Harlow

United States

A human that does stuff with words among other humans who do other stuff with words

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Message to Readers

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Islands

September 11, 2019

Music is an island I've found in the turbulent seas of adolescence. It speaks to me in a language of rhythm and melodies that can't be specified. As I listen to the light guitar or dreamy synth or clashing bass of a good song, I slowly feel a little bit better; I no longer ache. The weight of conformity, the brevity of each day, the pain of battling my turmoil all lessen as I melt away into the sands of musical islands. 
    Blasting the cacophonous sounds of the Front Bottoms, as I usually would on Saturday, I enter the cool, moist air of the Guitar Center, my eyes devouring the sight of sleek, slender guitars on all sides. I creep into the warmer, wetter air of the acoustic room and lift gently a guitar no bigger than I. As I slip my fingers into the position on the ragged nylon strings, a sense of tranquility overtakes me. My chest, usually tight with foreboding, loosens and I allow myself to breathe. Slowly, at first, I strum each string to savor the sweet sounds that so delicately bring me back to a soft serenity I haven't felt in years. Watching intently, a worker guides me to the register with the biggest smile I've ever seen. 
I could crumble
under the weight
of life,
but I haven’t. 
Not yet. 
I fight through each day with
the uncertainty of tomorrow
weighing me down. 
Tomorrow isn’t a promise, but I try. 
I’ve got my music
tomorrow
and that’s what keeps me going.
 
    I sit intently, listening quietly to the faint scratching of my record player working to play the last track of Bob Marley's album and rereading my poem. I take in each keystroke and syllable, rolling the sounds slowly over my tongue and digest the words I had planned meticulously for hours. The distant, rich scent of cocoa butter and peppermint oil tickle my nose as Marley's exotic vocals fill the spaces between my thoughts and I think of tomorrow. As my computer shuts off, I finally sleep. 
Strumming, humming, buzzing, tapping. I can't stop playing for anything.
And playing heals me. I'm not worthless or useless. I'm just me.
And I only want to be me so I don't stop playing.

    Dyke. I reread the word on my screen over and over, futilely trying to lessen a pain that wouldn't leave for some time. Encased in a pale grey text bubble, I think of all the times over the years that same word had been said to me. I had always thought it'd be easier to deal with behind a screen, as though I were somehow protected by the useless piece of glass and metal the now burned my trembling hand. 
    Dykedykedyke. 
    I tramp silently to my guitar case that leans lackadaisically against my worn oak bookshelf and gingerly remove the cool wooden mass that lays waiting. I place my fingers along the fretboard and lightly finger every single string as a single tear rolls down my cheek. I read the screen a final time and yell a blood-curdling scream. I can read the word if I close my eyes too long. I stare straight ahead. 
Rock
is the biggest finger to society. 
That’s exactly
why I love it. 

    I sit idly at the end of the lunch table, watching my new peers laugh and chatter. Bits of gossip and sports standings bore me as I twirl the oddly moist spaghetti on a plastic fork. A girl, her short, dark hair glistening in the fluorescent light takes the seat across from me, nearly startling me from my chair. She nods towards my shirt, covered in My Chemical Romance song titles,  and smiles, passing me a single sheet of paper across the table. I read the single phone number on the paper. "Sarah," she says, extending a slender, sinewy hand for me to shake, "Figured I'd talk to the new girl with such great taste in music." I smile across at her gently and scribble out a note for her. She reads it and smiles. "'Teenagers' seems like your kind of song. You seem like a 'Screw the Man' kind of girl. Nice to meet you, Harlow."  
I exhaled slowly as the eighth graders and the bus driver and the idling engine gave away to my savior, my solace, my lifeline. Yes.
    I don't know what it was about this morning, but it seemed as if the world was speeding by and I was stuck in place; perhaps because I hadn't slept well last night since I was engrossed in the book Sarah insisted I read. Sarah and I have become fast friends since that first note-passing months ago, strangely inseparable considering our short history. I listen to our newest playlist, consisting of cavetown, Bikini Kill, and The Front Bottoms, much to her dismay. 
    The bus's brakes squeal as we slowly pull into the lanes outside the school and the listless chatter of yesterday's math homework and the latest Bachelorette episode quiets. I stow my phone into the crevices of my backpack, somewhere behind an open-faced PB and J and last week's English essay. Blankly humming "Tie Dye Dragon," I join Sarah at our usual post at the flagpole.
    "You have to meet my friends," she beams
    She introduces me to a group of girls, Sam, Taina, and Caroline, who wear matching cavetown hoodies and smile softly at me. I nod in return and we exchange numbers to further expand our playlist. 
In many tongues and many places and many hearts, 
we all just want somewhere
that we belong.
    Beyond the turbulent seas of adolescence, there are the turbulent seas of life. Bonds are forged, broken, mended in these waters and a few things help along the way. We are all islands before we bond, isolated by goals, morals, beliefs, language, but music forms a strait between us, bonding our islands as one. Bonds broken are now mended. We are one. 

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