neon : rehearsal

It ends with a shiny new Detroit terminal, and the most expensive rental car you've ever arranged for. You pass the giant tire, a covered-up Ferris wheel that seems strangely metaphorical for this collapsing city, into one of the strangest urban areas your home country has to offer.

You are keenly aware that you are absolutely alone, and you know you have fewer than twelve hours to call this whole ridiculous set of shenanigans off.  You are not a teacher; you are the daughter of one, and you ran screaming from that profession as far as your geeky, chubby legs could carry you.

You are not a teacher, you repeat into the phone to someone who is. You are not certain whether you want reassurance, or a kick in the ass.  You get both. You pace your hotel room and stare out to the Detroit skyline, contemplating how you will fail spectacularly the next morning, and rehearse your apologies.

Then you pull out your notebook and give your learning style free rein. You take the slides you have so carefully designed and write them out again in outline form in your beloved, tiny, smooth-paper French notebook, with the exchange-student pen and the brightest, showiest blue ink you've ever owned.  If you're going to fail, by God, you are going to fail in the brightest colors possible.

You write down your slides in outline form, believing it will make no difference but hoping that perhaps the act of dropping ink on paper will somehow make it okay.  You hope the universe is listening, and take the notebook with you to the restaurant on the third floor, where you say the loneliest words in the universe ("just a table for one, please") and you stare out at the sun as it sets on the Detroit skyline.

It is Mother's Day.

The black women in the Sunday-best hats are being treated to casino dinners by their grandchildren, and the blonde woman sitting alone in the corner of the restaurant is only a vague curiosity, at best. You long for a drink, anything to soothe your nerves, and perversely that is why you do not allow yourself to have one. This decision to take this class was just that, a decision, and one that you must face with full faculties intact.

The bed, when you return to it, is enormous, and contains no sleep.  Perhaps it was the picture-perfect set of white sheets, the absence of Tenzing shoving your feet, or your spouse's gentle snoring, but all you can think about are the lights from the parking lot that are illuminating your room and the absolute certainty that you are going to humiliate yourself starting at eight-thirty sharp.

When you awaken that Monday morning, you stand in the glassed-in shower and try to think your way five moves ahead in this chess game, in the hopes of seeing a path to victory.

All you see is the gorgeous French scarf you waited months to buy. You cannot disguise your nervousness with it, but it will certainly hide your sunburn.

You put it on, and you walk down with Cary to get your car.