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Remember Me When I'm gone
They had arrived late to the party, which was unusual for her family. It was early November. The cold touched her bones, and she liked that feeling. The church her family attended was celebrating the going or coming of someone she could not remember the face of. There were few in the congregation, so every permanent change in the population was apparently something that needed to be recognized.
Parties weren’t really something that she enjoyed, mainly because they required socializing, pasting on a fake smile that suffocated her. As usual, she retreated to somewhere that people couldn’t bother her. They asked her questions she didn’t know how to answer. The basement had been closed off for company, as the pastor’s wife had not been able to clean it before everyone had arrived. She went down the stairs anyway, desperate to escape from the monotony of light conversation.
She had gotten a handful of pretzels beforehand, the salt crystals scraping her tongue. As she looked around the room, she cupped her hands carefully, making sure that the napkin would contain all crumbs. She didn’t want to make trouble. The room was dimly lit, and there were piles of laundry were in the corner. All color seemed to be shaded in, like a charcoal drawing, and she felt a strange sense of nostalgia and separation all at the same time.
There was a traditional black piano in the corner of the room, standing shiny and polished. She heard cello music coming from the other room, and she touched the keys tenderly, wishing that she could play something to harmonize. It was imaginable, but the sentiment couldn’t form into the correct actions. She could feel the potential rising in her fingertips. She had played as a child, but her fingers would fumble on the keys, and her pathetic attempts depressed her. She had given it up after four or so years.
The song was beautiful, like invisible silk caressing her. Almost subconsciously, she walked into the other room through the curtain that covered the doorway, following the sound of the music. The light of the room renewed her. The pastor’s younger son was playing, a look of intent etched into his face as he glided the bow across the strings. Looking up at the paneled ceiling, he seemed to be singing to someone far above him, something very far away. He was a year or so younger than her.
She spoke softly, but it surprised him all the same. “May I listen?” His bow lifted from the strings.
“Are you supposed to be down here?” He asked, puzzled.
“I didn’t hear anything about it,” she lied.
“Really? Whatever. And yeah, sure you can listen. I don’t mind.”
She sat slightly below him, in front of the cello. He continued.
The pastor’s family seemed to produce magnificently talented children from magnificently talented parents, each of them being distinguished in at least one way. However, they were not without their share of issues. The younger boy in particular had some medical problems when he was a child, a type of brain complication that had caused him have violent nightmares and hearing issues. It had started coming up again, and he was having trouble remembering faces and names. She couldn’t imagine how scary it would be to forget things like that.
Touching the wood of the cello gingerly, she looked up at him. His eyes were blue, his hair brown, lips two rose petals, pursed in concentration. He never looked anything but simply average until he was playing an instrument. You could tell that he loved playing, loved making something so pure and good come from his bow. He always made the funniest faces when he was playing, which made her smile. She loved that he could lose himself to it so entirely; it was something she had never been able to do. The instrument vibrated with something unexplainable, and she closed her eyes, reveling in the feeling. It overwhelmed her.
In that moment of overpowering feeling, she became someone else. He looked so pretty, holding onto cello for dear life, trusting so much in that music. Getting up onto her knees, she kissed him. She could feel him startle, and the music stopped. Pulling away to look at him, she whispered;
He pulled the cello out from between them, and she pressed her lips to his, wrapping her arms around him. She could still hear the music, could feel the memory of it rushing into her, expanding a part of herself that she did not know existed. In that moment, everything felt so precious. She felt alive, pure again. He held her as she leaned into him, her tears running onto his face.
She hoped that he wouldn’t remember that she’d tasted like pretzels.