I pin lyrics up on my walls, even though I’ve never heard the music to go along with the words. Prisma says music used to be everywhere you turned and even when you were sitting completely still, the songs would still manage to find you. She says there were machines, all kinds of machines, that you could listen to whatever song you liked.
There were these collections- she calls them playlists and her eyes get misty when she tells me about how Gray made over seventeen of them for her, one for each year they knew each other- that were all your favorite songs in one. Or they could be songs that fit a certain mood, time, age, place, whatever you could think, there was music for that. I wish there was still music everywhere we turned, but all I find are the lyrics, so I pin them to my walls; fading reminders of a world I’ll never know.
I wonder what the words sound like put to music, but then again I have no clue what music is, so I can’t wonder all that well to begin with. Prisma says to imagine music as whatever I want it to be, but that it’ll never amount to what it was. You’d think I’d be devastated, but I’m not. Compared to other things I’ll never see, music seems like a small price to pay.
Prisma and Gray shake their heads at me when I tell them this.
Prisma and Gray cry when they think of their lost songs too long.
Gray sits by his soundless piano and tears stain the broken keys.
Prisma hold her guitar like a mother would hold a child.
I watch them, because I don’t understand.
There are boxes, you see, and music notes fill up too many.
True love ain't something you can buy yourself
True love finally happens when you by yourself
So if you by yourself, then go and buy yourself
Another round from the bottle on the higher shelf
Those are lyrics I have pinned directly above the bed. Prisma gave them to me for my birthday; she had scrawled them out on a ripped and taped down the middle paper towel I used to clean up a spaghetti spill on the same day. She handed me the paper towel and it was heavy with words and spaghetti sauce and the words were all mine.
Well, not mine, exactly, because I didn’t write them. I never sang them, or danced to them like Gray tells me the artists used to do, but I read them. I know them. So in that way, they are mine. In the other way, they belonged to Lizzo, a woman Prisma says was one of the most beautiful in all history, not only for her music but for her way of life itself. I want that.
I want to be beautiful for my way of life. I wonder if Prisma was like Lizzo in her days of youth, before the machines all broke and the boxes got too small for music notes but still managed to fit plastic cups and tacky t-shirts. I wonder what the rest of the song is, but Prisma only gave me part.
It makes sense, though, because most of what I have is in parts. I never think of them as broken, just incomplete. Broken needs fixing, but incomplete just needs another piece. Isn’t that the funniest thing you ever heard? So close to perfect, yet the puzzle is infinite.
What did you mean, Lizzo, when you said true love?
I think you meant Prisma and Gray and their music.
They love each other, and they love me, and they love their memories of music.
I love what I have but want more than what I love.
Does that make me a bad person?
I hope not.
I hope I can be what Prisma thinks of, hmm, maybe not Lizzo. She loves her, but there’s another one who Prisma and Gray both talk of with reverence in their voice. If Prisma considered Lizzo a friend, she considered Beyonce her Queen.
I look and stare so deep in your eyes
I touch on you more and more every time
When you leave, I'm begging you not to go
Call your name two, three times in a row
Such a funny thing for me to try to explain
How I'm feeling and my pride is the one to blame
'Cause I know I don't understand
Just how your love can do what no one else can
Gray says that song makes him crazy in love, and Prisma just laughs and then remembers she’s not supposed to be happy about music so she gets quiet and her smile still hangs on, a sliver of rebellion in the purest of ways. I have those words, the royal decree, I suppose, of Queen B, on the wall beside my dresser. I read them as I get dressed for the day and try my best to sound the letters into music, but I can’t.
If Prisma and Gray could sing, I’d know what it was to be part of universe, but they would be destroyed for that. I can live without being part of the universe. I can’t live without them. They aren’t my parents, in case you were curious about them. My parents did sing, long after it was prohibited, and now they’re only flickers of warm light in the back of my mind.
They never sang to me, though.
They went out to the illicit music tunnels and they played their guitars and flutes and tubas and all the other instruments I can see littering this apartment like decaying bodies, void of sound and soul.
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare
"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there's nothing I can do
And it seems there is nothing I can do.
Prisma tells me now as we sit side by side and fold the laundry into triangles, that the song my parents died singing was a song called Space Oddity, by a man who everyone thought would be immortal called David Bowie. I frown and take the paper from her. My parents, my very own Mother and Dad, died for these words. What do they even mean?
I fold that into a triangle too, then stick it in my front pocket and thank Prisma for telling me, though what I want to say is not thank you. I want to ask why. Not why they had to sing and die, but what was it about this particular song that compelled them to choose it over all others?
Out of the hundreds of lyrics I have pinned to white walls, why should these make the cut as, “My Parent’s Last Words?” I fold a pair of pants into a rectangle instead of a triangle. Prisma slaps at my wrist. She hates for me to break regulations but some days I feel like it doesn’t matter what Prisma thinks. What would my mother tell me? I think she would tell me to throw the laundry basket out the window and watch it flutter down to the sidewalk.
