I sit in class behind you but you don't even see me. And, yes, it's a children's story.
|Nameless. Faceless. Voiceless.
I’m sitting in the back of the classroom, three rows behind you, but you do not see me. Turn around next morning and count the kids in the back row seats.
That’s right. Five.
Now turn back, facing forward, and, without looking again, who were those five children?
Suzie with her cool blue-jean jacket.
Gala, who always has an answer for every question, though some are so wrong they're funny.
Shervin, who everyone calls Sherwin, but you know it's spelled with a v. He’s very smart.
Hattie, who for some reason doesn’t like you and you can’t figure out why.
That’s four. That’s only four.
So who was the fifth? Who is the fifth? Think hard, but don’t turn around.
No one comes to mind. No one. But there was a fifth.
That’s me. Awkward, quiet, nameless, voiceless, and faceless me.
There’s one of us, or two of us, in every class.
So now let me tell you my story.
You should enjoy it, since you are one of the heroes in the story. In fact, you are one of my heroes, period. I want to be like you. With a voice. With a face. With a name. Someone people see and remember. Someone who can talk to others. And, yes, I know you are awkward at times, too. And your confidence wavers sometimes. But you manage. And people ask you questions. And wait for the answers. Not all the time. But enough.
So, one day, three years in the future, yes the future.
How old are you now?
How old will you be in three years?
I can tell you the exact date and time, but that’s not important.
Here’s what is important: It will be the first and last time you see me in person.
Now, if an adult is reading this story to you, they are a bit concerned where this is heading. They might even be regretting reading this aloud to you for the first time and not pre-reading it. They might even stop and say, “Let’s stop this story for now and come back to it another night.”
That would be smart. But it is not necessary.
It’s time to read our stories. The ones we wrote for English class. Again, this is three years form now.
The teacher calls my name: Quincy.
Yep, that’s my name. Could be either a boy’s or a girl’s name, but it’s the first time you heard it. You look back and see me, but not really. Not until I read. And before I read my story, the teacher says something.
“This is Quincy’s last day with us. Quincy is moving to another school, so, please, let’s give Quincy your full attention.”
Yes, three years from now I will be leaving your class and your school for good. This is my last day. And the last words you will hear from my mouth … not that you heard many others.
I start the story shaky, but as you and the other children get caught up in it, my voice wavers less and less.
Cough. Cough cough. And then nothing as the child in the grey shirt lying on the floor dies. Or passes out. Or simply falls asleep.
Creak. Creak creak. As the door opens to reveal a child in blue shirt. This child wants to see if the grey-shirted child is dead or alive.
Yank. Yank yank. A child in a red shirt drags the blue-shirted child backwards, out of the room.
Suddenly, you realize you are the child in the blue shirt and someone is stopping you from finding out if the grey-shirted child is alive or dead. You think you saw the grey shirt rise and fall … The child is breathing!
Suddenly, you realize you are the child in the red shirt, too. Dragging the child in the blue shirt - Yank. Yank yank. - backwards, out of the room. And then Creak. Creak creak. The child in the red shirt, which is you, shuts the door.
But you, blue-shirted you, push the red-shirted child away.
“No!” you scream. “We must help the grey-shirted child.”
But the red-shirted child is strong and grabs your shoulders, holding you in place.
You are holding yourself in place
“Not your problem,” you answer back to yourself. “Not our problem. Let's not get involved.”
But you want to know.
But you want to be safe.
Finally, the blue-shirted you makes a decision. You will open the door. You will see if the grey-shirted child is OK.
Creak. Creak creak. You open the door to see… to see… to see that the grey-shirted child is gone. The room is now empty.
And while you feel better that the grey-shirted child is probably OK, you are not sure. And you want to be sure.
So, here’s what you do. You start again.
Creak. Creak creak, you, the blue-shirted child, open the door. You see the grey-shirted child lying the floor and you rush over, too fast this time for the red-shirted child to grab you. And you look the grey-shirted child right in their grey eyes and ask, loudly and desperately, “Are you OK?!?”
You awake suddenly. You look up at a child in a blue shirt with blue eyes and you smile. “Yes,” you say softly. “I am OK. I am very OK now.”
“The End,” I say. “The End,” I say exactly three years from now.
I know it's not very good. But we are still pretty young then. We are young now and will still be young in three years.
But that doesn’t matter, since, after I finish reading it and look up, I can tell that you see me. Not many of the other children do, but you do.
And I have never been happier in my life, since I wrote the story for you. Hoping you would see me.
Then you will say something you have never said to me before. My name. You will say, “Quincy…” You test the name to make sure it's right. Then you complete the sentence. “Quincy, that was great.”
And I can tell that you are glad you already read your story, since you think mine is better. I don’t, but you do. And this will mean a great deal to me.
You will smile at me. Exactly three years from now, you will smile at me.
And I will smile back. A little embarrassed, but I will.
Exactly three years from now, you call me by my name. And while you might not remember my name for long, or even tomorrow, I can tell that you will remember my story, as imperfect as it is, for many years afterwards.
And you will smile at me, for the first time. And I will smile back, also for the first time. The beginning of a friendship.
But that afternoon I will leave our school and we never see each other again.
Which will be OK, since you saw me – really saw me – that one time.
The End. Almost.
It’s thirty years from now.
How old will you be? Add thirty years to your age now and you get…?
Hard to imagine anyone being that old!
Anyway, it’s thirty years from now and you are sent a story from a good friend. You really like short stories and your friends know it. Many people send you stories from all over the world. And this is just one of many.
But that’s not the important part.
The important part is this: you really enjoy this new story. It makes you cry. It makes you laugh. It makes you cheer.
Here’s the other important part: I will write that story.
Do you remember my name? No looking back!
If you do, great. If you don’t, no matter, since this will be thirty years from now. That’s too long of a time to remember my name.
And how will either of us know you read my story? And how will either of us know you enjoyed it?
We won’t. But that won't stop it from happening. And it won’t stop you from remembering my name suddenly. Quincy. And looking at the name of the author of the story. Also Quincy.
Could it be, you wonder? Could it be that quiet, faceless, voiceless – but no longer nameless – child in the back of your class so many years ago?
You will then re-read the story in my voice. You will re-read the story in the somewhat shaky and soft voice of a child from thirty years ago. It will sound even better to you. It will sound … right.
You will say to yourself, “I am going to see if this is the same Quincy I went to school with.” And you will start to look it up and then you will stop.
You will say to yourself, “No need to. I know it is.”
And it will be.