I’m a speech kid where I come from, you know, like speech and debate? Its the band kids of literature, everyone’s overly sexual, the bus rides usually have someone either fuck or cry and you’re permanently only a few seconds away from panic attack and needing your inhaler the entire time. It’s not good, but it's what I love.
I was performing a category I’d never done before, Dramatic Interpretation. I had to memorize
and perform a 10 minute fictional piece, and on the bus ride there -- I felt my memory slip more and more the closer we approached the speech competition. I kept trying to reread it and get some of it in there, but my memory wouldn’t budge. I pulled out my inhaler and took a long big suck off of it, I could do this… if only my hands would stop shaking.
My speech coach must have seen it, she pulled me aside. “Anon, you gonna be okay?” She asked. She was a positive, maternal woman.
“Yeah, I’m just struggling with my piece, that's all.”
“Okay,” She nodded, understanding my plight. “You’re gonna be okay, this is your first competition with the piece, so its okay if you mess up a little.” She told me. Her words did nothing to put me at ease, but I pretended like they had.
We entered the school where the competition was hosted. Why was I freaking out so bad? Why couldn’t I stop shaking. I tried pulling aside one of my teammates to help me memorize my piece but after the first few paragraphs they shrugged me off. Either they didn’t wanna help or they secretly didn’t like me.
The system works like this — there’s two rounds, you present your piece twice in front of two judges. If they enjoy your presentation enough, they’ll send you to the final round.
The first round came and went and it was a disaster. I bolted out of the room halfway through my piece. Up until that point I suppose I was doing pretty well, but after that, I couldn’t get my head around anything. I was too shaky.
The place where all the schools decided to shack up and set up homebase was in the cafeteria, bunch of tables all crowded with kids who played card games, wrapped blankets around themselves, cuddled with the same sex (both of them with ridiculously dyed hair). I kept myself from hyperventilating, took a hit off my inhaler and put my headphones in, listening to Elliot Smith.
The table adjacent to mine was where the speech kids from another school all set up shop. There was only one kid there shaggy blonde hair. I couldn’t really tell if they were a boy or a girl and they were alone — their entire team was either out presenting more pieces or they hated him. They looked up at me, dark blue eyes. And smiled. They were holding a screen in their hands, a tablet.
Sewn into their shirt were two patches, what looked like two Lightning Bolts side by side, and a football helmet. They were scrawny, I had no idea if they were into football.
“Hey you!” They said, “you football?” They asked me suddenly.
“Me?” I replied, confused, “football?”
“Yeah!” They said with a big ol goofy grin. “Football!”
“No, me no football,” I stammered like a mexican immigrant who had been stopped five miles north of the border.”
“Footballllllll….” They said. They came over to sit next to me, got comfortable and put their feet up where they could put their feet up and showed me what they were watching on their tablet. “John Elway.”
“John Elway?” I asked…”
“John Elway,” They confirmed with such definiteness I couldn’t doubt the importance of this man.
They were watching the great american past time, the legendary art of Football, and there was no way I could doubt its severity, its importance, its legendaryness, its cruciality, its verisimilitude, its incredibleness, its-
“Football?” They asked.
I nodded weakly, enraptured. “F-football.” I had never been so captured by something. The ball went left, the ball went right. The ball got thrown at the endzone and everyone in the stadium cheered. “John Elway!” I recognized.
John Elway walked off of the field and hugged a blue pony with a rainbow mane. I recognized her, my sister liked to watch my little pony.
“Rainbow Dash?” I asked.
“Rainbow Dash and John Elway,” they confirmed. John Elway and Rainbow Dash began to hug, and then began to make out. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. “Birth of football. Football is important ritual.” They bowed their head, muttered something and resumed watching. The camera panned off of John Elway and Rainbow Dash and went back to the field.