Two Thirty on a Tuesday in December

Five feet toe-tapping quarter notes beneath their seats. A kid in the crowd meows like a kitten and the audience howls. Some poor kid tried to clap between medleys. A teacher with a salt and pepper goatee and a baggy school hoodie on has four different smartphones in his palm. The lights are all up front. When anyone chirps into the microphone the whole system hums. Girlfriend leans on Boyfriend’s shoulder and the teacher sees and says nothing to her. Christmas music for high school students on a Tuesday afternoon in December. The Chorus dismembers and takes up instruments in their hands. They play Rudolph the Red Nosed Flat Note and We Wish You a Merry Solo. They sound perfect for what they are, as does the audience they play for. High School kids who bought two dollar tickets to get out of fourth period had no intention of paying attention to the show. Teachers with fourth period planning impressed into chaperones. The energy is palpable as kids cram together row by row, they know, there aren’t enough teachers to see all the hands. There isn’t enough light to see which mouth threw which knife. That’s what makes it a reward. And for the kids in the choir and band, they’re playing for the toughest audience of their careers: their adolescent peers. Every song speeds up from the start, from the nerves. Each shy note or apprehensive solo is heard. The kids in the crowd are distracted and loud but on the inside they could never do what they heckle. Imaginations set only to meddle. While those kids on the stage cling to metal, and do something with their breath akin to life after death, resuscitating inanimate objects into music.

The man with his back to the crowd shows them how every single day. The band director. The chorus teacher. Two English, two math, one science, all playing usher. It is for them, and they truly, shamelessly, despise us for it. Traps aren’t meant for the masses, but only the one. One animal in a trap could chew off a paw and get out. But three hundred kids, maybe twelve adults in the room, and the lights all turned down and the blinds all closed too, there’s no chewing off a limb. Two thirty on a Tuesday, last week of school, there’s no escape. It’s us or them.


We went to Grammy’s. She has a place down by the lake. We love Grammy’s. Sequin everything. Little copper dollar store statues. The good vintage barbie dolls. Grammy keeps those put up for special occasions though. Or if we behave. Everyone gets an elegant plastic little woman to have and to hold, and put back inside the Tupperware container soon as we’re done. Music is like carbon dioxide. We make it, but it is a slow kind of seductively suffocating poison, as well. In other words, music thrives best when it isn’t the only presence in the room. Not in a vacuum. Music is informed and refreshed by topics and content that are not in any way music. And yet, by the time an artist is through with it, the connection is undeniable.

Grammy has an insanely eclectic record collection. At least once a year we go there, shoes off by the door, playing them one after another, some of them so fresh, this has to be the first time they’re outside the cover. Grammy doesn’t always have time to listen to them all. Just knows how much we smile over shiny plastic. She stacks the ones that really pop on top of the pile. Grammy’s good like that. Not everyone has a Grammy who can pretend-listen to so much rap.

I do wonder sometimes if Grammy picks her music by the air someone was breathing, and not their creation, their poison. The carbon dioxide. Slowly filling the room. Making us all light headed and silly. Forgetting there are seriously billions of dollars sitting in Grammy’s living room listening to vinyl intravenously feed sound and poetry into the air. I love going to Grammys. I enjoy the music. I like the atmosphere there. I listen. I really do. I’m one of the few.

But nothing I ever heard at Grammy’s should have made someone a millionaire.