Lisa reached the top of the hill and made her usual turn into the parking lot that she always cut across on her way to the Health and Sciences building. Her mind was already focused on class, so her feet were on autopilot. Today was the day she had to do her presentation in front of the whole class.
She wasn't ready. Lisa knew that she should have been ready. There'd been sufficient time to work on the presentation, but it had taken forever to choose a song.
On the first day of class, after the syllabi had been handed out, Lisa had made special note of this assignment. She already knew which song she wanted to use - that old seventies song, "Black and White." It played on her favorite radio station almost every day as she dressed in the morning. Lisa had known it would be perfect for the assignment.
Unfortunately, it had been a little too perfect. As the time to prepare the assignment arrived, the professor used her song as an example. Lisa had to choose different one. By then, there were too many other things on her mind, so choosing the song had taken forever, but she'd finally picked one. She'd use that great old Depeche Mode song, "People Are People" - that one wouldn't be too tough.
The song was pretty simple - short verses, mostly just the chorus repeating over and over. The chorus was easy - she knew most of the ASL signs already. The problem had been finding a time and place to practice with the music. The walls in her house were thin and heating vents connected each of the rooms, so even the softest music would be heard by anyone else that was home. Since she had chosen her song, there'd always been someone else home, and no one was in the mood for music. Lisa knew the signs, though - had practiced them till she could do them in her sleep, but she'd never done them with the music.
As she trudged up the hill, Lisa tried to imagine the music in her head, and get the signs in-synch with it - like she'd tried dozens of times already. Her mind occupied, her feet continued their habitual route, carrying her the usual way across campus to her usual stop - the hospital that sat across the street from the Health and Sciences building. Lisa stretched out an arm to push open the door, and was halfway through it before she realized what she doing. There wasn't any reason to make this stop anymore. Mom wasn't there. There wasn't anyone to stop to see and chat with for a few minutes before class. Mom was dead.
Lisa slipped back out the door, trying to remember the music to her song. Class would start in twenty-minutes, so she had to stay focused on her presentation. Besides, she knew if she didn't concentrate, she would cry and her face would be red and puffy when she stood in front of everyone. She'd done so well since the funeral. It had required taking the long route, instead of cutting across the parking lot, but Lisa had managed to make it to class everyday without crying since coming back to school. She hated seeing the sympathy in people's faces, or worse, having them ask her why she was crying or whisper speculatively when she wasn't looking. Lisa preferred to save the crying for the long drive to work. Alone in her car, she could blast the radio up almost loud enough to drown out her thoughts. If she could just turn up the music in her imagination loud enough, perhaps she would make it through class.
"Lisa, your music?" the Prof. inquired, holding her hand out expectantly.
Lisa nervously gave up her tape, stood, and slowly made her way to the front of the classroom. All eyes focused on her as they waited for the Prof. to cue up the sound. She hated class presentations, and really she hated going last. The song began. Lisa's fingers flew as quickly as they could, but the music was fast - too fast for Lisa to keep up. Wait. She was lost. Could she start over, please? Darn it! She was lost again. Oh well, there was the end of the song. She was done. Good enough. Lisa numbly returned to her seat. The minute-hand of the clock in the back of the room ticked to the next minute, and class was over.
"Lisa," the Prof. called as the students gathered their books and began shuffling out of the room.
Lisa cringed, finished gathering her stuff, and waited as the Prof. walked to her desk.
"Lisa, you didn't practice with your music, did you?" the Prof. asked matter-of-factly.
"No, ma'am," Lisa responded glumly, focusing on the floor behind the Prof. instead of the teachers gaze.
"You really should have. You've had plenty of time," the Prof. scolded, "I know you've had a lot going on..."
Lisa managed not to flinch. Argh! She hated all the sympathy. Nothing made her cry faster than sympathy.
"...but the best I'll be able to give you for your presentation is a '"C." You had too much time to work on it not to be better synchronized with the music."
Lisa nodded. Her presentation had been a disaster, she knew it as well as the Professor did, but it didn't really matter. She'd made through class. She hadn't cried.
The breeze tousled her hair as she concentrated on the spongy feel of the thawing grass beneath her shoes, but that reminded her too much that it was spring. Her Mom's birthday was in the spring - in just a few days, as a matter of fact. No, no, no - she wasn't to her car yet. Lisa shifted her focus to the list of thing she had to do after work. That worked just long enough. It took an extra second or two to get her key in the lock as the tears blurred her vision, but then she was there - inside her car. Lisa slipped the key into the ignition and twisted the knob on the radio as far as it would go. She paused to wipe her eyes enough to see, then pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the interstate. It was just a little way to the freeway - she didn't have to see as clearly to drive the long, straight interstate. Lisa twisted at the volume knob, but is wouldn't turn any farther. Darn! Why couldn't go just a little louder.
A/N: ASL stand for American Sign Language.