“Thank you all, Thank you for believing in me, for seeing the real me!” Paul recited his acceptance speech in the mirror of the public toilets. Soap had leaked all over the sink from the dispenser. An odour lingering from the toilet stalls. “I hope I get it, I need this” he thought to himself
The young poet association awards was an event put on by the English literature Council. It was a body recognising promising upcoming talents. He had been trying his hardest for years to be acknowledged by them, by somebody. It was through his dad pulling some strings in his literature world that he managed to get this far. But here he was, finally, he would be seen by press, by other poets, by readers, he would finally have a way to be seen, connection to a world that has always evaded him.
Just at that moment there was a flush of the toilet behind, then the toilet door was pushed open almost off its hinges. A young guy very smartly dressed came out, young, tall, wavy blonde hair, perfect cheek bones, hell he could have been a model.
He came to wash his hands next to Paul. “I heard you” he said in a sure voice. “Speaking to yourself” “So what?” replied Paul. “There’s always next year” he said smiling to himself, shaking his hands over the sink.
What does he mean there is always next year? Over confident prick! Maybe he thinks that he is going to win? Maybe he knows who is going to win? I mustn’t let it bother me, sure I’ll do great, I am sure my piece will be worth the prize.
Just then the door opened, “Come on son” his dad uttered, he looked excited. Paul had never seen him like that, it’s been years since he had saw him smile. He took a deep breath and pushed the door open, back into the large hall with the hundreds of people rushing to get back to their seats. The ceremony was about to start.
He rushed to his seat, his mum was already sat down ensuring no-one would unintentionally take their places. She looked so perfect as always. In a beautiful red dress, not a red hair out of place on her head. “Sit down dear” she whispered. His dad was already taking his place. Whiskey with ice in his hand. How inappropriate, he couldn’t wait till after. Why did they have to serve alcohol? Paul thought almost cursing to himself. He guessed they had to make money back somehow on the venue. Can’t be cheap hiring this place out.
The rest of the people took their seats, there must have been a good 200 people there, everybody was so well dressed, this was so important to all of them. Opposite the stage dead centre there were even a few journalists. The press was there. The press! Paul had always thought they would be wearing hats with a little paper tickets in them but they were just normal people with pricy cameras. Shirts and ties, that’s it.
He was still young, 18, there was so much to see, so much that he had not yet witnessed, so much to write about, to discover. Little old Paul, he started to feel overwhelmed, weak and nauseous.
Music started to play and the lights over the crowd were dimmed, it was almost deafening as the spot lights followed the two people on stage. There was a young girl in an amazing purple dress following a guy in a smartly cut suit. They arrived at the microphone and started talking about the association, their sponsors and all the boring stuff that made everyone tune out.
Then they started with the awards, recognizing schools, books, lifetime achievements and then finally onto the award that mattered most to Paul. The most promising upcoming talent award.
The girl started reading, “And now, we would like to read the award for the most promising upcoming talent” The man took over “This person has been in our sites for a while, forever popular, moving and never scared to write about sensitive subjects in the world”
Paul looked around to see the blonde guy fixing his eyes on the presenters licking his lips in anticipation with his hands clasped together. Then the announcement came. The man announced in a loud voice “Lance” and the crowd erupted with a roar and clapping. Lance was being hugged by the surrounding people, probably his mother in a red silk gown was holding him so tight he could of exploded like a tightened melon. His father, towering over the two of them was hugging them both, proud tears in his eyes.
Paul looked at his father who was slumped in his chair, dejected with a sour scolding look of dissapointment on his face. He wouldn’t even merit Paul with a regard or a word of consolement. Paul’s mother held his hand and said “Don’t worry dear, poetry is subjective, there is always next year”
With that Lance started walking towards the stairs and up onto the stage. Smiling to himself and shaking the hands of the two announcers and then holding the trophy above his head although he had just won the world cup. He thanked his parents and was reeling off a list and at the same time Paul was zoning out in his own little black hole feeling sorry for himself.
His dad got up from his chair, downed the rest of his drink before leaving the empty glass in his chair. “Come on, we’re leaving” he ordered. “But it’s not finished” Paul protested but Frank was already leaving. “Dad, it’s not finished” Paul shouted in front of everybody.
The room fell violently silent as Paul and Frank became the evening’s spectacle. The crowd were waiting eagerly for a reaction. Even the press had their cameras focused on the father and son.
“What a dissapointment, a waste of time!” Frank shouted. Paul couldn’t believe that his dad would ruin this for him. In front of everyone. People in his world. “Dad, shut up!” He pleaded. “Can’t even win a two bit poetry competition, not even a runner up, a nothing, why am I paying for your studies if you can’t even show anything for it?”
“That’s enough!” Rose shouted, pushing her husband towards the exit. “What am I to you Dad? A dissapointment, a failure. I write what I believe in. I can be proud of every word I write. I will never be a sell out”.
“Well you will never make any money!” Frank snapped. “I don’t want any money if it will make me turn out like you”
At that moment Frank lunged at Paul. Paul moved to his side and Frank with his momentum and the alcohol followed through and fell to the floor. “You can’t even go to an event with your son without making a fool of yourself” Frank turned onto his side looking up at his son. Rose helping him up. “I’m moving out Dad, you can’t control me and I don’t need you”
“Paul, no” begged his mother. “No mum, I can’t” Paul marched towards the exit and pushed the door open. He did not look back.
The doors closed behind him, the night had set in. It was raining steadily. Where was he going to go? He did not know, he did not care.
Copyright © Philip Lister 2021
Let me know what you think, rough draft. What can I do more? Where should I go? What do you see already? Do you like? All comments welcome.