The fourth chapter of Uncharted Stars. I think this is one of the better written chapters so far. Writing this did make me realize how flawed the previous chapters are though, I guess I have lots of editing to do. Enjoy!
UNCHARTED STARS- CHAPTER 4
I hit the white keys, and then the black keys, and the white keys repeatedly, playing them randomly in no particular melody. I’d tried to be playing the classic Canon in D, which I liked the most to play, but I could not concentrate. I tried playing through the scales for some finger practice, but I messed everything up. I couldn’t concentrate on anything that afternoon.
My mind was too busy cursing Mr Nicholas.
I moved my fingers up and down, feeling the keys. I just couldn’t play anything. It requires concentration to play the piano, and I couldn’t find the concentration. All I could think about was the offer Mr Nicholas had made to me that day.
It must’ve been Mr David. It could only have been Mr David. Mr David must had been the one who had suggested me. Nice way to get me talking and interacting, Mr David. Great method in forcing my hand.
I just kept on playing more and more random notes. It made me feel good to be playing the lowest noises that made sounds that barely registered as the sounds of a piano. I pounded and pounded away at the piano until my aunt came running into my room. My door suddenly swung open and I stood up, surprised.
“Pete, is there something wrong?” She asked, her face visibly worried.
“I thought you were fainting and had crashed on the piano or something. You aren’t even playing a song…” she said.
“No aunt, I’m fine.” I looked at my aunt and I saw she wasn’t convinced. “Perfectly fine.”
“No, you’re not perfectly fine.” she said. “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing. Nothing, really.” I lied.
My aunt walked over to my desk, grabbed a chair and sat down. She told me to sit down too, which I did, on my piano chair. She kept staring at me, and it was becoming unnerving. I waited for her to say something, but she seemed to be searching for the words. Because of that I also didn’t say anything, because I had nothing to say anyway. It probably took her about two minutes before she spoke.
“Pete”, she started, “I know that you’re not the same as everyone else. I know that you’re scarred for life by the incident. I know that you have your problems, just like everyone does. I know that you just prefer to live in your own universe. But really, Pete- what is going on? What is wrong?”
I chose not to say anything. I was a bit too surprised to reply; my aunt had never ever talked to me about this before.
“What is it, Pete?” she demanded again, this time louder than before. When I still didn’t answer, her face became visibly angry. “Pete, you cannot stay in your own world forever. You can’t just say that you’re an introvert so you’re not going to interact with anyone, that you won’t share or speak out to anyone, not even your own aunt. You just can’t…” her voice trailed off. I’d never even saw her angry before, certainly never angry at me. So I decided to speak.
“There’s nothing much.” I said. “I was offered Student Council President today, bypassing all election methods, because there weren’t any applicants. I’m just a bit mad that my teacher chose to do this seemingly to force me to interact.”
“Then why don’t you just turn it down?” my aunt asked back.
It was an important question, alright. It made me realize why I was so mad.
It wasn’t really because I was given the offer.
I could turn any offer down.
But I was mad because I was given an offer that I couldn’t turn down.
It also made me realize another thing. There was a reason I couldn’t turn it down that I knew, except that I couldn’t admit it to myself.
There was one thing. There was pretty much only one thing.
I’d seen that list of who was already in Student Council. Jinny’s name was on there, I remember. It’d stood out to me, and at that point I wasn’t sure why it’d stood out to me so starkly, why I’d seen the name so quickly before other ones. I guess there was a reason for that, but it was one I did not yet want to admit. But there was reason there. It was a feeling of desire, I guess, a feeling related to creating an impression, but I wanted to suppress it as much as possible. So I certainly didnt‘ reveal that reason to my aunt. I just told her that it’d look pretty arrogant to turn it down. Actually it didn’t, and I knew it, and my aunt knew it.
“It wouldn’t look arrogant,” said my aunt, “but I don’t want you to turn it down either.” I nodded.
“I’m really not fit for that job though.” I said.
