By Mannan Mehta '18
As my right pinky toe caught the bedpost, I knew I had screwed up. The moment of shock came first. There was no sensation, just awareness. Actually, it was fear—fear of the pain that was about to come. It was similar to watching a drink spill, knowing there was nothing that could be done to stop it. Then the stinging came, slowly, like the volume of a speaker being increased from mute to maximum. My toe went numb as my tear ducts welled, and multiple profanities travelled from the top of my brain to the tip of my tongue, but I bit down hard and simply let out a grunt.
Clenching every muscle in my body, I hopped on one foot, muttering words that would normally result in me having my mouth washed with a bar of soap. The agony continued. Annoyed with the bed for ruining my otherwise perfect day, I delivered a firm punch to the mattress. My tender toe had borne the brunt of my carelessness, and I had paid the price. The dull throbbing continued, similar to the ringing of one’s ears long after a gunshot is fired.
All I could think about was how such a small impact, how jamming my toe so insignificantly against a piece of wood, could cause the Earth to stop turning. Football players sustain huge blows and get up as if nothing happened, yet here I was acting as if I had been shot. Despite these thoughts, my instincts told me I had the right to be selfish. The world owed me everything for the torture it had just inflicted on me, and I’d be damned if I was going to think about the needs of anyone else. I decided I’d had enough, and with that I got into bed, and vowed never to leave. It was too risky.
By Emnete Abraham '19
“Mami,” I whined in my mother’s direction, “I’m sorry!”
“For what?” she questioned. I blanked. She told me to call her again when I figured it out.
Frustrated, I kicked the door stopper and listened to it vibrate, like a woodpecker stabbing at a tree, before it came to a halt. I resumed my staring contest with the beige corner connecting my living-room wall and the front door. I spent many afternoons in that corner, as punishment for various offenses—forgetting a word in Amharic, tormenting my sister, or disrespecting to my parents. My constant mischief made me too familiar with the cracks in the aging paint and every mark, remnants of the time I decided I would be an artist and the wall my canvas.
Hymete—my older sister and the golden child—had her own corner across the hallway that separated our walls. On the rare occasion that my sister and I were simultaneously imprisoned in our cells, we secretly played hand games, hiding our hands whenever we heard our mother’s footfall. She caught us often, giving a pointed look, before returning to the stove. Boredom reclaimed us, again.
After exhausting every daydream I could muster, I took to studying the handiwork of a small spider high up in my corner. The small white threads glistened with the light from the kitchen’s chandelier, giving it a mesmerizing silver tint. I watched the steady legs of the spider weaving a trap for its dinner, its work like that of the ladies at a salon, braiding a young girl’s hair. I searched, willed, for something to distract me. I examined the carpet that probably predated my parents, themselves. Only the same bland burgundy color, with the same coral-reef texture massaging my feet met my disappointed gaze. I inspected the one white cake stain from my seventh birthday that, despite our efforts, never quite came out. Again.
On this day, the wall and I stood face-to-face, again, after a long hiatus. My inability to remember the Amharic word for yellow had brought me back to the place I’d managed to avoid for almost four years. I instantly zoned out, attempting to make my jail time feel shorter. My daze prevented me from hearing the car door slam, my father on his cell phone and his house key unlocking the front door. Only the door’s creaking penetrated the steel wall that was my thoughts. I jumped away from the large metal door with a yelp, catching my father’s attention in the process. He looked at me, “Emu, you’re twelve. You’re too old for this,” he exclaimed. I nodded in agreement; indeed, I was.
I now stare at the corner through sixteen-year-old lenses, taking in the place that figured throughout my childhood. A piano has appeared, shrinking my corner to only a foot wide. Fresh paint, now a bright white, hides the wall’s age marks. Shorn of carpet, the wooden floor—shiny and smooth—chills my feet. I try to reconcile myself with the old prison. It’s not the same one I left behind years ago, but it’s no use. I hate that corner. I always will.
By Andrew Wu '19
The studio seems lost in time, a constant in my constantly-changing world. The first time I entered was six years ago, and aside from the additions of a student-created banner detailing the history of music and a newspaper clipping about the 2012 election, everything is as it was during my first piano lesson with Irena.
