F I V E | Put Up (Try) Or Give Up (Whine)
Though I was exhausted, having worked a few extra hours the day before… I made it a point to get up early this saturday morning. The 29th, and while I have this stupid competition I let Justin and my sister talk me into doing, that the creators decided at the last minute to change the time for, I also need to see my daddy this morning. To see him, and to give him his copies of my last two poetry collections.
8 a.m. came quickly and I found myself on the road to Gonzales. Since he had to work for the day, I decided to stop at his store and talk for a few minutes.
Naturally, it was great to see him and after saying hello and hugging, the first thing he asked me about was my hair. “Did you cut it all off?”
“Just about. Almost a month ago.” Which was the truth. I’d gotten fed up with dealing with long and damaged hair, and finally convinced someone to chop it all off without having to hear ‘but you have good hair’.
“Just got tired of it, that’s all. But how are you?”
He shrugged and we began walking, heading outside towards his truck so that I could give him his books. “I’m good Baby Girl, and glad to see you. And you got a birthday coming up, Monday, right?”
“Yes Sir. I’m getting up there in age with you.”
He laughed and we stopped. Once he opened his passenger door, I opened my bag and reached him his books, asking which ones I hadn’t given him yet. “Ain’t no autograph? I want mine before you really start selling and making it big.”
“Tryna sell my work online, Daddy?”
“I just know they’re gonna be real valuable. And I want mine before you get so big that you stop giving autographs.” I smiled, taking the pen he was reaching me. “And listen, remember what I told you. If you want me to sell a few here just let me know. Order like a bulk of ‘em and let me know when you get ‘em in, I’ll come and pick ‘em up and get ‘em sold for you. My co-workers want a few copies, you know your aunts and uncles might want copies, their kids too.” Maybe, and I’ve got plenty of them. And plenty more cousins too. Shit, my cousins on his side of the family could fill one cruise ship by themselves, their parents and their own kids not included. “You know, Daddy’s always looking to help you out a little bit.”
I nodded, handing him the books after I signed both of them. “I know, and thank you Daddy. It’s gon’ be a minute before I can sit down and get more copies ordered, but I’ll definitely let you know.”
“Good, good. And listen, I want you to know that I’m very proud of you. Have always been proud of you. People have taken a glance at your work, from me leaving it around and they tell me how good you are. I’m always proud to say ‘MY baby wrote that’.” That made me smile wide and I nodded, thanking him. “Keep working at it, and you’re gonna get exactly where you want to be. If anybody believes in you, it’s me. Always have, always will. Okay?”
“Yes Sir. Thank you.”
He nodded and gave me a quick hug. We then walked inside and while he got me two bottles of some good ol’ Kleinpeter orange juice, he introduced me to one of his coworkers. It tickled me, but made me happy, to hear that he was always talking about me. Said she heard so much but had yet to meet me, especially since she’d met both my sister, Sahara, and our brother Evan.
“No problem. I’m gonna call you Monday, for your birthday, and then I’ll come and bring you your gift on Friday after I get off work.”
“Okay.” Walking me back to my car, we hugged and said a quick goodbye and ‘I love you’ before he wished me luck and sent me on my way.
Once I finally left, I headed a few miles back up the highway and parked as far away from the Center as possible. Close to the exit just incase something ‘unexpected’ happened.
Oh, who am I kidding? I was hoping for some type of accident, anything to cancel this event altogether at the last moment. That was wishful thinking though, and once it got close to my time to go in, I reached in the backseat and grabbed my notebook.
Walking slowly, I could feel my throat closing up. Sweating, but that was mainly from this hot ass air and sun beating my ass. I could feel everything and everyone around me moving quickly until I finally opened the door and walked inside. A huge gush of air hit me and that seemed to calm me down, but only for a second. There were so many people, so many with tags signifying that they too would be performing. “I’m wasting my time.”
Still walking through, I looked around and watched and listened as others went over what they were going to do. Some were singing, some dancing. There was even a dude that was going to paint while a woman did some type of interpretive dance.
After reading a few signs, I quickly went to sign in, got my tag and found the first empty corner I could find to go over my material. Of course, in true Ocean fashion, the instant I began to look over my writing, I began to hate it. Suddenly I could pinpoint so many mistakes and errors, simple things. Things I should have caught, things that made me feel this was something that I am truly NOT meant to do.
