Woven tales are just stories based on prompts. Sometimes the prompt may be an image, other times it may be a line or a sentence. This is my first practice in writing short stories instead of poetry. I do these exercises in the hopes that they will take me somewhere, somewhere I did not quite imagine I would be. I also do them in the hope that I will improve as a writer. I do hope you enjoy the journey with me…
When he tried to express himself with words, but he could never get it right. With his music, he could turn every emotion into something relatable. That was what people sought him out for – his music. There was something in his music that just spoke to people, even total strangers. They would find him after each performance, shake his hands and tell him stories of where his music had taken them. Most were thankful and sometimes they were also saddened, happy or filled with hope – all depending on the music he shared.
It was awkward for him, meeting people. It was not that he did not like to see others, but he just didn’t know how to talk them. He would often stand there open-mouthed searching for the perfect words and when no words would come, the person would walk away. It often left him with sadness, for the one thing he wanted most was to connect with others, but he was afraid. It took all the bravery he could muster to climb upon that stage, but when he was playing his music – he was lost in his own world.
While in college, he took classes to help him lose his shyness. He tried debate and speech classes, but in the end – it was incredibly clear that he was a failure in that department. Each time, he dropped those classes right before the was forced to speak in front of the class. His mother felt that he had failed her somehow. She often wondered out loud, “how can you be a child prodigy but not know how to communicate? It should be easy, shouldn’t it? All you have to do is speak.” Every time she came to visit, she would go on and on about the wasted time and money. She would worry about how it would affect his fame. He struggled to understand how he could explain himself to his own mother. If anyone should understand him, she should be able to, but they were worlds apart.
Even when he was younger, he knew this. Mother always loved entertaining, especially before her parent’s divorce. Even when he was young, she showed him off to all her friends. “Here, Danny – play something on the piano,” she would say, smiling widely. He would always shuffle in shyly and do her bidding. It was painful for him, but she would never listen. He did not like being the center of attention and he definitely did not like the small talk that followed. What in the world did he have to say? As always, once he sat down and placed his fingers on the piano, he did not care who was there or who was watching. At that very moment, he was held within the music and his only sorrow was when the piece would end. The people who surrounded him would applaud and push in closer. Some would hold out their hands in the hopes of a handshake. Others just squeezed his arm in appreciation. He did not know what to do, so he retreated to what was familiar. Mother would look at him disapprovingly, so he would shuffle off back in the direction he had come from, his head hung low. It pained him too much to see her that way, looking down on him with disapproval, but what were the alternatives? Smile and laugh like everyone else? Pretend he had something important to share? He had no clue what to say or how to say it and he doubted that he ever would.
It was mother’s idea to take the speech classes in the first place. He was happy enough taking the required classes as well as Music lessons. She would not listen. “How can you possibly make it in life if you can’t speak in public?” mother would say, “No, you must learn this. I demand it.” It came to pass that he would dread her next visit. He dared not imagine the different ways that he disappointed her. He just wished for once she could try to understand how he felt, but expecting that was too much a stretch. He was starting to wonder if he even wanted to be a musician. It was not that he didn’t want to be able to stretch his musical abilities or that he was not happy when he shared his joy of music with others, it was instead these expectations that he be a showman that made him toss and turn at night. At this point in time, he truly wondered what the use was – having dreams and believing in his own abilities. What did it matter if he went on to entertain others, bowing at their every whim? He struggled to understand why he couldn’t just be himself and share the beauty that he created the way that he felt comfortable. He also puzzled over the question of why he was afraid in the first place. Why was he so afraid that they would not accept him?
He thinks back to those agonizing years in high school. His mother suggested he sign up for band and he was delighted. After all, it was a new school so perhaps this would be a way to find friends. Things had been difficult for him. Mother and father had just gone through a painful divorce and he was always held between them. When mother was with him, all she could do was talk about his lousy father and his new wife. She was always asking him what they were doing, what did they say. It was exhausting. She seemed to spend every waking moment reminding Danny that his father no longer loved him. “Your father only wants to start a new family,” she would say, “and you are going to get in the way. You are much better off with me anyway.” No matter how much it hurt, he did see that in some ways. His father was always busy with his new son. His father had even moved much further away so that he could put his son into a better school while Danny was stuck here in this black hole. But he was conflicted, while mom was right in some ways… he also got angry when she would talk about his father that way, because no matter how his father may feel, Danny still loved him. No matter what he did or said, she refused to be silent. His father wasn’t any different. His father and step-mother would continually discuss his crazy mother and want to know her every moment. Each outing with them seemed like 20 questions. On and on they would go, discussing her every flaw in front of him. He tried to speak up, but was told he was being disrespectful. Over time, he just learned to drown out their noise and composed music in his head instead.
