Banana, Callus, Hickey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 15, 2012
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My musical career as a violinist can be summed up in three words: banana, callus, and hickey.

Banana. I eat one before every recital, competition, and audition. Sometimes I eat two. They are supposed to calm the nerves and regulate the heartbeat. They are a reminder that I cannot control my nerves. Because when I get on that stage and feel the heat of people's gazes, the heat of the overhead lamps washing over me, my knees go weak and my mind goes blank. I am disappointed and oh-so-nervous, because this is my moment and I am frozen. A pungent flavor coats my tongue and I taste it: fear that is growing increasingly palpable the longer I hesitate and the more I sense the audience getting antsy. I know I have kept them waiting too long. The show must go on. So with a sharp intake of breath, I take the plunge.

Callus. You have to look hard to see the faint bulges, but they are there, just under the surface, skimming across the pads of my fingers on the left hand. Time is largely a factor in their creation. It has taken six years and countless hours of practicing to build up these hardened layers of flesh. My skin was once unblemished and soft, untouched by rigid surfaces and penetrable to the slightest prick. The years and forces of friction with the violin have not been kind, and my skin has thickened in response. It has become more resilient to pain. The proof is on my fingers. I am stronger.

Hickey. Angry red welts dot the side of my neck and under my chin from where I have clamped the violin too hard. A love bite, birthed from the stirrings of passion. Many violinists wear it as a mark of pride and honor; yet when I see people staring, I often feel compelled to pull up my collar and hide mine. I am embarrassed. Why do I feel this way? Shouldn't I feel proud? The doubts start to creep in. Do I actually love my violin? It causes me so much stress, so much pain. Maybe I am better off without it. I entertain the idea for a moment, but then I draw the wooden body closer and push the thought away. I pull my bow across the strings, close my eyes, and listen. I play and play and play. My arms grow heavy, my eyes bleary. And then I hear it, the thing I have been searching for, the sound that captures me even in my weakest moments. The most beautiful thing in the world: music.

I play well into the night. I know there will be a mark tomorrow morning, but in this moment I do not care. I just play.

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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hayliebean said...
Sept. 24, 2013 at 10:55 am
Wow, that is absolutely beautiful. 
Stephanie T. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm
Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it. 
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