by Ryan Menner
Stood, adjacent to my social betters, lips a-jarred, subtle shades of moisture seeping from all crevices of my upper body. The final moments of the presiding speakers speech were consumed by the blaring silence of my mounting anxiety. A silence broken only by the ostensible, pretentious yet nonetheless tempest eruption of applause.
Stepping forward toward the lectern, where a welcoming vacancy had been brandished for my presence. I loathed the three hundred tightly closed lips and iridescent eyes, fixated on me. A deep breath, igniting my entire body; like cigarette smoke into the darkest corners of the lungs.
My confidence lifted by the security of the waist high stand that hid my trembling knees. Resting my left hand on it, ever so lightly, securing my unsteady upper body. A reassuring moment of balance, freezing me like a copper statue, even my posture adhering.
As always, I systematically and mentally picked seven people in the crowd, in half as many seconds. These human specks, my point of interaction with the audience. Finally my mouth moved, ever so slowly, to the enigmatic electric stick that would project my words like a divine voice of archaic justice and reason.
Words spilt out of me in an organised chaos, broken only by my strict adherence to the three-second glance to two of the seven. As my eyes dart between paper and people I find the encroaching end without a moments notice.
Exhilarated by the simple thought of finishing, a subtle confidence grew with every word. A confidence that made the microphone feel as though it was no more than a fictitious scripture of words for a foolish man to follow lawfully.
I spoke truth.
Truth finally broken by the same ostentatious applause that ended my predecessor’s address.
Momentary pride became suddenly diluted by a humbling sense of relief. Like a dozen times before my speech had now passed, with seamless ease.
I found solace, as always, in the storm of accolades. However one-dimensional these boosts to the self-esteem were, I welcomed each and every one of them with a graceful and courtly charm. The simple notion, that despite the probable falseness of the patrons’ praises, there may actually be a small element of truth, a thought that fuelled my delicate persona. A persona, which, in a rather cavalier yet begrudgingly fashion always accepted the ever-looming requests to speak publicly.
As my vanity settled I reflected on what my speech meant, to me; to the audience. I dismissed all notions that I could perhaps inspire someone, delving into the idea that the vexatious veil of society was the father, son and the holy sprit, of any essence of importance that could be found in my words. Rendering such displays as self-indulgent, nothing more than an ignorant blunder that empowers our society’s false sense of security, as superficial as an embroidered table runner.
How do I break from the social norms that dictate my life? Is integrity the answer? I paused for a moment. Integrity is a man’s honour; it’s the essence of truth. Truth is pure, un-erodible but ultimately unascertainable. And if truth is integrity, then what is integrity to a man? Integrity is intrinsically indulgent but utterly utilitarian. Inner thoughts will seldom find an answer, as the reason we ask questions is because we do not hold the answer.