Warning: Some cursing ahead.
Author’s note: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
“What should I do when I’m angry?” he shouted in my face as I felt my back hit the chair I sat in and hoped that he would not notice my heart beating out of my chest.
“You can start off by sitting down because you are scaring the shit out of me.”
He sat down and after a few deep breathes and a futile effort to explain every detail of why he would not be attempting his last writing assignment his breath ran short and he stopped speaking.
“That’s fine, no one is making you write, it might not be for you and it’s absolutely okay if you hate writing.” I looked at him in the eyes as he waited for an argument to ensue.
“It isn’t that I hate writing,” he hesitated, and a sense of calm filled the room. “It’s just that I am not a good storyteller, I do not know how to tell stories. I don’t have a story to tell.”
“What makes someone a good storyteller?” I questioned, hoping to channel the immense anger he was feeling. I was curious to know the answers as I searched for the same ones within my personal life.
“You need to be smart, you need to be old, you need campfires with marshmallows and shit, you need to be funny and good looking.”
“Okay, so you need to be captivating, you need to be wise, you need to provide a sense of comfort and to be attractive?” I questioned him on these things, reflecting his thoughts back to him.
“Yes. I have none of those things.”
“Okay, so what do you have?”
The client sat for a long time and pondered this question.
“I don’t know.” His resistance lingered in the air for awhile as we sat in silence.
“I have a family who has never given up on me. I have a dog who I used to love to go to the park with. I have a grandma who is the most loving person I have ever met, unless you cannot pronounce your words correctly then she is not funny at all.” He laughed, smiling for a moment before continuing on.
“I have been stabbed four times and shot once. One time I died and came back to life. I’ve done more drugs than you could fill the Pacific ocean with, I’ve lost my girlfriend to drug addiction, and raised all my siblings from the time I was 10. I have a child who I never see, but he is my favorite pen-pal in the world.”
He had captivated his audience as I adjusted to bring myself out of the movie reels that played in my mind as he depicted his life in front of me. There was no fancy language attached to it, there was nothing grammatically correct about it, but I found myself hooked within his story.
“So, you do not have a story to tell?”
“So what was that you just told me? A bunch of bullshit?” I joked as humor felt more comfortable to sit with.
“No, that is just my life.”
“You have experienced a lot of pain,” I stated, “but you have a lot to be proud of too.” I thought of the hardships he had overcome, of the resiliency of the human spirit. “Can I ask you a question?” I waited for him to answer.
“Do you see anyone old in this room? Is there a campfire to keep us comfortable?”
He looked around the room, “No, hell no, there’s none of that, nothing but this ugly ass, uncomfortable chair.” He wiggled around, his eyes raising to meet mine while he kept his head down.
Resistance is often more comfortable than change.
“Right. I agree with you on that. But I disagree with you on something else.”
“Like what?” he responded quietly.
“You just told me something. You told me about your life, about who you are, about what matters to you, and where you have been.” I continued on. “During that time you laughed, you cried, you yelled, and you smiled. You had the power to affect me in similar ways.”
He looked up for the first time in 39 minutes.
“I disagree with you because I believe everyone can be a storyteller if they want to be. I believe everyone has a story to share if they want it to be shared. I believe that you are a storyteller and that story you told me was the opposite of bullshit.”
He smiled as he carried on to tell me the rest of his story—the story he owned, the one he lived, the one no one else could tell for him.
“I never thought of it that way before. My life as a story, huh that is some funny shit, miss! I guess you can be a storyteller, too!” he exclaimed as he walked out the door of my office.
“We are all storytellers.” I replied.
It’s just a matter of how we choose to tell our stories, a matter of if we want to share our story with the world.
Author: Anna Polovin
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Dustin Lee/Unsplash