There was a pause…a fleeting moment he did not want to escape from. It finally happened! They say you take in all the joy you can at the very moment because you never know where that next moment will come from. He paused again, then gazed at her; he managed a smile, one that was different from his shy demeanor he had portrayed all year. This was the moment he had anticipated with baited breath……
Paul was a studious character, short, skinny, and a seemingly unappealing scholar. To some of his classmates he appeared to be the typical class nerd, his silence reflecting a shy character, uncomfortable by his surroundings. He kept to himself at most times, while girls giggled and laughed at him, running and passing him in the school hall ways. Despite all these drawbacks, Paul was able to keep himself engrossed in some literature or his biggest passion, the Formula One. The senior year began quietly for Paul while most of his classmates delighted in each other’s company, sometimes even making a party in the town. None of this seemed to interest Paul, not least the big binge drinking night sessions that could have proved to him at least he was a man and belonged to the ‘crew’.
Deep down he really was troubled. There was something that was beginning to nag him day by day as each month passed. His teachers felt he was becoming worse, sometimes displaying a serious lack of attention in classes. This often resulted in awkward moments for Paul; his voice trembled with responses, sometimes even evoking loud laughter from the class. Matters seemed to get out of hand as his classmates painfully reminded him of his odd behaviour and responses in classes. Not surprisingly Paul remained silent through all this. Yet deep down inside he was feeling serious doubts about his ability, about how he would go onto greater heights later in life. He wasn’t sure how events would pan out as the year slowly approached its end, particularly for one big day where it could be his make or break!
Speech Talk was a major event at Winston High School for all seniors. It was seen as the event that made you a senior that would be recognized as a reputed speaker post school and into college years. Every student had to prepare a speech of substance; only five special awards were given to the best five speeches out of a possible 30 candidates in the class. Most of these awards were grand in nature, with the top three being scholarships to some of the major Ivy League colleges for the Junior year. Paul had heard many folklore and tales, some even myths, about alumni who went through the event. Some of the stories really fascinated him! But there was one problem; Paul was struggling to speak eloquently, his shyness becoming a major social obstacle. As time slowly approached to the event, Paul had sleepless nights, even having moments of claustrophobia, imagining himself giving a horror speech show, while all his classmates delighted in his failure! Some of his nightmares even bordered on the more ridiculous scenario where he started sounding like a duck!
Speech Talk day is here. Paul has been in a frenzy all morning! He reached his heights of clumsiness as he prepared for this big day. This was a big test for him…it suddenly dawned on him that success today would mean the year gone past would just be a fickle memory he could erase from his awkward and unflattering past. He managed to pull out an old grey woolen suit his late grandmother had made for him many a year back. She had requested him to wear it on a big day in his senior year, a day she felt he would surprise many and receive many plaudits from wide spread admirers. Paul wondered how his grandmother had developed such faith in a grandson who otherwise seemed the least likely to yield any kind of towering success. Perhaps like all old and wise people she had a hunch, one that would eventually reflect the real possibilities, the real Paul.
All along the journey to the school campus Paul gazed into the streets; he watched with gay abandon, sometimes reflecting on his childhood moments when all his shyness and awkwardness was not a social handicap. How he wished he were there now, rewinding back to all those years gone past. It all seemed good and enticing to him, momentarily lapsing in this past dream world, escaping from his current reality. He was suddenly interrupted by the driver, notifying him and his family of their arrival. The silence in the car was too odd for Paul, he had to get out of it!
There was a buzz surrounding the settings by the grand stage that had been set up. Paul’s focus seemed to have shifted squarely on the spot where he would stand and possibly deliver his future. He wore a dead pan expression as he sat in his allocated seat. Thirty minutes lingered as three students spoke. “Paul Erlcott”. There were a few claps, most notably from his family. But there was something perculiar about Paul’s approach to the stage once he left his position; it was eerily different from the shy, closed character many had known him to be….
Paul placed his crumpled speech on the speech desk. He took a moment to capture his environment, slowly pushing his large framed glasses closer to his eyes, almost as though a target was being set. He took in all above and around him. His fists clasped with nerves, tension slowly rising and emanating in the air. The sweat was slowly effusing over his wide forehead. He cleared his throat, the lump feeling like a larger apple shoved down his throat. And ACTION!
There was a long pause. SILENCE……………. Would Paul speak at all? A slight murmur erupted, then Paul paused again, and then… The words came out loud and clear, each being pronounced with a defining and engrossing tone. There was a crispiness to the speech. You could feel the polished result. Heads turned up slowly as everyone focused on Paul, like a pop sensation that had just hit the stage! Everyone was taken aback, not least Paul! You could have sworn this was someone else that Paul was mimicking. But this was no mimic! This was Paul Erlcott, now standing tall and proud, giving an oration that was about to floor many, not least all those ‘crew’ that never seemed to accept or include him in many of the rituals. The speech was faultless, almost comparable to one delivered by a new president to be sworn in, promising many a bright future. When Paul completed his final sentence there was thunderous applause, most notably from those same classmates he endured this painful journey with. Paul stood tall, unable to comprehend what had just happened!
After all the excitement finally died down, the final presentations for the awards were made. Paul received the second best prize; but this was a BIG first prize for him and for his many new found admirers! His life was going to change from now. He was now going to join the big guys in one of the premier Ivy League colleges on a full scholarship. It was all too much for him to take in! Paul could still not afford a smile as yet. Something suddenly caught his attention in the corner of his eye. It was her! She came in a long red gown, her hair long and soft, her eyes serene but with a dazzle of innocence. It was Kaira, the girl he had admired all year, but hardly had the courage or determination to approach her. She strode slowly towards him, but the nerves were gone now. The smile he displayed said it all…a new man had arrived! He finally spoke to Kaira, that same confidence from the speech now exuding in his interaction with her; he was probably going to win her heart at some point.
Many wondered what made Paul transform on the crucial day when it mattered most. A hopeless, shy, awkward clumsy ‘nerd’ who had no chance in hell at such a prestigious event. Was it a routine and disciplined practise approach that made Paul into the orator he was today? Not really, Paul hardly managed to practise effectively at most times. Something just clicked, the event perhaps bringing out the bigger person out on the day.
As he turned back towards the car he heard a voice…it was a particularly uncanny but somewhat recognizable voice. A female voice that suddenly asked “Paul, you remember I told you if you wear this suit, you would become something big?” Paul was startled. Was it his grandmother, speaking from the heavens? “Yes gradma”, as he used to call her, his nerves slightly returning. “I told you so, I was right!” she retorted in that old wise voice of hers. The voice disappeared. There was something always bigger in Paul, a giant of a person. He never really believed it, but seemed to do so on the final day. Like all of us, we all have a giant lying within somewhere, we just need to muster the courage to bring it out, just like Paul did. The giant was always there; it just needed to be awoken. The Sleeping Giant had awoken!
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