Unedited College Essay
This is my unfinished, raw essay. I'll be working on its formalism and rhetorical mechanics, but this is the core of it. The real, unfiltered essay.
The kid’s eyes are glassy and bright. The kid’s a freshmen, a tadpole, an arrogant clownfish in the vast coral reef of high school. He’s the type of clownfish that cracks jokes at the expense of his self-esteem, hoping a little desperately to blend in with the school of us. And right now, he’s just finished telling me about some meme he heard of off some trash reddit page I’ve never heard of. I smile for him, absently, trying hard to discern the sincere individual trapped within these bright, glassy eyes.
We’re waiting for his ride, he and I, freshmen and Senior. I tell him that he’s lucky to be here, in theatre, that it’s the most accepting and life-changing community he’s never yet experienced. He doesn’t understand. I tell this kid that high school’s over in a flash, that you’re going to enjoy it because here, in this empty lobby, this is where you meet with all the other scared-shitless kids who feel just as identity-trapped as you do. Here’s where you meet before you walk into that theatre to do either dance or acting or tech. Here’s where you meet before each theatre dinner. This is the place you’ll walk swiftly through during lunch to get to the control booth where you can cry hard without being heard or judged.
He tells me more about his older siblings, his brother was in the grade above me last year. I ask if he’s seen Scapin or Big Fish or Shakespeare Abridged and he nods “no” and “yes” and “no.” I look at the clock on my computer and it’s an hour and a half til his older sister comes to pick him up. Something changes, he’s less conceited, hidden. He says he did tech for the middle school musical, and he says he’s real proud of it because it was the first thing he did on his own, you know. The first thing he did where he could just pour himself into it. Something he could lose track of time doing. He tells me he hated middle school, he wants to re-create himself here in high school. He doesn’t want to be a clownfish anymore. He’s sick and fucking tired of it.
There’s a silence in the lobby. Some junior college night, the sign on the door says, is supposedly happening in the theatre next to us. I ask this kid if he’s doing the musical this year, he says he’s gonna tech again. I say I pegged him as more of an actor, that I’ve done both and usually the more confident ones get up on stage. I don’t tell him it’s because we’re attention seekers, the lonely ones, fitting right in with the rest of us. Here we’re all clownfish, in clown makeup, getting ready for the big show. Yet we’re the most real, behind the curtain of coral that closes at the end of the show. That our stupid pre-show traditions are actually good-luck prayers, so that when we get the howling fantods after voice cracking in the middle of the most climactic number, we can smile through the humility and deliver an even more heartbreaking performance.
I tell him we go to Waffle House after each show. “Why?” Because you’ve never tried post-show waffles; they ascend “waffles.” Because the climate of the waffle house is oddly warm, and the cliques of high school somehow dissipate that night. There’s no way he can possibly understand Theatre Sleepover, or Thescon, or the moment during the swing-dance class when you look into her eyes and fall for her hopelessly. You can only smile absently, wondering if this is how Helene H. or Sophie K. or Michael W. felt when they waited for your dad to pick you up that one day four long years ago after your first theatre dinner at Golden Buddha, idly joking and penny boarding in the middle of the street.