Sometime after the day of resistance, Izumi, Kei, and I was called again. This time, Mr. Moto wanted us to write an essay. There was going to be a weekend-long festival organized by the local government. One of the events during the festival was a speech contest, the theme of which was “our town.” Mr. Moto said one of us was to read the essay there.
We were exempt from some of the tedious lessons while we wrote the essay in a separate room. At first, we took advantage of our freedom and chatted the time away. We imagined we were a bigger part of a scheme, a conspiracy, and discussed how to fight the foreign enemy. The most creative in making up the story was Izumi, and the funniest one in enacting her story was Kei.
As we ran out of time, we finally sat down to write about the town we lived in. What came out was complaints. How come there was no movie theatre? How come none of our favorite singers came to play? How come there was no shopping mall?
After the lines of criticism, we changed the tone and juxtaposed words of praise. How beautiful the lake sparkled in the sunlight, how well nature was preserved, how magnificent the mountains looked.
When it came to who was to deliver the speech, I volunteered, and they agreed. I sometimes think of this moment. What if I hesitated and let either Izumi or Kei take the role? Did they want to do it? Did they back off because I called it first?
I believe it was my first public speaking experience. I practiced the voice volume, pace, tone, accentuation, eye contacts, and hands placements with Mr. Moto. Izumi and Kei were also there to support me.
On the day of the contest, Mr. Moto drove three of us to the venue. I was feeling an intensity mixed with nervousness and excitement. I was up against several other 6th graders from other schools.
My name was called, and I went up to the stage. I surveyed the audience and delivered the first sentence. “No movie theatre, no concert hall, or no shopping malls.” I had a sense that I grabbed the attention, and the rest of the speech flowed smoothly.
I won 1st place. My parents had come to see me speak, so I went home with them, and Izumi and Kei went with Mr. Moto. My parents looked happy and proud. They took me to a restaurant with a view of the lake sparkling in the sunset. I was thinking of Izumi and Kei. I felt like I took all the credit from the contest. I wish we could celebrate together, Izumi, Kei, and perhaps Mr. Moto. I felt guilty, as well as lonely.