Hitting the High A
Last night I was restless. I couldn’t even finish a short story from Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help. (But here’s the best line from How To Become a Writer: “First, try to be something, anything, else.”) I kept thinking about patterns. I recently read a journal from 2007, and I basically haven’t changed at all. Four years isn’t that long, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s long enough.
There’s this girl I’m in love with who got married recently. I told her she was amazing, and she replied, “How can you say that?” And I wanted to explain, but it seemed at once daunting and obvious, so I just kept repeating, You’re amazing. You’re amazing. Why do we think certain people are amazing? Because of their talents, intellect, humor? Because they have what we lack? For me, it’s because they inspire me to be a better person. I am too easily drawn to apathy. I need to surround myself with beautiful, provocative people. Their motivation motivates me in return.
Lately I find my memory slipping. Each day the furniture gets rearranged. Each day the truth becomes more like grasping. How did it go? How did it end? Where have I been? The literal answer is, at a porn shoot. And occasionally talking about strap-ons in Oakland.
Here’s what I remember about quitting the trumpet. I was in 7th grade. It was halfway through the school year, and I’d been playing for almost four years at that point. I quit when I realized I’d never hit the high A. No matter how I pursed my lips and wailed and pitched and frenzied. My seatmate said it was because I had girl lungs, and somedays I believed him. But really, I knew that not hitting the high A meant I would never be a great trumpet player, and I decided it’d be better to be nothing than mediocre. When I told my dad, he was so disappointed. He said, “I was hoping we’d have a musician in the family.” My brother would quit the saxophone a few months later. But then every one of us, including my dad, would pick up a guitar in a few years. I quit that too eventually. Being a musician is a lifelong pursuit. I couldn’t commit to it because I didn’t love it. I never said goodbye to Mr. Matsushino, the band teacher. I simply emptied my spit valve, packed up, and never went back. My girl lungs and I transfered to Home Ec, where we made zucchini cookies and pillows shaped like frozen bananas. I still have the pillow. And I still know how to sew buttons on things. This has impressed exactly one girl, which makes me feel like I made the right decision.
What I loved most about the trumpet was that we got to be loud, and we always played the melody. I remember one year, we played the theme song to Masterpiece Theater.
The trumpets all stood up for our part. I wore a floral print dress that my mom picked out from JC Pennys and a Blossom-era hat with plastic flowers glued to the brim. It even had fake dew on the petals. I thought I was such hot shit, tooting out my 2-minute melody in my Blossom hat. After the concert, we went to Baskin Robbins and someone admonished me for always getting coffee-flavored ice cream. “It’ll keep you awake,” said one of my parents. I can’t remember who, but it must’ve been my mom, because both my dad and step-dad drink coffee like it’s their religion.
We stopped going to Baskin Robbins after someone told my dad they flavored their lemon ice cream with a pesticide. I never did figure out if that was true, but I was grateful at the time for my unwillingness to try new things. The coffee did keep me up, but at least it wasn’t poison.
I wish most decisions were that easy. Maybe they are. I’ve come to trust the distance between myself and the married girl I’m in love with. Neither of us can get really hurt this way. Sometimes, there’s more value in not knowing how things might work out. Recently, I sent this haiku to her:
Your absence is not
a void, but a place I’m
She wrote back:
Such is the nature
yet in the balance.
I’m writing every week for AfterEllen now. I love it. It makes me feel helpful. And this is, I think, my best SF Weekly post to date. It’s about helping people as well. Stephen Elliott said recently that writing was like strip mining the soul. I think most things we love are like that. Sometimes you think you see the stars in someone or something, but it turns out to be just you, holding a dingy mirror. When I give advice, I tend to tell people to do the opposite of what I’d do in my own life. Maybe this makes me somewhat of a hypocrite. Or human.
I try to tell myself that there are no right or wrong answers, only honest ones. Somedays I believe it.