Don’t Forget Me
By: Mackenzie M. Hebner
They told me to write something unforgettable; so I did. I wonder if they ask that of all The Greats or just me. Though, I suppose I’m not a great, just a sixteen-year-old boy in a tux, standing before a panel of pensive yet emotionless judges stuffed into stuffy tuxes of their own that seemed too small from how uncomfortable they looked. Or perhaps it was just that they had nothing better to do than sit and listen to a long line of sixteen-year-old boys in tuxedos a little too big for them recite something they stole from A Great—Not that they plagiarized or anything. The idea just simply wasn’t original, and they tried so hard to twist and tangle their words just enough to boggle your mind just so that you’ve been convinced it’s rather ingenious and unheard of even though Hemingway or Faulkner, Salinger or Vizzini, Kesey or Chbosky, David Foster Wallace or the Disciples really penned it all first. It’s sickening really—maybe it’s endless lines of desperate and half-wit talented prepubescents that leave the panel before me with such deserted expressions, heavy features cycling toward the table below them and rising back-to again as the reader’s voice intonates a new thought more aggressively than before.
“Uh...m...m...m,” I clear my throat, stepping up to take my turn—one after a boy in an oversized tuxedo with brown shaggy hair, one before a boy in an oversized tuxedo with shaggy blonde hair, me in the middle with an oversized tuxedo with chocolate milk spilled under the cummberbund (which personally I thought was a little excessive but adoptive parents can be so convincing when they really want you to have a good future and have your sob-story of a past as their power-play bargaining chip).
They don’t announce my name or anything. It’s just two letters, the fifth and the twelfth letters of the alphabet to be exact, next to your basic caucasian male surname: Turner. I’m thankful my last name is Turner and not Smith because Smith is an even more basic caucasian name and would make mine sound way too feminine. El is bad enough but the Turner seems to add a masculine edge.
They don’t move when I clear my throat, nor do they stir or writhe at all, just remain stagnant, ruminating over the course of events that left them here, listening to boys like Evan before me and Jake after me copycat The Greats and pretend it’s their own Promethean intellect. Bonehead Phonies. Anyways, they don’t move as I place my 8x11 down on the podium in front of me and they don’t squirm when the chocolate milk makes a slight appearance, slipping out of my cummberbund and not quite hidden by the wood-counterfeit shape before me that’s supposed to separate their attention onto me as opposed to the seventy-five Copy-Cats lined before and after me. Their expressions and body languages remain lifeless as a moribund body whose cognitive level is too good for their own good in such a situation.
Evan eyes me as I reach up to adjust my bowtie, stalling a moment longer. I’m not sure why I’m so intent on such an extended pause. I suppose I don’t compare myself to the boys in this room, I would never put myself in the same box. And yet this isn’t a place where you stand out. Though unforgettable, I fear my words may be wasted here. But after all, isn’t that the dreadful principle? Such words won’t stand out amongst a crowd of moribund bodies and oversized-tuxedo-wearing prepubescents who crave fame and fortune above honor and validation. Perhaps it’s wasted words, but the greater sleepless thought is that there will never be a place where they will be internalized as more than congealed syllables uttered by yet another oversized-tuxedo wearer. So, I clear my throat a second time—this one makes them squirm a little, though not in the way I had originally desired, more of a “what is this moron doing?” kind of way—and leave them with one set of congealed syllables by a prepubescent teenager in yes, an oversized tuxedo, for them to swallow:
“You told me to write something unforgettable. So I did. But this is no place for unforgettable words, so I won’t waste my precious cogitations that will only be counted as points and swallowed up by the hungry boys beside me who are so desperate to be famous they come to a place where they will never stand out. No, I will not waste my words on you. I will sell them to the stars and the sky where you will never be able to reach them and watch them multiply beautifully and cover the expanse. And you will boil in your straight-back chairs that you never listened to that one boy because you were too busy ruminating over your failures. My name is El Turner and you will forget me. But one day, the stars will remind you, when you look up and see my name spelt out amongst the galaxies and realize that what once was an opportunity, is now another failure to add to your ever multiplying list of regrets.” I pause. “Don’t forget me.”
I step off the podium.
They don’t say anything, they just let me go. And so I did, fully intendent on becoming the next Hemingway or Faulkner, Salinger or Vizzini, Kesey or Chbosky, David Foster Wallace or Disciple. Not to steal their work as the nitwits here. No. On the same podium as them (The Greats), equally outstanding, chocolate milk and all. One day I would wear a tux that wasn’t so oversized and it wouldn’t have a stain mostly hidden beneath the cummberbund. No. Instead it would have a freaking belt with chocolate milk in every holster. And people wouldn’t dare to question because I’d be one of The Greats and my actions would simply be accepted because of my genius and equal standing to Hemingway and Faulkner. And all those gosh-dang, moribund judges would be in the audience of my speech scoffing at my belt, but they’d be the only ones scoffing. And while they scoffed, I’d be giving million dollar speeches that would pen my name amongst the stars like I swore to them all those years ago when I was just a kid.