Ivory Keys

June 27, 2008
By
When I was little, I used to think the sky was blue because the color reflected off the surface of the ocean; and I used to think that the grass was green because God painted the blades to a picture’s liking, that kissing was inhumane and all boys had cooties. Ridiculous questions popped up in my mind: “Mommy, does everybody die at 100?” However, as time moved on, I realized that these things were all wholly untrue, that these thoughts all echoed the innocence of a child’s psyche. I was wrong about many things in the early beginnings of my life, but there was always one thing I knew for certain—that I loved music. Not only did I love music, I enjoyed composing it also, harmonizing notes in my head, and humming songs to myself as I scribbled on a piece of paper. Of all the worldly passions people divulge in, music is one of the only desires that console me to my essence. Ludwig van Beethoven is solely responsible for the extremity to which I consider music. His soul reverberates throughout mines, softly but persuasively, running cunningly through my veins. Can not people still live on through tarnished music sheets? I ask trusted friends. They respond with a blank face, retorting but a familiar, thoughtful expression. Yes, I think they can, I answer to myself. They can and they do. Beethoven’s music still lives on through me. Music changed my life…

Seventh grade was a real nuisance.. Not only was that the first year I received a B on my report care, an 89 to be exact, but it was also the first year I began to form my own person. For most of elementary school, I was stuck in a shell, unusually shy compared to the average enthusiastic kid, and I hated it. My life was centered on the thoughts in my head, with imaginary friends guiding me along the way. Never did I once talk to someone, or say hello to a classmate. I only raised my hand when I was called on, replying with a low, quivery voice. Most teachers and students would ask me to speak up and would eventually get frustrated with me after the fourth time of asking, “Can you speak a little louder, please? For the whole class to hear…” or “Huh, what did you say?” Furthermore, after speaking, I would be thoroughly embarrassed, as if I walked into the room naked, expecting a gusto of laughter from my surrounding classmates. And because of those experiences back in elementary school, I never really made any childhood friends, just casual associates. I cannot say, as other people can, “You see this girl? She’s been my friend from way back, since elementary school, since we were kids.” I will never be able to say anything of the sort. Ever. I was a closed book. No one could read me.

I guess the source of my shyness began awhile back, when my father purposely sheltered my siblings and me from the world, mentally and physically. I mean, we got out of the house most days and socialized with kids of our age group, but my father cautioned us; and that is where the timidity began. He made it so we could live out of our heads if need be, that we need not be dependent upon worldly persons, but friends and family most trusted. He spoke to us about the dangers of relationships, sex and disease at the early ages of four and five. He taught us that people were never to be trusted and that some of your friends could be your worst enemies. I lived as if hiding from someone, someone that was not even there, someone I could not see, that I could not trust. Every night, a frightened little girl looked to her window, out into the dark night, and wondered when the moon would turn red, when God would return. A violent horn shattered my world.

Accusations were big in my house, like the Clinton affair back in Bill’s presidency. Everyday, a new hell-scorned name would surface on either one of my parents’ tongues: James. Tanya. Tyrone. Shannon . Family dinners became scarce, and most of the time I would eat up in my room, not at the redwood table where seven chairs was setup. I watched my brothers and sister form sides. Who was right—mom or dad? I never knew, so I chose neither of them, plopped firmly between their views. As the middle child, I guess that was my role, to be indecisive and neglected. There was no more peace and quiet; my parents would argue incessantly. It got so bad that my mother filed a restraining order against my father, only adding to the pile of toppling stresses in my life. My father moved out, and my mother moved on. Those three years after my father and mother split, we switched homes three times.

