There are only a few things that I want in life. I don’t ask for much, I just want these things; food, water, clothes, books, movies, a bed, the internet, and for them to shut up. No, I’m not talking about the people queueing in front of the movie theatre. I’m not talking about my mother nor sister who are always fuming whenever the neighbors’ voices roar through our thin walls, fighting over who knows what. I’m also not talking about my other family members who nag me about a love life I never had in every family occasion. In fact, I’m not talking about people at all. I’m talking about the voices in my head.
What voices, you ask? Well, I’ll tell y –
“We’ve arrived. Get out.”
“Why are you even in such a hurry?” I groaned then gathered my things and stepped out of the car. I bent down and looked at my mother through the car window. She is locking the car doors as soon as I stepped out of it.
“Why, I need you to get out of the car as soon as possible of course.” “And why is that?”
“So you can’t bail on this one.” I frowned at her words. I looked behind me and find a crowd. Crowds, to be exact. There are a lot of people here. I didn’t think this through. I gaped and turned back to look at my mother. The window slowly closes as my mother screams, “Have fun!” I gaped at the car as it drove away. Did she just leave me at a public space, alone? I’m already sweating. I inhale as many air as I can and walked toward the crowd.
I’m going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. I’m. Going. To. Be. Fine. I’m going to be fine. Right? This is the right decision. I’m going to be absolutely and a hundred percent
fine. I forced a smile to my face and stepped in one of the queues. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Yes, fine. My smile slowly wavered.
“Hey,” said the person behind me, interrupting my thoughts. I turned around and stared at her. She looks pretty, like the kind of girl that boys chase after. Confident, great fashion sense, a pro at putting on make-up. Why is she greeting me, though? Do I know her? Wait, do I have something on my back? I didn’t realise I’ve been staring for a full minute.
“Hello?” I replied. She raised her eyebrows at me, then looked at her friend. I feel two sets of eyes staring at me with raised eyebrows. Wow, based on the way they dressed, you could mistake them as twins.
“You’re holding up the queue.” She said exasperatedly. I frowned at her words. Seconds passed until her words sink in. I gasped and moved forward nervously. The girls behind me whisper and giggle at each other. Are they talking about me? They must have think that I’m a freak. Oh, God, why did I even come here today?
I looked around me. The movie theatre is packed with people. I feel stuck. Why is it suddenly so cramped? I fished my phone out of my pocket and texted my mother.
Mom, can you pick me up? I don’t think I can do this. You’re not my daughter if you don’t finish what you started Mooooom!
Bye, honey! Good luck and have fun xoxo
I sighed as I put my phone back in my pocket. What if something goes wrong? What if I puked out of nervousness in front other master class participants and keynote speakers? And what if those participants take photos or videos of me puking and then upload it to Youtube? I’m going to be embarrassingly viral. Oh, God help me.
I cover my face with both hands, my heartbeat pounding fast. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. From the gaps of my fingers on my face, I see the person in front of me stepping forward, I followed him. Slowly, I pull my hands away from my face and set them at my sides. I stared at my shoes.
“Next”, said the lady behind the desk. I stepped forward. “Name?”
“Emily Wong”, I replied.
She looked through her list and wrote a checked symbol on the column next to my name. She handed me an ID card. “Here. You have to always wear this name tag during the master class. Don’t lose it. You can now go to theatre 3. Next.”
I walked with my head held down towards said theatre. Someone tapped my left shoulder. It was Sara, one of my classmates from university.
“Emily! It’s you!”
“Oh, hi, Sara.”
“What are you doing here? Are you coming for the convention? What fringe events are you coming for?” She looked at my name tag. “OMG is it for the film master class? Because, me too! Oh we’re going to have so much fun together!”
Sara linked her hands to mine and led me into the theatre. “Let’s sit there!” She pointed at the seat up front, there are only two free seats left there I gulped. Too many people. I slowly untangle myself away from her.
