I held my truth, written in verses crisp and clear. I worked on them, writing it out perfectly. The words were clear. I was concise. My message complete and legible.
When I was younger, my mother used to chide me on my penmanship. My teachers hounded me relentlessly for having messy handwriting. My friends could not read my handwriting into adulthood.
But I work with computers, so it normally doesn’t matter.
For this, though… I worked for hours, dotting the I’s, crossing all of the T’s, and making sure that every word was perfect. This had to be perfect.
And it was.
This was equal parts elegant, humorous, and eloquent. I had just the right flair, and just enough humility to share.
But I was nervous. I was more than nervous, in fact: I was terrified. Standing there with sweaty palms and eyes darting to and fro; I was certain I would pass out. The sound of blood rushing through my ears induced a strange vertigo while drowning out the crowd.
Of course, the crowd wasn’t real. They were just a projection of my mind, a comfort as it were. I am comfortable speaking in front of large groups. I always have been. That old adage, “Fear of public speaking is ranked higher than the fear of death” never made sense to me.
Death is final. Speaking is simple. Once you’re done, you move on to something else. How could that be less terrifying than the finality of a dark and lonely death?
I glanced at the paper, hoping that my hands weren’t wringing it. I have a nervous tick where I twist my hands. It isn’t a conscious choice. I had put my words on plain parchment paper and tucked it inside a folio. But still, I was worried.
The words were clear, and crisp, and still just as well written as I had intended. I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that I had curbed my impulses.
For now, at least.
I took three steps forward; the person in front of me was handing their own work over, and it seemed like they were explaining it.
Oh god. Would I have to explain my words? I didn’t have anything prepared. Everything I wanted to say was in the words. The crisp lines of black ink soaked into the paper like lines on thirsty skin. This was my truth; I had no more to give.
I was immediately taken back in time, standing in front of my class in High School. The teacher demanded I give a 3 minute speech, unprepared, over a topic that the class would suggest. An asshole, perhaps, or someone pretentious and self-assured, suggested the war in Darfur, of which I knew nothing. My mind was blank, and so I gave an ineffectual speech without details.
That would be me, again, after I handed over my truth. Asked to support it, I would have nothing. I would be nothing. Again taunted, though this time by the crowd of my mind.
Step. Step. Step.
The man looked at me expectantly, hand held toward me. He wasn’t scary, like I had thought. Though he wasn’t welcoming, either.
My hand trembled as I handed him the folio.
He read the words quickly. I’m not sure he noticed the crisp lines, or the perfect dots of ink over each I, but I suppose that doesn’t matter. So long as he reads, and understands…
“Thank you. Goodbye.”
It took him less than a minute to read my truth. He handed it off to an aide, who put it on top of a pile, and I was shuffled away. Through a door, and out of the building into the bright sunlight.
I took a drink of water. I tried not to cry.
Later that night, I watched from across the street as he drove off in his shiny car. I’d seen, I thought, the folio under his arm as his entourage pushed the crowd back as he slipped away. I pulled my coat back up, and I took the final drink of water I’d saved. As I turned away, the door opened again, and a large trash bag was pulled from the building and dumped in the dumpster.
I was called. That’s the only way to describe it. I was pulled from just behind the sternum to that dumpster, and flung inside by a hand larger than my own; perhaps fate or destiny or God.
Inside the dumpster, I ripped into the bag, a feeling of life and death racing through my veins. Looking, searching, knowing I would find it deep down at the bottom of the bag.
My truth. Smeared. Covered in trash. Discarded as waste. Nothing but trash.
My truth meant nothing to him, though it had been the world to me. Here it was, treated like common garbage, thrown away with the rest.
I wept in that dumpster. Though I tried, the tears would not stay away. They burned my eyes; burned my soul from within.
Coughing, I rolled out of the dumpster, kicking myself for giving the slick-talking guy a free folio; wasting the last of my money to try and convince him by using special pens and paper. The trappings of perfection were worthless when the message came from someone like me.
I found myself under the bridge later. I’m not sure how I got there. Surrounded by friends… no, family. I uncrumpled my tear stained truth, and read it to those assembled. My voice was not pretty, and the words were smeared and discolored.
But the message was clear, and each person there heard it. And I suppose, as I lay here freezing, writing this, that was enough. I won’t live to see tomorrow, but the truth, my truth, my story… It will live on tomorrow, in them. It will mingle with their truth, and become something more.
Eventually, it will live everywhere. Someday.