The room fits two mid-sized grand pianos, three chairs flanking a table, and a bookshelf. These objects are surrounded by manifestations of memories. The faded black-and-white photos, the proud newspaper clippings, the crumbling Russian music scores—they merge into an old-timey atmosphere. Posters of her former students dangle on the bulletin boards—Leo Svirsky, Sam Post, and Ben Gunby’s faces beam at me while I play, as they did six years ago. A poster celebrating Irena’s fiftieth year of teaching hangs from the side of the shelf.
The newspaper clipping featuring a voting line from the 2012 election is not a celebration of President Obama’s victory. When I asked her, she said, “The picture of the voting lines has one of my students in it. I recognized her.” The picture of her with an ambassador is not a message about current foreign relations, but instead a celebration of her students’ recital at the German embassy. Even John Buser’s diagram of the history of music does not reference contemporary events.
The pianos are gorgeous instruments: the closer to the door is Irena’s piano, an old Boston baby grand, and the farther is the student piano, a somewhat erratic Steinway donated by one of her former students. In all my time here, I’ve never seen the lids on the pianos raised, as Irena sets music on them. Underneath the pianos are the same sets of footstools—for shorter students—that I used six years ago.
Irena’s bookshelf seems almost magical, a repository of classical scores stained by use and greyed by age. The books look identical to me—the colors have faded, the pages have decayed, and the titles are indecipherable Russian characters—yet the ones that Irena seeks fall easily into her hands.
Underneath the table is a candy jar that always seems full. The jar holds no brand-name chocolate, no modern sugar-infused creations. Inside are a collection of peanut candies and dark chocolate bars that could have come from any era. Sitting on the table is a broken clock; its hands have long stopped moving, and Irena has never bothered to replace it, relying on her golden wristwatch.
Whenever I walk inside the studio, I take a moment and observe these objects. They may just be bookshelves and candy jars and pianos and clocks and footstools—but to me, they are manifestations of certainty. The last six years of my life have been jarring and unpredictable, but Irena’s sanctuary cares not for the whims of the outside world. Irena’s studio is comforting and familiar, and the aura of timelessness that pervades the room makes me feel like the ten-year-old boy who walked into the studio six years ago.
By Annie King '19
5:30 (or 4:15, sorry Virginia people): Wake up
5:45: Regret signing up for this sport
6:00 (or 4:45, sorry Virginians): Carpool makes the rounds to pick up several swimmers
7:00: Arrive at Fairland Sports and Aquatics Complex, send the moms to pick up Starbucks from the one open store in Maryland
Many swimmers arrived at Fairland Aquatic Center on Saturday morning with some form of caffeine (coffee, tea, monster, red bull, and C4 were common in our team area). With some extra (artificial) energy in our systems, the NCS swimmers were prepared for a long day at the pool. Prelims began at 7 in the morning, and despite the hour, many swimmers had great performances. Ella Berry dropped 15 seconds in her 200 IM, and Julianna McKessy dropped 4 seconds in her 100 backstroke. Megan Craven earned finals-qualifying times in the 50 free and the 100 free, and all the A relays qualified to return later in the day.
The swimmers who braved the windy day and crowded pool deck to come back for finals at 5 pm came bearing even more caffeine and even less actual energy, but still rallied, raced well, and had some great swims. The 200 Medley relay, swam by Rachel Yoon, Megan Craven, Margaret Herbold, and Nia Brown dropped two seconds and placed 13th overall. The 200 Freestyle Relay was swum by that same group, dropping another second to place 10th overall. Finally, the 400 Freestyle relay, composed of Annie King, Elektra Papathanisiou-Goldstein, Addie Sears, and Alyssa Gabidoulline, dropped ten seconds and came in 15th. Card games, blankets, winfo gossip, and cheering for our teammates kept us entertained. While the smell of the hot dogs in the concession stand may have induced some nausea, we powered through to a 13th place ranking out of 22 teams, a strong finish for our relatively small team. The meet ended around 9 pm, and while it was definitely a long and tiring day, it was a lot of fun and all the swimmers had a great time hanging out and celebrating everyone's achievements!
Our more awake counterparts, the divers, had their WMPSSDL championships on Thursday, and were very successful as well. Highlights included Dorothy Shapiro placing 3rd out of 34 competitors a week after her third consecutive ISL championship win, as well as Claire Fortier advancing to finals and placing 14th, a major accomplishment for a first year diver. Go Eagles, and let's get excited for Metros next weekend!