“It’s okay. You sit there, I think I’m just going to sit elsewhere.” I said hurriedly as my eyes roam the room for free seats with less people. I found a place at the corner of the room. There’s no one there, perfect. As I go through the inside of my bag, I heard the microphone.
“Is everyone seated?” I froze then looked up. It’s Mr. Noon. It’s Mr. Noon! A film director that I’ve been admiring since I was 12. “Alright, welcome to Film Master Class 2.0.. If any of you is wondering why I called it 2.0., it’s because this is the second step you take to filmmaking. When was the first step? It was when you enrolled yourselves to this event. You’re all here today because the scripts that you sent was the best of the best. So, give a round of applause to each and everyone of you.”
I hear the room roared with claps and whistles. Mr. Noon continued, “Alright, alright. Before we get to the boring theoretical stuff, I’m going to give you your first assignment. Silence filled the room. “Before you make art, you have to know who you are first. Film is art. Therefore, each and everyone of you will come upfront after lunch to deliver a monologue about who you are and why you want to make a film. You will
all do so in front of me and your other classmates. Feel free to ask me after I deliver to you the boring theoretical stuff that I mentioned earlier.” A few of us let out nervous laughs.
Who am I? Now that I think of it, I don’t think I know at all. Wait, did I hear someone call my name? Did I hear wrong?
“Em! Emily!” I snapped out of my thoughts. I looked to the source of voice calling my name. It was Sara. “Come, sit with us.” She was sitting with the girls that were queueing behind me before and a few other guys that I don’t recognize. I tried to move my feet but I swear it froze. What excuse can I give this time? That I finished eating? I looked down at my tray and found untouched meal. I looked to other tables, they’re all full. I looked back to where Sara and the others were sitting and found two free seats available. I looked back at the exit door. Should I eat at the restroom again?
“Uh … Hi Sara. I’m –“
Out of a sudden, two hands grabbed my tray and put it on Sara’s table. Those two hands then pulled me toward the seat. I groaned inwardly. Sara.
“Everyone, this is Emily. Emily, this is everyone.” I hear a bunch of names that I’m pretty sure I’m going to forget soon.
“So, Emily. Do you know what you’re going to say in your monologue?” Guy #1 on my front left said.
“Um …” I fidgeted with the help of my water bottle.
“Oh! I know what I’m going to say. I …” Everything they said afterwards seems to shrunk away. All I can hear is the voices. My voices. It’s rising, rising, rising. I need to get out here.
“I’m sorry, I think I need to go to the restroom.” Without waiting for their response, I stormed out of the room and went to look for a place with no one around. Breathe in, breathe out. I’m going to be fine, aren’t I? This is just a simple assignment.
Why make such a fuss about it? I always do this. I found a door that led me to a small balcony of the theatre building. I closed the door and leaned on it. I slowly sink to the ground. Breathe in, breathe out. After a minute or two, I relaxed. What am I going to say for the monologue? Isn’t it suppose to be simple? Stop making such a fuss about it, dear me!
“Hey, are you okay?” I was startled by someone smoking a cigarette at the corner of the balcony. Silence fell between the two of us.
“Hey? You okay?” He repeated.
“Yeah. Yes, I’m fine.” I wrapped myself in my jacket and looked at opposite direction.
“Are you worried about the monologue?” he said. This caught my attention, I looked back to him.
“How do you know? Were you in the same master class?” I pressured.
“No.” I waited for further explanation. There seemed to be none of it. I played with one of the buttons of my jacket. “Don’t think too much of it, though,” he continued. This guy is confusing. “It might sound hard to do, but deep down you actually know who you are. Remember why you enrolled to the master class in the first place? Start from there.” I let his words sink in. He got up and brushed his trousers. “I’m done, you have the place all to yourself now.” He winked and got out of the balcony. Wait, did he just wink?
I stared at his cigarette on the balcony floor. Its smoke barely there. Why did I enroll in the first place?
