Writing Pieces

Room 111B

Mark has a deep voice.

It caught me off guard the first time I heard it and I almost said “holy shit” right to his face. I refrained though, and it’s grown on me ever since.

 

It’s a small class, only 16 of us on the days where everyone is able to make it. It takes us a while to get into our normal groove, as side conversations fill the minimal empty space that encompasses our small chair-to-desk attachments. We talk about pie, pens, and everything under the sun, which has more literally and lately been, snow.

Someone begins to read and everyone quiets down, listening intently. If it is Jenny or Emma’s turn, you can watch Mark close his eyes carefully as he listens to their singsong voices flow through the words beautifully, with kind hints of their accents thrown in.

A select few of us have a knack for writing about what hurts. We empathize with one another, as we learn more about our classmates in one semester than friends we have had for an entire lifetime. We put our insides on our outsides and let the emotion drape the words on the page like a warm hug enveloping a crumbling body in its time of need.

Silence rarely prevails as words often fill the empty spaces all over again and praise falls upon the writer. Words of kindness and encouragement flow freely out of several mouths before moving onto the next piece of the day.

Negativity does not have a home here.

The 75-minute long class period gives us hardly enough time to say what we want to say. If anything, I have learned how much I am not alone. I think of the critiques and lines of sympathy that dance across incandescent pieces of white paper as they hang scattered upon the wall my bed horizontally lies against. Paragraphs upon paragraphs, typed and scripted, all fit haphazardly against the cool, pale yellow partition I share with my roommate. Every piece of paper different, each hanging askew, are puzzled together like the people in this class.

Not one is left astray.

“Hold up, who the hell just said they didn’t like cheesecake,” Jackie yells across the room, and everyone freezes momentarily. “I’m about to whoop some ass,” she continues and we all burst at the seams from laughter as class comes to an end, and we all file out one after the other.

For 75 minutes, two times a week for sixteen weeks, we all have a home here.

 

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Feeling Home

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I like the smooth, fluid sound of memories.

            They come in floods with the keys dancing in different houses and for various events. She prefers her Kawai, but can make any piano her own as soon as she sits down on the cool, black leather bench and plays the first note.

***

            She plays with her back to us in the family room of house number one as Dominik and I disassemble the couch and turn it into a boat. Couch cushions hit the carpet, outlining the path we must take to avoid the lava, and the dust-buster becomes our motor. The rustling overpowers her playing and she gives in, leaving us to prepare lunch before we have to walk back to school.

***

            She plays with her back to the stairs in our second house as I sit on the computer in the room adjacent to the piano. She whips out book after book, flipping through pages upon pages before landing on a piece by Yanni, a favorite of hers, and begins to play. Our chunky, gray cat joins her on the bench, disrupting her rhythm and begs to be petted.

            I leave the computer and flip through books myself, hauling out the big binder of everything Disney so she can play something I like. I switch out her books for mine and she gives into the cat while I page to the sections I want her to play.

            She plays songs from Mulan, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin before calling it quits to finish the laundry. I take her spot when the cat gives it up to follow her and sit on the cool leather, placing my hands above the keys. I can play “When the Saints Go Marching In” like nobody’s business. I want to be able to play like her though, so flawless and perfect.

            That summer I learned the theme songs to The Brady Bunch and The Adam’s Family before calling it quits because I had to add my less dominant left hand.

***

            She plays with her back to the lake on the carpeted basement floor of our newest home. This is most likely where you will find her after a hard day’s work or on a break from sewing a new quilt, while our chocolate lab lies happily across her pieced-together handiwork. Lorie Line fills the empty space as she moves her hands gracefully over the keys, her feet sliding from the first pedal to the second and then back again. She never misses a note.

            I switch out the music again, causing her to stop mid-song. She starts right back up again with the pieces I have chosen, and this time I sing along.

***

            On the day’s where I miss her playing I plug one ear bud into my left ear and one ear bud into my right ear and listen to the familiar sound of her fingers on the egg-shell white keys of the Kawai through renditions of the pieces I know best by Yanni and Lorie Line. I walk to class silently listening and let the memories flow, knowing just the right moments where she would have to speed up her hands or switch the order of the pedals under her feet.

            My hand hangs just slightly in the air, my fingers dancing like I know what keys to play and I imagine I can, just like my mother.

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

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*Matt reads slowly, clearly, loudly. We were all shocked that he chose to raise his hand, but he did, and now here we are, listening, feeling, bawling. My head is cloudy and I can’t think, I didn’t even know her. Nonetheless, I revert to a far away place in the back of my brain.