By Richard Oh '18
“1, 2, 3, Bulldogs! 4, 5, 6, Family!” These were the hurrahs that ended every huddle that surrounded the practices, matches, and tournaments of STA’s 2017-2018 wrestling team. Compared to past seasons, it seems to me that this team made more of a deliberate effort to be brothers to each other, to create a family. In a sport where each bout of competition is individual, it could have been difficult to feel the presence of teammates in the struggle of a match.
However, it was off the mat and in wrestling room where kind encouragement thrived. Aside from the cooperative nature of many drills this year, we practiced an activity called “Highlight, Hero, Heartbreak”. The name of the activity represents three different activities. In the latter two, an individual on the team can volunteer to talk about a hero or heartbreak in their lives. In highlight, a chosen individual is showered with compliments unrelated to wrestling hailing from five different teammates. The result of these sub-activities was a deep bonding experience brought about by personal reflection and gratitude.
Starting with his brainchild activities, Coach Armstrong was very crucial in establishing a winning attitude in the program. Coach would give motivational team speeches in the days before a match. He would pray for us and would not tolerate excuses, instilling the idea in every member that winning was an absolute possibility in every match. Also, Coach hooked the team up with some sharp, new singlets, each with an STA shield embroidered on the back. One of coach’s favorite mantras was “the shield stays up”, referring to the idea that one should never be on one’s back and that the team fights to protect the pride of the school. Another mantra was “win by pin”, reflecting this year’s high standard for all matches.
The team captains, Jake Melman-Rogers and James Howe, were set on winning the IAC Championship this year. “This is our year,” Jake would say. In prior years of wrestling, I cannot recall leadership that cared more about winning.
The team fought hard at this past weekend’s IAC Championship Tournament. Everyone brought their best self to the mat, ready to win. Sadly, the wrestling team finished second to Landon, both programs turning the tables on Georgetown Prep’s massive championship streak. Some team members have supposed a manipulation of brackets by rival IAC coaches in order to turn favor away from a St. Albans championship. In addition, All-IAC awards (voted on by coaches) were given, perhaps subjectively, to relatively weak wrestlers. A few of our talented seniors expected nomination. Regardless of any possibly hidden malice, I will say that our program cares about winning with dignity; we raise our athletes instead of recruiting a few.
The future is bright. Despite a runner-up finish at the IAC’s, a strong majority of our team is both young and talented. Rising seniors are ready to lead. These are two strong indications of success in coming years.
If you seek a fulfilling winter sport, I would highly consider Wrestling. This sport teaches you the elusive lesson of grit and makes you a winner.
By Nareg Balian '18
It was a busy, bustling day in the Cascade, a communal square in the heart of ancient Yerevan, Armenia. Accessed by steep stairs, the Cascade was full of vendors, tourists, and students dashing to their destinations. I had just attended a lecture at the Musical Armenia Program and was heading to my piano lesson for the day.
At that moment, I decided it was about time to trip down those steep stairs. My sheet music flew everywhere, and a cart vendor rushed to help me gather my music saying, “Ari, ari! Tsavt tanem.” Embarrassed, I thanked him and soldiered on to my lesson, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he had said what translated to “here, here, let me take your pain.” After three weeks of intensive music, history, and culture lessons, I thought I was in tune with the idiosyncrasies of the Armenian language. However, I found the phrase tsavt tanem—and I kept hearing it—perplexing.
My confusion accompanied me into my lesson where I asked my no-nonsense piano teacher what it meant. She confirmed my initial thoughts, declaring, “Tsavt tanem? It means—how you say in English?—‘let me take your pain.’ Now, please continue with Babajanyan.”
I wasn’t satisfied; there was more to this peculiar phrase; I needed to grasp its deeper meaning—its essence. So I turned to the foremost expert on the Armenian language I knew.
And I asked my grandma, Nami.
Since Nami was a teacher for over thirty years, she took this simple question as an opportunity to launch into a twenty-minute Armenian grammar lecture. Here is the shortened version: Ցավդ տանեմ or tsavt tanem is an Armenian phrase that literally means: “let me take your pain.” Ցավ or tsav means pain, and the -դ or -t is the second person singular. Տանեմ or tanem comes from the infinitive verb տանել or tanel, which means, “to take.” The -եմ or -em ending signifies the first person; hence, “let me take.” Finished with deconstructing the phrase, Nami then defined three different meanings for tsavt tanem: sympathizing with someone’s plight, poking gentle fun at someone’s shortcomings, or conveying endearment. That summer, I experienced all three.
