I helped you pack your second suitcase––the only thing between us and El Paso.
I watched you fail to choose between your possessions, weighing them in proximity to your heart, each as dear to you as the last: a Palm cross from Saint Dominic’s, a box of Polaroids, a bundle of letters and the music box for which I spent the entire summer of ’69 hunting. The one that plays Chopin’s second Nocturne. I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist the song––it was delicate where you were not. So the box passed from me to you, and when your eyes widened, I knew that I had finally done something right.
When we got there, I helped you unpack.
I caught your pupils shrinking to accommodate the new found litany of stars in the sky…
but you never caught me shrinking to accommodate you.
Even though you have proved yourself to be the gorgeous, eleventh-hour counterexample to the disgusting predictability of us all, I have found that people are unsettled by the quiet, if not the silence. To this rule you are no exception.
I watched your bureau look more and more like it did before as you pulled out things from your suitcase. I watched as you arranged your memories––lovingly, carelessly. At the bottom of the bag suitcase was the music box, wrapped neurotically with far too much newspaper. I watched you peel off the covering and put the prize on the nightstand next to your bed. You smiled triumphantly, satisfied with your recreation of a recollection––with your disruption of the room’s poignant, terrifying newness. When you yawned, I wound the key of the music box and walked out of your room, leaving the notes of the Nocturne to keep you safe from the imminent, odious silence.
I left your door open and crossed the hallway, only half-closing my door behind me. I took my clothes off absentmindedly and turned on the fan to create sound to embrace me. The bed, eerily peaceful, made me shiver. I cocooned myself with the comforter and waited for warmth. I listened to the Nocturne climb, its sound mixing with the white noise of the fan.
The music grew more passionate and I marveled at the purity of the song as it restarted; the music box’s long cylinder and litany of teeth plucked a complex song from the tuning forks underneath. Other music boxes played only caricatures of beauty. When I found it in Pasadena, I thought of you, who could only speak by striking. You, with your frequency dangerously close to mine.
It had always been that the closer we were, the more I shook, pulled by your magnetism, resonating with your kinetic grace.
Even though the song had started over, the notes were becoming more distant and I knew that the little box had exhausted my turns of the key. If you were not already asleep, you would not rest, but I trusted that you had been coaxed into sleep, that you had drifted into a vulnerability with which you were never really comfortable. A note from the middle of the Nocturne lingered––existed for only as long as I could remember it––and was displaced by the sound of the emptiness that I knew would swallow me if it caught up to me.
My head was still, but it felt like a pendulum in dampened oscillation––the feeling of falling asleep. I lost track of you in my forced lack of thought, and focused on the cold, giving up for today and praying for tomorrow.
Age 17, Grade 12