Department of English

Fall 2011 Edition

In This All Honor Lies

Madisen Hayes
Expressive 2010 Honorable Mention
Professor: Dr. Jessica Tvordi

White. Everywhere there is white, blinding white light, and unsettling white noise. My eyes burn with the brightness that penetrates there. I hear everything and nothing. The steady tempo of pounding blood suddenly increases in my ears. Beads of sweat begin to form upon my brow, and my ragged breathing is growing wilder. My nerves are on fire, and then, everything falls silent. I lift my head. It is time.

Relax. Everything is going to be just fine. I take a deep breath to steady myself. I open my mouth and let the words flow. I hope I remember everything.

“Oh hateful hands, to tear such loving words…” (Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1.2.264). The poetic phrases of sorrow and regret roll over my tongue as I kneel. The emotions and character lives through me, in me, as I perform. A pause. I can’t forget now! I have one line left! Damn it! A breath. Anger and frustration fluster me. I force my momentum to carry through to physical movement to fill the time. My hands act out on their own, clutching for the invisible scraps of paper laid scattered around me. I worked too hard on this Shakespeare piece to just stop now! Please. Just say something! ANYTHING! What was that line?! I shift my focus from left to center, and slowly bring my face up to stare directly at the light in front of me. Got it!

“Thus will I fold one on another/ Now kiss, embrace, contend, and do what you will” (1.2.288). With trembling jaw and shaking voice, I finish the line, reveling in every word. The last word echoes in the black. Silence takes its place, deafeningly ringing in the vastness of the theatre. One Beat. Two. I begin to sweat. Three. Applause breaks the oppressive quiet. I grin and bow deeply, quickly hiding my glee as I stand erect once more. I did it! I can’t believe it! I am AWESOME!! Ha!!

A disgruntled voice shatters my euphoria as it booms boisterously over the crowd, “Finalists for Shakespeare monologues will be announced in three hours. You can watch or you may be excused.” I nod and curtsy to the disembodied voice and vacate the stage. Another monologue, perfectly executed! I hope that I make it to finals! That would be the first time that anyone in my school has! I love coming to the Fullerton festival! Stepping outside of the theatre I am greeted by shouts and cheers. High fives, pats on the back, and smiles surround me. This is my passion, my place, my pleasure.

“Group hug!” Nick shouts. We all embrace. I love you guys. This unlikely group of theatre kids is a family, my family. I look to our leader, teacher, and most importantly, my friend.

Mrs. Lord beams at me, the soft wrinkles around her eyes lift heavenward, and her eyes shine with glee. “You nailed that one! Alright, finals will be up in three hours, and you still have to compete in a Shakespeare scene from Two Gentlemen of Verona, a contemporary monologue, and a cold read! You also need to eat something. Come on gang! Let’s move!” Running in mass we arrive at the next event where three friends and I compete. Hugs and laughs are exchanged. Again, as one large bundle we make it to our next stop: more competition, more fun, and more life.

An hour and a half until the list goes up and we finally break for lunch. We sprint over to the cafeteria to order. Ham sandwich, milk, apple, and cookies, SCORE! Silence envelops the grassy knoll where we land, our mouths full of our well-earned spoils. After the quick disappearance of the victuals, we chat and laugh about the events of the day. I lean up against a tree, taking everything in, absorbing as much as I can, committing this perfect picture to memory. I am going to miss this. My last competitive festival. I wonder if [cough] the others will [cough] remember this [cough cough]. Why the heck is my throat so dry? [Itch] What the [cough] is going on? Why can’t I [cough itch] breathe!? What is…?

People are shouting. I don’t understand. Everything is starting to go a little fuzzy [thud thud]. There is a harsh pounding on my back. Ow. What’s happening? I see Mrs. Lords’ face right above mine. How did I end up on the ground? Hands are cradling my head, and more faces are rushing into my quickly blurring view. Why do you look so scared? Please don’t cry, everything’s going to be… white minivan… hands are running through my hair… Gianna’s telling me something I can’t hear… white room…strange people dressed in white…white ceiling…bright white lights…so much, too much. Then an empty blackness…Strong arms pull me forward and a tube is shoved down my throat as black goo is forced down my gullet. As soon as it hits my stomach, I begin to wretch. Someone is standing there with a bucket and rubs my back. The contents of my stomach reappear for all to view.