After my sheet music debacle in the Cascades, my second encounter with the phrase was when my father, who had accompanied me on my trip to Armenia, suggested we grab an ice cream cone. My father received a call from his friend just as we were about to walk into the ice cream shop, so I went in myself. Haggling in Armenian is not my strongest skill, so I ended up paying what amounted to five dollars for one scoop of vanilla ice cream. My father sauntered in and proceeded to order a chocolate-covered cone with three scoops of fudge orange chip swirl and paid one dollar. Needless to say, my father happily flaunted his superior negotiating skills by waving his change from the transaction and declaring, “Nareg, tsavt tanem, you were just ripped off.” Gee, thanks.
My adventures with tsavt tanem continued when I finished my time at the Musical Armenia Program by performing the pieces that I had learned. All of my family’s friends and their extended families and their neighbors and their friends and their second cousins came to witness this historic event. I had not even finished bowing when my “Aunt” (a formidable woman) came rushing up the aisle towards the stage. Before you could say tsavt tanem, she was upon me in a whirlwind, pinching my cheeks, declaring I had grown up so much, throwing tsavt tanem this way and that. Bellowing over her shoulder to my father, “Sevag, tsavt tanem, tell your wife Nairi that your son is a piano genius,” she turned back to me. “ Tsavt tanem, you’ve grown up! Tsavt tanem, are you hungry? I have made dinner! Tsavt tanem, you must eat!” I inched my way to the door, thinking: if I don't get out soon, she’s really going to have to take my pain.
Last summer I traveled to Armenia to study, discover, and connect to my ancestral homeland. What I hadn’t expected was for Armenia to envelop me completely. When my music flew across the Cascades, someone I did not know jumped to my aid, telling me that he would take my pain. My father, in what was one of many moments of levity, made sure that we laughed off any pain from tourist-trapping ice cream vendors. My “Aunt,” who had seen me only once before, showed me so much warmth and affection—I needed her to take my pain. Every tsavt tanem experience brought me closer to my heritage. Embodying the generosity, the good spirit, and the love in Armenia, tsavt tanem is both untranslatable and universal.
By Kubair Chuchra '18
Piercing winds blew through Chicago’s streets on the morning of February 14, 1929. On the southside of warehouse parking lot in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, seven men, all members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side gang, stood waiting for a bootleg booze delivery—nothing out of the ordinary for America’s capital of vice. As the clock neared half past ten, a beaten-up police car zoomed into the lot, presumably to conduct a raid and collect a bribe. When the car screeched to a halt, four men clad in police uniforms piled out. They ordered the Moran gang members to line up against the wall with their hands above their heads; all seven obeyed the command. Within seconds, the roar of a tommy gun shattered through the air, piercing each victim's back with over twenty lead bullets. By the time the real police arrived, six slaughtered men (one victim would later die at a hospital) lay sprawled on the pavement.
The cold-blooded killing, known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, would go down in history as the deadliest attack in Chicago’s decade-long gang war. Though the police never gathered enough evidence for a conviction, the victims’ blood reeked of Chicago’s most notorious gangster: Alphonse Capone. A heavy set Italian hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Capone was recognized by his scarred face and dark pinstriped suits. In the nine years between his arrival in Chicago and the massacre, he had progressed from a small-time hoodlum to the mastermind behind a criminal empire specializing in bootleg liquor, prostitution, and gambling. Citizens, policemen, politicians—all of Chicago’s inhabitants lived in constant fear of him. The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre and Capone dictated each other in ubiquitous harmony: Capone’s brutality and exquisite attention to detail defined the ruthless, unattributable nature of the massacre, and the massacre’s unforeseen consequences defined the pitiful, unexpected downfall of Capone.
