top. One small spot of darker purple on the lighter purple fabric. I thought I'd done so earlier in the evening, only to look down later and see it gone. Then even later, damned if I didn't do it again, and it must be for real this time, because - wait - look down and... what the hell! It's gone again!
Both times this magic happens, I only let it lightly brush across my consciousness because the reading pulls me back in and holds me hard, Kelly Jeske, reading about burial, she and her young daughter burying a dead mouse in the yard. Not as a funeral per se but, "to see deconstruction and transformation that happens deep below the surface."
"The morning after the election," Kelly reads, "she surfaces out of sleep, uncovers her warm brown body, eyes shining. She says she fell asleep before Hilary became president."
A huge tear, one of many tonight, jumps from my eye. It seems to have so much force that it misses my face entirely. It lands, yes, on my shirt.