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“It’s going to be different without you,” I said softly to him. We were alone in the band room standing in front of our shared locker. “Who’s going to be the gifted flutist when you leave?”
Smiling in a bittersweet way, he said just as softly as me, looking at our entwined hands, “You will.” He looked into my eyes then, and I could tell that he wasn’t lying, that he wasn’t just trying to reassure me.
I was confused by his words though. “How can I be the gifted flutist? I’m just a sophomoreâ€”“ I began.
“Exactly,” he said a bit louder, smiling more fully; smiling at how blind he must have thought I was to my playing. “You’re a sophomore and you’re a first flute and playing it with the ease like it was music for a seventh graderâ€”“
I interrupted him quickly. “So? Allison McGregor was a first fluteâ€”“
“You have no idea how much she struggled. You have no idea how hard she practiced and still had difficulty with it.” He said darkly.
Looking at our handsâ€”mine held tightly in his, as though he wanted to bring me where ever he wentâ€”I paused for a moment then said, “Why didn’t anyone challenge her? I’m sure Lissa could have challenged her easily and taken her part. Why didn’t she?”
I heard him faintly laugh under his breath, then say, “because flutes, we’re to courteous to do something like that. We don’t challenge each other. No one was challenged last year, but I’m sure if we had another audition the seats would be different. Maybe some of us would have made first flute the second time…?”
I smiled then laughed, thinking back to my own disastrous audition all the way back in eighth grade for last year’s part. Would the results have been that much different had we had a more open audition; if Mr. O’Keefe hadn’t taken us to one of the practice rooms and closed the door then seem to glare at me as I played my scales and started the pieces?
Silently, deep inside, I felt that had I played the audition piece in an open room with all the other flutes that I would have been better, that I would have made first flute. And I believed that everyone would do better like that, without Mr. O'Keefe locking you up in a room while you played your scales, looking at every move you made. At least there would be some breathing room and some distance between you and Mr. O’Keefe.
“I think that every flutist here has the potentional to make first flute. You just need to find the right circumstances to test them.”
He looked at me and used both of our hands to move my head so it was facing him. “Yes, but then, who would play second flute? After all, if you have the audition under the same circumstances every year for every player, that would be how you discover the true first flutes for that year.”
“I’m still not a gifted flutist.” I said, trying to bring the conversation back to where it had started. “I still don’t know who’s going to be able to sheet read the piece nearly perfectly every time so the other flutes can follow them. You won’t be here, and Marissa left for college this year.”
“I told you,” he said, inclining his head. “You are.”
Pulling me into a hug, he whispered in my ear, “Do you know who the seventh graders know in the high school band, and not because of high school siblings, or stuff like that. Seventh graders who know one, maybe two people in the high school. Do you know who they’re talking about; who they say is the legendary flutist in the high school, who they admire and want to play like, even though they’ve never heard them play? You. Yeah, they’ve heard of me, but I’m a senior. I’m not a sophomore playing just as well as an advanced senior. You’re going to be the one leading the flute parts. And I’ll be rooting for you every day.”
I nodded, understanding what his words truly meant. The majority of middle schoolers hardly ever interact with the high school band. We were two separate things from two separate schools, simply sharing the same room and conductors. So for a seventh grader, who hadn’t had time to gather really any information even though it was the first Thursday of June, had heard of me was amazing. That they wanted to play like I did…mind blowing. What he had said to meâ€”and I knew it was true because you do not joke about things like that hereâ€”would pretty much change everything.
I gently hugged him back and buried my head in his shoulder, enjoying the last day what we would be together during band before he graduated.
Silently, I whispered, “I’m gonna miss you…”