Hey mom, dead mom
I need a little help here
I'm prob'ly talking to myself here
But dead mom, I gotta ask
Are you really in the ground?
'Cause I feel you all around me
Are you here, dead mom?
Gray used to act and sing and dance on a stage in New York. He has a tattoo on his wrist that says B, but it stands for Broadway, not Beyonce. When I was younger and they were first telling me about my parents being, you know, obliterated, Gray handed me a torn piece of fabric with the lyrics from a show, he said, that was called Beetlejuice. It was about a girl whose mother was dead as well, and she sang about it. She got to sing about it. I just have to keep all my thoughts in my dumb old head so how about that for lucky, huh, Miss Lydia?
Yeah. She’s lucky. I’m whatever the absence of luck and the absence of unluck is. I just am. It’s a good thing, though, because if I wasn’t instead of was, then where would I be? Oh, man, I crack myself up sometimes. At least jokes were never outlawed, because Prisma says laughter is music all on it’s own. “You’re never fully dressed without a smile, okay?”
And that must be a song too, because her eyes get very concentrated on not making it sound like one. It’s awful but I wish she would. I wish she would mess up and sing a whole entire song and then I would learn it via osmosis and then one day I would accidentally sing it too and Gray would join in and we’d all look at each other and know this was the last time our mouths would utter a single freaking syllable but it would be beautiful.
And then we’d die.
Just like my parents.
Thinking of this makes me morose. I leave for my bedroom.
It's not too late
To whip it
Whip it good
When a good time turns around
You must whip it
You will never live it down
Unless you whip it
No one gets away
Until they whip it
This is not written on paper or fabric or wood or anything. I wrote it on my hands and I write it everyday, tracing the last times work with my soft black pens. Under my work gloves, no one can see my secret song.
I found it in a massive old book in the ruins of a library; the rest of the pages were too singed too save, but that’s okay. This song was a message. This song was given to me as a personal gift from the universe, by the universe, for me, a semi slice of the universe.
It’s not too late
Things could change for Prisma and Gray and I. We could get out of this apartment and go live on a stupidly large ranch with a bucket load of animals that smell but are lovely all the same. Gray could stop working at the grocery store and Prisma could start working at the daycare again, like she used to love.
I could go back to school, if the schools opened again and their empty gaping holes for stomachs were filled with grubby kids in need of educating. Things could change, you know.
To whip it
I could be a shining beacon in the darkest of nights, holding a microphone as a lamp unto my feet and walking one foot in front of the other because I can and will and yes, I could do that. I could whip it.
Whip it good
I know the denotation of the word is to hit something, break something, hurt something, but for me it means to overcome something, to rise above everything, to be afraid of nothing.
When a good time turns around
The fate that befell us was unfortunate, but what came before the soundless days were the vibrant days that made people write and sing and dance and live, live, live, live, live like no one was watching. It was a good time. It turned around. This is a bad time but there was sunshine before the thunder, and I believe the sun will rise again.
You must whip it
You. You must whip it. Not Prisma, not Gray, not my dead mom or dad or grandparents or that weird kid named Jimmy who always has his finger stuck three quarters up his nose like that thing’s a gold mine or something. They can’t whip it. You. That means me. I have to. I must. Not a choice! A command. I will. I have to. I must.
You will never live it down
That’s right, I’ll never live it down because I’ll be ashamed of myself if I don’t try. Who can you disappoint more than your own self?
Unless you whip it
No one gets away
Because no one can do anything
Until they whip it
This would be my song, if I was my parents. If I knew the way to sing and I knew what music was, even if I couldn’t hear it but I could feel it under my hands in the vibrations, then I would sing this song. It would be a way to say yes I really can to all the people who tell me to shut the heck up and go about my business like a good citizen. No! I won’t. For once and for all, today I decide I am going to find the music because if it was so true, so much, so absolute that my parents died for it and my Prisma and Gray cry for it’s loss every night, well, then I want it too.
I start to race around my room, reading the words by DEVO chicken scratched into my palms and wrists and elbows, and I take the lyrics down. I’m taking them with me, so that when I find what I’m looking for, I’ll have the words to the music and I will sing louder than five thousand geese on Christmas day. I’ll search this lonely city high and low and I will explode. Or be obliterated. Or get scared and come home and jump in my bed and pull the covers over my head and never try anything ever again.
But for chicken chalupa’s sake, I will try.
For once in my life, I’ll do this my way.
I've loved, laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh no, no, not me
I did it my way
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I feel like this should be longer. Thoughts?
I think it's long enough. The meaning stretches out beautifully throughout and it doesn't need more length. Amazing as always. Creative, that's for sure. I love it, of course. A couple things. (feel free to ignore) I think some of the paragraphs could be cut, not like delete, just made into separate paragraphs as to not overwhelm the reader. And perhaps change the title? I don't know, it just doesn't click for me. "Finding the music" or "Singing in silence" or "The lyrics on the wall" or "Empty" are some suggestions. As always, you should...
