Three small and frayed threads lay dangling off the tip of the old and worn armrest. She twisted them around her pointer finger, Examining the colors closely: mostly bright red – just like the chair – with traces of green, white, and yellow. She pulled at them to see if they would give; they held strong. She traced the fabric of the armrest, watching with interest as the unusual pattern repeated: red, green, white, yellow. Just like the frays. She kept a relentless focus, desperate to forget the blaring stage lights, wide eyes, and unhinged expectations boring into her. A drop of sweat trickled down her back. She squirmed.
“And now, we’re excited to introduce our Keynote for tonight’s conferences, Ralyssa Wiermeyer.”
The corners of her lips curved into a shaky smile as she stood. Keep it together, Ralyssa, she said to herself. They’re just people. Stupid, shitty, dickless people that I hate.
She reached out to grab the microphone from the MC, then hesitated. She glanced nervously around her at the expectant faces. You can do this. She extended her arm again. Just don’t drop the –
The cold medal of the microphone slipped right through her grasp at hit the floor, emanating a high screeching blast across the room.
Goddamnit Raya! She silently scolded. This is such a fucking joke. The MC stooped down to pick up the mic, giving her an understanding look as she took it – firmly – in her hands once again.
“Thanks,” she said. She turned to the crowd that filled the small hotel conference room like a disease. “Hi everyone. Welcome to the Society for People Who Have to Work With Engineers,” she paused, attempting to calm her pounding heart. “Kind of stupid that we outsourced the MC but couldn’t outsource the KeyNote…” The audience laughed – she hadn’t meant it to be a joke. “Seriously, I’ve spent hundreds on therapy preparing for this thing, so let’s get it over with.”
Only half the audience laughed while the remainder shifted uncomfortably in their seats. She barely noticed. “Engineers: the humans from another planet, as I’ve heard them called, are part of our everyday lives. As I have managed to assimilate fairly well with them, I’ve been asked to share some insights into their minds and their work habits….”
Ralyssa continued her speech, maintaining the attention of the audience without cracking a smile. They watched her with curiosity as she delved out practical insights into her interactions with her fellow engineers and techniques for managing some common quirks. Each member of the crowd was captivated, boring their eyes into her and increasing her discomfort as the center of attention. She rushed through her speech, anxious to escape the judgment of these crazy strangers.
“I’ll conclude, as always, with our marching cry here at the SPWHWWE: Embrace the plaid.”
The crowd roared with applause. Ralyssa rushed to get out of sight, but was accosted by the MC who insisted on giving her a grateful handshake and a public thank you. The Director then stood to do the same and she was finally able to return to the limp red strings hanging from her chair, welcoming her back with their lifelessness.