I wanted to share with you guys a piece of fiction that popped into my head this afternoon. It draws pretty heavily on some of the nostalgic emotions I’ve been feeling for the last few days. I hope you enjoy it. -MB
I am not the golden child. That is something I think that most people never truly able to admit to themselves. There is always a lingering belief that we are each the hero of our own story. I don’t have that belief. I know the truth. I am not the hero of my own story. I am an extra, a background player, in the stories of some of the most amazing and interesting people. There is a level of comfort that comes with that knowledge. When you’re not the star of the story you have a lot less trouble to worry about. It isn’t an exciting life, either. For the most part, I just float through life, existing.
That was probably the reason I first began to day dream. I would stare off into space and let my mind wonder away into fantasy lands, non-existent conversations and epic battles between super heroes and gods. While I sat quietly in the background of the stories around me, I was busy letting the world slide around inside my head and reshape itself to fit my whims. It was the easiest way to accept my fate in life, stumbling through the background of other stories. It was an escape from my destiny.
I was sitting in my desk, three chairs from the back of the room, the row against the farthest wall as one of those daydreams began to play. Inside my head, the tableau of the classroom seemed the same as it always did. The cinderblock walls were still painted the same shade of grey-blue. The teacher still spoke with the warm, resonating tones that you’d expect from everyone’s favorite English professor in a teen movie. The students sat with a mixture of rapt attention and extreme boredom, the posturing of the teenage social hierarchy evident to anyone that was willing to look at it. The differences between reality and the daydreams wasn’t always huge. As many would be subtle replaying of a conversation as would be epic struggles between good and evil.
This fantasy was one that was both subtle in the differences and, to the mind of a seventeen-year-old, more grand in scale than most I’d had before. It was a familiar dream, though, and despite not having dragons, magic swords or arm cannons, it was the farthest from possible reality that I ever dared to dream. This was the dream in which I wasn’t the background character. It was the dream when I stood and took charge of the story.
It was that nightmare again.
In the perception of my mind, time slowed down and the open and exposed feeling of the classroom seemed to become fuzzier and darker, somehow warmer and more intimate in the process, as though the edges of the world had simply fallen away at the barrier of my sight and everything had enclosed and tightened around me. There had always been something about small, enclosed spaces that I had found comforting, and more so as I had grown from something of a runt into a fairly large young man. Maybe it was because I was an extra, a set dressing, and when I wasn’t needed for the scene, I’d be most comfortable back in the box or closet that I was meant to be kept in. In this confining room, one that had felt far too open and exposed in reality, I felt at home and comfortable. That was why my mind twisted it as it did.
You can’t truly know true fear until you have something you don’t want to lose.
In my mind, I rose and walked casually to the front of the classroom. I was a teacher’s assistant for this particular teacher during the afternoon, and he smiled warmly at me as he let me have the lectern. The class before me was filled with people I knew, or rather people I had mild associations with. I didn’t really feel like I knew anyone, truth told. They were not the normal students that had been enrolled in this class, but this wasn’t reality, and I wasn’t held to the normal confines of emotional suicide. Here, my nostalgic guilt and worry could be infinitely magnified.
Almost on queue, that thought prompted the daydream to change, microphones jutting from the lectern and cameras springing into existence directly in front of me, staring at me with gusto. I knew that I was being broadcast across the entire school by that camera. It didn’t make me nervous here, the way it should have. I don’t like being on film. I don’t like cameras.
I took a deep breath and sorted through the notes on the lectern, all of them a jostle of prepared thoughts in my own handwriting, even if I had no idea what they said now. I knew what they meant. On each sheet of paper was the name of a person and below that a series of confessions that I desperately longed to tell that person, but never would. I looked directly into the camera, smiled warmly and began to read the notes from memory. Exposing every secret thought I’d had, every desire, rage, and emotion. It was incredibly liberating, and I knew that my subconscious was trying to tell me that it was the right thing to do. It was trying to tell me to be honest with myself and try to be more than mediocre.
The bell rang, and the class began to file out. I gathered my things and began to file out with them. A heavy, quiet shame hanging from my shoulders as my eyes dropped to the floor.
I could never tell anyone how I felt. I could never admit those feelings and thoughts. I could never stand before a score of people and rouse them with my words.
I am not the star of the story. I am not the hero. I am a background player in the lives of amazing men and women.
I am not the golden boy.