four impossible words
i. we imagine justice
I wanted to shock.
I wanted to write. I compared myself, compulsively, to everyone around me. I needed it, my image. I needed to be better than them.
I’ve started every sentence with I. My narcissism, again. Self-centered and emotional writer.
I suppose I would have to agree with that assessment, were someone to give it. As it is, no one really knows. I am the hunched body, the dark body in the back of the classroom. Hunched so that no one notices. Ironic, isn’t it? That I don’t want to be noticed? I suppose that’s not strictly true. I want recognition only in my daydreams. I want recognition only if I know it will be good. I want to be Anna, the mysterious admired shadow Lupe.
Someone told me once that I could be famous, and instantly, I was intoxicated.
I feel as though, through my writing, somehow, everything would change. Somehow, suddenly, everyone would get it. But then, I think in terms of universal perfection in my dreams. This is what writers do. We imagine justice.
The problem. We imagine.
We this, we that, as though I’m already in their ranks, inducted into this society, this elite club. We take only the best.
Is it premature to call myself a writer? I’ve already overcome the worst challenge: adolescence. Scribbling in journals, delivering my insights on philosophy to a class of glazed eyes and drooling mouths... tough crowd indeed.
The problem is that somehow, I always think they’ll listen. Generally, my fantasies skip past my actual writing to running into an old classmate in the Food Shop, or sometimes the Book Shop.
They tell me they never knew I was such a good writer.
They are cowed. They step back, and apologize. And I smile.
The Nimmo looks up, does a double-take. “Is that—”
“Yes,” the girl in front of me says, her eyes awed. “It’s Anna.”
And then the Nimmo is gone, except that the girl is still there. Her eyes don’t seem to be quite as worshipping anymore. Why is that?
Oh, of course. I’m back in real life, where I am nothing except a vague hope. Potential is so subjective.
She hardly sees me, pushes me out of her way, and I want to call, wait, wait. But what would I say?
You just pushed a prodigy?
I feel sure I can do it, whatever it is that I want. But then, who isn’t? What’s the point of a pointless dream?
The fact is that I’m afraid of everyone around me. Honestly. Or rather, afraid of what they might do to my self-esteem. Because, at the same time as being narcissistic, I’m dangerously insecure. Potential is subjective. Do I have it?
And now my fantasies come in, and all the wondering is over, the waiting. I spend my time writing ferociously witty insights that nevertheless cut straight to the heart, to truth. And I know myself; I know what I can do.
I want to be a genius.
ii. the oxymoron of my life
I sing when I’m alone. Only when I’m alone.
It’s so personal, the sound. Something you create, and no one else can. Your own, from your throat.
I’ve been told I should sing at the talent show. It would be good practice singing in front of an audience. I respond that (a) I don’t want to sing in front of anyone else and (b) I can’t. Really.
How are you ever going to be a singer?
I ignore this.
I probably won’t be. It’s competitive, difficult... and besides, who wants to listen to a Hissi sing? A brown Hissi sing?
It even sounds ridiculous. A Hissi sings. The oxymoron of my life.
If you’re ugly, you don’t sing onstage. You don’t really sing at all. It’s that simple. And I’m ugly.
I hate the expression watch me sing. It’s so true. The watching is dominant. First the eyes, and then the ears, and I watch them back, a staring contest as they judge me, and finally I want to scream, shut your eyes so you can hear.
You could be famous. I hate those four words because they sound so very, very appealing. And so very reachable, when it’s put that way. Of course you could be famous; it’s just like a math test!
I like math. I like things to be set in stone. I like things to follow logically, regularly, predictably. The only justice is in math, where everything has a set pattern: this is how it is, this is how it always will be. Plain, simple. Rather than in life, when you hear speeches about judging by people’s interiors and then see the same people stop trusting you when they see your yellow eyes.
In a way, that’s why I want to sing. I want to know that they’re listening. Turn off their thoughts and close their eyes for just one moment.
It’s become an obsession to me. I think of it as the one obstacle; the one reason I’m not already on the stage in Tyrannia with an audience of thousands.
I need something to blame.
I can’t sing in front of anyone... really?
Is that really true?
I start to wonder, looking around the small room.
I begin to hum under my breath, cautiously, cautiously.
Someone is sitting beside me. Her mouth curves up in half a smile.
I keep humming. Hoping that, for now, it’s enough.
iii. as though i don’t count
Yes, I am annoyed. When you fight for your entire career, fight for every single job opportunity, it tends to happen.
When you lose every fight, it gets worse.
I am an unknown quantity, a red Usul just like the other thousand that pass by every day, who might have talent, except no one knows.
I have never actually had a role since Neoschool. I’m embarrassed when I say I’m an actress, as though I don’t count. In my mind, I don’t. I’m not good enough.
“Auditions are brutal,” my friend consoles me.
Oh, fantastic. Auditions are brutal. Just what is that supposed to mean? And how is it comforting?
It wasn’t even, “You’ll get a part eventually,” which I’ve heard multiple times and which generally sends me into even further frustration. Because what does eventually mean, and how soon does it happen?
It’s not that I’m demanding, exactly. Nor that I’m impatient. It’s just that, after all this, it’s hard not to start believing you don’t matter.
Since I have had trouble with that for years, it’s all but impossible. And I want to give up.
“Never give up.”
A thousand annoying voices in my head, perky and bright and permanently optimistic. I can’t just keep running after something that will never happen. There are other things I could be doing.
But the problem with the annoying voices is that half of me agrees with them. And half of me wants this. Passionately, fervently wants it, enough to stand up after every failed audition, every failed attempt, and keep going.
Except that the other half has run out of breath.
“You could be famous.” That’s the hardest voice of all. Four impossible words. Why can’t it be easy to give up? Forget it ever happened? Leave it all behind? Because of that almost-promise. Hope is harder to live with.
I really do believe it. Maybe it’s egotistical of me, but I do. Enough that I’d audition again. And again. And again.
Because I’ve never been able to let go.