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Thump-thump. Rivulets of sweat run down my cheeks, and cling to the textured wood pressed against my face.
Thump-thump. I raise my head, and a salty drop falls on my lips.
Thump-thump. Slowly, I turn my head to gaze upon a thousand eyes, riveted on the mask I wear.
Thump-thump. A single voice cries out from amongst the totem poles, and the song begins.
Warily, I stand up and crouch behind the parallel rows of dancers pulsing in perfect unison. Even the youngest have flawless technique, their heels and rattles tapping simultaneously. For every other song, I would have been there amongst the rows, forming a single body, but not today. This is my song. The drum starts again and awakens the spirit within me. All notions of identity fade away. The mask represents an ancient being, the clothes a culture, the crests a chief, the chief a house, the house a story. Who am I?
I am a storyteller. Through my movements flows the story of man, a Noch Nox with eyes the color of the river on a stormy day. He came to us at a time when waters covered the surface of the earth. We thought we were stranded, but then he, a stranger, appeared amongst us, offering unending provisions. We were chosen to survive. When the waters receded, he left in search of survivors under the watchful eyes of a pair of rainbows.
I have taken this and made it my own. The audience watches as I climb mountains and jump across the rivers between us. I take a handful of candies from the pouch at my side and offer one to each listener in turn.
The thought of food breaks me from my reverie. I'm sitting on the hard weathered seat of a bench, its damp wooden planks speckled with pale green mold. Trails of footprints are stamped onto the dew-laden grass. An oak tree towers over me, its gnarled branches sheltering me from the morning sun. I sit up and a pigeon, startled from its perch, flutters to ground several feet away from me. For a moment, it stares curiously. Its tiny head swivels at the sound of approaching footsteps. A middle aged woman carrying several grocery bags walks by, paying no attention to me. My stomach growls and I ask her, 'Excuse me miss, could I have some food?' She throws me a worried look and quickens her pace. Pair of police officers approaches me, talking animatedly and laughing.
'We're going to need you to move,' said the taller of the two.
'But I aint done nothing wrong,' I says.
'There's a big event going on and we don't want the likes of you bothering anyone,' replies the officer.
He grabs my arm, interrupting my retort, and leads me across the soggy grass. As I look around, I realize what the police officers mean. The park is crowded with people, milling around and staring expectantly at a large screen. In front of the screen, a portable stage is set up, with a small wooden podium on one side. A man in a suit stands beside the stage, looking bored. He stands out from the crowd of casually dressed spectators. The police take me across the street. Cars that usually honked vociferously at me pass by silently. The officer lets go of my arm.
'Now stay here and don't cause any trouble,' he commands.
Grumpily, I walk over to a large cement planter. Its surface is freckled with the same green mold as my bench. Still irritated by the officer's lack of respect, I look around. Behind me stand three Chinese restaurants. The yum yum, the happy customer, and the lucky day each have identical yellow signs with the letters painted using bold red brush strokes. My attention is diverted from the laminated posters of sweet and sour pork by a loud cheer from the crowd across the street. The man in the suit has just stepped behind the podium.
'Welcome everyone to the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr day. In commemoration of this historic event I would like to present a video on the life of this extraordinary individual, made possible by Alcan.' The speaker steps aside and the movie starts.
Thump-thump. It starts with a shot of a young man, turning his head to gaze upon a thousand eyes, riveted on the skin he wears.
Thump-thump. A single voice cries out from amongst the crowd, and the speech begins.
'I have a dream,' he starts.
Sitting on a graffiti covered concrete planter, with only a soggy McDonalds bag as an audience I whisper,
'I dream too, I dream of a day when it is my voice that cries salvation as the waters recede under the divine brow of a pair of rainbows.'
I am a storyteller. Through my words flows the story of man, a Noch Nox with eyes the color of the river on a stormy day. He came to us at a time when waters covered the surface of the earth. We thought we were stranded, but then he, a stranger, appeared amongst us, offering unending provisions. We were chosen to survive. When the waters receded, he left in search of survivors under the watchful eyes of a pair of rainbows. Take my story, it's yours. Do with it what you will. Tell it to friends, make a movie out of it, forget it. But don't say in years to come that you'd have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.
You've heard it now.