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The Lost Bird
I was known more by my shy, mumbling voice than the one I craved people to hear. The one clear enough to echo through barriers as I performed on stage. It is a light feather being blown along by a deep, booming thunder. It makes me become so beautiful, I begin to fly to a land so enchanting, I must open my eyes and look.
It’s a crowd of classmates, staring and judging. Everything tightens as this volcano erupts with overflowing nerves that burn up my face.
The acting teacher steps in. “You need to be louder. All you’re doing is mumbling. If you support your diaphragm more, that will control your breathing better. Nobody wants to listen to a voice they can’t hear.”
But all I feel is stage fright, telling me I’m not good enough to do this. That little dream of mine blows easily, like fallen eyelashes I make wishes upon. They only stay for a while until our family arrives at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.
There I am open.
Though broken tractors are rusting away by the pine trees, there’s always a glimpse of a fiery sky glistening through the branches. There’s even a better view on the hill nearby the cornfield. I perform monologues there when no one’s around. Sometimes I feel so alive; new waves of energy force me to open up myself to the invisible spirits of my audience seated in the oily tires in the garbage pile. And I’ll yell, scream out words that bring rage out or let tears fly.
But no matter what, the best part would be Grandma, waiting for us on the front porch. Her hands folded at her sides to stay contained for Grandpa’s sake, but her eyes continuously sparkled with excitable joy. We were here after several, long, hot hours of traveling - only to dash off to the church where a cousin was getting married.
I had to admit, as I looked around the reception, I got jealous of how content everyone was here. They were Lutheran’s whose big social event of the year was attending the lunch held in the church basement, murmuring in groups about the weather over double-fudge brownies with a plastic cup of orange juice. Then they’d drive home, have a pot roast and spend the afternoon with silly card games. Before I went to sleep, I’d find grandpa in the kitchen, reading his Bible while he made cat food over the stove. Then I’d wake up to Grandma reading devotions to brighten her day. It amazed me how devoted they were to a faith I had barley feasted upon for myself and then to get married by it?
I was seated at a table when an older cousin I barely knew sat down. After exchanging the usual weather talk, she asked “So what are you planning to get into?”
I smiled. “I hope to be an actress.”
Her eyes rested on me uneasily. She was looking at some part of me that didn’t live up to their standards of simplicity.
“Why would you want to act?” She finally said. “It’s seems dumb.”
“It’s not.” I say, stumbling over words while trying to think of some defense. “It’s an art form. It’s a way of creative expression.”
“Well, I think it’s stupid.”
Stupid. My whole life simplified into one word? It bears down in my mind.
There would always be a purpose for her to live for. She wouldn’t have to take risks and venture out into the world to find her place. None of them had to. They came from a farming family. The farm was their land. It made them who they are and gave them something solid in the world, whereas I feel I have nothing. I wanted to go into acting – a competitive world Queen Rejection ruled over. Her entire colony was made up of female waitress in L.A. That was no set place for me. It could take me anywhere and I could still be rejected.
I breathe heavily as my skin starts to prickle. The place feels as if it’s enclosing me. It’s too small to hold me. There’s no air to keep my heart beating. The smell of bland noodles the cousin is eating makes me want to puke. I fly out the door but it’s not any better.
We get back and I wonder; what have I been seeing this whole time? The air that used to energize me now only smells of cow manure. The space that seemed free to roam is all covered by auntie’s little monsters. Where have been the birds chirping to the sunset? Only a gang of cows cry as it starts to drizzle.
I try to breathe but it doesn’t help. Nothing does.
We drive home the next day. After minutes of begging, Mom finally agrees to go the left way, though it’s longer and the gravel isn’t as even out as it should be, but there’s more scenery. I look back to the field where I see myself rehearsing my monologue about how I longed to fit in. It fades away quickly.
I’m soon surprised by all the new things to look at. There are still old barns, but instead they have bronzed horses grazing. As my head bangs into the car roof over a gravel lump, I see the most beautiful bird. It flaps its wings and caws, showing independence. If only I could be like that. A painful swelling in my heart gets my mind to race. It suddenly dawns on me over my two choices in life.
Number one is simple: fit in, never do anything against the crowd, and never dare to dream again. Option two is to find somewhere else I’m meant to be: where I’m not simple but complicated with goals and plans, then breaking against those to find something greater than I could ever imagine. Though I wouldn’t know where that would lead or feel secure about the future, I could be myself and open up to different possibilities.
All it takes is a simple risk.