About the title, yeah, I was wondering how that would fit! It's the softest dynamic music can be so I thought it might work BUT I will think of some new ones. :) Thank you for reading! So glad you liked it and I'll break up some stuff for sure.
Beautiful as always, Rhonda.
Onehrbfeufhthg I LOVE THIS!!! It’s such a beautiful story and the lyrics woven throughout it really add to it. Amazing piece, Rhonnie! Keeeeeep writing!
Thank you, Samara! Looking forward to commenting on your story today, just haven't gotten there yet. :)
Awesome story! It was so beautiful and flowed great. I liked the occasional song lyrics! It added a great touch.
Thank you, so glad you enjoyed the read!
Songs included here are: Soulmate by Lizzo Crazy in Love by Beyonce Space Oddity by David Bowie Dead Mom from Beetlejuice Whip It by DEVO My Way by Frank Sinatra
Cool story. Thank you for writing it. For the introvert, sometimes it's an advantage being alone in a big city: you can disappear in the crowds or stay in your apartment, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb as you might in a small town or village. Just a couple of spelling questions. You wrote: when you by yourself if you by yourself, [I only included the parts that I'm asking about. -Philip] Did you mean "when you're by yourself" in the first line, or "when you buy yourself"? And in the second line, did you mean "if...
Hi, Phil! Thanks for stopping by! The spelling thing you pointed out is actually lyrics from Lizzo's song Soulmate, so it's her words, not mine. :) And I agree about living in the city; when I was back in South America I lived in a city and it was lovely, now I live in a small town and it's quite different!
Oh. I thought that they were typos, easy to fix. I've never heard of Lizzo, so I have no idea why they (he? she?) spelled the words the way they did. I've never been to South America (I did spend a week in the Yucatan between Christmas 1987 and New Year's Day 1988 as part of a tour that visited several Mayan sites). If you don't mind me asking, which country and city did you live in? I've met people from South America (Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, mainly). Sometimes big cities can be very noisy (I lived for four ...
Yeah, so I'm actually from Cochabamba, Bolivia! I moved to the United States in 2012 so I've been here a while, but yeah, Bolivia is where I grew up. Lizzo just spells things that way because it's her style, I suppose, but music grammar is different than writing grammar.
Also, sorry I just called you Phil instead of Phillip, I didn't even notice that.
Some people have called me "Phil" in the past. I prefer "Philip" (with one L), though. But if you prefer "Phil", go for it. My last supervisor called me "Phil" and since we got along so well, I decided that it was a small price to pay for our continued friendship.
I think my Bolivian friends are from La Paz, but I'm not sure. I have no idea where Cochabamba is, but it sounds like an Incan name, not Spanish (there is a river in Peru called Urubamba, I think). I can't imagine living at such a high altitude. Lake Titicaca is the highest altitude lake in the world at something like 12,000 feet, I think. People not only live on the lake, but they make boats out of the reeds that grow in (or along) the lake. (I've seen photos; I've never been there in-person.)
I LOVE THISS!!! Rhondalise, you really have a way with words that makes your writing so interesting and fun to read. Keep up the amazing work!
Thank you so much! We've missed you and your writing too!
no problem, and you're so sweet!
Wow Rhondalise, this was so utterly, melodiously gorgeous! I am searching the web now for every synonym for beautiful because my vocabulary doesn't contain words for this piece. I LOVE the concept so, so much and the vibe feels gentle, wistful and mellow. It almost reminds me of The Giver, where they couldn't see colour or feel certain memories and always wondered about the sensual experiences of the world. I admired how you ended it too and all the embedded lyrics — magnificent job overall!
Thank you, Ru! This is one of my favorite things I've written lately so I'm glad you liked it so much!
Dynamic as always. The lyrics definitely add to the story. The underlying notes of a conforming society make me intrigued about the kind of world they live in. Thanks :)
Thank you, Elliot!
This was so beautifully written! I love how you added song lyrics it was super creative
Aw, thank you, Eleny!
Wow, this was amazing!!! Personally, I think it's long enough!!!! It was super creative! Great job!
Awesome, thank, Avery!
Side note (other than the usual fantastic story): Your new profile pic looks like a cinnamon roll and it's making me hungry ;)
Ahh thank you! And that's my rabbit again as a profile picture. :)
Great story I like the tempo and enjoyed the concept. The lyrics added melody to the piece. I would appreciate it greatly if you could take some time out of your day and read my latest story "Sandhya, the Mumbai man-eater" I am happy with how it turned out but it hasn't got much exposure. Any feedback would be greatly welcomed.
Hey Rhonda I loved this. The letters and poem like questions were wonderful. I love your writing and music is a wonderful concept. The title is kinda crazy but I like it. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks.
Oh so that's what that DEVO song meant. Cool
Good story. :) It made me really want to know more about the world this is set in. How did music get prohibited? Why are people executed for music? Etc... It was wonderfully written as well. It was a bit blocky for my taste, but I can't really complain, as I found myself reading every word and carefully scanning every line. :P Great job! Keep on writing!
Yay, thanks! This was one of my favorites to write.