Now, Then, Ever, Never

February 21, 2010

Write about a child in a situation that they would have handled differently if they knew what they knew as their grown up self.  Write about a memory in which, looking back, you wish that you knew what you know now.

I haven’t posted my own writing results in awhile. Here’s today’s:

I was practicing my flute by an open window in my family’s living room when I saw the boy.  At school, we were learning a Disney medley for the Spring concert.  The piece moved from the Lion King theme to “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Our teacher really knew how to appeal to a concert band of ten year olds.  I sat practicing on our green couch in our tiny old house in the city while my mother read in the other room.   I took a deep breath to play a high note and moved my body to the right.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a face pressed up against the window. Only a sudden glance was enough to make me jump.  My flute made a soft clicking sound when I dropped it on the couch and ran to my mother. “Someone’s there!” I whispered to her. She went to the window and I peaked at them from behind a shelf.  The face  belonged to a little boy. I hadn’t even taken a moment to look at him before I ran.  His dark skin looked darker against the light blue shirt that he nervously tugged at.  The whites of his eyes were huge as he looked up at my mother and said, “I only wanted to listen. Why did she run away?”

“You just surprised her.” My mother said. “Next time knock on the door, and she’ll play for you.  Would you like to come in?”

I remember thinking, No, Mom, don’t invite this weird kid in! But he was too shy.   “Thanks,” he said, and ran off down the alley.

When I got a little older, I couldn’t get this kid off of my mind.  I wondered if he was a Disney fan, I wondered what kind of music he liked.  I wondered if he was okay, a vague definition of “okay”,  since we both grew up in the same, somewhat rough LA neighborhood and I knew what happened to a lot of kids who weren’t like my sister and I.  We got to go to a school in a better neighborhood because our mother worked for the district.  We didn’t spend much time playing in our own neighborhood, especially lately.  Only a few weeks earlier a man down the street exposed himself to my sister and I.  We didn’t tell our mother. We stayed inside and played board games.

Older, in another city far away, I thought about finding the boy in the blue shirt. I thought about putting something in the paper.  But this was years ago, what were the odds of him reading my ad or even remembering what happened?  I felt guilty, and I wanted to apologize.  I wanted to tell him that we should have played together.  He really should have come inside, and we would have been friends.  I also had this idea in my head that our interaction had somehow affected him like it affected me. Maybe he grew up to be a musician! Or a critic!  Whatever he was, I knew he was great and he always had been.  Sensitive enough to stop playing with his neighborhood friends to listen to a girl clumsily play her flute. Bold enough to look in a window.

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