Updated: Dec 31, 2020
In one big theater production called life, we are the actors. When the shimmery velvet curtains are drawn, we put on a show.
Today we are fighting a war. Yesterday we sent our soldiers off with plastic shields and origami weaponry and wished them luck against an imperceptible enemy. Now we huddle behind the frontline, strap on baby-blue cotton masks as a sign of our allegiance, pretend we understand the extent of this tragedy. The river has swollen past its high mark and the floodwater is at our doors. We walk the streets to cry for a dam, but our voices mingle disjointedly while the implications seep into the muddy asphalt beneath our feet. Soon we will bear witness to our own funeral.
Today we learned to sugarcoat tragedy: we dipped the word in saccharine-sweet crystals to mask its bitter taste and blunted its razor-sharp syllables on the curvatures of our tongues. Today we laughed in the face of death. We laughed, we partied, and we hoped that ignorance would stave off the consequences. We walked streets stained crimson and riddled with bullet holes, and we pointed out the trees. Tomorrow we will go to the circus and watch the red-nosed caricatures masquerading as performers. We will rattle the metal bars and shout, but we will not realize we are the clowns.
Today I skipped first-period precalculus. The asphyxia crept up behind me as I searched for my reflection in the looking glass, so I stayed under the covers and listened to my manic heartbeat in the quicksand silence. This morning I antagonized my own existence; this afternoon I pondered the missed uses of derivatives. The world is on fire and I am thinking about how truth is elastic and wondering how far I can stretch it in my college essays. Today we are bound by our own mortality, and when I looked for perspective along the timeline of our infinite cosmos I realized this means nothing at all.
Today we are all the actors and the hypocrites. And tomorrow when the world goes down in flames, we will observe from behind tinted glass walls. We will gather at the funeral and salvage the ashes, and we will pretend we are not the fire-setters.
At some point the curtains will fall. Then there will be discourse in hushed tones, timid smiles, and an eventual lapse into silence; in the absence of an audience, we will wait patiently for another night of production to come. When it does, we will rewind the tapes—and begin again.
Katie Tian is a fourteen year old from Jericho, NY. She enjoys writing in multiple genres of creative fiction, and she has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is inspired by the world around her and takes ideas from her own life to include in her writing.