My life took on a 360-degree turn for the worst when I began to go inside my head during middle school. The effect of my parents’ split rumbled through my life like a violent wave, destroying good in even the happiest of things. Hormones took control of me, granting me with an unwanted growth-spurt of 5 inches . I was taller than everyone else in seventh grade, creating an odd appearance. I looked like a popsicle stick, and, I still did not talk. People would pick on me, playfully but mordantly. My thirteen-year-old mind was cruelly disturbed by that time. When I laid in bed at night, I forced myself to wonder what it would be like to not be considered a goodie-goodie anymore, but a more dangerous, mysterious being. I trained my mind to think like the bad kids, to do what they did, and talk as they talked. My shy, confused demeanor quickly melted away, as it took on a juvenile delinquent form. I stopped doing my homework just as fast as the teachers would give it. My mother found out after 34 absences that I had been skipping school and forging absence notes. She was clueless, and I liked having her in that state. Her ignorance fed my urge, an urge that felt in no hurry to rush away. Probation snuck up on me like an unwanted predator set to attack, and my mother put me in a rather awkward situation; counseling.

The counselor I was assigned was very ardent in her work, probing me like a rare specimen underneath a scientist’s microscope. As odd as it sounds, she enjoyed watching me interact with the room, watching my eyes roam around, exploring unknown territories. I guess, as a therapist, you find happiness in patiently helping other people. Her happiness was watching the look on my face before I answered one of her discerning questions. Besides, they were usually all trick inquiries and I responded with little enthusiasm, cryptic in my way of speaking. Ms. Claudia, puzzled with me at first, soon realized that I was no ordinary child. Taking into consideration that my I.Q. was over 155, she acknowledged the fact that I was a Gifted learner, and quickly urged me to pursue a hobby, one that I would take to quite easily. She asked me what I liked. That was the first real question she had asked me in the last two sessions I had started with her. “Music,” I remember answering nonchalantly. “And art…the art of expression.”

After the discussion I had with my counselor about my love for music, I bothered my mother to get me piano lessons because that was the instrument that had hastily become my favorite after watching an epic portrayal of Ludwig van Beethoven onscreen. “Immortal Beloved” the movie was called. I fell in love the day I watched it and hadn’t stop thinking about pianos every since. Consequently, of not attending school regularly, my mother said no to the lessons, but instead asked her aunt if I could practice at her house. My aunt was optimistic about my interest in learning to play a musical instrument. She had these dusty piano books, from the 1950’s, when the music was still funky and not quite, up-to-date. Even though my interest in music dated back to Mozart’s time, the Renaissance era, I still desired to play modern-day pop music. My skill lacked any real talent to play those songs, so I just stuck to the dusty “How to Learn to Play the Piano” booklets from the 1950’s, stuffed in a wooden crate. Instead of playing Five For Fighting, I learned Elvis.

My school grades began to improve once I took up piano. I went over my great aunt’s house every day, just to sit down to the ivory keys and play a note. Even if it was just a one single note I played, I still felt indebted to the piano; I felt as if it were neglected for all those long years and needed to be refreshed with some upbeat tunes. Every mistake I made moved me one step closer to perfection; my need to be the best overcame my clumsiness. As I learned to play, every square inch of emotionally scarred tissue melted away; the hard months of my parents being broken up, the teasing, the name-calling, the chains my father placed upon my wrists, the self-oddity, it all disappeared. The intensity that I felt pulsing through my veins when I played those pieces was like a tonic to me. It invigorated my whole body, renewed my mind and soul. It made me whole.

I regained balance over my life once again after a catastrophic fall. Not only did I return to school, but I started talking to my classmates, greeting them with a friendly face. To them, that was unusual, but to me, that was the person I always knew I could be, a person with patience, tolerance, and a dedicated passion. For a long time, my eyes were clouded, shrouded with an invisible mist, but once my fingers played a note, I had a goal and my life was prized. “Before I die,” I told myself, “…I want to be able to play Beethoven.” That goal, to this day, has kept me out of trouble and stable. I practice almost every day with the intention of creating a song, one that is loved by its listeners and heard by the dead. My endowed hands will compose a piece that will turn even Beethoven over in his grave.





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Alyse This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm
That was amazing. You definately have a talent. Keep writing!
 
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