Crowhill road was quiet. As it always was and always will be. The slight breeze didn’t rustle the fiery leaves, the full moon didn’t awaken the wolves, and my neighbors were at peace with the silence. So was I.
Most of them were starting dinner, or curled up with a book, or watching the evening news. But not me.
All the lights of my house were off except for the one measly lamp that illuminated the kitchen. I stood at the counter where piles of papers surrounded me. I flipped through them but they were all the same. Red stamps and ink screamed with urgency as I rifled through them. I rubbed my eyes hoping that if I did it hard enough, the pages would disappear. But painful reality snapped back and the bills were all I seemed to be able to see.
Getting overwhelmed, I set the pages aside and glanced at the clock. The shiny brass hand pointed at the 7 and I let out a sigh.
“The last day,” I muttered as I ambled to the living room. “Just one more audition.”
I reached a chair where there was a brown leather case which was fastened by a gold latch. I opened it slowly and took out the violin which laid inside. I plucked the strings while turning the tuning pegs up and down. I then took out the bow and tightened the hairs with uncertainty.
I gazed at the mirror across from myself and saw that I had bruise-like marks under my eyes, no doubt a gift from my sleepless nights. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and clenched my bow as I brought the violin up to my chin. I exhaled as the bow met the strings.
A horrible, airy screech came out of the violin and my eyes shot open.
“No,” I whispered, “not today. I swear-”
Out of any time and any day when this could’ve happened, it had to be today. My bow felt scratchy and there was only one thing that could change that: the rosin. That wonderful, golden stone was my only hope. I had to find it so that I could practice and be ready for my audition. This audition was probably my most important one since it was the last one until I gave up the violin forever.
Sure, I might still play in my free time, if I had any after I found a full time job. Or maybe just during special occasions. But that’s the thing, it wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t be able to wake up everyday knowing that I would do what I love.
However, life as an artist is tough, and I no longer wanted it. My passion for the instrument used to be what my mind and heart prioritized, but every time another red inked letter arrived at my mailbox, that priority seemed to lessen and lessen.
“Okay,” I exhaled as I spoke out loud to focus my thoughts, “this should be easy to find. I always leave my violin things in the living room.”
I scanned the bookcase and found nothing other than books. What a surprise. I searched under the couch and on the chairs. I inspected my violin case and looked on top of the table. Even so, I couldn’t find it.
My mom always told me that I was too organized. I labeled everything, stored my markers and pens by color, folded and ironed all my clothes, organized my books alphabetically by author’s last name, and I could really just go on. We used to joke about it, but now it seemed way too real. My rosin was always in the living room, and it not being there meant that it could be anywhere in my house. The uncertainty of an object’s location seemed like uncharted territory. I didn’t even know where to start looking.
But I did anyway since I felt the clock nearing the 8, therefore nearing the 9, therefore nearing my audition.
I checked the kitchen through all the cups and plates, pots and pans, forks and knives. But there was not a hint of gold. I ran my hands through my hair and moved on to the office.
Again, there was nothing. My notebooks were there, my computer was there, my coffee cups from last week were there in order from Monday to Sunday. But my rosin was not anywhere in sight.
By then I was taking controlled breaths in and out. In and out. But one glance at the clock’s hand on the 8, and I lost it.
I ran upstairs, shaking the earth with my frantic stomps, and slammed open the door that led to my room. My bed was made, my clothes were in the closet, my bedside table held my current reads, and the DVDs were placed under the TV. But after fifteen minutes, that was no longer true and I had started to feel pin pricks in my eyes.
I clenched my fists and moved on to the guest room, the storage closet, the bathroom…
But the rosin seemed to have hidden from my rage, or, perhaps, just from me.
I went back downstairs only to see the clock ticking in a chant that seemed almost mocking. The hand was so close to the nine… It was too close to the nine.
I dragged my feet to the living room to check just one more time…
The bookcase held its books. The couch was as plain as ever. On the table lay my violin and bow. Nothing else. No rosin in sight.
My hand came up to the wood of the bookcase in a gentle touch and I crashed to the floor.
I put my knees up to my chest and my arms wrapped around them.
I wasn’t going to make it.