I could feel my entire body tensing up as I reached into my pocket for the pen I’d grabbed just before I got out of the car. Sitting on the floor, leaning with my back against the wall, I propped my notebook up against my knees and went to work, trying to find a way to make this crap better.
You can guess what happened next.
YEP, I panicked. Setting my notebook aside, I quickly tried to grab a hold of my emotions, saying a long and silent prayer until I felt a bit of ease and comfort wash over me. Opening my eyes more than ten minutes later, I could see someone walking to the middle of the floor to announce that they were about to get things underway.
Looking down at my watch, it was 10 a.m. on the dot. I grabbed my notebook, and stood, making more changes and edits to my poem as I walked and followed the rest of the crowd.
Thankfully, I was number fifty, for poets, but I knew that it would be my turn sooner than I could even think about it. Time ticked, passing slowly, then speeding up in small spurts, before slowing down again. While I was waiting, I went back and forth between twitter and texting with Justin; feeling slightly annoyed that he had a response for every time I text that I was about to walk out. Remember this and Remember that, and if you walk out, you’ll never prove to yourself that you can do this. You’ve got talent this and just believe in yourself that. It was enough to make me throw my phone and break that heaux into a thousand pieces. Just to avoid reading Justin’s constant positivity.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it, and in the end it usually pulls me through. But what he, and others, fail to understand is that when you’re doing something, small or major, and they’re not there besides you… or you can’t HEAR the words, there’s not much of an impact to push you through the doubt.
On top of that, while waiting, I’m listening to the poems of those before me and these people are AMAZING. Far better than I am. Got me up here like I’m still writing poetry for my seventh and eighth grade English teaches. Damn them both for making me think I had any type of skill to keep this up.
Shaking my head, I text Justin that I would just talk to him later and turned my phone off before pushing it in my pocket. Again, I was number fifty and by now they were already on forty-eight.
“Still got time to walk away, Ocean. You could just leave, go to work, and pretend that you didn’t show up on time to register and get your number.” I sighed, shaking my head at myself. I went back and forth, mentally scolding myself until it was too late. My number was called.
I walked slowly, my throat closing up again as I walked across the makeshift stage and looked out at the audience. Small, but big at the same damn time. Remembering the instructions I’d been given when I received my number, I introduced myself.
“I’m Ocean Anderson, and this piece is titled Not Ready.”
I closed my eyes and silently counted to five before taking a deep breath and starting. I made sure I spoke clearly, and slowly to avoid my bad habit of stuttering whenever I get nervous. Though I could already feel my heart beginning to beat through my chest, I made sure I kept myself as calm as possible.
“One day you wake up, and your world is in total order. Things are going the way you hoped, it’s yours to hold and control. Life is great, peace is at arm’s reach, and hope is abundant. Then there’s a slight shift, things change and you’re … lost. Walking around, alone, searching for what had once come to you with ease. Confused, unsure of yourself and wondering how in the world did you get to this point.”
I sighed, looking down at my notebook for a moment before I continued. “Crying lonely tears that go unheard, ignored by those you thought would help pull you through the sudden darkness. Lost; stuck trying to find your way through a time when all you want to do is stop, give up, and give in. Cry a little more and say that this world is one in which you weren’t meant to be.”
There was total silence, and that did very little to put me at ease. I took another deep breath. “You pray; ask God when will things finally take that turn for the better. When will a fresh perspective come along, show you all that you need to do to push forward. Only to receive no answer, not on your time. Days pass, sometimes weeks, and even months. You begin to sink lower, feeling as if you’ve been counted out and there’s nothing left to do. Nowhere to turn, no one to reach out to. And then, when it’s least expected, you wake up one morning with a clear mind.” I smiled a little, mostly for my own benefit. “Stress and the weight of pain and struggle lifted from your shoulder. With just a little bit of clarity and understanding, enough to push you through the day ahead. HE says; just a little more time, just a little more patience. You’ll have all you need and more when I’m certain that you’re ready. You’re just not ready, and that’s okay. You finally understand that all God has for you will come when HE’s certain that you can handle it. You’re just not ready.”
I finally cleared my throat, thanking the audience for listening before I quickly made my way off the stage. Thank you God that I didn’t pass out and that I didn’t embarrass myself beyond just walking up there in the first place. Now if I could just leave here without feeling disappointed.
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