He has stage fright. The real deal.
Social phobia with all the trimmings.
Speaking in front of anyone renders him paralyzed with irrational but no less numbing terror.
Talking to a store clerk makes him sweat.
Let alone giving a speech in front of assembly.
The whole school. Faculty, too.
He trembles at the thought.
“You don’t have to do this.” His mother. She is distressed by his distress. Protective.
“But I do,” he says.
He asks me to teach him how “to speak even when my throat gets stuck.”
We work on it. On breath, on visualizing, on rhythm and on parsing and on tone and pitch and breath again. He practices. With me, at the mirror, with family, with a good friend.
He knows the words by heart. He wrote them. A speech about things that oh-so-matter and are so very needing-to-be-said.
“The words come into my dreams,” he tells me. “Is that weird?”
I shrug. I don’t think so. “What do you think?”
He smiles shyly. “I think they want me not to be afraid. The words. Like we are friends now, words and me.”
The day comes.
He calls me in the evening.
“I threw up twice and I trembled like crazy,” he says, but his voice is giddy. “Then I thought about the words. My words … like friends. The beads on the necklace like we practiced … and I could breathe … I was still scared but I did it anyway!”