The clock across the room won’t stop its idle ticking. Seconds are ticking their way into minutes. Minutes will blend together to form an hour. The ticking reminds me of the first time I was forced to play the piano by my mother. When my fingers first glossed over keys of black and white, I failed to find the right melody. Frustration from my many failures followed me home. The first few days of halfhearted practice were filled with a disappointed mother and noisy, unpleasant sounds emitted by my angry tapping against ivory keys.
The Roman numerals on the face of the clock across the room catch my attention once again. Not only are they contrasted with the white face of the clock like the keys on my old piano, but the numbers seem to dance off the clock and around the room. The girl who accidentally walked into one of my first practice sessions was a dancer. I could tell by her pale pink leotard. Instead of leaving like anyone else would, she merely tied her wavy brown hair into a knot atop her head with a headband and watched my performance. With an audience, I found that I was able to play better than I usually did. The girl smiled at me and gave polite applause when I was done. For the first time in my life, I felt as though I’d accomplished something meaningful. And it was all thanks to the little dancer with her lavender headband.
The movement of the hands in a clockwise direction has a particular method. Its ticking is almost melodic. The little girl I knew had no particular method to her performances. She freely moved across any stage with the grace of a wave gently coaxing you further into the depths of the sea. She outshone the other dancers that dared to share her stage. While they relied on the melody from my mother’s swift skill with the piano to move their bodies, melodies just seemed to pour out of the girl with the lavender headband holding up her wavy brown hair.
I tear my gaze away from the clock and bury my head in my hands. Thinking about the past is bad. Being left alone with one’s own thoughts is a dangerous practice--especially at a time like this. No amount of staring at the clock and praying for time to fly by will be able to block the flow of my thoughts. And I need them to be blocked before the madness of this day consumes me.
So I stand up and start to pace the dull grey of the concrete floor. My feet lead me in circles around the small waiting room. Everywhere I turn, I’m met with bare walls of cement. If I were still as carefree as I was when we were teenagers, I could’ve found a way to break the monotony in this room with a brush and a can of paint. She would’ve insisted on coming over under the guise of “helping me redecorate” like she did when I got permission to paint my room. She would tell me to paint a field of lavender from the base of every wall to its middle. I would compromise and only cover the longest width of my room in lavender in honour of our friendship. I’d do it all without her help, much like when we were teenagers. From the second the sun rose to the instant it disappeared over the skyline, she didn’t pick up a brush or touch a drop of paint. Instead, she twirled and arched her way into a new abstract performance of her own making.
Pacing the room clearly isn’t helping. I reclaim my seat beside my mother and succumb to the waiting process. We’ve waited for fifteen minutes now. Part of me wants the man to walk out and put us all out of our misery. The other part of me doesn’t want to see what my world has been reduced to.
The last time I felt this upset and fidgety was when she performed her last contemporary performance. Although I was honoured at her insistence that my keys of ivory and ebony provided the soundtrack to the grand finale of her lifelong career, the moment was bitter sweet for both of us. The stage was bombarded with stems of lavender as soon as my dear friend took her final bow. I remember tearing up at the sight of her humbled tears. I’d watched her grow up on that stage. I’d watch her graceful movements gain her the titles of a cute sea nymph and a fairy to a renowned and admired professional over the years. To see such talent retire at such a young age…
My mother wraps her arm around my shoulder. It’s only then that I notice how much I’ve been trembling. The other people in this room are quiet. Their silence speaks louder than the cold I’ve carried around all day. There are more waiting in silence beyond this room, but their presence is more out of courtesy than actual grief. They don’t fully share the same void as the two families in this waiting room.
I grab at the single lavender stem resting on my mother’s lap. She lets me gently stroke at the petals and take in its scent. Both our mothers know how much comfort we find in the flower. Whenever she or I were the slightest bit upset, we’d rush to her grandmother’s lavender field--a field planted to honour the birth of my dearest friend. It was a tradition we refused to lose with age. So as soon as Lavender drew the final curtain on her career as a performer, we drove to her grandmother’s field in the dark of night and took comfort in the stars. Lying shoulder to shoulder, with the raven strands of my hair touching her hazel curls, she promised that she was okay. An injury like hers wasn’t fatal to anything but her career as a dancer. She was perfectly fine. She would be okay. I didn’t need to worry.
I knew that dancing was her life. I knew that being told that she could never dance again would break her soul beyond repair. But I also knew that being the only person who understood her the most, I could’ve forced the broken pieces into a shape she would’ve been okay to live with. So why did I choose to believe her that night? I knew that she was lying through a smile. Her broken ocean eyes gave her away. I shouldn’t have abandoned her. I shouldn’t have accepted the offers to be the pianist for all those orchestras and concerts when I knew that she needed me.
I bury my face in my hands as my eyes start to sting. Images of a girl with kind blue eyes and a bright smile assault me. Memories of her graceful dances throughout the years make my chest constrict. Recalling moments in the lavender field causes a few tears to fall into the palms of my hand. Remembering Lavender’s broken smile the last time I saw her makes the tears roll down my cheeks even faster.
The door across the room opens. I don’t look up when he announces that her ashes are now in that jar. I can’t bring myself to see what my dearest friend has been reduced to. Even after Lavender’s family walk out of the room, even after my mother leaves me to cry out my emotions, I can’t bring myself to go help them scatter her in the lavender field.
I wasn’t there for her in her last moments. I don’t deserve to bury her. I deserve to wait for my closure forever and succumb to a world without my best friend--a world where all I’ll be able to find from now on are mere traces of Lavender.