Before I begin, I need you to do something for me.
Imagine someone beautiful. Reach out and touch them. Hold them. Feel safe, comforted, secure. Love them. Be loved by them. Think of the life you would lead with them. Feel the warmth of happiness on your face.
Now, imagine watching this wonderful scene from a window. Imagine you are not in that pair. Imagine standing in the cold rain, with the fierce wind forcing the drops into your face with such force that it feels like tiny pinpricks across your skin. Gaze through the window. Be close, but never have what you deserve. What you long for.
Can you feel the agony?
I had travelled for days, years even. I had scaled mountains, I had descended valleys, swam rivers, climbed trees. My skin was torn, my body battered and broken. In reality I hadn’t moved much, but my journey was static and arduous. The obstacles I had faced were within my mind, the torment mental. But my skin had thickened. I was ready to succeed.
I remember the day I arrived, full of youthful hope and optimism; a certain naivety, I guess. I had dreams, and I would achieve them. They would be real. I would be a star; the star. The world would know my name, adore my face. My achievements would be raised up as a sign of our time. My story passed between generations.
The spotlight tore into me. The heat from the bulb warmed my scalp. The white glow blinded me; all I could see was the patterns in my eyes. The theatre could have been empty or packed to the rafters. Nothing was going to stop me.
I bore my soul. Gave everything. I was the best I could ever be. I was Churchillian, Napoleonic. I was Boudicca, Lincoln, Lenin and Ghandi in one. I was a leader of men. I was engaging. I was captivating. My talent shone like a beacon into the cold night sky. The words flowed from me in their purist, liquid form. My movements were crisp. The agony of my mind was laid bare. I was giddy from the inevitable success.
The opportunity of a lifetime is tangible. My moment is there. I can see it, smell it, taste it. I can feel the warm applause showering me. The adulation and adoration crashes over me like a wave. I dream of it, live for it, lust after it. I reach out my hands to touch it, to take it. I feel it within my fingers. But as I go to grasp it in my hands it is snatched away by the hands of another.
Do you know what it’s like? To stand face to face with your destiny and have it stolen away? To have that one dream dangled tantalisingly out of reach. To have a carrot waved in front of your face, only for it to be gobbled by another hungry mouth? To forever see your awesome prize fondled by the clumsy hands of another?
Friends, it gets worse. It gets harder still.
My opportunity still lives. My dream is still a glimmer of hope. But my glory relies on the failure of another. Their suffering will be my release. My days are filled with dark, evil optimism. Maybe today will be the day they suffer a terrible fate. Some kind of sickness, perhaps? Maybe they’ll break that proverbial leg? Maybe something awful will happen to someone they love? Maybe, just maybe, today will be my day.
Does it make me terrible? Am I a bad person? As I open my mouth I can feel the violent bile, desperate to destroy. I feel the fury in me, rising. I want to seek and destroy. I want to pillage and burn. I want to commit war crimes. I want the world to burn until I get my opportunity. I’m a tiger in a cage. I’m a bear, shackled and prodded. My moods swing from desperation to wild, spite and anger. I don’t want to be bad. Tell me I’m not. Please.
I can feel pieces of my soul break and float away on the wind as I wish torment. But without their suffering, I cannot succeed. I am a king that has been usurped, waiting for the right moment to reclaim the throne.
But should I return, should I reclaim my place the world will still remember the one I replaced. People would whisper how I profited from the misfortune of another. They would remember my predecessor. “He’s a good king”, they’d say, “but it’s a shame about the last one”. Imagine marrying a widowed spouse. You’ll never replace those memories. You’ll never live up to the fantasy.
My life will forever be tainted by the existence of another. The flames of my success would be dampened by the watery remnants of them. My dreams will never be truly achieved. Even the most tangible success would be tempered by their pathetic existence.
Do you understand my frustration?
I will always be in the shadows.
I am the understudy.