The fifth chapter of my story. Miranda auditions.
Silence is Dangerous
The man with the bushy eyebrows came in the room with me, but he sat as far away as possible in a class room chair too small for his legs. Uncomfortably close to me was a gauzy black sheet hung up on a makeshift silver pole. I could barely make out five human like shapes sitting behind it. The only thing that was clearly visible was the judges’ feet. The sheet hung a few inches above the ground revealing five pairs of shoes. They seemed strangely exposed and I suddenly wondered if the judges could see my feet. I suppose it didn’t matter. I didn’t think a professional judge would give someone extra points because they wore attractive shoes. I certainly hoped they didn’t because my shoes weren’t exactly attractive. They were kid shoes—Mary Jane’s—and had a small bow on the toe. They would have been cute on someone my sister’s age, but they definitely did not look right in size nine on my feet. I scrunched up my toes self consciously, lost in thought.
It wasn’t until I heard a gruff clearing of the throat that I realized I’d been daydreaming, or procrastinating. It was the kind of clearing of the throat that was so obviously fake it made me want to copy it for fun. I didn’t though. You’d have to have a seriously big something lodged in your throat to make that kind of noise.
Another fake throat clearing sounded, accompanied by an encouraging nod from the man with the bushy eyebrows. I shuffled forward to a black stand positioned much too low for me. The kid before me must have been a midget. As I bent down to push it higher, I dropped the sheets of music I had been holding. They scattered all around the room, landing in the most inconvenient spots. More fake throat clearing sounded from behind the curtain. Another nod from the man with the bushy eyebrows, now it was more impatient than encouraging.
By the time my face reached the shade of red called fire truck red in paint stores, my music finally decided to stop encouraging my procrastination. I took a deep breath and tried to blur out everything in my vision except the songs in front of me. The sheets of music were crumpled from so much use and in a few spots the printer ink had smeared from my sweaty grip. Despite this, the white of the paper could not have stood out more against the black music stand. The longer I stared, motionless, the more those papers seemed to glow. For a second, my memory faltered and I couldn’t remember what to do.
With a little encouragement from the throat clearer though, my instincts took over and I pulled my bow shakily over the strings, one note then the next. It was just a scale, a simple series of notes all in order. I didn’t even have to think. That was the problem though. To do well, you had to think. Even for a scale there were things to remember regardless of whether your brain thought it had everything under control and wanted to take a nap.
For every single note, I tried to remember something my violin teacher had told me. Keep a steady pace. Listen closely. Don’t be skimpy on how much bow you use. The first two pointers were easy-peasy technical stuff, but no matter how much I repeated that last one to myself, I wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t, but the thought of pulling my bow so bravely across those strings made me shy away even further.
Using my whole bow had always been an issue, but never before had I realized just how scared I sounded. As my scale drew to a close, my imaginary voice was hoarse from screeching at my arm to use more bow. Even in this room of hard acoustics, I knew my entire scale had been made up of mostly puny squeaks—imposters of real notes. That was the consequence of playing only with a little area of bow. The equation was: full arm plus full bow equals bold, clear notes, while stiff arm plus skimpy bow equals weak, scratchy notes. This was so obvious and yet, I still held myself back.
I began my next song, but in my head I knew it would just be another series of puny squeaks that barely covered up the furious scribbling pencil sounds coming from behind the curtain. Mice squeak. Human girls should not squeak. But maybe I was more mouse than human.
All of a sudden, it was as if I was providing the sound track to a movie, a movie playing only in my head. In the movie, a little girl with dark hair sat in her kindergarten classroom for the first day. The teacher bustled around, asking students their name. When the teacher came to this dark haired girl though, the girl only squeaked, seemingly unable to speak. Then the movie seemed to skip a few years and the still little, dark haired girl was asked to answer a question at church. She opened her mouth and all that came out was again, a squeak. Then, the movie showed the same girl crying to her mother and her mother calling the girl her “little mouse,” and saying that it was okay she didn’t want to talk. That there was nothing wrong with it at all. The movie ended with the last note of my song and all that was left was me, a no longer little, dark haired girl still squeaking. Only now, it did matter that I couldn’t overcome this silence.
I shifted the sheets of paper on my stand so I could see the very last song I was to play. It was my favorite, so I had saved it for last. Now I wish I hadn’t, because my knees were growing weaker and weaker and my head seemed to be floating. I needed to ground myself and focus on the tips my teacher had given me.
She had given me plenty of them, that was for sure. So many times we had practiced these songs over the summer. My life had become like one of those tee shirts: Eat, Sleep, Practice Songs Until My Fingers Fall Off. But as hard as it was for me to not slack off or give up, I knew my teacher had to have a double dose of patience to not give up on me. Over the summer, I came to the conclusion that my teacher, Ms. Hrynowski, was the most patient person in the world. I told her that once. She had a way of making me want to talk and this particular time, I just couldn’t stop myself. The people in the apartment beside hers were making all sorts of noise and although I saw her jaw muscle twitching beneath her wrinkles, she didn’t get mad. Instead, she had started singing, “I love my neighbors,” under her breath over and over again. This was so unlike what Mama would have done. If our neighbors so much as made an unusual peep, the police were summoned by a mystery women who was no mystery to me. That wasn’t saying Ms. Hrynowski never got mad, because once in a while she’d say, almost yelling, “If you skimp on bow use one more time I will beat you with your bow! Then you’ll understand about bow use.” I couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. I never could.
I imagined her standing beside me now, waving her bow threateningly around and I took a deep breath. A real one this time. This song I would play for her, because she understood that I couldn’t be Mouse forever. The first note in the song was fortissimo—meant to be played as boldly and clearly as possible. I placed the bow on the string and pulled it back with all my energy. There, I saw it, that triumphant look flash across my teacher’s face. But I couldn’t stop yet. This energy had to grow and ebb and flow throughout the whole song. I couldn’t get tired. I couldn’t listen to the voices telling me that it was safer to be silent. The entire song I battled those voices, but when I lifted my bow off the strings for the last time of the audition, I knew I had done it. I had played the song just how my teacher had wanted me to. I could only hope it made up for all my previous squeaks.