He bangs the keys helplessly, the dissonance ringing in his ears as the fear bubbles up inside of him.
I can’t do this, he thinks to himself. I’m a performer, not a composer.
“I give up,” he states aloud to the girl lounging on his couch, reading her book.
Cynthia snorts, not bothering to look up. “You’ve barely been at it for an hour.”
“Mozart wrote the overture for Don Giovanni in three hours. And I’ve got nothing,” he groaned.
She looks up at him with a raised eyebrow and a dubious expression. “Are you Mozart?”
He’s baffled by her question. “Well, no, but –”
“But nothing! You know it took Margaret Mitchell ten years to write this book?” she retorts, waving her tattered copy of Gone with the Wind in the air as proof.
“But that’s different,” he protests.
“Barely. Stringing together notes and words are very similar endeavors, and both require just as much patience.”
Cynthia’s indifference wounds his ego. Could she not see he was toiling? He has tried to develop a melody, has switched to focusing on chord progressions, and finally settled on first deciding what scale to play in, but not a spark of inspiration flakes on his damp imagination.
“Well if it’s so easy, why don’t you try?” he challenges sourly.
Silently, Cynthia sets her book face down as to save her page and hoists herself off the couch. She slides on the piano stool next to him, brushing his arm with the carelessness of an acquainted friend, and he notes her hair smells of peaches.
Her fingers hover over the piano for a prolonged moment, and just as he’s about to point out his task is not as easy as it looks, she begins to play. It’s a broken minor, something a child could have accidentally stumbled across, but the sound of it insinuates something deliciously tempestuous, yet forbidden. She plays a measly two bars before blowing back her bangs and switching to a completely new theme, a simple syncopation and progression of an A minor in C scale. She taps out a little twinkling melody with her right hand, and from there her attempt starts to unravel; her hands stray too far from the relative octave, or she unintentionally betrays the scale she had committed too. But, trying her hardest to reel herself back, she coats over her mistakes and discovers an infinite number of new paths to explore.
He listens breathlessly, enchanted, trying to negate his classical training when she pairs chords and notes wrong, but pleased when she fixes her mistakes quickly. Her form is elementary and dexterity crude, but she, with her writer’s brain, is able to do something with the piano he has never been able to accomplish: transform it into a tool of communication. Through the notes he discovers hints of her personality and mood, associating certain bars with her opinions based on their quirkiness and energy.
It isn’t a song, not by far, and both of them knew that. But she isn’t trying to write a song, not right now. Instead, she is translating her thoughts to these keys, with 7 letters instead of her accustomed 26.
When the room finally falls silent, he stares at her.
“I know it’s not very good,” Cynthia goes to apologize, after his prolonged silence, ducking behind a curtain of strawberry blonde hair.
“It was amazing, considering you don’t have much formal training,” he assures, but he can’t tell that his tone accidentally carries the jealousy which has been building up inside of him. Why was it Cynthia, with very little musical talent – who writes as she goes and makes dozens of mistakes and can never replicate a tune she makes up because it immediately flits out of her hyperactive mind – is able to create something beautiful, and meanwhile he, the trained expert, is bound to the confines of another musician’s bars?
“It’s your turn,” she nudges him, out of his preoccupied mind, her tone more patient now than before.
He looks down ashamedly at his hands, who lay limp in his lap. He shakes his head. “I can’t.”
“You know the difference, between you and I?” Cynthia asks, as if she can read his mind.
She takes his bewildered expression as a nonverbal go ahead. “I’m not afraid of producing nonsense. Inspiration won’t come to you simply because you’re too rigid, not because it’s impossible for you to find any. You’re too unwilling to cooperate and coax it out. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to stumble and have to revise and revise and, guess what? Revise some more. But if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.”
He turns to look down at Cynthia, beside him, beaming up at him with her kind, hopeful hazel eyes. “Why is it so important to you that I do this?”
She smiles as she weaves her fingers through his, before returning to meet his gaze. Softly, her voice twinkling like the keys on the highest piano octave, she says, “Because you have a song full of wonder and wisdom hidden behind the green in your eyes, Brently Baer. And, frankly, I find it selfish of you to keep such a treasure from the world.”
Edited by Zack Iezzi