Feeling the Years

Ever since coming home from school, I’ve returned to taking voice lessons. My teacher wanted me to be in the music-school’s end-of-year concert, which is how I found myself roped into singing the lead in Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as doing backing vocals for half a dozen other songs.

The other girls singing with me are of various ages between eleven and eighteen. I’m the oldest by three years, having recently turned twenty-one. Let me tell you, nothing makes a twenty-one year old feel her years like spending hours with girls six years her junior and realizing that they’re actually not as interesting to her as the eleven-year old. What is it about the middle teenage years that seems to erase half their brain-cells? One of the other singers, an incredibly talented girl who’s also very sweet, polite and bubbly, actually takes Justin Bieber seriously and thinks that he’s the bee’s knees.

Then there’s the issue of the guy who used to be my guitar teacher when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen him for ages, until tonight when I found out that he was leading the rehearsal we were having. Since seeing each other he’s become more clean-cut and I’ve had time to go wild and come back down a little again. It was strange seeing him and realizing that six years had passed since spending weekly hours together with our guitars. Knowing that I’m now at an age where he looks at me like an equal, an adult, is frightening in some ways, exhilarating in others.

Growing older is strange, but so far it’s not actually displeasing.

Flash Fiction Thursday: Beating Up Brad

I hate Brad. I’ve hated him ever since first grade when he grabbed me from behind and shoved my face into the sandbox. Let me tell you, that was not a fun experience. It was even worse when it became a daily thing, a sort of routine form of torture. It wasn’t until third grade that I hit him back. Boy, did I pay for that. Ever since then, Brad beat me up almost every day. Poor Mom, she kept thinking that Dad was doing something to me when I was at his house. But that’s Mom’s fault for only taking me one day a week. Dad knew what was going on, alright. He knew, and he tried to teach me how to fight back – he’s that kind of a guy – but it never really stuck. We used to have the biggest fights, since I never agreed to tell him who was beating me up. He called school to complain a few times, but they kept assuring him that “there’s no bullying problem at our school, sir” and “the nurses say that your son is simply very clumsy and that there’s no reason to assume he’s being hit. We have very good boys here, sir.”

See, that’s the other thing. I went to an all-boys school. Guess what? That wasn’t fun, either. I don’t think I spoke with a girl who wasn’t Mom or Auntie Rose until I was in high-school. That’s where the next fun part started. Brad went to the same high-school I did. Now, you may think that he’d grown up a little, and that if his parents were sending him to a co-ed school, that meant that he would be too busy hitting on girls and would stop picking on me. But, of course, as luck would have it, Brad found those girls who liked seeing that he was big and strong and could hit an obnoxious nerd with glasses like me.

I’m a senior now. We’re both seniors. I’ve still got the glasses, but I’ve got some muscle on me now. See, Dad finally had it with my split lips and black eyes. He started sending me to the gym twice a week when he saw that even in high-school I was coming home bruised a couple times a week – at least by then, Brad had less time for me. So even though nobody’s noticed, I’ve been building up muscle over the years, and my pimples have gone away, and you know what? Brad’s going to go bald early and I’m not. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from leering at me or threatening me or banging my locker as he passes by so that I squeak. I have this tendency to squeak. I know it’s not attractive, but what can you do?

Anyway, tonight’s Prom Night. I think it’s about time I proved to Brad, myself and everyone else that I’ve gotten stronger than him. I guess a decked out hotel lobby full of my fellow students and a bad hired band is a good place to do it. Plus, we’ll both be in suits, so my beating him to a pulp will at least look classy. You know, just in case someone films it and puts it online.

An Ache, Instead of a Heart

It was 5:47 in the afternoon. Not an ominous time, not even an interesting one. It was just an afternoon, almost evening sort of time. How could her heart turn from a solid presence in her chest to a throbbing mass, almost a tumor, in just a few short minutes?

It had started because of curiosity. Maybe that wasn’t right, though. Maybe it had started because she’d listened to their music the night before, and it made her think of them again. Her end-all-be-all of music. The men she fell in love with desperately at sixteen and tried feverishly to convince everyone else of their immense power and force. She’d gotten over that, though. She’d found her ken online, through forums and fan-sites – the usual place teenage girls congregate to fantasize, and avid fans come together to worship and respect. She was both – a teenage girl and an avid, serious, dedicated fan.

That was then. This was now. She’d continued adoring them, continued falling in love with the music over and over again. But eventually, her love of the men faded and became respect, admiration, adoration of a different kind. She didn’t want to kiss them anymore – now she wanted to have a conversation with them, be a friend. She’d gotten less and less involved in the online scene. She couldn’t help it that there were other things taking up her time – real friendships, real lovers, real life. So now, three years later, she still considered them the best, her favorites, the all-encompassing musicians for her, and she still listened to them.

In fact, she’d listened to them the night before. Maybe that was why, at 5:47, she’d found herself wondering about a silly detail – a cosmetic feature of one of the men that had disappeared – and through her curiosity, she stumbled back into the websites. She gaped, open-mouthed, at the changes made in her absence. She rejoiced that steps were being made, that there were new people around, that her beloved musicians were still respected.

But it turned her heart into an ache. A dull, stuttering, spluttering ache. It felt like something was pouring out of her heart, dripping on to the floor… Drip-drip-dropping, some essential liquid the heart needed. It felt like a lifetime since she’d fallen in love with stars in a vast sky, and now, rediscovering her fellow worshipers, she felt so lost.