The audience cheers with electric vigor, loudly enough for them to be heard outside the colonial-era stage theatre in the rainy streets of Seattle.
Aaron Tanaka, the man in the spotlight tonight, takes a deep breath. He straightens his tie and fixes his hair with a quick swoosh and swallows. He steps out from behind the curtain to a roar of enthusiastic ovations and applause.
He confidently makes his way across the waxed wooden stage towards the microphone, grinning. He straightens his face to a semi-serious expression, but the euphoric ghost of a satisfied smile remains somehow.
Tanaka raises his hands like a conductor of a spectral orchestra, and the crowd silences instantly. He lets his facial muscles slip into a grin for a second, flashing his brilliant white teeth. He exhales and begins.
“As most of you know,” – a pause – “I’m Aaron. Aaron Tanaka.”
The crowd explodes into cheers again. Make it personal. Perfect.
“I’m going to outline myself briefly, then get to why I’m actually here. Okay, let’s begin.”
Tanaka makes a brief gesture, the kind of motion you’d expect from Obi-Wan Kenobi opening a blast door in a Star Wars movie, and the slide on the massive screen behind Tanaka switches in synchrony with his motion.
“I’m a senior in high school at TPS – an online school, but I’m just actually taking Calculus there this year. I’m looking at colleges, maybe community college, maybe state university at some point. I honestly don’t know yet, I’m only sixteen.” He shrugs light-heartedly. “Mechanical engineering sounds interesting. Maybe Cedarville? George Fox? WSU? Cornell?”
“Anyway, I’d like to be a mechanical engineer because I love tools, cars, and it’d be incredible to work for Ford or Tesla or someone like that. You know. Math. Paperwork. Business meetings.”
“I’m from Silverdale, just across the water from here, but I live in Poulsbo, north of here. Not many neighbors, lots of hills.”
The crowd knows Poulsbo. Tanaka’s grin is infectious, the assembly is good-natured, and the night is already turning out to be a success.
“I play soccer, ride my bike, write my novel. I’m planning to tune up my car at just about every spare moment in the future, so I won’t have that much spare time.”
Tanaka glances down at the palm of his hand, as if he’s written something there like a middle-school test cheater.
“All right, bear with me, I’m listing off music, movies, and books I like. Here goes –“
He inhales deeply like Dan Reynolds in Radioactive, and a barrage of words spill out of his mouth like restrained water.
“Music: Alternative, rap, techno, rock, The Score, Zedd, Ben Rector, Macklemore, The Chainsmokers. Movies: Insterstellar, Black Hawk Down, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Maze Runner, Cinderella Man, Furious 7, Furious 8, and way more. Books: Ready Player One, the Hunger Games, the Maze Runner series, Flyboys, Boys in the Boat, Unbroken, Legend, Alex Rider’s work, and others.”
He feigns coughing as if he were out of breath, but he was able to get through his list with ease, and the audience is able to call his bluff. Tanaka grins widely.
“Just kidding, I wasn’t actually reading that.”
He flashes his clean hand in plain view of the audience and they cheer accordingly. He hadn’t been reading straight off his hand, he’d been spitting them out of his memory like bullets.
The crowd quiets down to Tanaka’s cue.
“Now. The thing I’m actually here to talk to you about.” Pause for effect. “I have two verses I want to share with you. Romans 3:23 and John 3:16.”
The verses appear on the screen behind Tanaka.
“I’m a very theoretical person, meaning I like to understand why or how something works or happens, so I need to know why John 3:16 makes sense. And Romans 3:23 provides that. Romans 3:23 condemns us, giving us a purpose to the gospel, and John 3:16 gives us hope of salvation.”
The sound of silence rings loud through the theatre.
“And now, my conclusion.”
Tanaka can almost hear the necks and backs cracking as everyone in the theatre cranes to see him for the last few moments he spends onstage.
“Don’t hate. Appreciate. Impossible is nothing. And he is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Tanaka brings the mic to his lips on more time.
“Why so serious? Death to quail pants!”
He drops the mic to deafening applause and walks off stage right grinning.