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My fingers barely rest on the suddenly unfamiliar keys, like children lost in their own backyard. They know where they are, where they need to go, but my own over thinking suffocates their intuition.
Crash. Wrong chord, everything stops, all hope of music shattered with one unsharped note.
I close my eyes, taking in the feel of the piece and trying to let out the nagging voices in my head.
Somehow, someway, my hands grace the musical rectangles with a newfound flourish, completing each alien chord as though my very fingerprints were carved to play them.
Until, once again, the peace of perfection and harmony is cripple by a note, wrongfully sprung upon while it’s sharp brother awaits above it, neglected. Once again, I have failed myself and the composer, who so evilly picked a four-sharp key signature to create this piece in.
“Try it again, louder, though”, urges my insolent yet omniscient piano teacher, yearning for the forte this piece demands.
I barely play a mezzo piano, afraid of my own actions, waiting for a wrong note to strike me like a torture chamber’s whip.
I practically see the beads of sweat roll down her forehead in concentration of this utterly meaningless task. My very gaze distracts her, causes her to turn toward me in expectation of punishing
“No, you’re doing fine. Just…louder, that’s all.” I try coaxing some confidence from her self-abusing armor, but still, only the slightest pressure on the keys.
Another D natural. I say nothing, but it doesn’t matter. She’s caught the mistake, and this time, her fingers pause, hovering over the keys.
One time too many. My own brain, my own fingers, have fallen for the key of E’s treachery for the last time.
My fingers, instead of easing away from the treacherous ivory water, splash into them with random outrageousness, unaware of the sheet music’s tyranny. Each misfit, unorthodox chord brings the pain inside me closer to the breaking point.
My teacher’s eyes widen with chock at my first real display of emotion in his presence.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!” I shriek at myself, each outburst timed exactly to the five chimes of his grandfather clock. Lesson time is over.
My routine takes over my confused brain. I hastily embrace my piano books, holding them like a shield, and single-mindedly reach for his elusive front door, only a few feet away.
Inevitably, I hear him rise from the piano bench and hold me back “Wait! Can’t we talk-”
“What?” She shrieks, this time with rage instead of frustration. “What do you want with me? I can’t play Bach, or arabesques, or even D#! What would…anyone…want with me…”
Seemingly oblivious to her, her flesh crumbles away with each self-insult, revealing an oily blackness concealed within her. From the holes in her body comes a misshapen monster, curling around her until she is engulfed by its mass. I try to reach her, but the blackness is impervious to my touch.
Darkness, and pain, and never being good enough. Never being good enough for this monster inside me, feeding on other people’s disapproval.
It’s happened before. Not that my parents notice, they have bigger things to worry about. Things more important that their daughter being eaten alive by herself.
But Adam, he saw through my daily disguises. He knew when I was hurt because my parents had done something hurtful or someone at school had abandoned me, even if he didn’t know exactly what happened. Through a few dozen half-hour weekly sessions, he had grown to understand me more than my own parents. And now, I let even him down.
“No”, I think I hear him plead from the outside, “You don’t have to be perfect.”
Something inside me breaks, and the monster surrounding me recoils in pain.
“You can be what you want to be, and that includes flaws.”
Flaws. hat’s what I’ve been denying myself. The monster is hurt further still, backing away into the hidden crevices of my soul. Not gone, but asleep, for the moment.
She doesn’t meet my eyes.
She gathers her books from the floor, thanks me for the lesson, and leaves. Her father awaits outside in a parked van, and he will never know what happened. He will never know what is lurking inside his daughter, devouring her from the inside out.