So those years were already difficult. He and his mother had already moved to a new apartment in a new section of town. For him, it was a rather scary part of town, but on his mother’s pay, it wasn’t like they had a choice. Father refused to pay child support because he said he had to save money for his son’s education. He knew mother was not a fighter, so he happily took advantage. There was definitely no way they could afford to live in the same part of the city as their father, so they moved here. On the street corners, larger boys loomed over him. Sometimes they’d take his lunch money and other times they would threaten to beat him up. A handful of other times, they actually would. It scared him. They scared him. No one did anything for him to make him feel safer. His cries for help or comfort went unheard. Everyone else was busy taking care of their own needs while he was slowly drowning.
That was why mother had suggested taking band class. She figured it would keep him out of trouble and she knew how much music had meant to him. He figured that perhaps if he just met someone who was like him, that would be enough to keep him happy. That first day, he met Sarah. She was a rather plain girl, always running around in pigtails, but she always wore a smile. She had so much energy it almost scared him. Perhaps that is why she made the first step. That first day, in the band room, she stood over him and held out her hand. “Hi!” she said and smiled, “my name’s Sarah.” He still remembers everything from that moment. From the way she smelled to the way she smiled, the way she held her head, he even remembered what she was wearing. After that, every day in band class they would talk together before the instructor came in. Sometimes, when their lunch period was at the same time, they would sit at the table over lunch and discuss their favorite music. It really did not matter what they were discussing, he was just so happy to have a friend.
A few months after becoming friends, he noticed that Sarah was growing more quiet. When they would talk, he noticed he was doing most of the speaking. She would try to smile, but it just wasn’t the same. He would ask her if anything was wrong and she would just shake her head or say she wasn’t feeling well. That was when he noticed the bruises. She always seem to have new bruises on her arms. At first, he thought that she was just like him – always bumping into things. If he later saw a bruise, he would wonder where it came from, but the bruises always appeared around her wrists or on her upper arm. She never spoke about it, but every day he grew more afraid. It got to the point he was even scared to ask her. One day they sat down to lunch as usual. He asked her how her day was going and she softly whispered, “I’m afraid to go home.” She seemed not to know that she had said it. When he asked her about it, she covered her mouth and held this pained expression in her eyes. Before he could even ask her why, she bolted from the lunch room in tears. After that, she started to avoid him. When he would see her in band class, she would avoid him or make excuses to leave. He assumed they were no longer friends, even though he did not know what he did wrong. It pained him, but he soon stopped looking for her in the hallway or in the lunchroom. She started skipping band class or got assigned another class because he never saw her there. He tried his best to imagine that they had never met, but he did miss her. He often wondered why people had to be so complicated.
On the way to school one morning, he overheard a conversation between two students. It seems that someone had been hurt. He did not know all of the details, but in the afternoon, school counselors came to talk with the students. They announced that Sarah had died. He was shocked and horrified. He could not help but wonder, was it his fault? The night before, Sarah had tried to run away. Her father was abusing her and she could not take it anymore. She ran out of the house with just a few things and fled. They looked for her all night, but could not find her. The next morning, her body was found near the railroad tracks. Even now, they don’t know if it was an accident or if she had thrown herself in the train’s direction. He asked himself, “Is it possible that she could not hear the train coming?” At this point it did not matter, she was gone.
It still seems like it was just yesterday when he heard the news. The shock of it overcomes him and he is enveloped in sadness. He feels guilty for not trying harder. He also feels so incredibly alone. She was the only person he ever trusted. It is a difficult thing to realize the one person you trusted, could not trust you enough to tell you their own struggles. He could not understand why she would leave him all alone. Didn’t she know that he needed her? Didn’t she know he cared? Even now, he would often play with his memories, replaying the first day he had met her in his mind. She stood there, smiling but uncertain, and introduced herself. He held out his own hand and bravely gave his own name. It was the first time he had tried to communicate. Every time he thought of those days, he smiled but his eyes were also filled with tears. She was gone, he had to tell himself. She was never coming back. And since that day, he has refused to trust anyone else with his affection.
(c) Sumyanna 2017
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com