Creative writing - 1st Place - Meg Van Hale

By Meg Van Hale | Posted: Wednesday November 20, 2013

Creative writing by Meg Van Hale.

Anxiety on my left shoulder, a piano on my right.

Damn! How could I still forget after I’d nagged and nagged myself to remember?! It had completely slipped my mind that today we were meant to perform. I felt my nails depress tiny frowns into my palms. Fuck. I wasn’t prepared! Physically, mentally emotionally… Literally! The Teacher checked around the class to see who was ready. Two people opted out before me and I felt my luck grow slim. Anorexic slim. I knew he would want a good number of performances to fill the time. To flesh out this bony lesson, put some fat on the skeleton. My protests flew right over his head. Or perhaps fell at his feet pathetically, where he nudged them aside with a polished shoe and distaste. The picket sign jammed in my throat. The Teacher waved us off, told us to, “Go warm up.” I needed to cool down. I tucked myself away in the furthest room.

                      I like this room. It is a pale bluey grey and calm in nature. A passive friend. Its single window is like a perceptive eye, penetrating but reasonable. This eye shows me the myriad of greens from the trees outside. A view of complex wisdom. I shut the door behind me, breathe and look at the piano.

“C’mon it’s just you and me,” she beckons. I consider her carefully. She is a mystically bi-polar creature. Like a siren, her voice might lead me to my death. Scrunching my fingers, I desperately try to relax. Her keys tempt my hands and already my feet have rested on the pedals. Ready to go. This is natural, this is home. In private we are a team, we can create magic. Every emotion at my fingertips, ready to be translated by awaiting ears. Any story can be told.

“But they won’t understand” I thought.

“Why not?” she giggled at me.  This melodic monogamous passion couldn’t possibly be shared. These layers of sound sing honesty… love, I would exposed to the bone. Made of ivory like her keys.

“All we can offer is the truth, does it matter whether or not they understand it? “ she says to me. I feel my lungs relax slightly and sigh as I run my fingers up the scale.

“There you go!”

The acoustics in this empty room are so pure. The emptiness is a canvas I can paint with a perfect cadence. It is a rich soil, where I plant seeds so that preternatural flowers can bloom, or die…

“Hey you’re up,”

The illusions fall away, my breath snags against my still heart, its rhythm froze in mid-beat.

                   All too soon I’m standing in front of the class, a solitary insecure soul. I begin to introduce myself and the piece I am about to play. She is a grand piano, confident and solid. AS I walk towards her, I try to anchor my rushing thoughts to her, as if she is a rock.

“Performance anxiety…” whispers my brain as I sit down.

“Oh shoosh! I’ve done this millions of times and you’ve done this… plenty! You’ll be fine,” Involuntarily my hands start playing, in spite of my brain bullying me.

“This isn’t how it usually sounds!” it yells “Ugh! You’re doing it all wrong! You’re stumbling…” No, stop. Remember the empty room. Just create, tell the story. They’re not watching you, just be invisible. Be a translucent prism. Turn these monochrome keys into an endless quixotic spectrum. But at the edges of my peripheral vision I can see them turning on me. Serpents are rising from their stomachs, spitting acid. They’re coiling round my feet trying to drag me downwards. The Teachers mouth is stretching beyond the physical capabilities of his jaw, his head is rolling backwards in uncontrollable laughter. The piano slams her lid trying to snap off my fingers. Her keys are jaggered yellow teeth. Suddenly I can smell smoke; the classroom is being consumed by flames, my cheeks burn red, my eyes water…

                       The flames disappeared under a pattering of applause.

“Well done! That was fantastic,” said Mr Hobbs “I’m always wondering when I hear performances like these, what’s going on in the student’s head!” I felt the surplus of red begin to drain from my cheeks.

“Oh, well that was just awful. There’s no hope for you I’m sorry!”  said the Piano. Rolling my eyes I walked away from her and took my seat with the rest of the class.

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