a vignette by Kathleen Segal, ’19

“For the first time, he heard something that he knew to be music. He heard people singing. Behind him, across vast distances of space and time, from the place he had left, he thought he heard music too. But perhaps, it was only an echo.” ― Lois Lowry

Ickh that’s bright. I grimaced, squinting against the harsh light. Before I could fully adjust to the light, I found myself facing the corner again. Then the window. Then the wall. Back to the window. Upside down. Sideways. And there’s the corner again. I grew taller, raised to my full height. I faced the metal, staring at my friend. After months of new faces every week, I found their constant presence comforting. But what about last time…They’re starting to look worn out, tired from the constant traveling and work. Tick tick tick tick. Whoops, here we go. I started to warm up as the air blew over me. Go. Go. Whoops. Oh no. Not this again. It’s coming…ouch!  Tick tick tick tick. One. One. And three. Four. And a two. Again. Again. No. No. I could feel her getting frustrated. I wish I could help her, but I’m powerless to change it. And there’s the bed.

“Damn it!” I slumped back, staring at the ceiling. I’m not gonna get this. No. I have to. No. I can’t do this anymore. I exhaled. Okay. I stared at the corner, glaring at the black dots running across the page. Tick tick tick tick. I inhaled. Push through. And one, two-e-and-a three. Breathe. Two-and-a-three-and-a. Breathe. Sharp. Breathe. Tick tick tick tick. I exhaled.

***

I closed my eyes, blasting music in an attempt to quiet the racing thoughts in my head. What if I made the wrong choice? How do I know what the right choice is? Could I? I closed my eyes, darkness replacing the stark white of the ceiling. How do I…but I can’t…no…“Bottling my emotions…I can’t control if I break down” I sniffed, drained of energy. The song switched. I took a breath, the dancing melody calming my racing mind, and stared back at the ceiling. Can I? the little voice softly wondered.

The sun had just set as the girl walked into the room, dropping her backpack next to the messy desk. Scattered clothes, shoes, papers, and books dotted the floor and chair. She walked to the corner and picked up a small black case resting next to the bookshelf. Sitting on the bed, a reed in her mouth, the girl put together her clarinet. A few long tones and scales later, the girl took out three worn pages of music: the concerto she had spent the last three months learning. Turning sideways, the girl set the metronome, and a steady tick tick tick tick filled the room. Facing the corner once more, the girl rested the music on the gleaming metal stand and took a breath. Music sprang from the clarinet; runs, crescendos, accents, and decrescendos jumping from the page into the room. The girl methodically repeated sections, fixing rhythms and fingerings, gradually increasing the tempo. She systematically moved through the piece until she reached ‘the section *dun duh dunnnn*’ (as she had dubbed in her head). Playing the same fragment over and over again, each time worse than the last, the overwhelmed girl sighed in frustration and fell back onto her bed, dropping her clarinet beside her. She closed her eyes, an earbud in each ear, as a tear slipped down her cheek. The moments passed, faint melodies escaping from the earbuds. The girl relaxed, staring at the white ceiling until she fell into a dreamless sleep.

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