(Resuming the story. Happy Passover!)
The day arrived, a Sunday morning. Four of us were chanting, and our teacher and the other students, along with some very devoted friends, also woke up at the crack of dawn to join us for moral support. Bleary-eyed and nervous, we retreated to the rows of chairs along the sides of the dark sanctuary to review lines about grain offerings and bulls of pleasant odor. My xerox of the tikkun was almost disintegrated by now, the fold separating the right side of the page with the vowels and notes from the left side with the unadorned facsimile of the scroll just bits of white paper dust held together by a few thin strands of fiber and prayers.
Despite my fears, the heavens did not split with peals of thunder and lightning when it was my turn to read. I went up to the bima, said the blessings, and placed the yad on the scroll. My hands were shaking, keeping time with my knees; I realized I would have to grasp the yad with both hands in order to make sure it didn't take me to Leviticus, instead. Suddenly it was just like my first piano recital, or the time I stood in front of everyone at an a cappella workshop and sang "Dream a Little Dream of Me," looking out at a crowd that seemed curved and distorted in their seats like the reflection in an elevator mirror, amazed that my racing heart and the nakedness of what came out of my mouth did not cause me to collapse into a little ball on the stage. I remembered that I emerged intact from those experiences, and took a deep breath and began to chant.