I was important once. People noticed me first in a crowded room, made a direct path my way, clustered around.
“Ah, there’s Harry Hatcher” they would say.
“Perhaps he will sing for us.”
“Not here, not today, silly.”
And when I heard those words I would burst into song, for I liked to be contrary, to go against expectations.
It was a part of what I had become.
And I liked what I was.
Pride was my only sin in those far off days.
Pride and self-conceit.
And a disparaging view of the little people; those who clustered around.
And then there was a little of condescension, combining with arrogance and intolerance, rather more of anger, petti-mindedness. In all they made a delicious cocktail of vice.
But they all were a part of what I was then.
I ignored the lump when it first came, thinking it could not happen to one so special, so talented, so favoured; someone who was so needed by others and looked up to.
So I danced with death but in a drunken, ignorant way. I was a tragic actor, expecting at the end of act five to take repeated bows then shed the lumps along with my stage clothes. But my growths would not lie down in the prop trunk between performances.
And then my fine voice cracked, just the merest line on the surface sound, but soon to widen and deepen across the whole vocal range. I stumbled as I paced the boards and then I fell through every television set in the country. As I fell into the blackness of despair I noticed how totally silent my world had become. I could no longer brighten my surroundings with the joy of my voice. Even my sobs and cries were a silent storm, raging but lacking the dimension of sound, so it seemed like I was miming my downfall.
No longer could I change the course of the earth, or thought I could, as our world hurtles through the whole universe.
I hated myself for not being special anymore, for being the smallest, meanest voice amongst the little people, the ordinary, the everyday.
But then the little people gathered around, truly clustering. One took my temperature, another administered injections by the hour, or checked the drips. Several were on hand to push the trollies and shift me from bed to wheelchair and back to bed again. Others took out their pinpoint-accuracy scalpels and cut into me while I slept a deep sleep.
They all had careful hands and cheerful voices, even when they were cross or sad, deflated or bitter, they brought something to the room I was living out my life in. Some joked about my broken voice, teasing out of me a tiny smile that grew daily like weeds in an allotment. They leant over me to hear my rasping whisper and jokingly told me to keep my voice down.
These were the little people who had saved their pennies to listen to me sing. Now they tended it and tended also my despair.
Now I have a little voice. I can sing a little and join in a choir. I like to sing, but most of all I like to be alive and to be a little person in a welter of humanity.