Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the boy's gone

How old are you?, he finally asked. It was obvious the question had been bothering him for quite some time now. I was just about to ask him to spell Schenectady on the board when he finally got the guts to ask his question.

22, I replied abruptly. Now what’s your answer to number three? I wanted to get back to business as soon as possible. I learned early on that in my profession, being young wasn’t a good thing. I could risk my credibility. After all, who would listen to a 22 year old? I’ve always felt like I was old for my age but days like this, I feel I am once again pimply-faced and juvenile.

A simple question has once again thrown me. Admittedly, I couldn’t focus on the task at hand. I started wondering what this newfound knowledge was doing to my credibility. Were they still going to listen to me once they learn I’m practically half their age?

For a few minutes, my mind spaces out. The walls, tables and chairs start to blur. Suddenly, I am but a tiny tadpole in a lake full of frogs. Their croaks and ribbits fill the air while I try my hardest to make my legs stronger. I want to be as strong as them, I silently wished. I watched them leap and catch flies, their tongues dancing in the air. I feel envious. I am still. Will I ever be just like them?

There’s a ticking in my head that tells me if I don’t fit the mold soon, I’m going to have to leave the lake. It’s a slow breaking down of the body and mind. My legs are tired but they try to swim anyway. The water feels heavy. I can’t breathe. Damn it, I can’t breathe!

Be so happy with the way you are. Just be happy that you made it this far. Go on. Be happy now.

Over break, an elderly woman asked me the same question. 22, I once again replied. She started talking about her daughter and how she’s much older than me. I’m sure your mother’s very proud of you. Sarap mo sigurong ampunin. I managed a polite smile but in my head, I was practically screaming. My cover’s blown. They’re on to me. Pretty soon, they’ll have to stick me in the back office till I start growing facial hair.

Please be happy now. Because you say this is something else. This is something else.

I need a vacation. Nothing makes sense anymore. I search through the cabinets of my life. A few unpublished posts here, some unsorted memories there and a handful of people (myself included) left behind in pursuit of glory. Is this glory?, I wondered. It sure doesn’t feel like it. Most days, it feels more like a well choreographed dance. My mind knows the steps very well but my body refuses to cooperate. Turn left, turn right and pirouette. Disillusioned, I turn right, turn left and fall flat on my knees. The auditorium is silent. The curtain falls and so does my heart.

This is the price you pay for dreaming, I heard her say. I searched for her voice but I couldn’t find her. Where did she go? My tadpole legs struggle to swim to her but it’s too late. It’s too late. She’s wised up and left.

I lay in bed. It’s 24 minutes to lights out. In ten hours, the dance will start again. Turn left, turn right and pirouette. Turn left, turn right and pirouette.