Goodbye

The hallway was empty as I leaned my back against the push-bar of the exit door for what I knew may be the last time. This moment was it. I was taking pause to remember everything that had happened in that hallway and in the rooms attached to it. Immediately to my left were the double doors to the stage, through I’d walked every morning I’d attended high school. There were so many moments, on-stage and off. There was the time my orchestra teacher tripped over the podium and smacked her face on the floor. I also remembered sitting in the middle of the second violin section as a freshman terrified and excited and completely lost trying to learn second position. I also remember the frustration I’d felt as a senior when I was told that I not only had to audition for concert master, but that the seat was not going to be given to me and would, instead, be given to a junior.  As a sophomore I stood off-stage, nervously planning a house party – the first real house party that would be hosted by one of my friends – and was picked up early from fall drama rehearsal to go to it.

It was in this hallway that my best friend and I would gorge ourselves on the refreshments for the cast of the spring musical during intermission each year, strangely disoriented after a couple of hours reading music in the pit of an unlit auditorium. “Copa Cabana,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Into the Woods,” and “Meet Me in St. Louis;” these were the chapter titles for my life each spring. Making the mad dash to my car and racing to the nearest deli to get food between school and rehearsal was added to our routine in my junior year, along with skipping class to go to Dairy Queen and calling each other’s cell phones from different classrooms.

The second door to the left, string storage, was where my violin had lived and it was where I would sit on my instrument case and hang out and chat with a couple of friends, it was where I stored my candy for the First Ladies’ fundraiser the one year we had to raise money for competition; it was also where I stored most of my other belongings.  The first slot to the right of the divider in the center of the wooden instrument rack was mine, along with the red folder that once belonged to the girl who had given me private lessons and which I superstitiously believed would make me a better violinist since its two previous owners had been fantastic musicians whom I greatly admired.

To my right was the band room where I’d had guitar class with several boys who had meant so much and so very little all at once. The freshman who hit on me mercilessly and for the first time made me feel incredibly attractive, the boy from my graduating class who was so talented and who partnered up with me to get an easy A, I playing the melody and he playing the chords, and my friend from childhood whom I’d met by chance on the playground at age 6. This was the room where we’d had so many initial rehearsals that involved more laughter than music as we attempted to sight read and in my senior year it was where I zealously copied 300 pages of piano music so that I may transcribe and write the string parts since there were none, being watched by that boy who spent so much time practicing improve on his bass. Having almost no classes, we’d both become fixtures in that hallway during our final year.

The chorus room was where I’d spent the majority of my time, it was where my a capella rehearsals took place, it was where we watched The Crosbys, I’d had violin and voice lessons in this room, the orchestra occasionally rehearsed in there, and the choruses both did. This was the room that housed AP Music Theory, a class consisting of eight students and perpetual chaos.

This hallway, as I stood there staring into my past, had been my home. Walking up it singing “I’m a little acorn” with my best friend, vomiting in the bathroom nearby to get sent home early from school, sitting against the wall eating a Chipwich playing around with my cousin after school; this hallway was filled with ghosts. There were so many people who I’d known only in this hallway and so many people who I would never see again.

I inhaled deeply through my mouth and nodded to those infinite memories. With my yellow graduation cap in hand, I bounced my rear against the bar to release the latch and with a quick, awkward motion turned and walked out the door.

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Mundane

It was 10 a.m. on Sunday February 20, 2011 and I woke up to see his face near mine; with his curly, dirty-blonde hair, that crease down his forehead and the mole on his left cheek which was already so familiar. I wriggled over until my nose was touching his face and kissed his cheek to wake him before I shifted my weight to my left and threw my leg over his hips so I was straddling him.

Wake up, I’m hungry,” I said.

He groaned, “I hate you.”

“No you don’t,” I replied.

“You can’t prove that,” he said.

I kissed him deeply and his hands came up to grasp the back of my head. I pulled away. “See.”

He pulled me back to him and we rolled so that we were side by side, facing each other.Large and small skillets

“I’m hungry,” I repeated.

He groaned again, “Alright, fine.”

Wearing a t-shirt and a pair of his old Frisbee shorts, I went out to the kitchen and started grinding some coffee. He joined me shortly wearing a pair of generic green mesh basketball shorts and opened the fridge asking me what I would eat in my omelet. He handed me a frying pan and while I heated it and melted some butter he began chopping the onions. I browned the onions while he chopped the peppers and added them to the pan. Standing in the kitchen in our pajamas, we worked in a simultaneous harmony that suggested this was a well-rehearsed routine. Dancing with each other in the 2 square foot space between the counter and the stove, it was just another mundane Sunday morning that should be repeated every Sunday for the rest of our lives.

