"If you happen to forget your place or blank, just take a deep breath and just keep going. No one cares. "- said my dad. My dad had a tendency to move his hands empathetically when he was really trying to convince you of something. Like a magician waving a wand, or a Jedi knight trying to convince you this aren't the droids you were looking for, his heart was always in the right place. It's too bad this hand-waving, fatherly advice technique only made things worse for me. It made me think he didn't have enough confidence in me to be saying it in the first place, this meant I didn't look confident, which made me doubt myself. He was driving me to my 7th talent show. Every year, since I was in grade one, I was chosen to represent my grade in the "Provincial Public Speech contest.
I really didn't want to be there to begin with. By grade 7, things started to change at school. The cool kids were no longer the ones who got A's, played sports, and were helpful. Instead, the cool kids were the ones who sat around and made fun of the things they were secretly insecure about. I guess I wasn't one of the cool kids anymore. This meant that delivering public speeches was no longer socially acceptable as well. Being one of the few still interested, I auditioned, I got it, except there was a difference this year- I didn't get to pick my speech. Instead, I was given a "funny" speech (which I didn't really understand), given by a teacher I didn't really like. Miss Jean had a way of ordering students around and making her eyes big to scare us. We heard a rumor she even once put a garbage can over a student's head while in the corner on time-out! Hated her. She gave me this speech because she found it funny. I didn't. Nevertheless, I loved memorizing stories. I would sit in my room and say it over and over again, singing it in my head like a song. I would practice until it was impossible for me to get it wrong. I loved the feeling of getting it right, like when you put in the last puzzle piece and complete a picture. The brain buzzes, excitement shoots across my face. I smile so big and hold on as long as possible before its over. I could recite this speech in my sleep. But, I wasn't into it. I didn't have my peers cheering me on. I couldn't feel the triumph of being the best at something and getting recognition and admiration. I just didn't care. So, here I am, driving to a talent that is no longer cool, with a speech I don't want to do, being driven by a guy who is more nervous than I am.
We finally get there. I walk into the room with the other contestants. I sit in the corner. I cross my arms, look down to avoid eye contact and stare at my unlaced shoes. I hated tying the laces, I would sometimes tie them around my ankles to avoid the big loop bunny look, I felt it took away from my RUN DMC Adidas. Anyway, I look across the room, and time feels like stopped dead in its track. I see an angel, not a literal one, but a girl I liked. She was tall (taller than I was), blonde hair, and she had a butterfly pin in her hair. She had on denim Oskosh jeans and black converse shoes. She looked like she smiled right at me as she tucked her hair behind her right ear. Then, I hear " Edward, what are YOU doing here?". Ugh, not now Veronica. Of course, the teacher's pet would be at this thing. I say "Not now, Veronica!". As she moves her face from my view, my angel is gone. She went up on stage to do her act.
Eventually, a group of boys come hang around me and we all pretend we don't really want to be there. It made me feel less nervous. Then, I hear my name called, " Edward Alexander!"- the host shouted. I started to sweat through my green polo as I walk up to the stage. The stage was set in a school gym. There were the sport banners at the top, this school wont quite a few volleyball awards, maybe my angel helped them out! I look out at the audience, I see my dad, smiling, proud. It seems he had calmed down quite a bit. Maybe putting on a brave face for me. I start my speech, I feel the spotlight beaming on my face, the audience is hanging on my words. I deliver the speech, and the audience is actually laughing and finding it funny to my surprise. As I grow confident, all of a sudden, I start to stumble as I get to the part of the speech I always struggled with in practice. It was changing from one idea to another and I hesitate before I jumped into the new paragraph. The timing threw me off. I froze. I stayed silent, I felt frozen like an animal playing dead, waiting for the prey to leave. After the first 5 seconds, I realized I couldn't escape, I needed to say something. So, I listened to my dad's self-fulfilling prophecy advice. Breathe IN. Breathe OUT. And I continued, glossing over and not acknowledging the 30 second gap in the speech. That gap made me run over time, which meant I lost. I was a loser. I felt like one before the speech even started.
The audience claps. I go to sit down next to my dad, I would have cried if there weren't so many people around. My dad lets me rest my head on his shoulder, consoling me while still proud at the same time. Then all of a sudden I hear, "Edward, you did a great job!" from a few rows in front. It was my angel! She turned around and gave me the same glance as before. This time uninterrupted, I could feel every second, as if time were in slow motion. I smile, my eyes lit up and I lifted my head. "Thanks, what's your name?" Just as she starts to say, the next act goes on, and I hear applause. "Wait, what, I didn't catch that?!". She turned around to face the show with her mom next to her. I realized it didn't matter what her name was, it didn't matter that I messed up my speech and lost. In the end, I won. I had my dad's love, and the gaze of an angel that would surround my quiet moments and thoughts for the rest of my life. No one could take either one away from me.