Little Objects

“Tess. We’re waiting for you, can you start?”

My eyes whipped up to the teacher and the forty students of the Alpha class as they looked at me. Some expectantly, some mockingly, some just amused. It was like a movie where it felt like I could read their minds.

She’s about to mess up.

She doesn’t have anything with her.

What new entertainment is this one about to offer?

They didn’t have to say it. I could see it on their faces like neon signs.

“I’m sorry, could I borrow your pen?” I whispered to one of my mates in front. She gave me a wary look but was like, “Yeah, sure.”


It had always been a problem for me. In a room full of people, I was sure to stumble as I walked. I already had a terrible walking step with my back bent and my shoulders tilted to one side, I still had to stumble.

And so, I devised a means. I had to have an object with me. A bag, a book, anything at all. When I walked, I’d adjust my bag on my shoulders, I’d run my fingers through the pages of my book, I’d twirl the pen in my hands and everything would be alright. No stumble. No stutter. Easy smile. Easy life.

It was weird cause when I had to give speeches or make presentations before the class, which happened a lot, I was eloquent. Whatever turmoil I felt inside was immediately calmed. And then I realized that I always had something to hold. People didn’t even have to notice it, but it was always there.

So, those little objects became my lifeline. Things to keep me grounded in the fast-paced world. I didn’t need to worry about the long walk to the stage or my eloquence in speech delivery. I had my little objects. All was fine.

Then, after school, I headed for the after-class lessons that were held for the Alpha students for each class. All was okay till the English teacher said clearly. “So, to lead the class in an intense study of the essentials of essay writing is Tess.” I hid my smirk. I was the only Art student that qualified for the Alpha class so it was a chance to wow them again with my wit and intelligence. Then, I widened my eyes at my hands. Where were my objects?

I had left my school bag somewhere else and I thought I’d carried one of my little objects with me. But my hand was empty. How could this be? What would I do?

“Tess, it would do this class a world of good if you stood up from your seat about now and saved our time,” the teacher snapped at me.

I stood up and dragged myself to the front. I looked at my hands. I felt the blood roaring in my ears and felt my heart pound in a staccato. I was doomed without a doubt. And that’s when the teacher’s voice came again, “Tess, we’re waiting for you. Can you start?” I noticed the exasperation in her voice and knew that if I made her say it another time, there would be hell to pay.

And that’s when I asked one of the students for her pen. And once she gave me, I was momentarily calm. I began to speak. It felt like I was getting the hang of things but the pen felt foreign in my hands. It was not mine. It couldn’t twirl in my fingers. I felt sweat beginning to bead on my forehead even as I kept speaking. If those at the front noticed my discomfort and the aggressive way I kept twisting the pen, they said nothing.

And then I heard the snap. For something so small, it sounded like thunder in my ears and must have been even worse for the class that had been silent. The pen had broken and its ink flew off somewhere. I looked at the class in horror.

“Tess, step away. I’ll take it from here,” the teacher said quietly. I was grateful she didn’t shout. The tears were already pooling in my eyes. But I’d had a rule for as long as I’d lived. Never cry in public. So I blinked furiously and walked with my head down to my seat, blurring out the amused, concerned and weirded-out faces of the other students.

I got back home that day and knew I needed to do something about myself. My little objects had to go. And so, I practised everyday. It felt like a mountain to climb, but eventually, I did it. And no, it wasn’t absolute. I still need to have something in my hands when I walk, preferably a bag, just out of comfort. As for talking in public, that was completely conquered.

My little objects may still be there in some form. But it’s no longer a lifeline and that’s enough to be grateful for.


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