It had been 2 months since Mom died in September, that idea still struck me as nonsensical. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t cry, it didn’t seem all that real. Only back during the summer she was talking to me, scolding me when I came home late, being over-protective like every mother seems to be. But now, she was gone, and I, left with all of these thoughts stirring in my head. Left thinking that maybe this had all been my fault. Left thinking that maybe if I hadn’t yelled at her. Left thinking that maybe if I hadn’t stormed out the door like a spoiled child. Left thinking that if I hadn’t tried to run away from my petty problems – maybe she wouldn’t have been hit by that car. But, even after all of that, I’m still trying to run away from my problems.
After her death, I was deemed old enough to inherit our apartment, and luckily, the courts were willing to pay for a year’s worth of rent. It almost struck me as humorous that something that would have previously left me with a sense of elation only left me with feelings of dread building up in my stomach. Starting life on my own was supposed to be an exciting time, a chance to live my own life, but it all just felt hollow. It almost hurt me to think about my mother now, everything in our apartment seemed to almost serve as a painful reminder of her. The seat at the table she would occupy, the dishes she would spend hours a day organizing, and the various pictures that were spread out overtop of the furnace. Pictures of her and the memories that we shared together. No matter how small of a connection there was, everything I saw around me acted as a reminder, of her and that she would never be back. Most days, I would try to spend as little time in there as possible, only really heading back to sleep. As futile as it seemed to me, I would instead try and find something else to occupy my thoughts. Unfortunately, school had been proceeding smoothly because all of my teachers were lenient with my assignments after hearing about my loss, and I was left with no stresses to fret on. With nothing to preoccupy myself with, I turned to the outside world around me, in hopes of even just for a split second, finding a way out of the hole that I dug myself in; escape all of these cascading emotions that remained in my thoughts. And, after walking through the park on a cold November afternoon, I finally found that escape. That escape in the form of a few street performers on the side of the road.
My mother had always been a fan of music, no matter the genre. It didn’t matter if it was classic, rock, pop or whatever, she could salvage enjoyment from almost any form of musical expression. At first this thought terrified me, but listening to the performers left me with a sense of joy, the joyful words of the song, lyrics about finding love and never letting go, echoing through my cranium and leaving me fixated on their performance. There were three men playing all in harmony as if this had been their entire calling in life. One man was playing the guitar, his hands elegantly strumming chords that were soothing to the ear. The man beside him was on a keyboard, a strange element to add to a performance on the street but the light piano notes slipped into the piece only added to its beauty. The third man was singing and it was clear he had been well practiced, due to the sheer range of his voice. He hit every note with ease and just one tune with the instrumentals – a perfect harmony. They sang a happy song, one of a world where anything could be realized and no one felt out of place or lonely and where everyone could stand on their own two feet and be proud. One where the sadness around them could only help make them stronger and their passion and love could help them through whatever life threw at them. When the three performers finished, I gave my enthusiastic applause, and for the first time since my mother passed, I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. This probably looked strange to other onlookers, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was the beauty of the music, the beauty of my salvation.
Later that evening, I bought a guitar with no hesitation. I’m not sure why exactly, but the sound stood out to me, especially during that street performance. As quickly as I had entered, I burst out the music shop doors and ran back to my apartment, for the first time feeling no grief at the thought of returning. Once I got up to my floor and opened the door, I flung my shoes off excitedly and brought the guitar out from its black leather case. It was a simple design. Refurbished wood with a glossy finish, but the simplicity seemed inviting to me, like it was something that I needed. That night, all my time was dedicated to practicing. And the next night. And the next night. Soon, days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months, and the only thing that was on my mind was music. I practiced until my fingers screamed in agony and could take no more strums. However, no matter how much pain were in my fingers or how sore my arm got, I was happy.
Maybe it was a little overzealous of me, but I ended up entering my university’s talent showcase, even though I had only been practicing for half a year. Although I had seen improvement, there’s no way I was ready to try and perform for an audience. I was struck with thoughts of my failure. Left thinking if I would have to sing too. Left thinking if they would point and laugh. I just shrugged these thoughts off. No matter if they laughed or scowled or ignored me, this was my passion. It had helped me emerge from the prison in my heart and dug me out of my grief. Even if they didn’t know, I knew. That thought alone kept me motivated. I was going to do this – no – I had to do this. I was certain I would do this.
The performance came up in mid-June. After thinking long and hard, I knew there was only one song that I would play, the one that helped me get to where I was now. I hear the intercom. My name was called. I gripped my guitar with both a sense of fear and anticipation and stepped onto the stage. As I sat down on the little stool I had requested for my performance, I adjusted the microphone and for the first time in almost a year, I spoke of my mother. “This song is dedicated to my Mom.” That’s all I said. A simple phrase. One that I could not picture myself saying back in September. But now, these words gave me strength. I played the song, the one I heard on that cold November afternoon. The song about a world where anything could be realized and no one felt out of place or lonely. One where everyone could stand on their own two feet and be proud. One where the sadness around them could only help make them stronger. At the end, I stood up, said a thank you, and left. As I began to walk off the stage, I began to hear one clap, then two, then what seemed to be the entire audience. They had heard my voice, my struggles, and accepted them, in a way accepting me; letting me accept myself and everything I had done. When the awards were being given out, my name was not called, but that didn’t matter to me. I had already seen my prize. And that was all I needed.
It had been 12 months since my mother died. No matter how much I dwelled on it, the thought was strange, but radiated with truth. I no longer worried about what had happened with my mother, though I still thought of her constantly. Those thoughts no longer scared me and when they did, I could always turn to my guitar to put my mind at ease. Even when I was at ease, playing my guitar always just helped me relax, transport me to the world created in the lyrics I memorized and the tune I hummed. In a way, even after all of this, I’m still running away from my problems. But this time, I have a way to face them head on. And I was certain that would never change.