My path to this month’s Reading Under the Influence led me from my neighborhood to a mist-filled Lakeview. Mist is a weird thing. It can’t decide if it wants to be rain or fog, and what we’re left with is the weird feeling that we’re walking into rain droplets stuck in the air.
Then I entered Sheffield’s, flashed my ID because I look like a fifteen-year-old, paid the three dollar cover, and sat at the bar. I got there early like I usually do, so the backroom was mostly empty except for some of the hosts and one or two other people I didn’t know. I talked with the bartender some until my friend Liz showed up, then slowly but surely a line filed in and filled the backroom space.
Now, I was excited last time because there was a microphone. I like microphones. They make your voice loud. They’re light and can be easily held. They’re a helpful addition to any reading series, especially to RUI. There was a microphone last month and I welcomed it’s shining presence. The microphone and its stand glistened. It spoke to me. What did it say? “Hey. I’m a microphone.” It wasn’t too bright, and I’m pretty sure English was its second language, but it coated the readers’ voices with volume in a way yelling could not. Microphones are magnificent. They are beautiful. They are life.
And it wasn’t fucking there this time. The microphone has yet again disappeared leaving me lost, heartbroken, yet hopeful for its return.
Notice I didn’t put as the title “Reading Series Review” as I normally do. This won’t be a review, but merely some musings on the night, like how I won at trivia yet again. One of the readers’ trivia was based on Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and though it’s been years since I’ve read the book, it’s been a month since I’ve seen the movie. I got my free shot of Malort and got as my winning book Vivid and Continuous, a writing handbook by John McNally of Book of Ralph fame. I handed it to my friend Anna, an old student I tutored months back.
My friend Liz and I gossiped about old friends and updating each other on their lives. The conversation was tame until the subject of two specific friends came up. We talked about an argument between the two, which ended with the two in question not on speaking terms, and Liz said she at one point worried for one’s safety. I asked her to delve further into that thought. “Well, let’s just say I have certain opinions about…” the other person in question.
"Excuse me? That would never happen.”
"Well, you know them better than I do, but again, you have your opinions, I have mine."
She hasn’t spoken to the people in question face to face in months. I haven’t seen one in a while, though I keep up on social media, and the other I’d seen twice in the past week. I changed the subject because I couldn’t stand her inferring that one of my best friends was a physically violent brickhead, but for the past four days, I’ve been wringing my hands for not calling her out on it moreso than I did that night, if I did at all.
Brendan updated us on his own life, which is similar to everybody’s life in their 20s - poor, looking for jobs, and drinking. Meanwhile during one of the author introductions, I fine-tuned my ears when host Behnam said, “If any of you want to read at an upcoming RUI, hit me up, send us your writing,” something to that effect. At the halftime break, he came over to where my friends and I were by the bar, and I said, “Hey Behn.”
"You guys should have me read here."
"Send some of your writing."
Later I told Brendan, “He shouldn’t have said that.”
Brendan smiled hesitantly. “Why?”
"Because now I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna send him so much.”
After the reading Liz had to leave, but Brendan and I hung out with hosts Behn, Bronwyn, and RUI frequenter Keith, and they drank and talked about past happenings while I watched and threw in a couple bits once in a while if I had something to say. Words they said:
- “didn’t tell”
Grab whatever context you can from those.
Otherwise, it was your basic RUI. The turnout was a sizeable one - not as many as last month’s not as few as the months before that one, but good nonetheless. The readers knew what to do, the stories were banging, and the drinks flowed.
But I need to go further into why that conversation with Liz had me so up in arms. There are men women who are beaten by their friends, significant others, etc. Then, there are the men and women who lie. I’ve known victims on both sides, people who’ve at one point or another had to hide their black eyes, and those who would never hurt another human, but are arrested anyway because their exes are spiteful in a disgusting kind of way. The latter is worse because for every person who lies about being beaten, just to get back at somebody, it makes it easier for the real cases of domestic violence to be discredited with, “Well how do we really know they’re telling the truth?” and “They could’ve just done it to themselves. People lie these days.” For my friend to say openly that she believes this person, who she admittedly said she does not know as well as most other people, could physically harm another human being without any evidence to support such behavior except for a petty bias, can do so much more damage than she could imagine.
One shouldn’t spread rumors like this, even if it’s just an “opinion.” Words are mangled when transferred from person to person, and who knows what state they’ll be in at the end of the road. Unless you have any hardened evidence to support an accusation or opinion as heavy as what she inferred - conversations with the victim, bruises, scars, change in behavior - keep it to yourself.