Through The Cold

He walked through the Thursday evening cold with ****.

“I’ve got to stop fooling myself and accept that it’s winter,” she said. “I never look at the weather reports.”

She shivered.

They were on the way to the Workmen’s Circle where he’d read a 1200-word story. It was the culmination of a ten-week workshop in storytelling.

Shortly after they arrived, the teacher called the presenters up front and had them read a couple of sentences so she could check for volume.

The teacher told him he had to speak up. “You said you knew how to project,” she reminded him. “You study Alexander.”

As he stood upfront struggling with his words, he thought through his Alexander directions and tried to implement them. To no avail. He had no voice.

He excused himself and went outside and did his voice exercises from the book “Change Your Voice, Change Your Life” even though they caused him to violate his Alexander principles by tensing his neck.

Then he tried reading his story aloud to the traffic on Robertson Blvd.

His felt tight. He couldn’t get enough breath. He couldn’t project.

He abandoned his exercises and concentrated on his Alexander directions. He still couldn’t project.

He went inside and waited for his friends to show. For his readers to show up. For his fans to show up.

Nobody showed.

He felt desolate. He thought he had more pull than this. He’d advertised his performance on his blog and on his Facebook page. More than a thousand people had seen this and none of them chose to show up.

“I’m not as powerful as I thought,” he realized. “I have delusions of grandeur. Ahead of me is desolation. I’ll never raise the funds to finish my Alexander teacher training. I’ll never get out of my credit card debt. I’m doomed.”

The girl who said she wasn’t bringing anyone? Well, six of her friends showed.

When it came time for him to read, his teacher couldn’t find her glasses to introduce him. So he read his own introduction in a thin voice.

He struggled through the first two paragraphs of his story unable to project. Then he lifted his story off the podium with his right hand and brought it closer to his face. He shoved his left hand in his pocket and he felt himself relax and then his voice filled out the room.

He got excited as he motored along and he found himself flinging his arms around to emphasize key points.

This one finely dressed dude in the back was half asleep when he began but now he was finally awake and listening intently.

He felt himself commanding the room’s attention and he felt good as he finished.

After the show, a secular socialist asked him, “Do you live up to Judaism’s laws regarding sex?”

“No,” he answered.

“Is that an aim for you?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Good,” said the socialist.

“Why do you care if I am observant of Jewish law?” he asked.

“I just want you to live up to your own ideals,” said the socialist.

People like authenticity.

“Why don’t you get married?” asked the socialist.

“I want to,” he said. “It’s not so simple. Why don’t you get married?”

He chatted with a black woman wearing a t-shirt for the “Zora Neale Thurston/Richard Wright Foundation.”

“That’s an odd pairing,” he thought. “Thurston was a Republican. Wright was a communist.”

He went up to the lady and said, “Did you know that Thurston was a conservative Republican?”

She did not.

Nobody knew that.

“I want to write about class anxiety,” he told a friend. “I’m fascinated by the anxiety people feel when they are between classes, desperately trying to stay on top. One of the markers is when people feel the need to point out that something they’ve said or done is ironic. People secure with themselves don’t do this.”

“I don’t think class is an issue in America,” she said. “I think it’s about race.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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