Nurses are frantically stabbing me with needles, one is talking to Mrs. Lord, and a woman’s face emerges right before me. Commanding and stern, she asks direct questions.

“What are you allergic to? What did you eat? Do you have allergies to any medications?” “Turkey, shellfish, and some others… um… Iodine,” I manage to mumble. Turning to the nurse with the bucket, the stern one orders, “Test the contents, and find out what’s in there.” She turns back to me, and while administering a shot, she says, “I’m giving you Benadryl, some steroids, and this lovely cocktail. Sleep.” Not willing to put up a fight, I follow her instructions and I promptly lose consciousness.

I wake to a calmer environment. Mrs. Lord is gone and one of the mother chaperones is with me. I glance up at the clock. The list should be up any minute. Mrs. Covey sees me awake and tells me what happened. I started coughing and blacked out. I was rushed to the ER where they pumped my stomach and found that the sandwich I had so enjoyed was turkey. Mrs. Lord was back with the rest of the gang and waiting with them. In the meantime, I was being ordered to remain in the ER for at least another four hours before release. Holy Moo. I can’t stay here. The show must go on. In my minds’ eye, I see the faces of my friends and remember everyone is counting on me. I quickly voice my opinion about my rapidly improving condition and demand that I be released immediately. A heated discussion with Mrs. Covey, ever the Jewish mother, and a brief but convincing talk with the doctor later, I am let go. Being 18 has its benefits.

Arriving just in time to see the list go up, I stand with my clan. After the straining events of the day, I feel too weak to stand for too long. The sunlight is bright to my eyes and my head begins swimming. Taking a seat on the cool grass, I wait for the news to spread. Shrieks of laughter and piercing sobs fill the air. Nick comes bounding out of the crowd at full tilt, heading straight for me. Practically radiant, he grabs me up in a tight bear hug and swings me around as he rejoices.

“You did it! You’re on the list for two of your monologues and a cold read!” My friends are ecstatic. I am one of two in the group to be moving on to the finals. I stand and begin walking toward my trial. My head spins, and my stomach gives an unfriendly lurch. What did I just get myself into? Lord, give me strength.

I manage to stumble in to my events and the judges are quietly informed about the situation at hand. I am asked to perform first. I stand and take center stage, the audience quiets, the air stiffens, and the lights rise. I steady myself as my nerves begin to set in. If you can do this, you can do anything. Just breathe. Breathe. I steel myself and let the first line lose. All the events of the day, all of who I am, fall away. Julia takes my place as the verses ebb and flow. Natural.

“Now kiss, embrace, contend, and do what you will.” The last line delivered, I bow, and hurriedly exit stage right. I nearly collapse into the nearest chair. Two more to go. Heaven help me. I miraculously finish out the day, and manage not to black out or spew over everything, even though my stomach has many times attempted to. A brief nap later, the winners are announced. No familiar name is called. This is expected. My peers approach me and we all exchange one final round of hugs. I laugh at their remarks about the judges, and quips about being ten times better with the funky cocktail than without. Packing up our lot I realize something, I won. I had made it farther than anyone else had. I kept going.

We are about to climb into the cars when Mrs. Lord approaches me and grabs me up in a big momma-like hug, “You did a good job today. Granted, it was stupid, but I’m proud.” She hands me my score sheets. I skim the first round, and delve quickly into the final score sheets. Amazed at all the positive feedback, I laugh at myself. What a long day it has been! I scramble into the car and buckle in between Gianna and Megan. Mrs. Lord climbs into the driver’s seat and hands another score card back. “Here Maddie, this one got mixed in with Audrey’s.” I take the paper and read over the comments. Getting towards the bottom of the page one little something catches my eye. I read it and smile. After placing the papers in my bag, I lean back and put my arms around my girlfriends and give them a big hug. We all laugh as Mrs. Lord turns up the music and we pull onto the freeway. There will never be a more perfect day. I will never forget.

Scribbled in the bottom corner of that last score card, was the best comment I had ever received, a short and slender cursive phrase: “Act well thy part, in this all honor lies.”