Six days later, I said goodbye and with tears in his eyes and rolling down my cheeks, I would drive out of the parking lot for his building and drive the 1,800 mile journey back home.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The time I spent with him is almost as fractured as my memory of what he looks like. The moments we shared, the moments we didn’t – they drip through my mind penetrating every surface, pooling in the dark hidden places I dare not explore. The time before is a blurry glowing mass of life before innocence was lost. There are so many nights while I lie in bed that my thoughts slip, tripping over the quiet dark of night and fall until they drown in those pools. This is when I remember the most. The feeling of complete exhaustion as my grandmother tucked me into the freshly made bed in my childhood bedroom after a long day in June filled with so much screaming, crying and pain. The numb horror which filled my core as I washed a blood clot down the shower drain with my big toe weeks earlier, wondering if that could have been my child. The claustrophobic panic that gripped me when I came home to find an empty dresser after I’d received an apocalyptic voicemail. If every person we meet teaches us something, he taught me what it feels like to be scolded by a bailiff to get off the floor in the lobby outside a courtroom when. He taught me that I have the kind of defensive reflexes you can only know you have once you’ve truly been afraid. He taught me how easy it is to allow someone to completely strip you of every sense of identity until you wake up one morning a pale shell with no memory of life.

The part that no one talks about is the horror of trying to remember who you were. That living like that is the easy part. It slips into your life one tiny sacrifice at a time. One unspoken sacrifice, one microscopic chip of self-esteem, until eventually there is nothing left for him to take. The friends who once cared have been ignored and mistreated for so long that they no longer have your phone number. The family who was concerned has been lied to in so many ways it seems impossible to even begin to tell them the truth. The things that once occupied your time have receded into oblivion and his needs, his whims, his thoughts and his manipulative logic are all that remains until he too is gone.

The truth is surviving is easy. Survival is instinct. Recovery is something entirely different.

Part 2

When I say that your confidant should be somewhat feminine I don’t mean to say that he needs to be gay or genuinely effeminate or even really have any feminine sense. Ultimately he just has to be someone who was probably raised only by his mother and who clearly lacks any sense of (rather, more accurately a false sense of) what a “man” is. I mean let’s face it, we don’t want to sit around telling someone about how some retarded ape thought it would be an excellent idea to drag you through the woods on a hike on the first date in 30 degree weather when you obviously weren’t dressed for it. I mean, seriously men. Believe it or not, I know you have a penis without you forcing me to partake in some activity which shows off you masculinity.That’s also not to say that those men aren’t useful and don’t have their place in your life. Like I said before, we all need someone to fix our cars and maybe in exchange let them man-handle us for an afternoon. Oh, I do enjoy a good man-handling.Anyway, I was grabbing a bite with my confidant, my right-hand femi-man, if you will, and I swear, I think he was jealous. Obviously, jealousy is not something he’s supposed to be feeling. I will only accept empathy, sympathy and support from his position. But, we were sitting there and I was telling him about this date that I’d had with this man I met at a gallery opening about a month ago while I was out with this completely boring older gentlemen who had served so well for acquiring some new jewelry…

Cubital Tunnel 2

Part of this introduction is a lesson that your body is just as important as the instrument you use it to play.  They tell you that you should listen to your body, and if something hurts there’s a reason. You shouldn’t mistake destruction for the good pain of muscle development. What they don’t teach you is what you’re supposed to do when the damage has already been done. No one can prepare you to completely change your life, abandon all of your current goals at nineteen.

The thing about nerve damage is, it’s usually not something that happens abruptly. You don’t just wake up one day with your body completely unwilling to follow instructions. It’s something that happens gradually and it’s so easy to ignore because this is the type of damage that happens when the pain subsides.

For a violinist, it’s easier to notice a tiny change in sensitivity – not because you know you can’t feel it, but because your ears are hearing something that completely disagrees with your hands. Your pinkie, an always trusted companion, suddenly isn’t where he’s supposed to be and you can’t actually feel that he’s gone. It’s like waking up and remembering you’re sleeping alone because you can’t hear the other person breathing.

It’s not until you start dropping things that you really begin to comprehend what nerve damage means. With Cubital Tunnel Syndrome it’s hard to get past the soreness in your elbows or the pain shooting down the outside of your forearms. Other people, they just think you’re clumsy, unaware of your surroundings. But the truth is, you knew you had a firm hold on that cup. That bowl of cereal you dumped all over the couch for no reason – it was perfectly balanced in your left hand; and that tray of drinks you spilled all over that customer, well, that was just a rite of passage.