In my parents living room, not on display but more as part of a group on a shelf; amongst two birds brought home from a foreign holiday, a box that my mother decorated during one of her evening art classes and in which we keep paperclips for reasons unknown, a barometer my Dad might have gotten from work and loads of little statues and dolls me and my sister once collected or just gathered in time, stands a little silver statue of a Rat.
Dated 2003, it still has a yellow paper wristband around it with a time written on it: 15.22-16.37 It was the strangely chosen allocated time that I was allowed backstage to prep for my little performance. I was outraged when I was refused entry because it was 15.15 not 15.22. 2003 means that I was 19 when I entered, the upper-limit of the 13-19yr bracket that was allowed to participate in the art contest. I had been living abroad by myself for two years and I was fuming over this stupid bureaucracy. All around me the 13 year olds were throwing crisps at each other.
I was nervous because everyone else in my theatre category were in a group; I had once again entered on a whim (impulsiveness kind of happened, even back then) with something so off the wall it could be considered in appropriate if there had been rules. There were none, just a theme: Future. So there I was, swallowing nerves and pride when I was finally allowed to enter after 7 minutes. Everyone had chosen futuristic outfits and the look of silver mixed with white and fluorescent was everywhere. I merely had a chair and a table – oh and a mobile phone. Two. But only one you could see.
My boyfriend at the time drove me there, and I nearly drove him mad with my nerves. He didn’t understand why I was so worried, surely everything was going to be just fine. I spat at him that he had no clue what I was about to do. He admitted that he didn’t. Afterwards he said he understood my fear and thought it took guts to perform that in front of groups of teenagers, sucking coke and eating crisps waiting for their mates to come up.
When the presenter asked me what I did and whether I performed before I kept it vague. I was sick with nerves but knew that being the underdog would always help you further than being cocky. Also, it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past when you are about to go on stage, you need to be good in the moment. She gave me a short introduction with the nonformation that I had given her and on I went. Everyone was allocated 10-15 minutes I believe and where others had filled it with futuristic acrobatics, rap and streetdance ( all in the category of theatre would you believe, opposite fine art and sculpture I guess) I had decided to transform myself in an old lady waiting for the phone to ring. That was all.
I scuffle on which takes forever, the I make a show of trying to sit down which is hard to do when you can only move slowly. Then I wait, I look at the phone, pick it up, sigh, look away, look at the phone again sigh etc repeat to hearts content. I get up, scuffle away and when I am close to exiting the stage: that is when the phone rings! Oh no turn around again, scuffle scuffle, to the table: phone stops! Light out.
It was hard, this was not something people expecting and after an electrifying street-dance performance the silence was deafening. Then people started laughing uneasily, kids started shouting abuse ( Lord 12 minutes to go still!) but I knew it worked when the abuse was stopped by their peers. I knew it worked when people were quiet again, though at that point I wasn’t sure whether it was by sheer surprise of the madness of this little piece or whether they actually appreciated the concept of old lady waiting for a phone call as part of the theme: FUTURE.
When it came to handing out the prizes, I whispered to my boyfriend that I didn’t want to be first as I had to fly back to the next round which I wouldn’t be able to do it being in the middle of term and all. Still second would be nice… Second it was and there I was, a lone but very wide grin between the hip-hop group (third) and the futuristic acrobatics (a very deserved first). I think I even got some money for it and on the way home we were joking how it was the most I had ever been paid if you looked at the pay per minute!
A little silver rat that stands between all the junk of the past but which reminds me that winning comes in all kinds of shapes and Gold doesn’t have to mean a thing.