At school, I was known as 'the artist'. No one, save the teachers who actually cared, knew my real name. Everyone thought that my hobby was drawing, doodling, sketching, whatever, because that's what everyone saw me doing and recognized me for. I never showed off my drawings like they were something special, because they really weren't, but they were the only topic of conversation that came up whenever someone tried to talk to me, which was a little too often for my liking. I was always just 'the artist'. But drawing was not my real passion.
I loved singing. The music notes held structure; It was either on-key or not. They were stable and beautiful, the only thing that held any real shape in my life. The sounds that they produced when they emerged from deep within my throat were full and resounding, and that was what I wanted. I wanted to be the music notes.
My parents were constantly in some kind of argument, whether it be about the taxes, or the current president's several faults, or even me, they were angry and unrelentless to each other. They weren't divorced yet, but they lived apart, and I was tossed between them like a soulless cabbage that nobody wanted. I hated being a cabbage.
Dad lived in the basement of a close friend's house, and had reign over the downstairs bathroom and living room. I liked it best there, because I could curl up in a corner of the living room, where no other breathing human being ever came, and I could sing quietly, listening to the sound of my own voice and feeling a mix of emotions; happiness, calmness, loneliness… They were the only emotions I felt these days, all by myself in that little corner.
I was only at Dad's place on the weekends. Other than that, I was at Mum's. She lived in a harsh, white house, two stories and completely useless, since it was only her and me. Corners were sharp there, and colours were drowned out in favour of white. My room was constantly being cleaned and reorganized by my mother. She was the secretary for some big-shot lawyer, whom I did not like. He was just like her, all stiff corners and tight frowns. They both talked about how much they expected from me, how I was smart, how I would grow up to have an enviable spot in a law firm office.
So here I was, a lonesome cabbage with a life undetermined by me and predetermined by a mother who didn't care, with music that wanted to break free but was only allowed to when a father who loved me didn't see me anymore.
School came when I went up to Mum's, and it was, honestly, an escape from the suffocating presence of my missing father and my all-too-there mother. And yet it was a prison, as every kid thinks it is. Every other kid, however, had a name. I was just 'the artist'. I doodled what I couldn't sing, finding small comfort in the rough lines and symbols decorating the paper, even after the teacher sighed and took it from me. I didn't care much; I still had my mind and a pencil in my hand.
Days come and go while at the escapist prison, and soon they're blending all together, leaving one just like the other and the other exactly like one. They slurred into a single mass, until there were no longer 'days', just 'school'. Tomorrow would come, then it would be a yesterday, and then the next would come and add to the jumble in my head. And then, there was that day. The day that deserved to be a 'day', that stood out with clarity against the others.
The day I shed my cabbage leaves.
He was there, standing alone with the violin in his hand, the bow in the other, taking up only a square foot of the band room carpet, but seeming like he captivated the whole area. I was there too, enthralled by the sounds coming through the half-open doors. I did not walk in, did not applaud, did not alert him of my presence… Only stood and listened, almost afraid that he would stop too soon.
His fingers danced across the strings, the bow running across, sometimes slow, sometimes at a full sprint. It was magical to hear, and to hear it, one would have to watch, just to see if the notes riding on the faint breeze were really coming from his work and his instrument. I could not feel the breeze, but I knew it was there. It had to be, for the music to be able to fly the way it did, out of the band room and circling me, before flitting away to fade before it reached the outside hallway.
He had finished the piece, and I hoped he would pull out another, but he didn't. He only cracked his neck and began to put away his mahogany violin. Timid, I stepped hesitantly into the room. Would he notice? Would he ignore me? Would he turn away, disgusted by such a thin, wanting creature as I?
He did none of those.
He turned, smiling, and straightened up, gripping the handle of his case. He waved, even asking my name and if he had it right.
And he called me by that name.
School was no longer a dragging process, as I waited for him during lunch and after school, so we could talk about music, so he could play his violin and I could listen, so we could just sit in silence and appreciate having someone sitting next to us. He was someone who looked like I would never dare talk to him, but miraculously, I did. It happened. I was no longer alone, and it felt like flowers on a warm Spring day.
My mother was still blaring sharp, and Dad was still a little flat, but I had those fleeting moments during the weekend to sing, and now I had him to talk to as well. Mum would talk for hours about my bright future, my career as a successful lawyer like her boss, how I would emerge victorious where she never did. I was her rising star: the only problem being I did not want to be her rising star.
Dad would glance at me, smile, then apologize and say he was going out with a friend tonight, and don't destroy anything while he's gone. I never did. He repeated it every weekend, every night I saw him for the tiniest second, and then he was gone, not bothering to spare me a second look. It was quiet and forlorn at his place.
I told this all to him, and he would nod, grip my shoulder in understanding, and tell me about his parents. His mother had divorced his father a long time ago and moved to Iowa to live with some other man, and his dad had steadily gone downhill and had turned from businessman to heavy drinker in a matter of short months. I would smile in sympathy as he spilled his words to me, and he would simply smile back.
I think we were both glad to have the other.
These visits soon grew to have more talking and less violin as we grew to comfortably decline in the companionable atmosphere, which eventually turned bigger than companionable.
Our visits were like a Bach composition; sweet and lively, rolling and silver, looking like a piece of art on the sheet music.
Thoughts of Mum, Dad, 'the artist', all of the heavy expectations pushed onto my small shoulders, they disappeared when he was talking, and his voice swirled through my head like music, like the one thing I loved more than anything.
Or maybe he had replaced the music. Maybe he was more. All I knew was that I was lost in him, and content with my utter confusion.
Days turned to months turned to years, and we were older. Dad had calmed down quite a bit. He had found another woman, after he and Mum finally filed the papers, and had moved on and out of his friend's house. His new wife liked me, I could tell, and in turn he saw me for me, instead of just the kid in the corner. Mum was the way she had always been, sharp corners and rigid orders, but the white had faded to a light grey, soothing on the eyes and heart to see. I appreciated my two homes better than I had before.
And he made it all better.
I know. What a boring ending. It all works out, everyone's happy, the works.
To be honest, life is still far from the perfect middle C…
But what can I say? I'm just a boy in love.