She could almost feel the rain outside her window– tap, tap, tapping against it–as Mary sat in the kitchen sipping her tenth mug that morning of coffee. It was way past noon, yet she was still in her ratty bathrobe and bunny slippers. But she didn’t care. She didn’t care at all. What even mattered anymore? The axis of her being was now on trial, and who know if it would be found true and worthy?
There was nothing to be done, and try as she may to be strong, there was no escaping from the fact that she alone was the victim. Nobody would ever approach understanding these feelings. She wouldn’t let them. She felt a weightless, yet at the same time breath-taking oppression pushing down on her head and radiating throughout her heart and stomach. Her mind filtered nothing, and every thought came pouring in all at once, making her feel that the only solution was reclining her head back against the wall.
The kitchen wall was chilling, but she didn’t notice. She glanced down at her steaming cup of black coffee . . . no, not steaming . . . ice cold. Her hands felt frozen from gripping her white mug, and she stretched them with difficulty in order to release them from the grip. She felt her mind slipping away. Why must love, in all its initial promise and glory, be so desolating?
Marcy looked at the dog and burst into tears. Her littlest nightmare, her spastic companion, her greatest annoyance, lie there on the floor before her, its lungs now finally entirely dysfunctional. Its wretched, compact face protruded into a final grimace, teeth gleamingly bared, and its paws curled into four tight fists as it lay sideways on the ground before her.
She imagined this little fiend floating upward, drifting away into an everlasting dwelling far away from herself and, at last, distant from the existence that she loathed sharing with such a creature.
Nonetheless, she couldn’t help noticing its helpless expression as it lay lifeless. He was her last living relative’s best-loved pet, and she had taken care of the animal for the past three years, ever since her uncle had become too weak to care for it. She bore the torture for his sake only, and now she gazed back fondly upon her memories with her favorite uncle, who was now too unstable to hold an intelligent conversation with any of his nurses, much less his own niece. Her constant reminder of him was dead now. Jerked back to the present moment by an intense pain, Marcy shed one last tear for her unwelcomed friend’s brutal death and, with one eye cracked gingerly, glanced down at the deep gash on her femur.
It lazes on the music stand, dangling its
Feet, laughing heartily at its ability to
Frighten me. Another day waltzes past,
And another potential practice session drops
Shamelessly into the black pit that beams with many
Similar days. My hands feel dry and stiff–
A physical reminder plowing through my mental barricades
That tell me practicing is optional—a mere choice,
Just like eating or setting out on a jog.
The score, ferocious in all its presto-filled
Glory, lies open atop the piano, emitting
Vibrations of guilt each time I saunter past.
Oh, the respect it demands of each of its
Victims… its willing, frighteningly obsessed
A foreigner to her homeland, she tingles with anticipation over the fact that she stands seconds away from her first step into the culture that she always believed she would love. Today, she will finally touch the country that her parents call home—her home that she has never known. Having spend the entirety of her eighteen years buried deep in the heart of Eastern Europe, she has grown up having traditions without roots, foods her mother prepares that have no place in the culture around her, and a sense of wonder at why her parents would remove her from the home that they constantly speak of and seem to love. Her birthplace no longer remembers her; it has been sixteen years since she left, and she spent her childhood never knowing why it has be so. Her life has left her suffocating under the weight of dueling worlds under one roof.
Clutching a small, black carry-on by the handles, she steps gently over the plane’s threshold into the jet way, taking care that her long, tan winter coat is properly aligned with her coordinating dress. She pulls her shoulders back, adding height to her naturally tall and slender build, and raises her head with the confidence that proceeds her every step. Her short, butterscotch hair falls at a flawless angle around her collar as she gets closer and closer to stepping out into the chilly embrace of a wintry New York City.
She inhales, prepared and determined to make this place her own, having thought about the arrival and upcoming adjustment for months. Though change had always been her enemy, she was convinced that the timing reigns ideal for what she believes will be the anecdote—a life brimming with answers, which is the only way her parched questions may be quenched.
Finally–a school small enough where she can get the long sought after attention she believes she deserves. Of course, she is proficient in what she does, but all perspectives considered, she is spectacular neither academically nor in outward appearance. Her world is her music. This is her isolation, her turmoil, and her scrumptious success, all rolled into one glorified sphere. Her music lessons began at the young age of seven, and ever since she breathed out her first scale, people around her have been telling her of her great talent and success. She could do whatever she wanted, she was told. Although with the lift of a finger she could have become the CEO of a major corporation or ran for senator, the humble career of a music teacher was what she chose to bless with her efforts. Like so many countless others, her inspiration–her main motivation for pursuing her heart’s yearning–was her fifth grade music teacher, who even now holds a place of high esteem in her heart.