It was my last chance to play my violin professionally and I couldn’t even take it.
But I was done with the violin. I had decided it was time to move on and leave my childish fantasy behind months ago. So why did it hurt so much?
Why did my throat feel so tight? Why did tears begin to fall? Why did I feel such a deep pain throughout my body? Why did it feel like I had just lost a loved one?
I felt the shock, the sadness, the pain, the melancholy, the anger, the guilt, the regret, the hopelessness… the love… the memories…
I felt a wave of them come. My first recital, my first song, my first orchestra, my first teacher, my mom, dad, and brother clapping with gigantic smiles on their faces as I went to the stage to receive my first prize. And though the first time doing anything is momentous and important, so is the second, and the third, and the fourth.
But my most important memory of that instrument is when my brother introduced me to it.
It was July and we had nothing better to do. School was out, summer camps were not afforded by our parents that year, and boredom had begun to drive us to insanity. My brother, being older than me, was allowed to go out of the house if only for an hour. He got to see his friends, go to the park, and ride his bike around town.
One day when he got back, he brought a strange backpack. It seemed sturdy, long, and was made of a shiny plastic. I asked him what it was and he smiled to himself.
“Mr. Kimberly gave it to me. You’ll see what it is,” he told me, “But not for a while.”
And when he said a while, he meant it.
One year later, at the beginning of August, I had completely forgotten about it. I was outside after a particularly bad fight I had with a friend from school. I was curled up on the ground with my eyes shut and tears streaming down my face.
It felt like the world was ending to my small eight year old self. But I heard a sound. A melody, really. It was slow. Barely a note every two seconds sounded. But it was there. A steady beat that felt like it had always been there if only I had listened more intently. It went up and then down, still slow but gaining strength. I then felt my heart follow the song. I knew something, though I didn’t know what. I felt something, but then again I could feel everything. The sun was shining with golden light, the grass was swaying as if dancing to the song, the wind was blowing ever so slightly, and my brother was right in front of me. The song had ended and he looked at me with his hand outstretched.
“That was you?” I asked, rubbing the tears off my cheeks and accepting his hand.
“I told you you’d see,” he smiled.
He helped me up and showed me the violin.
I don’t remember much else of that day, but I remember sitting alongside him as he taught me how to play with the summer sun, high up in the sky, washing us with golden light.
Remembering that, a smile came to my lips. A small one but it was there nonetheless. That golden summer day had immeasurable happiness that was brought by the simplicity that it offered. We were just kids learning something new. Something that would change our lives.
As I withdrew from the memory and opened my eyes, I could still see hints of gold from that August day. A small glint.
But as the seconds passed, and the golden shine did not disappear, I focused my gaze on the glint. Still being too weak from my breakdown, I looked at the mirror. Yes, I could see myself, and my gosh I looked like a mess. But there was also something glinting gold on the bookshelf.
I rapidly shot up and reached for the golden stone laying on the shelf.
I jumped up with joy and ran to the kitchen. The clock showed that there were ten minutes until my audition.
I sighed. I wasn’t going to make it. There was no way since the audition was ten minutes away and I would need some time to set up and get ready and-
But what if you made it? said a small voice in my head.
I shook my head. There was no use in believing in something that was more likely to not happen than otherwise. Listening to such a voice would only bring me disappointment and embarrassment when I didn’t get there in time or when the judges would scold me for being late and not being professional.
But the voice was insistent.
You’ve gotten this far. What if you took just one more step?
I looked at my violin, then at the clock, and then back at my violin.
The next thing I knew I was getting out of the bus, running towards the audition with still three minutes to spare. I ran almost tripping over my scarf and not bothering to crunch the autumn leaves. I made it to the theater that was hosting the auditions, took my coat off, and whipped out my violin and bow.
The person before me was still finishing up so I took the time to calm myself down. Inhale and exhale. In and out.
I then heard my name being called and I walked on stage. The blinding lights didn’t let me see the judges’ faces so I had no idea what their first impressions were. I wouldn’t know whether this was a tough crowd or not. I would not know until much later whether I got in or not.
But that was okay because, remembering that golden day, I knew my brother believed I could.
And most importantly, I believed I could.