E Flat Minor of Platform 24
I must confess that I am writing this story entirely for selfish reasons. The guilt has been unbearable, and this story serves to relieve my guilt. But more importantly, I suppose, I am writing it to apologize. My apology is directed at the principle character of my tale. I want him to know what I felt, and that my actions were based not in logic but in pure emotion. The emotion I followed was wrong. I am truly sorry.
It was only five years ago that I crossed Rose Street on a damp and dreary afternoon with my two friends. We hurried down the cement stairs underground to the subway. I remember it quite clearly—we could hear the train coming, screeching though the tunnels. But I had not yet bought my ticket, and so, in one of my rare acts of selflessness, I agreed to let my two friends catch the train without me. Naturally, by the time I bought my ticket, the train was gone, and I was left alone on Platform 24.
I perched myself on one of the grimy benches, trying to only expose the minimum of my perfectly pressed clothes to the grubby seat. There was no one around; my only company was the discarded newspaper on the floor. Having been somewhat of a studious girl, I pulled out a thick textbook and began that night's homework.
Now I must admit, my reason for being a good student was, again, entirely self-centered. Getting good grades benefited almost no one but me, and that pleased me to no end. Anyway, I soon grew tired of the book and stood to examine the schedule. I made sure that the train was indeed coming in twelve minutes, or I would have resorted to calling my parents and forcing them to leave early from work so that I would not have to wait for the train. However, the schedule confirmed my assumption, and I was left to twiddle my thumbs on the bench.
Soon though, my boredom took me to pacing about the platform in a sort of pattern—five steps to the left, seven steps to the right. As I was turning to begin my five steps to the left again, I something caught my eye. On the wall, partially hidden by the pay phone, was a strange sort of graffiti on the wall. I walked over, curious.
There were five thin lines, stretching about a foot. Written on the lines were many little dots. I recognized them instantly as musical notes.
I'd been taking piano for some time; it was, once again, a selfish act. The music was for me and only me. If I did well, it benefited me. Since I loved piano, I decided to copy the music and play it when I got home. I quickly pulled out a piece of binder paper and copied the complicated music. This took up the remaining time and not long after I finished copying the short piece, the train pulled up to the platform.
As soon as I got home, I hurried to the piano room. There, I closed the door and set the messily copied music in front of me. I played it slowly, for it was unfamiliar and a bit more difficult than music I'd encountered before. The song was beautiful. The chords rang and clashed with perfect balance; the melody soared above the accompaniment and sung out on its own. In only a few measures, it captured many different emotions; I could feel my heart rising and falling with the music. It was unlike anything I'd heard before—not like any of the famous composers, or even of the lesser known ones. It was… foreign but wonderful. In the end, it left me breathless and longing for more; the piece was clearly unfinished. I wondered vaguely who'd written such a wonderful piece on the wall of the subway.
I figured I ought to tell the composer how much I'd enjoyed his piece, and so, after school the next day, I went to that same spot and took out my sharpie marker. It took me quite a long time to come up with the right words; I didn't quite know how to thank someone for something I'd enjoyed. Besides, I didn't actually think the composer would read my note, anyway, so I supposed it didn't matter how well I wrote it.
Dear Composer: Thank you for this piece. It truly was wonderful; it left me needing more. I do hope you continue to write. Yours Truly, Nat
I decided against signing my whole name because of the small fact that I was writing this on the subway walls for all to see. I wrote it quickly so that no one would catch me vandalizing the grimy tiles. Slinking away from the writing and the music, I made my way back to the bench to wait for the next train.
I spent a lot of time in the subway after that. My grandmother fell ill that winter and was hospitalized. To get to the hospital, I had to take the subway, since my mother was rarely available to drive.
I spotted the note he left for me the day after my grandmother fell ill. It was in a neat cursive, curling and dancing across the subway wall.
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Your grateful and humble composer, E Flat Minor
I laughed at the penname—it was the key he'd written the piece in. Right below the message was another series of notes, intricately woven onto the thin black lines. I wondered who the mystery composer was. I copied the music onto a sheet of paper and took it home with me to play.
I soon became addicted to the music. To get away from the stresses of everyday life, I selfishly exploited the music he'd so kindly given to me. Yet each time, I found it easier and easier to thank him. I would write more and more, hoping that he would reply with more words each time. My hopes were fulfilled indeed; he would write almost three tiles full. I was thankful that our correspondence was kept barely visible behind the pay phone. People rarely used the phone anymore; cell phones were growing in popularity.
I found myself drifting away from my friends in school, waiting for the end of the day so that I could get the next installment. He was rapid in writing it; there was a new measure every day. I suppose my personality must have changed drastically, for the guidance counselor approached me one day.
"Natalie," she said in an authoritative tone. I was sitting alone at one of the metal tables in the cafeteria, reading a book and humming the music. I looked up at her, smoothing out my uniform skirt under the table.
"Yes?" I asked, marking my page with a musical note bookmark and closing it. She sighed, took off her glasses, and rubbed the lens with her salmon-pink sweater.
"You have been… strangely… subdued," she replied. I shrugged.
"PMS, I guess," I replied. I simply wanted her to go away and leave me alone with the music. The guidance counselor placed her glasses back on her nose and stared at me through them. I could see little salmon-colored fuzz on the edges of the lenses.
"I'm sorry about your grandmother," she said.
