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The Master Class This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Poker-faced Chinese girl, five feet, five inches, standing – no, leaning – dejectedly against a traffic pole at the northeast corner of Saratoga and I-280 N ramp junction, at 6:02 p.m. on May 27, 2011:

Cindy, also known as me.

How long I stood there waiting for the little walking man made of white dots of light to appear:

About three minutes.

What I was thinking most of the time:

Why bother playing flute if I'm going to crack under the minutest pressure?

What I was thinking about part of the time:

What I planned to order at Starbucks.

What I planned to order at Starbucks:

A short white chocolate mocha sans whipped cream.

Which direction I walked when the walking man came on:

Forward.

Which direction I wish I could have walked:

Down. Into the cement. Beyond the reach of anyone's eyes. And ears, thank God.

The piece I played for the master class two and a half hours earlier:

The first movement of Reinecke's “Undine” sonata, op. 167.

The temptation that strikes me as I walk the I-280 overpass:

To throw my flute over the barrier onto the highway.

The slightly smaller, corollary temptation:

To follow my flute.

What the part of me that still believes in God says:

Suicides go to hell.

My cynical retort:

I'm already there.

3:30 p.m., Nichols auditorium stage:

I'm on.

What parts of my body are shaking:

Lips, fingers, arms, knees. Not a pretty sight – nor sound, for that matter.

Part of my body shaking now:

My head. In despair and self-revulsion. I suppose the faces behind the steering wheels on Moorpark Avenue have seen too many homeless panhandlers to think my behavior unusual.

You'd suppose a lot of things. Like me being good at flute. At least Evan did when he asked me:

“What're you playing tomorrow?” It was Thursday afternoon, and we were on the floor against Jesse's locker sharing cookies. I'd just taken a huge bite of homemade double chocolate chip and couldn't answer. I resurfaced after about twenty seconds and mumbled, “Reinecke. Sonata.”

What Evan thought of that:

“Good stuff. Isn't one of the movements supposed to sound like water moving?”

How Krishan was more articulate about his supposition that I was good:

He walked up while I was practicing outside that morning, bounced up and down, and squealed, “OMG, you sound really, really good!” Were they both sincere? Yes. Although Krishan would have beat Evan for Best Actor.

3:34 p.m., after getting cut off:

Where are you now, Evan and Krishan? Both in the front row to my left. Figuratively putting their heads in their hands and their fingers in their ears, wondering how they could have supposed such a monstrosity.

6:10 p.m., wandering along Moorpark, the only place where traffic is thin enough for me to jaywalk:

Right outside a funeral home. Morbidly germane. Maybe later, buddy.

3:35 p.m.:

Begin the Inquisition.

My tormentors' consensus:

1. Bad posture.

2. Unacceptable pre-playing compulsive tonguing habit.

3. Poor air support system.

Punitive/corrective measures taken:

1. Stand me with my legs about two feet apart, right foot way out behind. Are we doing lunges or something?

2. Wrench my shoulders back to maximize my tidal volume. At least, that was the theory.

3. Push my left shoulder so that I must push back or topple over. Apparently this should also bolster my core.

4. Poke my stomach at intervals to make sure I am using my abdominal muscles.

5. Instruct me to resume playing while all this is going on. No big deal, you know. Just a regular practice run-through.

Unwanted pop culture connection that sprang to mind when Amelia smiled menacingly at me and said, “I'm the pusher,” and proceeded to prove it:

Cady's math teacher in “Mean Girls”: “I'm a pusher, Cady, and I'm going to push you.”

Cady to friends later: “She probably pushes drugs!”

Speed with which the ghost of a smile disappears from my face when I realize I sound like crap and Jill is poking my stomach:

Faster than light travels. What would that look like?

Right now I must be wearing anything but:

A poker face.

3:40 p.m. How I have failed Lady Gaga:

Tears are welling in my eyes. Kassey pulling my ponytail is not helping, either. And my nose is running.

6:15 p.m. The state of my eyes:

Moist. But not brimming.

Something I'm thankful for:

The sidewalks of the little neighborhoods between Blackford and Williams Avenues are deserted.

Something I'm not thankful for:

The auditorium is far from deserted. Everyone's watching me wither – my fellow flutists, Florio, Melody's dad, who's also a flute teacher, various non-flutist friends of my colleagues, and all the theater kids who just want to get credit for attending a workshop. But I know what they really want. They just want to watch me …

3:45 p.m.:

… get a tissue from the box, stage left. Kassey, I think, is concerned. Or at least embarrassed. But Jill or Amelia reassures her that I'm just blowing my nose. They won't have long to wait. The tears are coming.

6:17 p.m., interesting sight I pass along Saratoga Avenue:

A psychic's home business.

A question to pose to the psychic:

Where in the world will I be tomorrow? How far am I able to see? My vision is 20/20, but through the tears it's about 20/70.

The psychic's answer:

Lying on your bed listening to Green Day's “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

Why the psychic would be wrong:

I deleted that song from my iPod months ago.

3:46 p.m.:

One tissue is not enough. Jill moves the box to rest at my feet. I'm still not forgiving her for the poking.

3:47 p.m.:

Resume torture.

6:20 p.m.:,/i>

Bitches.

3:59 p.m.:

End trials and tribulations. I jump off the stage and shoot pass my seat, not bothering to gather my possessions, intending to make a run for it.

Airheaded comment that Kathy makes:

“Good job, Cindy.”

What I want to say to her:

“Will you listen to yourself?”

What I do instead:

Storm out the door, drop my flute and music, and sprint across the atrium to fulfill my dream of becoming a screamo vocalist in the bathroom, which I am not sure is soundproof.

6:27 p.m.:

Arrive Starbucks. Coffee is bad for singers, it seems. It clogs up the throat and makes you need to pee in the middle of a set.

Vague attempt at self-consolation:

Well, whether you're singing or fluting, a short white chocolate mocha sans whipped cream couldn't make you sound worse than you did, can it?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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