The wooden bench is hard under my legs but that’s not the reason I can’t stay still. The smell of other people is strong, the hall full of children and their parents. Soon the music will begin and I will stand, turn to the right and move forwards until my foot hits the bottom step. One, two, three I will climb onto the stage, walk a few paces straight ahead and then turn ninety degrees exactly to face the audience. I know these movements, have walked them a thousand times in my mind because I can’t mess this up. I need to show them that I can do this.
I am ten and my breaths come quickly with excitement because the school play is about to begin and I will be the first child that speaks. At that age I am not aware of how carefully others have planned this. How they have ensured my part is minimal and yet will feel immense to me. It has been executed so precisely so that I, and hopefully others, will not notice how little I actually have to do.
There will be no dancing for me. No running freely across the stage, glorious, wild movements telling a story. Even then people wanted my voice alone. My body and the hours of practise it needed were not welcome.
This is theatre, and I am blind.
From the age of three when I stepped on the stage to speak one line as the angel Gabriel I ached to be a part of a world that didn’t want me. I dreamt of stages, the warmth of the lights passing through my skin into my bones. Each year as opportunities arose to perform at school my heart would beat fast, maybe, just maybe this would be the year they would let me shine. I knew, given the chance it could be my destiny.
Of course it never was. I was awkward and shy, filled with anger and bitterness at so many lost chances. Each year my dream slipped further away from my grasp. I would wrap myself in my covers and cry huge, relentless sobs through the night, but I would never tell anyone about the awful ache that had set up a permanent home beneath my ribs.
I eventually found people who wanted me. Those who held out a hand to reach for the girl expecting rejection, pulling her out of the shadows. They were filled with creative ideas, blocking the stage perfectly to fit my movements, pushing me to be better, to understand my body more and more each day.
And yet the voices in my head kept an iron grip on me. I would never be good enough, I was broken and no amount of time could fix me. Like so many, I lifted my hands and let loose the dream I had held so close for years.
Still it lingers, a scrap of hope that cannot be dislodged no matter how hard I try. It begs for me to listen, to try again, to be stronger than the years of rejection that weigh heavy on my heart.
Perhaps there will come a day when I can let go of the hurt, when truly I will step into the light.