Capone organized a multitude of gruesome executions before the St.Valentine’s Day Massacre. Most notably, he was behind the 1924 killing of Dion O’Banion, Capone’s rival mobster, and the 1928 killing of Frankie Yale, Capone’s former mentor and faithless business partner. However, there had never been a killing so brutal, so deadly, so Capone as the St.Valentine’s Day Massacre. All the elements of a classic Capone killing were present. The seven victims were shot in broad daylight, their bodies left for the police, an execution style similar to that of Dion O'Brion's: “(Capone’s) organization would murder O’Banion face to face, at his place of business, in the middle of the day” (133). The plan was brilliant—even Chicago’s savviest gangsters fell for the ruse of the fake police car—and untraceable. Capone had his right-hand man, Jack McGurn, assemble an assassination party of out-of-towners that would be unrecognizable to any witnesses and difficult to catch once they returned to their hometown, as “murder was not a federal offense and police departments in different cities often had difficulty coordinating their investigation” (306). Capone also gave himself an indisputable alibi by spending the day of the massacre at a public official's office in Miami, Florida. The most stylistically Capone element of the murders, however, was the way the press reacted and the way the police investigated. While the papers were quick to link the horrific murders to Capone, helping him reach new heights of infamy as “a national phenomenon, a fixture in the public consciousness, the best-known gangster of the era” (318), the police, due to a lack of evidence, could only call the headlines theories. In a malicious, meticulous, defining style of murder unique to Capone himself, he escaped conviction. Accordingly, he felt like an invincible force in Chicago, subject to no laws—a true climax of his career. However, it was this false sense of invincibility, and the drive of others to destroy it, that defined the remainder of his life.
Capone’s elimination of the Moran gang and subsequent clout over the Chicago rackets provided him with a newfound level of infamy and, in turn, a newfound level of arrogance. Blinded by such arrogance, he did not notice increased police surveillance regarding his criminal activity. No longer were the corrupt policemen of Chicago the only government officials monitoring Capone’s illicit operations; word of his criminal actions had reached the White House. With the power of the federal government at his dispense, President Herbert Hoover had the Department of Justice serve Capone with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury and answer questions about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Capone, once again blinded by his arrogance, skipped out on the subpoena. The authorities did not react well. Hoover ordered a Department of Justice task force led by Chicago-based United States Attorney George E. Q. Johnson to apprehend Capone, no matter what the cost. Johnson had unlimited resources:“If (Johnson) needed more investigators, he would have them. If he needed to reach judges to obtain warrants, he would. Most important, he had the law on his side, which was obvious but easy enough to overlook in the Prohibition era” (302). After months of work, they struck gold: “The most significant find of the raid (on a Capone establishment) was not the booze or the stills or even the hundreds of slot machines; it was a set of ledgers the police had confiscated” (302). These ledgers provided detailed accounts of the millions of dollars Capone was making through his illegal business ventures, exposing the hundreds of thousands of dollars he had failed to pay in taxes. He was caught. Finally, on October 17, 1931, only two and half years after the Massacre, Capone began an eleven-year sentence for tax evasion. He never returned to crime again.
Alphonse Capone’s life climaxed in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. His true colors defined the nature of the event, and the event’s consequences defined the imprisoned nature of his remaining years. In the legend that was his life, Capone came full circle: he built an empire of crime in Chicago and watched it crumble before his very own eyes.
Bergreen, Laurence. Capone: the man and the era. New York: Simon & Schuster,
By Elizabeth Lombardo '19
“So, tell me why you’re here.”
A tall, confident semicolon leans forward intently and examines her patient’s dolloped face. The patient—an ordinary comma—closes his eyes and ponders this for a minute before responding.
“I suppose I’m overwhelmed,” the comma says at last. He lets out a long, labored breath.
“I don’t know. Everything. Everyone expects me to be there to save every sentence. And I want to. And I should be able to. But the pressure is just too much”. He pauses for a minute.
“What do you mean? What do they expect you to do?” the semicolon asks softly.
“Everything! Writers think that the comma can just hop in whenever they feel like ‘giving the reader a break’. But the reality is, we have to balance more jobs than a semicolon could ever imagine.” He looks up at the semicolon for the first time, as a look of discomfort blooms on his face. “Er—sorry,” he manages.
“Don’t worry about it; I chose this job for a reason!” the tall, lengthy punctuation mark says with a chuckle. The comma forces out a laugh.
“Forgive me for asking, but what exactly do you need to do—as a comma, that is?” the semicolon asks.
