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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

the balcony was open

Crammed into the tiny apartment, stepping over sound cables and cigarette butts we practiced covers, and a few originals. Will pushed the songs along, dropping into a sonic mayhem whenever it seemed right. Cole thumped away, checked his watch quite a bit and made tea for anyone that wanted it. Vova made a lot of jokes about paying a cowbell during the show, and splashed around on the keyboard. Jenny sat in the corner, her legs crossed around each other, concentrating on memorizing the lyrics and wondering how she would handle her nerves. Ed the drummer was in St. Petersburg, so I guess he was drunk or seeing some giant amazing things.

The balcony was open and I found myself looking out across the rooftops, seeing Red Square in the distance. I had not played my saxophone for years. My lips raw, lungs in pain, I played dirty solo after dirty solo. Of course, it felt fabulous.

I went home and made pasta for E and myself and we curled up on the couch to watch cartoons.

The next day I woke up to the smell of autumn coming in through the windows. I made a giant plate of French toast that I dusted with sugar. E was just getting over a cold, so we agreed she would come to the next show. She did help me pick out an outfit. Something very low-key.

That afternoon we rehearsed quickly, and I felt like I had forgotten everything I had learned the day before. I couldn’t even remember the names of the songs, much less what I was supposed to do on them. I know one thing about the last rehearsal before a show – if the rehearsal feels a bit off, the show will be amazing.

The gig was a sort of house band for some expat actor who recited a very long passage from The Dumb Waiter. The room was packed, with people spilling out into a hallway, all perched on top of each other. We opened for him, and played a few songs that we had never even rehearsed. I have always felt incredibly comfortable playing the saxophone. Well, it’s been since I was seven and all seven-year-olds are fearless. The big question about playing for me is how MUCH fun am I going to have doing this tonight, in this moment, in front of these people? I found my body shifting into familiar positions, elbows bent like a bird, stomping on one foot, then the other, jumping onto the microphone like some sort of cat in blue jeans. My ancient, magnificent horn was out in the open again. Snarling, fluttering, stomping, wheezing and howling the songs piled up on each other like a Dagwood sandwich. Jenny got over her nerves, pushed the hair from across her face and sang dark and low about carpenters and dead things.

After the show, waves of bright-faced students came to us asking when the next show would be. A DJ took over and started playing ABBA remixes. Giant TV screens flickered on, and a man walked around taking people’s names so they could play video games. A minor celebrity talk show host was the first one to start, playing Mortal Kombat against a grey-haired mafia driver.

Just another typical Sunday night.

Comments

The Expatresse said…
No way! I was there! I kept thinking the sax player was REALLY good looking! saw a cute little girl, too.

God. Moscow is too small.
Rabbit blogger said…
ok, i think you were on a sofa center, near the back? that little girl was a riot, smiling and waving and laughing at us...
Rabbit blogger said…
can you imagine Jenny never sang in public before?
The Expatresse said…
I was on the aisle, behind Sergei (with the long brunette ponytail). Lavender-colored top. I assumed the child was yours??

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