Fiction Inspirational American

These eyes linger across the wooden panels that make for slippery steps each time I glide from up- to downstage. Tripping over words and cursing self when balance is lost and eloquence stretches beyond reach. 

“Who will I be today?”

The curtain draws near, with only an hour to finalize preparations, perfect the monologue and hope the words land in favor of winner’s fate.  Beyond the looking glass, fear reigns supreme.  

“Can I do this?” 

“There’s no time for that.  I must do this.”

“Deep breath.  You’ve done the work.”  

“Deep breath.  Feigned words cannot persuade.”

“Deep breath.  Be present.” 

“Be you.  Just let yourself be you.”

With these hazel eyes adjusting to reflect the colors below the neckline, it is no wonder chameleon-like tendencies thwart these simple commands.  

“Just let yourself be you.”

Which version? There have been many.  Even if I show up today, which me will it be?  Is it the version plagued by experience?  Is it the portion recovering from ailment? Is it the powerless to sway another or the power-filled confidence of one who cares not at the result?  Not who cares not, really, but who understands the limitations over what we can control.

If I fail, he wins.  If I succeed, he wins.  Either way, I lose.  Unless, I care not at the result.  I care only about the presence of it all.  When it’s over, the real questions present.

“Did I prepare?  Check.”

“Did I show up? Check.”

“Was I present?  Check.”

“Was I me?”

It’s the last of these inquiries that often prevents a complete checking of boxes down my list and I wonder if such completion can exist.  Perhaps not behind today’s mask.   

As the clock’s hands frown upon me, I replay the trials of the first act back through clear memories.  I had discovered.  I had deposed.  I had prepared.  I had interrogated.  I had argued. I had succeeded.  But then another member of the cast forced a new show, this time on a grander stage.  

I’d played many stages, performing one-acts and hours’ long productions alike, across many venues, but always attempting to stay in my lane.  I’d never really ventured outside of a clear zone’s comfort and I’d often wondered if a greater challenge would breed less monotony.  The routine discourages self-awareness and actualization, forcing a new disguise each day.  

I’ve found excitement in costume design, setting my fashion choices to match the persona of the day.  With so many versions of self, dressing for the part to be played often required multiple costume changes: from tailored suiting options to brightly-hued athleisure and everything in between.  Left to my own preferences, I wonder what I’d wear?  

There are the coiffed solutions which rarely replicate across productions, and the days’ masks painted typically concealed, but revealed jeweled tones precisely lining the windows to this soul.  But my eyes only expose truth when I allow them to entertain such phenomena.

Occupied in tragedy, my work never includes a comedic endeavor.  And in such a dramatic role, like my colleagues, there is rare instant gratification in the presentations of the day.  I envy the work of the comedian; her audience dictates instantaneous success in response to a line.  My lines, practiced, perfected and performed, need await the critic’s pen.  And rarely in time to adjust the next performance.  

They judge our words and question our thematic choices, with only a few of our indictors having participated in similar roles. But no critique serves as greater measurable ovation than a happy box office, for they fronted the cost and pray it pays off.  I doubt I’ve ever stopped to define success myself.

It’s been more than a year since I was cast, but it took much longer to reach this stage.  I’ve read many scripts.  I’ve been cast in many roles.  I’ve been produced and directed.  I’ve succeeded and I’ve failed.  But only on a handful of occasions have I mastered the art of being me.  

I’ve taught myself to be present but that is only a piece of it.  I’ve trained in elocution and debate.  I know how to enunciate, speak clearly and precisely, with appropriate passion in both conversation and prose; but the heart on any sleeve scenario evades me. I was taught to compartmentalize, to at times use personal experience for the role, but to never allow my own feelings to truly breach the surface.  How then can I every really show up as me?  

Those who read my curriculum vitae may think they know me.  Those with whom I’ve shared a scene may know a little, but I guarantee these eyes dart away from a centered gaze any time they get close to understanding.  I may be happier behind the veil.  

I play roles I cannot legitimately understand and characters whom I’ll never resemble, even the villain at times.  But on this day, I play a friend, an advocate for minority and a guardian of truth; none of these roles requiring much preparation.  But as friend, advocate and guardian, I am tasked with doing for others what I rarely do for myself.   

Time for my solo dress rehearsal.  Clear the throat.  Deep breath.

“In the city of Bethesda there lived a boy amongst a battle of wits and blind wisdom who suffered the consequence of parental actions.”

Slow down.  Restart.

