A little story contest called Dazzle Me, as found at Parenthesis. A picture is provided as departure point, with all the essays concluding with the same final line. You have till 30 August to submit. Get going people….this is a lot of fun!
Years of experience, that is what you need to mesmerise an audience. “She was born to it” was often heard whispered in the Opera house.
Slowly, methodically, with utmost care, every streak of make-up is applied. This is what could be expected from an opera star of note. Colour applied to please the audience, but also to hide years of experiences and anxiety. Memories like the growth rings laid bare in a fallen oak.
Her thoughts rushing to and throw between now, and the rollercoaster history of a country she so loves. Every line of make-up becomes a regretted remembrance, hidden to the world underneath a rainbow veil.
Her uncle was a mingong. An overworked and seldom paid migrant worker. He was killed in 2006, as part of a group protesting the non-existence of worker’s rights. The government is geared up to handle protestors and rioters with a 1,5 million man strong internal army.
A tear shapes in the corner of her eye and threatens to ruin the foundation of the meticulously applied mask. It is quickly dabbed. The thought of her grandchild attending a gymnastics sport school always draw tears. A nine year old girl having to complete 10 hour training days in order to one day satisfy the medal lust of a nation. Her granddaughter is only one of about 54,000 professional child-athletes. Children make up two thirds of all professional athletes. Her grandchild receives no other education but for gymnastics training.
She decides to one day pen down all these memories, and instantly reminds herself to find a good hiding place. If it should be discovered by a spy, her life would surely be in danger. Press freedom, and even free expression of thought is non-existent and violently enforced. Executions happen very often these days; there is a common understanding of verdict first, trial second. Her nephew, at age 23, was executed two years ago. He was one of the 68% of executed that were only afterwards found to be innocent.
With another streak of colour she ponders the fact that her nephew’s body probably earned the government a pretty penny. Going hand in hand with executions, is also a world renowned transplant surgery business for wealthy foreigners. It was only two weeks after his execution that the Vice Minister of Health admitted that the organ donor program is non-existent. Organs are predominantly harvested from the executed.
The face reflecting in the mirror is a minor likeness of her own. The layers of white and colour evolves into a brave façade. The smile on stage a camouflage for feelings not expected from a content citizen. With an expertly trained hand, she drapes the costume around an emaciated body.
With the final step of colourful disguise completed, she enters the stage area with flair. There will be numerous foreigners in the audience tonight, visitors to the Beijing Olympics that need to be assured that all is well in the Peoples Republic of China.
The audience is enthralled by each note sung, and each precision move completed. She draws them into the farce of being a “Happy Chinese”. A nation apparently living at the foot of a rainbow, where there is a spot for each under the sun.
She can not help but think that this audience will witness the most spectacular sport show on earth, from grandstands built on property from which she was evicted. Property ownership in China is just about non-existent, and about 300,000 people were evicted in preparation for the Games. Complainants were jailed and even worse, severely beaten.
With a twirl of satin, and a pitch perfect final note, the last act of the opera concludes. The standing ovation and shouts of “Encore” means her part in the public relations campaign was a huge success. Her joy soon transforms into poignant relieve. She survived another day and can now withdraw into the changing area. The tears can now flow freely, washing away the mask and uncovering her sadness for a nation held captive.
She will not be branded the smog in the way of the sun-web of deceit. The sun will still catch the drops, and exhibit to the world, a rainbow of sham labelled China.
The guardians of the rainbow don’t like those who get in the way of the sun.
Facts & Figures: Peter McAllister ( BusinessDay Sport Monthly, August 2008)