“Well, there’s separating lists, naming locations, setting off independent clauses, —-”. He talks faster and faster and more and more frantic until the semicolon shakes her head and interrupts: “Hey. It’s ok. You can do this. Let’s take this one step at a time. I am going to make a chart of the situations in which you are needed and then we’re going to figure out what you will do in each situation, ok?”
The troubled comma is sitting up now; his eyes dart from the therapist’s eyes to the dry-erase marker in her hand to the ticking clock on the wall. Tick, tick, tick. “But I’m not done. There’s so much more,” he says, his aggravation now escalating. The semicolon ignores this. She approaches the large dry-erase board behind the patient and draws a chart. She writes down the numbers 1 and 2 before the comma explodes: “I don’t think you understand!”
The semicolon puts on a soothing face and turns to the comma. “Ok. Help me understand, then. Give me a few examples of times that you feel you need to fix a sentence, and we’ll work through them together!” She crosses her legs and tries to put on her most patient and most cheerful face.
“Ok. Today, for example, I was at work, when I saw a group of punctuation marks working on a sentence. They tried to squash together the two statements: ‘I tried to untie my shoes’ and ‘I couldn’t’— separating them with a ‘but’. I felt a sharp pang in my chest, and I knew that I had to help them, even though I knew it meant I would be late for the Daily Comma Meeting. I rushed towards the mess of a sentence and inserted myself in between ‘I tried to untie my shoes’ and ‘but’. And thank goodness I did because that sentence was a mess. I had to help them!”
“See, that is where your perfectionism starts talking,” the semicolon says, and the tip of her period-shaped head turns up with a knowing smile. “You may think you needed to, but the truth is: that sentence would probably have been fine without you. I mean you don’t really need a break there. ‘I tried to untie my shoes but couldn’t’. See, I just said it fine!”
“But that’s just not correct!” the comma blurts. A tormented look fills his face. “People just don’t take the comma seriously.”
The semicolon nods and gives the comma a sympathetic look. “Ok, I get that. I do think that you need to understand something though: you aren’t expected to save every sentence. Sometimes, you just need to let some sentences go. You can’t do everything. Not every sentence is going to be punctuated correctly, and that’s okay.”
The comma looks as if he is about to protest, but the semicolon starts to talk before he has the chance to. “You really have to get comfortable with that idea. Plus, how many sentences can need a comma? I’m sure we can get this all under control, and soon everything will seem manageable.” She smiles, but the comma doesn’t believe her for a second.
“There’s more,” the comma mutters, crossing his arms. The semicolon nods, and the comma continues his rant.
“When people have a thought that is completely unessential to the sentence, two commas are needed to set off that thought. Otherwise, the reader freaks out and doesn’t know how to read the sentence. I cannot tell you how many times a fellow comma and I have had to intervene in a sentence with ‘who’ or ‘which’. But the absolute worst is when punctuation marks call me saying they need a second comma’s assistance, and their sentence includes a side note beginning with ‘that’. I am always trying to tell them that that’s just wrong. But they won’t listen! And I just can’t bear being responsible for a comma misuse. You know when you’ve just done or said something to a friend that you know hurt them? You know how it hurts you so much inside but you know there’s nothing you can do because you’ve already gone too far?”
The semicolon nods along and gives the comma—who is now staring blankly past the therapist’s head—a look of pity.
“It’s just—so much— all the time.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” she whispers. She doesn’t understand though. After all, how could a semicolon understand the trauma and hardships of a comma?
“I get a lot of semicolons in here, you know? They’re always worried about which sentences they should be helping.”
“That’s the thing! They’re worried because they aren’t needed. Two independent thoughts can do perfectly fine on their own—as two separate sentences. All they need is to ditch the conjunction, and replace you with a period! Admit it. You guys are not necessary. You’re… superfluous.”
The semicolon frowns. “Everyone has their own problems. You just don’t always see them,” she says quietly.
The comma lets his head hang to hide his frustration. “And the whole ‘supercomma’ thing? You’re just doing the job that we do every day! Like, you literally just do what a comma does. It can’t be that hard.”
The semicolon takes a deep breath and adjusts her position on the chair. Just then, a young, petite comma sticks her head in the office. The semicolon waves her over and motions for her to take a seat next to the patient.