“Everyone, please have a seat.” Mr. Noon gestured as I rushed back to the room. I was the last to arrive and Mr. Noon clearly noticed this. He stared at me. I stood awkwardly in front of the class and then decided to sit next to Sara at the front. Sara looked at me quizzically. I shrugged and pulled at my shirt. Was I late? Does he hate latecomers?
Am I doomed for the rest of the three day master class? My thought was interrupted by Mr. Noon’s announcement.
“Alright, first up, Evelyn, your monologue please.” As he said this, the class quieted down. God, this is nerve-wracking. It turned out that the girl behind me at the queue before was Evelyn.
“Well, hello everyone. My name is Evelyn. You may call me Eve,” she said chattily. “I am an only child, my favorite color is pink. I love to socialize! Crowds are the source of all my energy. Sometimes people said that I’m too frank, but I don’t really care. And the reason why I enrolled to this master class is because I love film. Thank you!”
“Alright, thank you Evelyn. I have to say, that was short. I have a little note for you guys, you have to dig a little deeper than what Evelyn did just now.” Mr. Noon looked at Evelyn. “Now, now, Evelyn, don’t pout. I’m giving you another chance at a monologue tomorrow.” At this, Evelyn smiled brightly. “Next up, Brian.”
At this point, I’m pretty sure my face is as white as a bed sheet and body cold as the arctic sea. Gee, talk about hyperbole. I was the 9th person to go up.
“Emily, you’re up.” I froze. “Which one is Emily?” Mr. Noon called out my name.
Sarah nudged me.
“Em, you’re up.” Sara hissed at me then helped me get up. No, the precise word would be she pushed me to get up.
Silence filled the room. I can see people talking to each other but I couldn’t hear their voices. I looked around the room. Am I dead? Why can’t I talk? Oh My God, why is everyone looking at me weirdly? Did someone call my name? I looked to Mr. Noon. He nodded his head at me, urging me to start. I looked at the center of the room and found the Balcony Guy leaning at the center wall. He nodded at me. I looked at my shoes.
I’m going to be fine. Breathe in, breathe out.
“He .. llo,” I started with a cough, still looking down at my shows. “My name is Emily, Emily Wong. I’m currently a freshman at MNK Film Academy.” Where should I look at? I decided to look at the faces of my class, I have nothing to lose. If I screw this up, I’m just not going to come to tomorrow’s class. Right, that’s the way.
“To be honest, I have doubts about coming here. I don’t feel comfortable being around crowds. I prefer being alone, with the company of my movies and books. I realised enrolling to a film major is a bad idea for me, huh?” I laughed nervously. “My parents once told me that, by enrolling to said major, I have to be more social, because in film, you work in groups, you don’t work by yourself. This master class is one of the steps that I take to be more social. Baby steps, you know. Oh my god, you have no idea how cold and trembling my hands are right now!” Was that chuckling I hear? I’m not sure anymore. I kept talking and can’t seem to stop.
“Why do I love movies? If you ask the 8 years old me, I’m probably going to answer with ‘Because I want to make teletubbies too!’ No, no. I love movies because it speaks more than it tells you through its visual and audio. There are so many hidden meanings and subtexts to it, so many hidden messages that the filmmaker was trying to tell you.
“To me, there are no bad or good movies, the only movie that exists is the right one. If you think a movie was good, that means you watched the right one. If you think the movie was bad, that means you watched the wrong one. Does that make any sense? Well, it makes sense to me. I think that’s all. Thank you!”
I looked at the faces and see small smiles. I looked to the faces and hear claps. My hands are numb. I sat down next to Sara. Sara squeezed my hands and smiled at me.
“Alright, good job Emily. Thanks for you monologue.” Mr. Noon smiled at me. “Next up, Roy.”
I did it!
“How did it go?” Mom asked me as I entered the car. I put the seatbelt on and smiled.
“Good.” I nodded and glanced at her.
Mom looked at me quizzically. “Okay … But you’re coming back tomorrow, right?”
I breathe in and out. I looked at her straight in the eyes “Yes, I’ll be back.”