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More to Winning
Fifth place. Fourth place. Third place.
I stood on stage, my pulse racing, my heart throbbing. I could feel a grip tighten on my shoulder as I struggled to stay levelheaded. This was it. This was my moment. This was Lynbrook’s moment. All that hard work we had put in coming to the conference, the hours we met every week, the tests we took, the sacrifices, they call came down to this very moment. We had to get first place.
“And second place for parliamentary procedure goes to the team from …” The announcer paused. I held my breath, afraid that if I breathed too heavily, my breath would cover up the sound of the announcer. “… Lynbrook High School.”
It was dark in Qinnan’s room, and I wasn’t sure if it was because the lights were off or because my eyes were closed. Maybe it was because I felt so depressed and my eyesight was so blurred by the tears that were dangerously close to falling that I had lost all perception of color. The two of us sat alone, side by side on her bed. She was lying down in the conventional direction and I had my feet on the pillow next to hers and my head by her feet. I wanted to start up some small talk, anything, but if I opened my mouth, I was scared that I would start crying, so instead, I just kept my mouth shut. From a distance we could hear the beat of the music that was playing at the awards dance, and I kept myself preoccupied by watching Qinnan tap her fingers on the end table to the beat of the song.
“Kavya,” she suddenly murmured, breaking the silence and my concentration. I looked at her for a moment, and then glanced away. I was afraid that if we stared into each other’s eyes for too long, one of us would break down. Well, I would probably break down, not her. She wasn’t nearly as emotional as I was about this.
“Yes?” I managed to croak out. My throat was dry and I cleared it before repeating myself. “Yes?” My voice had gained a little bit more strength and I felt a little better, hoping that Qinnan didn’t think of me as weak.
“I never knew that one person could make a difference until I met you.” Her voice was teeming with sincerity and she flashed me a tiny, yet genuine, smile.
I felt a small source of warmth within my heart for a split second, but it died off almost as quickly as it lit. “But it doesn’t matter. We lost.” My voice was slightly shaky as I blinked vigorously, still trying to keep the tears from falling. “We lost,” I repeated again, even more softly.
She sat up, and in one fluid motion, turned around so that her head was right next to mine. I sat up and she did the same so that we were both facing each other. “You’ve done so much for FBLA and more than that, you’ve done so much for our parli team. You took our team in a totally different direction compared to previous years.”
“But it wasn’t good enough,” I replied miserably. “I worked so hard this year, Qinnan, and we only got second place.”
“Only?” She raised an eyebrow. “Kavya, we qualified to nationals! This is the first time Lynbrook has qualified to nationals in parliamentary procedure since 2002! That has to count for something.”
I shrugged and forced a tiny smile before my gloomy expression returned. She waited for me to say something, but when I didn’t, she got up and went over towards a chair.
Seconds, minutes, hours passed by as we sat there silently contemplating. I wasn’t really sure what she wanted me to say to her. I wasn’t going to lie and say that I was happy with the place we had gotten or that I was proud of the team. I just couldn’t.
I heard a soft knock on the door and I turned towards the door. Qinnan answered the knock, asking them to come into the room.
I turned towards the door and saw Karen, Mary, and Cathy, the last three members of the Parliamentary Procedure Team, pile into the room. I couldn’t clearly make out their faces in the dark, but all of them had red eyes, as if they too had been suffering.
We didn’t say a single word to each other. They each took a seat in Qinnan’s room, and I noticed that we were all isolated in different areas of the room. Somehow, there was a sense of resonance in the room. In the distance, the music of the awards dance was playing, and in the silence, I could hear our hearts beating to the sound of the song playing, one heartbeat, in unison. Sitting in the darkness, we just listened to each other breathing, our hearts beating, not speaking, not touching. Yes, there was a sense of closeness, a sense of us together, supporting each other in spirit.
I closed my eyes and vivid images appeared in my mind – our webcam picture-taking session; our four hour shopping trip when we looked for our matching outfits for our competition; the spring break cram meetings when we spent five hours a day together studying, laughing, gossiping; our picnic in the park while it was raining; and our group hugs, when we stood there together for minutes and minutes, feeling our pulse.
As the first tear slid down my cheek, I didn’t fight to keep it in, because suddenly, I felt comfortable. Even though we were all individually isolated in the hotel room, I could not think of a time that I had felt such a strong presence of others, of support; rather, I had never felt so sad yet so secure. And at that point, even though we couldn’t see each other, I knew we were all smiling. Because in the midst of our silent tears, there was a moment of realization, an epiphany.
We would be okay.