"It's not your fault," I replied. I really just wanted her to go away.
"That's… that's not what I meant," she stammered. I said nothing. "Anyway, is there something bothering you? Something you want to talk to me about?" I sighed. Such a typical I-want-you-to-think-I-care line. I decided to humor her.
"Actually yes," I said, folding my hands on the table. She gave me a startled look. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. "I'm afraid I may be sinking into depression. Because of my grandmother and all. What do you suggest?"
"Oh, you poor dear," she said, scooting closer on the bench. I gave her a slightly sad look. "Oh, why didn't you tell someone before? I can help you. Might you be able to come to my office after school? I need to see you as soon as I can… that way I can help."
"Oh, no, I'm sorry," I said. "I'm afraid I've already got an appointment. But thanks for the offer. I'm sure I'll stop being sad soon. It's really nothing to worry about. You don't have to worry about me killing myself—I'm too much of a coward for that." I gave her a reassuring smile. She gave me an awkward look.
"If you need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate," she said. "I knew a brilliant student once who attempted suicide. Ruined his life."
"If you please," I said, standing and ignoring the last comment. "I must get to my next class. It's been a pleasure talking to you." And with that, I left her sitting at the table with my tray of food.
As soon as school was out, I hurried across Rose Street to the subway station. There, I ambled nonchalantly to the pay phone to see if he'd left me anything. Indeed he had, yet this message was much different than the others.
My Dear Nat,
I would like to meet you. Please take the F train three stops down from here. I will meet you in front of the vending machine in that station.
Your grateful and humble composer,
E Flat Minor
I felt my mind grow numb. After two months of correspondence on the wall of the subway, the mysterious E Flat Minor wanted to meet me. I looked around at the crowds of people on the platform—it was rush hour. I figured if he was going to kill me, he certainly wouldn't do it in this kind of crowd. And perhaps if I met him, he could teach me his secrets to composing such beautiful songs. Perhaps then, I would be able to write music as he did. As I said, I was a very selfish person. So, I waited for the F train to come and hopped on, squishing myself in between a stiff business man and a lady with a feather on her hat.
I stepped off of the F train three stops later and made my way through the traffic. I found the vending machine and leaned against it, looking around for anyone who might be a composer. I saw no one, and no one approached me.
It was at least fifteen minutes before he came. He came suddenly, with no warning, out of the crowd, facing me exactly. I knew it was him the moment he emerged from the crowd.
Time seemed to stand still as he walked toward me, smiling only a little. I swallowed hard, taking in his full appearance. He was my age, I was sure of it. He had thick black hair that fell into his eyes and onto his neck. He wore worn jeans and a simple white t-shirt. He had thick gloves on that covered just a little past his wrists, as well as a necklace with a treble clef charm. He stood in front of me, not too close, not too far. He brushed back his bangs.
I gasped. His eyes were two different colors, one a brilliant blue and the other black as night.
"E… Flat Minor?"
"Nat," he replied, standing still and straight. I can still see him standing like that, one foot just a little behind the other, his hands dangling into his pockets.
"I… um…" I swallowed. I had always wondered what I would say to him, and I had always envisioned things I could tell him, but they all left my head now that he was actually standing here. He stayed silent, letting me collect my thoughts. "Your music… is amazing." I managed to whisper. He smiled slightly, tilting his head off to one side.
"Thank you," he said. His voice was a soft tenor or baritone, barely reaching my ears. It was a smooth, buttery voice, but it sounded like he hadn't used it in quite a while. I realized the station was growing a little less busy than it was before. I stepped just a little closer to him.
"Might I ask… your real name?" I asked softly, looking at his black and light blue eyes.
"I… I can't," he said, looking away. I gave him an inquiring look.
"I…" he said. He stopped.
"What is the problem?"
"It's complicated," he said. His voice was so quiet, I had to strain to hear it over the train.
"Well, then," I said to break the silence. "What do you play your pieces on?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you must have an instrument to play the music," I said. "Or at least you sing it or something." I hoped he would be able to tell me what he did to create such wonderful songs.
"I… I…" he said. "I see it."
"I see the music. I see the notes," he said.
"You… write it yourself, right? The notes… they're by you?"
"Then how do you hear them?"
"You don't hear them?"
"I've heard them. On the piano."
"You don't hear them now?"
"Well, I can hum them."
"But you can't hear them?"
"I guess you could say that. What do you mean by hear them?"
"The people, the trains, everything."
"What are you saying?"
"This world," he looked around the emptying station. "Is my song." I stared skeptically. I supposed he had to be a musical genius, a person who hears the song in his head all the time. But he could at least have been honest with me and not made up some corny metaphor.
"Well, alright," I said. "What does the world sound like?"
"I don't know," he said. "I just hear it."
"Can you teach me then?" I was getting frustrated.
"Well, then, I see no point in having met you," I replied curtly. "Thank you for the music; I appreciated it. Good bye." And with that, I turned on my heel and walked toward the exit. When I reached the escalator, I turned slightly to see if he was still there. He was, staring at the place where I'd been. He raised his chin a bit, closed his eyes.
I wondered vaguely what he was doing, but I didn't care much and was more intent on getting home before the rain started up again.
Thank you for reading! This was meant to be a one-shot, but I couldn't make it quite short enough. It will be told in two parts. Reviews are greatly appreciated!