Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The GrandSLAM

Man, was that fun!  I got to meet Peter Sagal, who hosted the event, a bunch of Moth people, and the 9 other featured storytellers.  I told my story in front of a sold out crowd at the Park West, where something like 700 people hung on my every word.  14 of my friends and family came out to see me, and hooted and hollered for me when I got called onstage.  I even got to use a green room, which I haven't done since high school.

It was magic.

I'm tired and spaced out now, and a little sad that it's over.  Below is my story, the theme of the night was "identity crisis".  Enjoy.  YouTube clips to follow.

I woke with an urgent need to urinate.
I slipped out from my date’s bed, and tiptoed out to the open door of the bathroom, where I heard the familiar sound of a leaky faucet; a thin, but persistent stream of water falling from an old tap into an equally old basin.  Like all nearsighted people, I squinted just to make sure I was standing in the right place.  I stood fully in the open doorway, and squinted again, a little harder this time.  I then took a couple steps into the bathroom, and although I was fairly certain of my powers of deduction, squinted a third time for good measure
That’s when I saw the figure of a man standing in front of the toilet, staring at me as if I were a naked, near-sighted apparition come to haunt him. The sound of falling water, I realized too late, was in fact the sound of a man taking a wiz.  Although I'd been standing fully naked for a good thirty seconds, I instinctively covered my breasts with one hand, my privates with the other, and struck a pose like that of Botticelli’s "The Birth of Venus".  I ran back into the bedroom, still as full of urine as when I left, and jumped under the covers. "What's going on?" my date asked sleepily.  "I had to pee, and I went into the bathroom and your roommate was in there, and he saw me naked, and now I still have to pee, but I'm not going back in there," I said. He was remarkably unfazed by this turn of events and easily fell back asleep.  Somehow I was able to do the same, despite the orb of urine in my bladder.
I began spending a lot of time in the apartment where I’d been a myopic flasher, and although I did learn my lesson – I never went anywhere in that apartment without my glasses ever again, I felt awkward around the roommate, Randy. At least once a day I would remember that Randy had seen me not just naked, but naked, bent over, and squinting.  It was a hard image to shake, and it made me shy around him.  I’ve never been good with speaking up; I’ve never sent dish back in a restaurant, even if it’s not the one I ordered, I spent the fifth grade being best friends with a girl I didn’t like because I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the truth, and I once allowed a teacher to call me by the wrong name for an entire semester rather than correct her.  This got weird at parent teacher conference day, but at least I didn’t have to be the one to let her know.  There was no way I was bringing up the naked incident.  The fact that Randy was gay didn’t make me feel better about my indiscretion – if he’d been straight, maybe I could have convinced myself that I’d given him a free show, but I had inflicted full frontal, squinty nudity on a man who wanted none of it. 
As our friendship developed, so did my nagging sense that the naked incident was going to become my tell tale heart – I wasn’t going to be able to relax and be myself around Randy until we had openly acknowledged that this had happened.  While it turned out that we had quite a bit in common: we both had cats named “Whiskers” when we were kids; the state of Indiana was a cause for anxiety to both of us; and we were both slightly lactose intolerant but refused to give up dairy; he never once mentioned the incident.   Had I really scarred him that badly? 
I was trying to get better at speaking up, and I made it my mission to clear the air with Randy; after all, if I couldn’t confront this, how was I ever going to be able to send back food at restaurants, or tell people my name, or whether or not I liked them?  We made a date to go to the Chicago Historical Society, and went to lunch at a diner afterwards.   This was, I decided, the moment. “So, Randy,” I began, twirling a French fry in a puddle of ketchup on my plate, “do you remember the time when, um, I stayed over a long time ago…”  I searched his face for some sign – some light of recognition, some indication that he knew where I was going with this.  Nothing.  “And it was the middle of the night, and I had to pee…”  I searched his face again.  Still nothing, this guy had a serious poker face.  “And I was… naked?”  I finally said.  Randy’s brow furrowed, he leaned back, and cocked his head slightly to the left.  Finally, the memory of it crawled out from deep in the files of his mind, manifesting itself first in the release of his eyebrows, then in the slackening of his jaw, and we made eye contact.   I held my breath.
“That wasn’t me,” he said, “That was my ex-boyfriend, Ron.” 
A wave of emotions cascaded over me: relief, embarrassment, confusion.   I knew I had bad eyesight, but what was especially perplexing was that Randy was white, and his ex-boyfriend, Ron, was black.  There’s something beautifully universal and post-racial about that - maybe the key to world peace is universal myopia.  There’s also something really disturbing about it.  This whole time I’d been shy around Randy because I thought he had seen me naked, when in fact it had been a completely different person.  What did this say about me?  How many other situations had I misjudged in my life?  My ability to interpret my surroundings had been cast into doubt.  I wasn’t sure I could be relied on to make judgments on situations like who was at fault in a car accident, or even tell the difference between a parked car and a dumpster.  What I took away from it is this:  in my eyes, you are all equally beautiful, and equally blurry; and for God’s sake, never call on me for eyewitness testimony, and if I’m ever accidentally naked in front of you, don’t hesitate to bring it up in conversation, because chances are I didn’t know that it was you.