She is a senior now, about to accept a position as an assistant band director at a high school renowned for its music program. With this realization ever-present in her mind that has brought her so much success, she, with her caring and born-to-be-teacher heart, observes the younger college students floating helplessly around her. At once she decides to take pity on them and bless their searching little souls with her guidance and attention. All things considered, she IS the role model to which all of her music teachers will make references for years to come. Additionally, she began formatting her own private lessons after her first semester, telling her teacher in which areas she would enjoy improving. Soon after this, she began selecting her own etudes and warm-up routines based on her intense yet casual research.
Her complaints rely on how much time she labors in the practice room each day. She takes on each new trial and difficult passage with a stoic, impenetrable expression and knows that no matter how much time it robs from her, she WILL succeed. Because she is undefeatable.
She has convinced herself over the years that this is her life, her passion, her destiny, and there is little she can do to change this fact. She swings back and forth between being disheartened and zealous about what she knows she will continue to do for the rest of her life—teaching lecture after lecture, grading pile after pile of papers. Papers that require her to provide comments and feedback to students whom she is convinced care nothing for the topic she has been taught to love.
Every morning at promptly 7:35 she trudges into her workplace, greeting her colleagues with the friendly smile upon which she has grown to be dependent. Her manner of speech is slow and well-meditated, and the lectures where she tosses in fragments of stories or comments that were nowhere to be found in her daily lecture notes were uncomfortable days indeed. Times like these are when she relies heavily on her class to support her by filling in with stories of their own; when no one volunteers, she erratically asks if anything similar has happened to any of them.
After greeting her fellow instructors with all the warmth she could gather, she sifts her key out of her book bag and walks calmly into her window office. After all, she has been a faculty member for twenty-five years now, and this personal space has morphed into a reflection of her—without dynamic, yet colorful as a field of flowers when the need arises. She takes pride in the confidence that this job was cut out for her, and she for this job, which requires a certain amount of love for the topic that she and her colleagues are expected to adore unreservedly. While she finds enjoyment in privately studying the subject of her degree, she is at a loss to find what higher good she is serving while teaching at this prestige university for students who care nothing for her style or her expression. She is well-versed in every area of her expertise, yet she feels it is all for naught, just a wasted mound of knowledge.
Each day arises and melts away as easily as ice on a warm, hard floor. With every new day she remains the same—stationary, willing herself to move, yet comfortable with the way life has found her. The classroom where she spends numerous hours of her day welcomes her first and foremost out of all the other students, for she is always early to class, afraid to miss any new development that may desire her attention. Soon, though, her fellow students begin to arrive, chatting freely and laughing about the latest and funniest YouTube videos. She tilts her neck toward them, hoping to share in their conversation, as if a simple smile their direction might motivate them to summon her to come over and laugh with them. She turns in her chair and faces their way, but no one manages to catch her gaze.
The lecture begins like clockwork, as it does each morning at 9:30 when the instructor, who seems never to be in a hurry, meanders into the room. Literature classes always follow the promptest of schedules. T.S. Eliot is the subject of today’s meeting. A quarter of the way through class, the instructor begins rationing out portions of the late great author’s poems to be read out loud. She sits the furthest away from the first reader, but finally her turn arises like a wave in the ocean.
Clearing her throat briefly, she glances down again at the words on the page that her eyes have already skimmed over at least five times–just to ensure that no mispronunciation is committed. She begins reading her seven lines aloud and consciously forces some sense of emotion into her voice as the words dive out of her mouth. Her voice quivers, and her eyebrows weaken when she raises them in order to assist in her understanding of the passage. In addition to the slight quivering her voice betrays, her words sound like she is speaking them in a hollow cave. The effect is not alarming, but subtle, as if a layer of cotton lines her tongue. This, however, is her smallest concern, and a small concern it is indeed.
She keeps an eye out for the finger that she’s placed carefully at the end of her last line incase she accidentally reads too far. Decreasing her words per minute, she reaches at long last the final syllable and breathes a silent sigh of relief that the task is finished.