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The Beating of Our Hearts is the Only Sound

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Chaos: in the dictionary, defined as a state of complete disorder and confusion. In life, chaos is more difficult to define. It is the unplanned thrill of shirking responsibility to follow your each and every whim. It is coffee rings on the kitchen counter and papers scattered across an otherwise pristine desk. It is kissing a girl, wild and hungry, in the middle of a parking lot in the pouring rain. You don’t know how you feel about chaos. It can be beautiful, but it can also be messy, and you were never one who bothered to take the time to find a rare gem of beauty in a mess. Chaos, however, knew how it felt about you- it never seemed too far behind you at any given time.

Today, chaos was making itself known to you again as you rushed down the stairs of your apartment complex, cello case half buckled, stepping on the heel of your right shoe in a futile hope to force your foot into its leathery confines. Because, of course, today was rehearsal for your orchestra, and of course, your alarm had not gone off. It was no fault of your own, you certainly hadn’t accidentally pressed snooze in your sleep (at least, you really hoped that you hadn’t). It was the universe- yes! It was the universe absolutely determined to screw you over. And why shouldn’t it? It hadn’t done anything good for you for as long as you could remember, so, you think, you should really stop expecting anything at all to go your way… your thoughts begin to spiral.

Clusters of grey clouds in the sky match the storm of thoughts cycling around your head. Walking down the street with long strides, your half-secured shoe splashing in every shallow puddle, you struggle to make up for lost time. You know that you can make it to your rehearsal, just maybe, if you’re fast enough, so your pace rivals that of the bicyclists around you. The October wind nips at your face, and you suddenly realize how utterly futile a white, button down shirt and black dress pants are against the autumn chill. With tangled hair and flushed cheeks, you arrive at the concert hall. You half glance at your watch and doubletake. You are ten minutes late, they have undoubtedly begun practicing without you. Sighing, you prepare for the ordeal of walking into the theater. You know that every member of the orchestra will look at you, if not as soon as you walk in, then certainly as soon as you noisily unlatch your cello. It won’t be fun.

You tentatively walk into the building, make your way past the lobby, and as quietly as possible, open the auditorium door. Lugging your cello case through the narrow door, you scramble to the stage, earning you a glance from the entirety of the cello section and the slightly annoyed conductor, who continues to conduct as though no disturbance has occurred.

“Well, at least you only have to unlatch a single clasp,” you think to yourself, relapsing into your silent cursing of the universe. At long last, you have procured your cello. You grab your bow, place your sheet music on your stand, and jump into the wave of melody cascading through the theater, finally able to enjoy the sound now that your panic has begun to fade. You pull your bow across the strings of your instrument, feeling the soulful notes resonate within you. You lose yourself in the music; time, space, and peers all fade away as you fall into the familiar dance that is Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. It seems so sudden when the music stops, when you hear the clacking of dozens of musicians stowing away their instruments, and realize that the rehearsal is over. Already? It had only just begun! You exhale a short puff of air, then resignedly pack your cello as well.

As you are just about to leave, you notice that the theater isn’t entirely empty. Across the stage from you, one of the violinists is still sitting in her chair, meticulously turning her tuning pegs, pausing every few seconds to draw her bow across her taut strings. Nothing sounds wrong to you, but clearly, she isn’t pleased with their vibrations. You aren’t usually one to start a conversation, but something about her intent gaze, her careful motions, fills you with a desire to at least say something to her, anything at all.

“Nice violin,” you blurt out, gesturing to her completely generic violin. The same violin that you know for a fact most of the violin section has. Wood. Brown. Strings. When you thought you should say anything to her, you didn’t really mean anything!

“Um, thanks,” she responds, twisting one of the pegs just a millimeter forward. Stupid. You couldn’t have just introduced yourself? Hey, nice to meet you, what’s your name? Desperate to salvage the beginnings of what could have been a conversation, if only so that this girl doesn’t think that you’re insane, you continue.

“So, I, uh- I heard you playing last week, and you’re really good. It was beautiful,” you say, immediately regretting it. Now you’re a stalker, great. Should’ve quit while you were ahead. Worse, you were lying! You had never seen this woman in your life, as unlikely as that was, having been a member of her orchestra since April. Miraculously, she responds.

“I saw you come in late today. I mean, that’s rough. I’ve been there before. Everybody looking at you, the music stops- you just want to disappear… Anyway, does this sound right?” Thankful for the change of topic, albeit to one that still stings, you let out a hollow laugh.

“Really. It’s the worst. And yeah, that sounds fine to me,” suddenly flustered, you elaborate, “I mean, I’m not an expert, but from my limited violin knowledge, that sounds about right,” She doesn’t look at you, still gazing intently at her violin strings, gently twisting the peg ever so slightly towards you with long, nimble fingers. Seemingly satisfied, she glances at you from the corner of her eye.

“I don’t know, something felt off,” she laments to you as she opens her violin case, gently placing the wooden object into the velvet lined container. She redoes the container’s clasps, nodding slightly when the final clasp locks into place.

“I didn’t catch your name,” you blurt, the words tumbling out of your mouth on top of one another, “I’m (y/n)”

“Vanya” she responds, turning towards the exit to leave. She doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere, but there isn’t much more to say in this conversation. Still, as she opens the auditorium door, she glances back at you, which wouldn’t be quite as awkward if you weren’t already watching her leave. She shakes her head slightly and offers a half smile in your direction, if only for a second. Just like that, she’s gone now, leaving you alone in the big, oppressively empty theater. You shake yourself out of whatever stupor is keeping you on the stage, grab your cello, and follow the path that she had tread moments ago.

Back in the brisk October air, you slowly lug your cello case down the street. You may not still be dashing through puddles like you had been earlier, but the damage is done. You are exhausted. As you walk, arms weak and legs heavy, you think about the conversation that you just had. The girl, what was her name? Vanya? She won’t seem to leave your head. This isn’t entirely strange, seeing as most of the awkward conversations that you have the misfortune of participating in replay in your head for hours after they happen (and for weeks, you recall, they drift across your mind as you try to sleep- it’s a real problem for you). But this- this conversation- it was different. You cursed yourself for being so awkward. You hardly know anyone from your orchestra, and well, you had thought that maybe you could make a connection with this girl. Pushing people away is getting old, but then again, it seems you do that even without making the decision consciously. There is no way that Vanya will ever speak to you again. Hooray for being socially awkward, you suppose.

After an eternity, you arrive at the door to your complex. Nudging the door open with your shoulder, you swing your cello into the hallway, your body following the heavy case’s path. You trudge up the stairs, prop your case against the wall, and fumble for your keys. Finally you cross the threshold into your apartment. You order Thai takeout, watch copious amounts of television, and clean your kitchen (which is pristine, seeing as you never cook, but you really can’t help yourself). You do nothing, and the fact is that it’s driving you crazy. No calls, no texts, just you, your phone, and a sinking pit in your stomach, very much alone. Vanya is still at the corner of your mind, and you can’t help but wonder if you are on hers… no. You have to forget about that, for your own sanity. Let it go, then you can’t be disappointed: that’s the maxim that you usually try to live by. But this time, for some reason, it seems wrong to let it go. And what is “it” anyway? What were you really expecting to come from that conversation? Friendship, you suppose, a connection to someone. You want a connection, someone to share this nothingness with, making it less, well, like nothingness. Vanya is at the center of your thoughts no matter how hard you try to push her out, and ultimately, you don’t want her to leave them.