The newcomer smiles. “Let me introduce myself—”
“Of course,” her husband interrupts, “that’s another job of the comma!” Then, he says in a mocking tone, “Comma Chief’s Rule number eight: proceed introductory elements.” Suddenly, the comma’s phone buzzes, and his right leg starts shaking. He reaches into his pocket and pulls it out.
“Jay got caught up in some confusion over a sentence,” a frantic man on the other line says, stopping for a minute to catch his breath. “We really need you to cover for him. Please tell us you’ll be there.” Before anyone can say a word, the comma leaps off the sofa, swings the door open, and catapults towards the lobby faster than the speed of light.
The two ladies he has left behind sigh and exchange a knowing look to each other before parting ways.
“See you next week.”
“Yeah, see you next week.”
By Jonathan Rufino '18
“Gooseberry, Huckleberry.” My carefree six-year-old voice joins in with my piano teacher’s as we review basic rhythm via these silly words, and I slowly pick out the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” I like my new piano teacher. She’s patient, she smiles at me, and she laughs at all of my jokes. But sometimes, I wonder about her. Why did she buy such a fuzzy, comfortable carpet if she never lay down in it? I didn’t like piano much—sitting upright at a chair pressing keys, I had decided, was boring—but oh, the carpet! I stretched myself out on it, pressing my head against the beige tufts of fluff, closing my eyes, and letting the sun’s warmth from the floor-to-ceiling windows roll over me like a blanket for my newfound musty-smelling bed.
“Shift!” It’s been four years, and I still can’t seem to wrap my head around just how I’m supposed to change my hand position in that ridiculous “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” song. I only have five fingers, Ms. Naomi. How could I possibly reach that sixth note? At ten years old, I’m still unappreciative of piano. Perhaps that’s because, short of learning to play with both hands at once, I’ve made depressingly little progress since I began the instrument. The piano studio, though, continues to fascinate me. Each Saturday, the stalwart carpet welcomes me, but it’s no longer the focus of my attention. A new sofa, pink and flashy, occupies the right half of the room, designated for the older members of the studio who shuttle their grandchildren to and from their weekly piano lessons. Often, my recalcitrant friends and I sneak up onto it, fighting for the right to snuggle into the corner where the seat meets the arm, fiddling with its already fraying edges, and poking the tightly packed cushions of down just to contemplate the consequent indentation.
At thirteen years old, tearing through a simple scale in a Kuhlau Sonata, I’m suddenly overcome with an urge to quit piano. My old studio playmates, with whom I used to roll in the carpet and sneak onto the sofa, stop arriving to their lessons. I’m suddenly one of three teenage students that my teacher has left. While Victor, the oldest of those three, has his lesson, I sit just beside my teacher’s newly installed bookshelf, contemplating whether or not I should stick with the instrument I’ve grown to despise. Looking down the rows upon rows of neatly sorted volumes of music, small brightly colored busts of composers serving as bookends, and miniature framed quotes from Dr. Schinichi Suzuki, I’m suddenly aware of how little I know of my piano teacher. From Japan, she hasn’t seen her family in years. She has a house, I assume, since she has a car, but I’ve never seen her outside of her small studio. It might come as a surprise that, for seven years, I envisioned my teacher living at the studio. But to me, it wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. My teacher spends more time in this room than anywhere else, so is it so wrong to say it’s her home? I see more than books now. I see a life devoted to a passion, and, glancing around the room at the carpet and the sofa, I realize to just what extent, hate the instrument as I may, this studio has become my home as well.
I don’t quit piano.
“Control!” Seventeen-year-old me zips through a c-sharp minor scale in a Reinhold Impromptu. I no longer think about each note, but rather I hear the song in my head, trusting my fingers to do the rest. The glossy black sheen of the Boston baby grand stretches out in front of me. Piano has, over the past four years, become an inimitable part of my life. This piano specifically, this Boston, has been with me for eleven years now. It’s where I searched for the notes to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, where I struggled to shift my hands in Go Tell Aunt Rhody, where I questioned the significance of that Kuhlau Sonata, and where I sit today, contemplating how central to my life this instrument has become. And when I look around at that that joyous carpet, that forbidden sofa, that symbolic bookshelf, and that sleek baby grand, I’m incredibly grateful that this place, this second home, somehow kept me coming back.