They flick the switch on the dimmers and they kick into life, that low whine-hum of the lights warming up, of the electricity settling in the grid. I bend double, cycle my spine down to the floor, clicking my knees into place, unhinging my shoulders and letting the fluid snake down my arms. I am heavier here, older, achier. I stoke the fires in my belly and tuck a little lighter fluid behind my teeth, ready to bite down and let it loose. The ceiling plays static, bouncing from speaker to speaker with ping pong precision. I close my eyes like red velvet curtains and peer through the cracks at the stage. Footsteps shuffle outside, the herding stupid scrapes of too many people in too small a space. I breathe in deep, breathe in power and fear and spiny black words and I won’t breathe out til the applause hits the wall behind me and bounces back off, and I am full of its echo and myself again.