Helium's Dark Side

September 21, 2008
Helium is an element that is most commonly known for its use in balloons. It is lighter than air, so it causes the balloon to float. Helium has many other qualities or properties that have been shunned by the adult world throughout modern history. Adults have attempted in vain to keep these extra properties hidden. I, like most people in my generation, have unraveled that hidden value that helium is not only a tool to get balloons to rise, but most importantly, a very useful gas to obtain a high pitched voice.

Though I knew helium “destroys your brain”, as my mom would constantly remind me, I still thought it was very funny to talk and occasionally sing while intoxicated by helium. Thus, helium was the only reason I entered the singing competition, also known as, “Second Idol,” at my church. I have always thought of myself as a decent vocalist, but I have grown up hearing different from those who surround me. With this in my mind, I completely rejected my sister’s proposal to enter the competition. Just picturing myself singing in front of whoever was judging and falling into an ocean of self pity and shame screamed that the competition was not even close to being worth the reward—not that I would even stand a chance of getting that reward. Despite my sister’s persuasive argument, my final answer remained an adamant, “NO!” I would not enter that competition no matter what she said to make it seem harmless. Then helium got brought into the picture, and, oh, how I love helium.

With the dramatic entrance of helium, the awkward circumstance that I had once envisioned, quickly disappeared into the abyss of my memory. It was replaced with one where people were laughing with me, not at me, which is a nice boost to my self-esteem. I thought that might work so I was eager to go get helium and impress the world—or maybe a few people.

With the glorified helium in hand, I confidently descended down the stairs and into my church basement with somewhat of a swagger. It was not until I witnessed a fellow contestant crying because he failed to advance to the next round that confidence wavered. But then I thought, “I don’t even care about the next round!” With that, the ever-so-abundant confidence soared once more. It was strong until I first entered the room with the judge.

Right away, I found out that there was more than one judge—four to be exact. And to my dismay, I realized that I had no idea who they were and where they came from. Fear slowly began to grip me as I realized that this competition was actually serious—very serious. All of the sudden, I felt my cheeks get hot, and I became conscientious of how dim-witted I looked with a bunch of balloons floating over my head. “This isn’t right,” I remember myself thinking. I had expected a friendly environment with people joking around and smiling. But no, I got four, stone-faced judges that looked like they could be Simon, Paula, and Randy on American Idol.

I was still dazed when one of the four judges told me to sing. I did what I came to do and bit into the balloon sucking in helium. Once I was full of the gas, I began to sing “I Believe I Can Fly.” Towards the end, I became dizzy from lack of oxygen. That is why I did not hear the judge the first time he said to sing without helium. When I realized what he said, my confidence that had once been built up to a great height, plummeted to a new all-time low.

Before I had to sing once again, I glanced at the window to see my sister and a few other people laughing hysterically. That did not help at all. I had to sing the painstaking tune again without my helium, and, oh, how I hated that helium. With a crowd of my peers, conjugated outside the door straining to hear, I began.

I was relieved to finish the chorus of “I Believe I Can Fly.” The judges said they thought my performance was grand, which I seriously doubt, but they made me sing it again—this time with more emotion. I began to sing again, but this time with no mistakes and exaggerated emotion. Looking back on this horrendously embarrassing situation, I begin to see that I had a contrasting viewpoint of the judges’, of what emotion actually implied. I began to sing as I normally would, but this time, I began to flap my arms like I was flying. In a normal state of mind, I probably would have added emotion in a different way, but I was not thinking clearly. It was not what they had in mind, but I am sure my sister and my accomplices thought it was perfect—especially because it was on camera.

I ended the performance mad at an element that could not even think. I also had a little resentment towards my sister, but I could not tell her how mad I was because she would not stop laughing. I see now that my mom was completely wrong when she said, “helium destroys your brain.” In actuality, helium just fuels a humiliating situation into an event that I will never forget.

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