“In the city of Bethesda, there lived a boy, amongst a battle of wits and blind wisdom, who suffered the consequences of parental actions.  They poked and prodded his childhood away, packed his suitcases with emotional trauma, and transitioned his fate like a tennis ball.”

Wait.  Stop.  That’s not quite right.  Small adjustment.

“…transitioned his fate like a ping pong ball.”

That’s better.  Continue.

“No rest for this young man, who grew faster than most.  They played games while he played sports and music, alternating between his hobbies and the placation of his adult figures.  We presume we know what is best for him, despite failing to give him a say. And if we did inquire of this gentleman to identify the cause of his plight, or even to propose a solution, perhaps he’d then feel the weight of this world on undeveloped shoulders; and we too would have placed him squarely in the middle of our game.

Are we not charged with doing better than those we serve?  Finding solutions where none appear to exist?  We are here because they gave up trying, and then we gave up trying just the same.  We now place the burden on a stranger, who knows little of this young man’s life, to craft a decision in earnest, without real evidence to perform the task.  And so no matter the outcome, the greatest loss will be for the boy.  He is fated to live out in three-dimensions what our scrivener need only place in two. And while we hope these parties give credence, to the letter of another man’s law, I doubt this will be the last time you meet them, for all I can see is recidivist’s hold.   

You’ve asked me to position myself, to bring truth to this unjust charade.  I have listened.  I have learned.  And I have taken full account.  And I am ready to present my findings.  

I find myself estranged from this scenario, so foreign to a childhood I recall.  In my day, they showed up unconditionally, and loved with fierce humility.  I imagined hard times from which they shielded us all, while modeling the behavior from which the next generation would profit.  They did not make us choose sides or bolster adult confidence. We did not need to fill a heart’s hole and never wanted for stability.  

And so, since our experiences are so dissimilar, I thought I must adjust my thinking on this boy’s behalf.  But then I realized that I am him, just having benefited from the best of them.  He too is me, just having endured the worst.  What he needs is the chance I had, the opportunity to thrive in peace.  

To put it simply, his aggressors should be reminded of their great fortune, which they have thusly squandered.  And if their collective memories fail and they cannot bring themselves to promptly adjust for his beneficial future, then this young man should be given tools to cope and perhaps more deserving custodians.

Who am I to say such things and place myself in your learned shoes, having never once slid them on nor tied a lace?  I am this boy’s guardian.  I am this young man’s advocate.  I am this gentleman’s friend.”    

We will call that version the nearly, impassioned plea.  But I can do better.  

He is me and I am him.  But the boy is living it better.  With everyone asking him to be what they need, he takes every opportunity presented to be himself.  And now he is reliant upon me to prepare his path forward, to ensure he is granted the freedom I have underused.  For me to be myself, I need only choose.  There is no real hindrance, no insurmountable force outside, no true external pressure preventing me from the choice.  

I choose to be as brave as this boy, so that this young man can sow the seeds he planted and harvest a gentle man. 

I have written the script, planted my own seeds. I will direct this production, and reap the benefits.  This will be my stage, a beautiful harvest.  

“Are you ready?” he asks.

“I am,” is all I need reply. 

As the lights dim on the mirror before me, I stand, exit my dressing room, steadily stride down the corridor, cross the threshold and enter equity’s stage.  

Taking my position, ready to make my appeal, with a smile only I can see, poised for more than mere presence, I salute my audience. 

“Good morning, Your Honor.  May it please the Court.”

December 07, 2021 23:31

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Joy A
21:14 Dec 14, 2021

Wow! Annemarie, you are a fantastic writer. This story showed that you've excellently mastered literature and its devices. My favourite thing about this story is how you juxtapose the expressions. I particularly love these sentences: “But then I realized that I am him, just having benefited from the best of them. He too is me, just having endured the worst.” I'm honestly very blown away. Are you an actress or something like that? Because you depicted this so accurately, so powerfully. You have a very strong, creative mind. That much I can...


Annemarie Wall
22:02 Dec 14, 2021

Joy - Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate the feedback and I am so excited to have started this journey. By the way, after law school and although I am still an attorney, I picked up the science books. I like all aspects of reading, writing and learning. Thank you again.


Joy A
01:59 Dec 15, 2021

It's my pleasure! And that's very great... It shows in your writing how vastly experienced you are. I guess my science books stay then.


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Boutat Driss
08:11 Dec 13, 2021

well done Annemarie. Please if you have time read mine "the reflect" and "the avatar"


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Boutat Driss
14:24 Dec 12, 2021

nice tale!


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