In my early teens, I had the chance to visit the New Mexico Capitol Building, also known as the Roundhouse. While this is inspired by that true event, it is highly fictionalized, expressing my feelings about power and prestige, and an adolescent’s place in regards to them.
Today was going to be an exciting day. I could feel it. The mere fact that I was this finely dressed told me, and the world, that today was a life-altering day. I suppose for a person of my age, any trip to the state capitol would feel this grand. And any occasion calling for a suit and tie would also feel as though it has the promise of being exceptional.
Walking up the steps of the capitol building, everyone was attired in a professional fashion. However, I felt oddly out of place. It was as though they could tell that I didn’t belong in this suit, that I wasn’t one of them. They could tell that I was merely a humble visitor to their all-important political machine. I ignored my self-conscious fears and made my way up the cold, granite steps.
In truth, nobody in the large, round building cared, or even noticed, that I had entered into it. Yet even though I realized this, I couldn’t help but feel as though all eyes were on me. It was, after all, my big day.
I made my way down the hallway in search of the one familiar person here. She would no doubt be happy to see me. Politicians love the youth. And why wouldn’t they? We’re the future.
“Can I help you?” the secretary asked as I entered the office of my state representative.
I introduced myself and said, “I’m here to see Mrs. Roberts.”
“Representative Roberts is currently on the phone,” she replied. “Is she expecting you?”
I was caught off guard by the question. Of course she was expecting me. This was my day! But I didn’t expect to be stopped and questioned by an underling. “Um,” I said as I tried to make sense of the mild disruption to the otherwise glorious flow of this critical day. Finally, I managed to explain, “She’s, I’m going to be her Page. Today. She knows, so, yeah, I guess, probably.”
Part of me thought I should have phrased it better. Fortunately, only the secretary was around to hear me stutter through my explanation for being here. It was a practice run. From then on, I would be articulate and well-spoken. My political elders would marvel at the wisdom in such a young man.
“Just have a seat,” the secretary said.
Waiting was difficult. I had not planned to wait. I thought I would be discussing policy or making jokes with Governor Richardson. Here I was in the state capitol building and I was only sitting in a chair with nothing to do. I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste. My attempt to wait casually could come off as indifference to the political system. I didn’t want to be thought of as apathetic, or unappreciative by my mentor’s secretary. So, I decided I could leave a message, to let Mrs. Roberts know I was here and would be back. In the meantime, I could explore. I could sit in the gallery above the house chamber and watch democracy in action!
“Can I leave her a message?” I asked.
The secretary said, “Sure,” and handed me a notepad. “Just jot your message down here and I’ll see that she gets it.”
I hadn’t expected to have to write. This was my day; I was supposed to be impressing powerful people with my knowledge and talents. Handwriting was definitely not one of my talents. With my terrible penmanship, I sketched out a short message for the Republican congresswoman.
As I sat in the gallery looking down on the political action below, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about my poorly-written note. Assuming she would be able to read my handwriting, I wondered if what I wrote would be sufficient. I wondered if it would seem like a note written by a young up-and-comer, a protégé with wisdom beyond his years and dressed in a nice suit. I’m sure that had I not had my mind on the message I had left, the roll call vote would have been very exciting.
Even though nearly a third of the entire state congress was below me, voting “Yea” to signify their presence, and voting “Yea” on behalf of their absent colleagues, I felt as though I was missing out on the action. I was not in position yet to be noticed by the people who would be so taken by my charisma they would take me under their wings, giving me the future I’ve always wanted and deserved. Politics requires taking action. It was clear I’d need to make my move. Showing up wasn’t enough, even if this was my day. I’d have to reach out and grab it.
So, I left the gallery and walked down the hallway. Every now and then I would pass by people rushing around carrying important file folders with important information. Clearly they were in the middle of things. It felt like I was getting closer to my goal as I continued seeing more and more people who seemed to have a purpose here, to be a cog in the political gears of this building. I continued walking down the hallway which circled all around the building. The more laps I made, the more exposure I’d have. Eventually, someone would take notice of me, someone would realize my natural potential and guide me to the next step.
However, I ended up getting tired. And it was getting late. Perhaps tomorrow was my day. “Is Mrs. Roberts in?” I asked the secretary as I stepped back into the office.
“She was asking about you,” the secretary told me. “We paged you on the loudspeakers.”
I didn’t know how to reply to that statement. So, I didn’t.
The secretary starred at me for a while and I starred back. Finally, she said, “Representative Roberts is gone now. The session’s ended.”
“Oh, okay. Can I leave her another message?” I asked.
“No,” the secretary answered, somewhat rudely. “She’s going back to Lovington. You’ll have to call her there.”
“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.” I exited the office. It was nearing five o’clock, which meant the political day was about to end. Not wanting to let this all be for nothing, I stopped at the cafeteria and ordered a sandwich.
I sat at a table alone to eat. Few people were there in the cafeteria. I didn’t understand. There was nothing going on here. This entire trip was nothing but hype. I thought something would happen. I thought I’d find a purpose in life. Instead, I found a sandwich, and not a very good sandwich. There were no meetings with bigwigs, no schmoozing oil tycoons or chatting with journalists. I didn’t get to offer my opinion on how best to win the upcoming elections for our party. It was just…unsatisfying.
My thoughts were soon interrupted by mustard. A tiny, plastic bowl of it hit me in the chest, spilling onto my suit, my tie and my shirt. The bowl rolled down into my lap, and then onto the floor as I stood up.
“I am so sorry,” an elderly Indian man said to me. His accent was incredibly soothing, but I found myself very annoyed. “I accidentally hit his tray,” he pointed over to a much younger and stout Indian man cleaning up food from the floor. “I am really, terribly sorry, sir.”
Calmly, I said, “You ruined my suit,” starring at the mustard streak running down my torso. Anger and sadness built up inside me as I gazed into the yellow condiment. I looked up at the man, growing more and more frustrated. I didn’t know what to do, what to say. But finally I let out a loud yell, “This was supposed to be my day!” and then struck the man. My palm landed a blow to his left cheek, and then I was shot by the stout man he had pointed to before.