Stage Fright

Raph al Guul

He hates change. Always did. The passing of seasons is just about all he can handle. He’d be perfectly happy to take one or two particularly pleasant moments and relive those for the rest of his time on this planet. And he’d even settle for any moment, if pleasant ones were all out of stock. Just try to not make it a completely horrible one, okay? Change. Some people crave it. He isn’t one of them. “This is a new chapter in your life,” they told him enthusiastically. Well, he wasn’t quite finished reading the previous chapter, then. He doesn’t want to turn the page, yet.

When he graduated from high school, he was quite proud of himself. It was an accomplishment and he felt like he had earned it. But soon enough he realized that graduation is just another one of those flashing neon signs reading: “Change ahead.” And in small print – you have to pull over and move close to the sign to read it – it says: “Leave familiar places and friends behind and quit doing what you are good at.” And an ugly graffiti beneath it adds: “Go stand in a room full of strangers and feel uncomfortable.” That’s what his graduation was like.

And now he is standing in that room. It’s an unbelievably large room and an uncountable number of strangers. Weird… it seems like only he perceives them as such. Amongst themselves, they all seem to know each other; they’re chatting, giggling, staring at him. He can’t look at them. He doesn’t know how to penetrate this thick wall of unfamiliarity. He isn’t good at addressing strangers, especially when he honestly wouldn’t know what to say. Frantically, he stares to the ground.

He tries to think of familiar things, make this place less new and strange. Hasn’t he seen this patterned floor before? The smell of bad air in a classroom is similar to that in a lecture hall. The sound of hundreds of people around him – a bit like a train station; but the people remain strangers, the place remains alien. He wants to be with his girlfriend. Not because he loves her, but because he wants to be with someone from his past – or something even more depressing.

As he is staring into blank space, he wonders if this is ever going to stop. Can change stop? Wouldn’t that be change in and of itself? Or would it be a sort of self-elimination? One final, monumental change until all will remain the way it was. He’d like that. A peaceful stream of– he feels someone tapping on his shoulder. Hesitantly, he turns; a guy is standing there. Another one of the strangers, smiling at him – it almost looks like he’s doing it to mock him.

“Hey man, how are you holding up? Trouble coping?” A short pause. “It’s gonna get better, believe me.”

He is glad the stranger just said that.

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3 responses to “Stage Fright

  1. Neither “strong” nor “impressive” are the words I’m currently looking for, but there is something about your writing. Hard to pinpoint – or maybe I just lack the ability to – but in a very good way that draws you in and somehow makes you feel oddly at home.

    “One final, monumental change until all will remain the way it was” – That sort of stuck.

    Good that such strangers exist (or that we keep hanging on to the belief that they do).

    • (just to avoid any possibly misunderstandings: “strong” and “impressive” were the words that came to mind. so they might be in there somewhere, but they just don’t seem to be putting it one hundred percent right. and that’s how it should be tried to be put, i think.)

      • Thanks for the flattering response. I think if you put your mind to writing something, you don’t just make it so that it’s one thing. In fact, most of the time, you yourself will not even perceive it as a complete, finalized thing at all. So I guess it’s quite gratifying to hear people struggle trying to come up with a definitive and appropriate statement about how they perceived your text. Much more so than if people would simply have high praise for it.

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