Volume 34, Number 3

please share your specific ideas

Anshi Purohit

I discovered my best friend kept a burner phone in a plastic bag, watched the livestream of yet another foolish political action rally and even stubbed my toe on a chair leg—but what really sent me plunging off the rails was the international essay contest prompt.“We are powerful youth creating a peaceful future,” the tagline boasted, “so we are asking all esteemed young people in the world: what does a peaceful world look like in your eyes?” Then they asked me to share my specific ideas, and I broke down into tears in the middle of a relatively important meeting. Mickey, my somewhat supervisor, was not amused. He twirled his pen between his palms with the force of a perturbed individual or a sad bachelor, waiting for me to finish before continuing to describe how we could exploit the furthering climate crisis to create green-powered machinery. “They’ll save the trees,” I believed I heard him say.

He ran a car dealership that doubled as an automotive repair shop. Or, case in point, the meeting could have been a draft email. 

The air conditioning had to be tuned to its highest setting in that room, and only two of us were inside the oblong meeting room packed with boxes and an oval table with plush rolling chairs standing at rapt attention beside it. That made me sob even harder because I liked trees. I would miss trees when they disappeared; I vowed to remember I had thought of this to note for the cursed essay contest prompt.

“Would you… like a tissue?” He sat on the opposite side of the table, so I had to put my elbows on the hard surface and lean over so he could hear me whenever I wanted to talk; luckily, this moment was not one of those rarities when I was obliged to speak a handful of words to represent his one-individual Sales Department. I wouldn’t have minded a bagel, but I chewed on my bottom lip instead. Mickey kept twirling his pens in his tweed suit with his combover hair frozen in place with expensive gels when I blew my nose and rasped out a small, insignificant thank you. 

When I got up and left the meeting, a breezy feeling settled into the core of my chest; it was not from the sudden lack of intense air conditioning or the summer sun reflecting the dizzying ordinaire of my quiet suburbia. I had to find a peaceful world and share my specific ideas.

My identity was not buoyant in the sea of sameness, nor was it attractive or pleasant in any distinguishable way. It made me wonder how they fell for me after I had fallen over myself countless times. Still, the prompt forced its way into my inbox and choked down the intricate passage winding through my throat.

Here I stood, in the center of a park with no way out of its encroaching clutches (for I had gotten lost wandering and I had never been to this area of the neighborhood because public schooling boggled my mind) with my Notes app open and my fingers flying through the grimy air satiated with unspoken lies and pointless blatherings. My fingers tore through the typos with an urgent fury, abandoning the red lines under useless words with haste, tearing down and building up a hundred empires to fuel the growing, living world of humankind.

I could imagine myself combing through my inbox a year from now to find the same contest page, refreshing the tab to see countless winners and their flawless solutions to our dying world. I could imagine myself crying through their monologues, condemning myself to an eternal spiral of regret for not coming up with any desirable solutions.

I fell captive to the harsh sentence of a flustered green park bench, laughing at the asterisk-marked side note on the Contest Guidelines page- ‘the youth’ is considered to be persons of ages 23 or younger. I made a mental note to mourn my 24th birthday.