Matt slams into my locker at full speed. His head bounces off the light-blue metal comically and I catch a goofy expression on his face, as he attempts to humor me. I just stare. He is my first real boyfriend, seventh grade real that is, and after this incident I break it off. I don’t get him. A few years later, as a sophomore he asks me to hang out one night after school. He picks me up at my house and drives us back to his place where we sit awkwardly in a chair that is quite obviously built for one person, and one person only. He parks it two feet from the television and pops in Juno. My arm falls asleep under his body and we sit in an uncomfortable silence for nearly two hours. By junior year, Matt has turned into some kind of soccer-playing Greek god. His hair is perfectly placed now, not too short like before, and he has gotten taller I’ve noticed. In addition, he has fluorescent white teeth, a great laugh and a six pack. Karma for breaking up with him, I’m sure, but I want to faint anyway. I only know he has great abs because he takes his shirt off for pretty much the basic entirety of our class trip to France. On one of those hot, shirtless days he tells me about the butterfly tattoo he wants to get, directly over his heart, in honor of his mom. I want to hug him but we aren’t that close.

I come back to life and I have tears in my eyes. Nobody is looking at one another, so I take a chance and raise my head. The class is in shambles. Matt’s ex-girlfriend is a mess at my right, while he sits directly across from me with his head in his hands. *Mrs. Johnson retrieves his strewn papers off of the floor and resumes reading. I put the pieces together and remember seeing him break down and toss the papers clear across the room in a fit of anger and sadness. Mrs. Johnson puts a hand on Matt’s shoulder as he sits there crying in silence, in perfect rhythm with the rest of us. She begins to cry as she reads the last lines of Matt’s paper, choking out the words of him finding his mother cold and lifeless when the cancer finally took her from his world. He crumbles at this. We crumble.

By the time senior year rolled around, Matt was the third student in our class to lose a parent. Two mothers and one father took their places in the sky, and we were left to put the pieces of their children back together again. Like Humpty-Dumpty, all broken and confused-looking. I am in a room full of Humpty-Dumpties now, but the bell rings and we have to put ourselves back together on our own. Our silent class sifts into the noisiness of the hallway, and I lose Matt in the throng of people.

I catch a picture of him somewhere, sometime, someplace and see a beautiful purple and green butterfly tattoo placed perfectly over his heart, just like it was part of him, and had belonged there all along.

 

*Name has been changed

Love, or Something Like It

Love, or Something Like It

1998

            I got married the summer I turned five. It was a simple ceremony with a sloppy, wet kiss and no ring. I wore an itchy, pink nightgown and stood tall in the center of the garden on the soft, plush grass of the backyard. Dominik stood next to me, wearing a faded Batman shirt and black shorts. I still don’t know why I let him get away with that one. There’s a picture somewhere in a box that captured this image, us standing there in front of the flowers, his warm hand in mine and two pairs of squinted eyes looking into the sun.

2000

            We had three unruly children. Sometimes more if the kids down the street wanted to play too, but usually it was just the five of us. The basement in our home was transformed into the stage for which we played, and even my parents never rearranged our imaginary life. We started in the early morning after the three siblings got dropped off at our house, and continued after school until it was time to go home. Dominik was always the dad, I was always the mom, and the game never ended.

2002

            If I think back hard enough I can remember the grape kool-aid dripping slowly, sickly off the table and onto the tiled floor after it exited Dominik’s nose in a fitful of hysterical bellows. His two siblings, and my older brother roared with him as I had stood standing in the entryway of the kitchen, a firm pout planted on my face. I remember my mom sliding in easily next to me, catching the uproar with a puzzled expression.

“Mom,” I had started. “Dominik said I have a nice butt.” Hysterics unfolded all over again, but this time I couldn’t help but join in.

2005

            We moved eight hours away from our cushy cul-de-sac life the summer after I entered fourth grade. Dominik and his family drove those long eight hours more often than not, never letting distance hinder our chances of losing a lifetime friendship. We held hands under a blanket on a blue, tattered couch that nestled itself cozily under a wildlife print of a fox and her pups in my basement. Who grabbed whose I’m not quite sure, all I remember is that his hand was hot, not sweaty, but just right and I was positive I didn’t want to let it go.

2011

            I felt like a princess in that dress. It was yellow and strapless, and expanded at the waist like a ball gown, just like the one Belle wore in Beauty and The Beast. Dominik had stood at seemingly twice my height in a slate gray suit, which he knew he looked good in. He danced with all my friends, and waited while I took pictures with everyone from my class on the most perfect night of my life. He had a girlfriend at the time, but that didn’t keep him from accepting my invitation to prom my senior year of high school. We spent the entire weekend together after that night and I cried when he got on the plane to go back home.

2014

            The day I married Dominik in the backyard, under the hot sun, with silly, pink lace itching my wrists is one memory I will never misplace. That picture of the two of us in the backyard on our special day even made it to the fridge for a while before being packed into a box in preparation for another move. He was the first boy who ever held my hand, he was the first boy to ever give me a first kiss, and he was the first boy to ever tell me that I had a nice butt. Even now as we grow older, our visits with one another fewer and farer between, I never doubt for a second that we will lose each other. After all, we are still married.