Sometimes you forget who you are. It’s not quite an identity crisis; you do not panic within your skin, ready to separate into meaningless fragments. You remember your name just fine. In fact, just to be sure, you wrote it in the palm of your hand that morning with a faded pen often used to scribble out last-minute grocery lists. Then you whispered it under your breath as you made breakfast until you became breathless.
No, it’s more like an identity misplacement.
Consider the day you lost your glasses. You could see the world just fine, at least on the surface, but the distance tantalized you--the neighbor’s house warped into a blur of drowsy attic light, the calendar on the fridge an amorphous measure of time characterized by a June bug lounging on a wet flower. Still, you could read faces when people approached you. A smile looked like a smile, a grimace like a grimace. When you at last found your glasses that afternoon, you put them on and realized that all day your eyes failed to show gleaming surfaces with an extra coat of light, the spaces around them heavy with deeper, more nuanced shadows.
But even in its drab state, the world was there for you to behold. And you beheld it, among the dimmed darkness and timid light.
Silva sweats over her sheet music. Her wooden guitar pick has made her fingertips sore, red almost. She has convinced herself that she is without fingernails. Music does that to her sometimes--makes her lose parts of her body. At jazz concerts, her heart is the first to go. In its place sits a warm brass instrument, humming with a fresh reed in its mouthpiece. Rock ballads claim her eardrums. Classical numbers uproot the nerves in her stomach until she is sure that they have gone forever, wilty and acheless. Really, music makes her body feel less like a body and more like a harmonious void so loud that it sings its own echoes to sleep.
But that music is often not her own.
For months, Silva’s sheet music has been lacking a certain spark. She can’t describe what that spark is exactly, except that it must be the start of something grand. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as immediate as candlelight, as direct as a raging wildfire. Perhaps it wouldn’t crackle, flicker, sputter at its core like some chrysalis-cloaked insect taking shape from within. Perhaps it would be soundless. Perhaps she would fall asleep between its staves and awaken with her body curled into the quiet musicality of a treble clef.
The spark had to exist, if not within her, then somewhere within her grasp. She had been told that she was born to create, by her parents, by doting teachers and music instructors. But nothing would come of her existence, nothing but drawn-out breaths and reluctant-rapid-reluctant heartbeats.
They told you that you were incredible, that you would sell out an entire stadium. People would pay their hard-earned MC just to sway to your music in the rafters, to stand in the way of everybody and cause fire hazards. You would be worth it. You would be the one setting fire to the place that night, with your own voice or the dry cherry wood tears of your cello or the placid hum of your acoustic guitar.
They adorned you with words—genius, brilliant, otherworldly, virtuoso. Adjectives weighted you down by the neck; nouns sat above your head like so many fickle haloes. They told you who you were, who you would be and who you would become. All three were very different people, a trinity of you. You’d meet them individually, try on each one’s skin until it fit around you snugly, as skin should. You’d grow into yourself. You’d learn to love your brain and your body, maybe not simultaneously, but it would happen eventually. You brilliant, otherworldly, lyrical thing.
They gave you a new instrument every month. Told you to give it your best shot. Told you to breathe into a harmonica. You spit into it, made a feeble whistling noise, and they said very good, very good. Then they handed you some exotic stringed instrument. You introduced yourself to it, laid claim to it as though its song were your own discovery. You brandished the bow like a wand even though they told you never to believe in magic. You called yourself conductor, composer, creator, child.
They called you a budding legend.
You wondered at that title. You asked yourself how that could be. Flowers bud. In that awkward state of not-quite growth, they rest forlornly in rain-speckled pots on kitchen windowsills until one day the sun helps them up out of the miry soil. They look like crudely formed bellybuttons or shriveled and sore fingertips. They look like everything you’d want to keep yourself from becoming and from growing into.
If you’re anything, you’re a spark.
You wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a fire or even the start of one. Rather, you’re the glimmer in somebody else’s eye. You’re the first star join an entire whirling galaxy. You’re something they’ll never be able to put out, never be able to name.
As a child, Silva wanted to be a sprite when she grew up. A sprite’s job seemed the simplest: frolic through a dew-laden glade at dawn and at dusk, collect dew on the rim of your skirt, gather toadstools. You can sing whenever you please, Silva figured. It’s not like a musician’s life, where they demand song from you even when you prefer to stay silent. A sprite’s voice is her own. Her music is a secret she whispers into the petals of daffodils.
Sometimes daydreams got the best of Silva then. In math class, the teacher would often catch her scribbling half-notes into her equations.
“Have you forgotten who you are, Silva?” the teacher would ask sternly.
“Yes. Yes, I have.”
But I’m not worried. Sometimes my memory needs a break from my noise.