A prompt delivered by the wonderful Malena Munford, via her book Just The Titles. It’s a lovely little thing made to inspire artists in whatever way they see fit, and this specific prompt of sorts spoke to me. This is just a quick one-shot. Unedited and posted as quickly as it was written. Have fun, and I hope you enjoy.
(and even though this is technically posted on Friday and is thus late, I am refuting this fact because I haven’t fallen asleep yet…which means that it’s still Thursday to me, right?)
People were always telling me that I reminded them of Bach. It was probably because my name was Sebastian, and because I’m a cellist – his cello pieces are some of his most famous and beloved works, you know. People tend to ignore the fact that Bach was an organist, though, if only because they like the other similarities or just don’t give two shits. I would say that the coincidences end there but I would be lying. My parents are German, through and through, all the way down to their brusque accents and appreciation for anything ending in ‘-wurst’. It was for all of those reasons that people had stopped calling me by my given name and some how, I had ended up with the nickname “Jo”.
The final bit of irony was the fact that people called me Joe and not Yo. I tried to correct people at first. It didn’t stick, but the name did, so I eventually gave up.
It’s that name that I hear called now as I stand just outside of the auditorium doors, my cello propped up in it’s case on the wall. I’ve been working my fingers against the palm of my hands to the point where the skin is almost fire engine red. I can’t help it – the nervous energy runs through me and has to come out somewhere. I’d rather it try to escape now than during my audition.
I turn to look at the attendant, my eyes wide as I try to keep my nerves in check, and nod once. They hardly notice me, not bothering to look over their glasses to make sure I’ve heard them. As they disappear behind the heavy door I grab my instrument and begin the journey inside. I’m afraid that the trip from the hallway to the stage will be longer and more strenuous then the audition itself. I worry that I’ll trip and fall and leave my cello in pieces, the cello that I’ve played so diligently for years, the cello that has the grooves of my finger tips in its long and elegant neck. Her name is Sabine. I’d had her since they’d forgotten my name was Sebastian and decided I was Jo – I’d always known that she knew what my real name was. Sabine was the love of my life without question. It wasn’t the music, it wasn’t the composers, it wasn’t the notes or the feeling but the instrument, so well cared for and in tune with myself. The idea – the fear – of her breaking on me when she was only chance at greatness? It was more terrifying than if I went flat.
By the time I reach the stage I’ve tempered my fear, sure that I’ve encountered the most terrifying part. Except for the audition itself that is.
I was the sort of person who thrived on lack of sleep. Four, five hours at most and I was springy and awake and with a simple cup of black tea (one sugar, cream for days) I would be able to plow through the day. It must have been the nerves, but the night before the audition I had been a right wreck. I figured I would tuck in early and wake up before the birds, rehearse my piece a few more times until I felt like the muscle memory could play the piece without me if my mind wasn’t there. It would all work out fine. Except it didn’t, because I woke up seven hours later. The sun had risen happily into the sky and the birds were chirping and singing, practically taunting me. I had tried to write it off as something small – perhaps I was staving off a cold and my body needed the sleep. Maybe it was something else. I knew it was the nerves, knew that I sounded like a woman from an Austen novel, but I couldn’t help it. This was going to the audition that defined the rest of my life. Which was funny enough, considering that the audition and the seat that I was playing for wasn’t all that important. What was important was the the maestro. The woman who would be judging me, feeling me out. I didn’t care if I didn’t make this orchestra – it was hardly the best. What I wanted was to make it onto her radar, for her to hear me play, just the once.
After all, we had spent our entire life in the same house, growing further and further apart note by note. It would only make sense that she heard me play…just once.
She had eventually stopped using my given name too, even though she was the one who had given to me in the first place. Maybe she thought I wasn’t good enough to be so openly compared to the great composer, although she had never heard me play, so who was she to say?
I closed my eyes as I unbuckled Sabine’s hefty case. I tried to imagine the bow beneath my fingers before I touched it, tried to feel the vibrations of the strings against my neck and chest. I imagined every single piece of the music before I set it in front of me. There was an impatient tapping of a pen from the auditorium. No doubt she was impatient, ready to be done already, having already heard her fill of mediocre musicians from behind the black curtain that separated us (all in the name of diversity, of course). I wondered what she would think when she saw me take a bow in front of her. She wouldn’t gasp or feign shock. Too stoic for that. Would she raise an eyebrow, would the corner of her lip upturn? Downturn? No, she would simply stare at me. Acknowledge that she had heard it. I suppose that was all I wanted.
My hand found the bow, my fingers found the strings, and with a deep breath that settled into the well of my chest I drew my weapon across the valley of what very well could have been my demise. I was being melodramatic. I felt it fit. A humming, vibrant G rose from the depths of Sabine, filling the room and reaching the rafters, and with that singular note I fell away from the world, forgetting the woman that sat on the other side of the shade. I forgot that I would go home to her and hardly speak more than a few words as she sipped on decaf coffee while Mozart reverberated through the house. I would forget that I had missed her and the way her voice sounded when she spoke, how I often wondered if her larynx was covered in dust or if it was just the mantle in the living room. I forgot the audition felt like it was the end of the world, maybe the beginning of a new one…and instead, I played, like nothing else in the world mattered.