The Piano

March 12, 2012
The sun moved through the window as I sat in that chair. I stared at the keys until the shadow marked a line dividing the keys that were mostly in tune and the lower keys that didn’t work very well. Memories from this past summer came forward. I took a sip of tea from the mug in my hand, and placed the empty cup on the stack of papers sitting on the top of the piano.
That summer, Liz and I took magic markers to the lyrics, dividing the songs up, mixing them together, singing harmonies to make a song prettier and measuring our talent against the rest of the world. We played at our favorite time, when the sun shined onto all of the keys, making the hard old wood look softer and more polished. When the sun plastered silhouettes of two teenage girls on the wall in front of us, hiding our ance, our messy hair, our teeth still straightening, our dead eyes, our imperfections, from ourselves. We sang to no one but us, and not even really each other, or whoever happened to be in my living room. We sang to block the chatter of people telling us we could be er. We could be prettier, skinnier, happier, smarter. Er. We weren’t er.
We wove the lyrics we didn’t write, into a border around us for that summer, and used the chords my fingers pounded into the old standup piano as the platform to hold us above the world and tried to think of how it didn’t matter that we weren’t er because we had each other.
All that was left of our world were the faded and crinkled lyrics of our old favorite songs with smudged lines annotating them. Pink underline for background harmonies here. Orange bracket for singing together. Purple for me, green for her. She always had the first line and I always gave her the high notes because she could hit them easier and I liked to hide in the loud piano and sing the harmonies instead.
All of the songs we had perfected, played at my parents dinner parties, sang to ourselves at the beach or on the swings, sat in a pile under my mug, the tea or coffee rings only a proof that those days were gone and I wouldn’t get them back. I thought about the last time I had seen Liz. This winter, her schedule had kept us apart for weeks at a time, something we weren’t used to after the summer, where we were together every day. She had musicals, volley-ball, student council meetings, parties on weekends, other friends. We would see each other once, maybe twice a month, and it wasn’t the same. She would tell me about her life jam packed with other things, new people. I would nod and murmur in agreement, and sell I’m-happy-for-you’s to every one of her stories.
And I was happy for her; I just wish I could be more a part of her story than a footnote. I felt like less of a friend, and more of an obligation. While she talked about her new friends to me, how much I would love them if I wasn’t so shy, I whispersaid to myself, What about our summer? We had bike rides and beach days and sleepovers and our music. Yeah it was just the two of us but wasn’t that fun? Don’t you want that? Don’t you miss it?
But I don’t think she did. She came to visit me at my house every few Saturdays to get me caught up in her life, she’d sleep under my purple comforter with my Christmas lights hung around the room, making it a dim orange and pink. We didn’t whisper into the night like we had before. She dreamt about her real life, and I dreamt that I had one. But sometimes I would stay up and watch her breathing in and out, willing the air in my room to flow into her lungs and remind her of everything that we had done, all the secrets we had shared in here. But when she woke up, it was the same. She would get up and be whisked away by mommycar early in the morning because she was busy, busy, busy.
She didn’t know that the scissors she had used to cut the tag off of the skirt I had given her for Christmas were used to slice beautiful crimson lines into my skin the night before. She didn’t ask and I didn’t tell her.
She didn’t know that when she came over for dinner, it was the first meal I’d eaten all day. She didn’t ask and I didn’t tell her.
She didn’t know about the boys I had thought were cute, or about the mean nasty girls in the locker room who called me names, or about the nurse’s tiny squinty eyes and spider fingers that danced across the keyboard clicketyclickclicking to pull up my records when I came in sick for the third time that week.
She didn’t know about the whispers of ghosts that followed me around the hallways, into the bathroom, whispers from my dead friends.
I imagined her at school. In the middle of a big group of people, the type of person who always called out in class. I could go a whole day at school without talking to anyone. But what if we went to the same school? Would I be accepted into her big group. Would she tolerate my small voice in a crowded lunchroom.
Would she still let me sit with them even if there wasn’t any room, could I share with her? What if her friends didn’t like me.
I decided I was happy we went to different schools, because I couldn’t answer those questions honestly without water leaking into my eyes. Stupid gravity, pulling them down.
I stood up and walked away from the piano without playing anything.

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