Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blood and Music

String – 483 words
Sarah Van Name

I am seven. Running into the crash of a wave, I cut my foot on a sharp shell. Apart from the pain of saltwater in the cut, I am afraid that sharks are going to attack. I don’t even bother to take off my goggles as I run to the shore. There’s just a small spot of red staining the sand, but it hurts and I sniffle and hug my dad’s leg. Off in the distance, a skinny pale teenage boy plucks at a guitar ineffectually, strumming the same three chords in the major key of a radio hit.

I never meant to get married this early, but I am twenty-four and planning my wedding with my mother. I want an autumn wedding. I want that spark of cold air in my lungs, I want to be awake. “How about the 15th?” I say, looking at a calendar. My mother clears her throat like she does before she talks to me about sex or doctors. “You want to make sure you’re not in your – ” she raises her eyebrows – “time of the month. It’s a white dress.” I wince.

When I’m fourteen, we do a writing exercise describing how we want to die. It’s morbid, but fascinating. The stocky muscled boy says in a car crash 120 miles per hour, or jumping out of a plane, and after the way he sweeps back his hair I don’t even think of it as a cliché. A girl with black eyes says suddenly and without any warning. My roommate knows with more precision than anyone here, but she lies smooth as a con man: quiet and without any fuss. I feel like I can see the cuts on her thighs through her jeans, but I say nothing. I echo the desires of millions before me and say: surrounded by love.

I am eighty; even the future can’t cure blood in the lungs; my daughter sings to me in the light-filled room, and I get my wish.

The summer after my fifty-fifth birthday, I go to Zelenogradsk, Russia. The oil and acid in the water shift into patterns of terrifying beauty and move with sighs and undulations. Miles across the bay, a nightclub pulses with the same beat. In the shower that night, I cut my leg shaving and find the sheet stained with a bright smear of blood the next morning.

A madman on the street, hair adrift in beads and hot hands outstretched for coins, tells me about string theory when I’m just seventeen. The grey-bearded violinist outside the coffee shop plays a sonata, a car drives by shaking the ground with its bass, and the summer sun caresses my back. “Everything is connected,” the madman says in the gravel tongue of a prophet, and though for now the future is an itch in my blood I can’t scratch, I know he is right.

Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl – Broken Social Scene

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