Any parent, teacher, or music enthusiast deciding to attend our high-school orchestra concert would enjoy rousing renditions of classical and contemporary musical masterpieces. Perhaps they would notice that boy sitting in the third row. Perhaps not. But of course, who wouldn’t? He is the only one in the orchestra sweating so prodigiously that he seems to bioluminesce in the glow of the stage lights. That boy sitting there, trying to keep his cool in extenuating circumstances, is me.
In orchestra, I learned how to fake playing on the violin. I learned how to fake well. In half those songs we played, with pages almost completely black from intricate note patterns, I didn’t have the slightest inkling as to what was going on. I would just plaster on a serious face, and pretend to move my fingers and bow with the rest of the orchestra. And, eventually, even the orchestra teacher couldn’t tell whether or not I was faking. However, I would sweat. And I still do.
Everybody lies. It’s inevitable, and it is a natural human tendency to do so. But there is always that subtle unintentional flaw in every lie that gives it away. Perhaps it is in the way they stutter. Or in their body language. Maybe even in the eye contact they offer. I sweat. All throughout my life, the little white lies I doled out each day were adulterated by that tell-tale trickle of sweat on my forehead.
Michael, did you do all of your homework before watching TV?
I say yes, but my scalp begs to differ.
Michael, did you practice violin?
Cloudy skies with a 100 percent chance of precipitation.
Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Michael stole the cookies from the cookie jar! Not me! Couldn’t be! Then who? Charlie! Charlie stole the cookies – wait Michael, what’s that on your forehead?
Eventually I learned to live with my accursed sweat problem, which has followed me around like a bumbling sidekick in a Jackie Chan movie. And even though it seems to foil all of my plans to survive – Does this dress make me look fat? Of course not – it has led me in the right direction. Whenever the line between right and wrong becomes blurred, and I don’t know which way to go, my trusty ethicality detectors are there to buzz away if one wrong step is taken. Sweating is the guide rope I follow to a correct and ethical life. So yes, I believe in sweat. And I believe in the decisions it leads me to make.
So there I sit, half drowning in a puddle of sweat, fumbling along to “Dance of the Furies.” But even as embarrassing as it is, I can’t help smiling. Why? Because once again, those little rascals caught me red-handed, faking my way through another piece. And if there is anything I have learned from getting caught every single time I lie, cheat, or steal, it’s this: be humble in the face of defeat.