Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Here's the way it happens. There's clicking, audible and palpable. One shoe of expectation has dropped and the resulting thud is reassuring--it massages you like your trainer as you prepare for your moment in the ring, readying you for your graduation, at long last, from this infernal division. The thud is a herald: "this is it!" it trumpets, kneading your shoulders and prepping you for greatness. But you've been here before. You've been this close to the title, and have never worn the belt of achievement. You've seen it up close, touched it with your greedy, deprived little fingers, but it was never yours. So now you wait for the other shoe to drop, the way it always has in the past. And when that thud comes, it's anything but reassuring. You try to see it as a new beginning, as freedom from the slavery of just not knowing. That it's an end should serve as some relief. But you can't help feeling that it's a small death of sorts, the end of something, the curtailing of possibility, the decapitation of hope. You hear it spoken, as you have many times before. It never sounds good. But now, repeated ad nauseum by voices of various timbres over decades, it sounds somehow sinister, as if hissed with a forked tongue, even though the word itself should be a badge of honor. Is there anything more important? Use of the word in proper context is a compliment like no other. When meant, truly heartfelt, it conveys the deepest respect. It's an acknowledgment of greatness, of affection and honor. It designates you as special. It separates you from the herd, brands you with a special marker, binds you to the speaker through public accolades of your importance. And yet, every time you hear it, your disappointment overwhelms you, obliterating the positives. As the syllable rings in your ears, the only thing it sounds like is failure.