“You are. Believe in yourself. Have some self esteem.”
“I can’t…” I started. “I’m too quiet, I’m too awkward, I’m…” At that point, my aunt slapped me right on the face. It didn’t hurt much, but it was a big surprise. Damn, what was going on with her today? I was about to ask when she started ranting to me.
“I’m fed up with you, Pete. I’m just so fed up with you!” she shouted, pointing in my face. “Do you know how much time your uncle and I have spent with you? Do you know that every time we go to parent-teacher conferences, your teacher would always say something to us about how you never take any risks, how you never interact with anyone?” She paused for a moment, then continued shouting.
“You’re just useless, Pete. Is this who you want to be? Are you content with this life? Did your uncle and I raise a fool?”
I didn’t answer.
“Your uncle and me never had a son or a daughter. I think you’d have noticed, if you ever bothered to look out from your own little world. Do you know why? It’s because we wanted to give our full attention to you, Pete. YOU. You and you only. Instead what we got was a lazy coward. We must be terrible stand-in parents.” She sat down again and sighed. “I know I shouldn’t be this angry. But really, Pete. I’m just so fed up with you.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that either.
“I still have a transcript of your mom’s last speech.” my aunt told me. She never told me that. I was about to ask to look at it but my aunt disappeared from my room, then came back carrying it. “I’m going to read out a bit for you.” she said.
“Your mom said, ‘Without change, how can we move on? How can we push ourselves from desperate situations? The answer is that we cannot. We need to be daring and allow ourselves to walk out of our comfort zones. In fact, Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ I can’t stress enough that you need to walk out of your comfort zone every once in a while.‘“. She paused to stare at my eyes. Damn, she can really be scary when she’s angry. Thank god she’s not angry often.
“I’m going to read out a bit more.” my aunt said, lifting her eyes off me finally and looking back at the paper. “‘You need to allow yourself to dream big. Dreams are what will push you forward. Dream whatever you want- just make sure you have goals, that you have a vision of what you want to be. Here’s a poem by Langston Hughes that I want to read out for you today: ‘Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/Life is a broken-winged bird/That cannot fly.’ It is true. Without a dream, you have no direction in your life.‘“ She stared at me for the thousandth time. “Did you get that, Pete? Get out of your comfort zone. Do one thing every day that scares you. Without a dream, you have no direction in life. Those were one of your mother’s last words.” I nodded.
My aunt stood up. “But frankly, I don’t care anymore. Do what you want. It’s your life. Just consider if whether or not your mother would be proud of you if she was still alive.” She then walked out of the room and slammed my door shut.
That hurt. A lot.
* * * * *
That led to the process of me barricading my room by taping stuff around the doors and putting a chair next to it. I didn’t want anymore surprise aunt-attacks. I knew she had my key, so any genuine attempts at resistance would be futile anyway, but I wanted to at least make it as hard as possible.
I just felt numb by that point. My aunt’s words were like opening up a wound and rubbing salt and water into it. She has a great choice of words; what a great golden tongue she has.
That night I decided to skip dinner and instead call Will. “Hey Will, I need your help. Your advice.”
“Okay, sure.” he replied. I quickly explained the request Mr Nicholas made but I chose not to talk about what my aunt had said. I just wanted some good advice from someone I trust.
“If I were you, I’d certainly accept.” said Will. “Why miss out this opportunity? It sounds like great fun.”
“You sure?” I asked. “You think I’m up for it?”
“It’s not a question of whether or not you’re up for it.” Will said. “Of course you are. It’s just a question of if whether you want to do it or not.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“What’s stopping you from doing it?” Will asked back.
That made me seriously consider why I didn’t want the job. “I don’t think I’m the man for it.” I replied. “I’m too quiet. I don’t like interacting. I don’t like public speaking. I don’t have any experience. And I think I’m not going to do a good job. I’m going to fail. People aren’t going to like me. Also they’ll jeer that I never went through elections, that I just got the spot.”
There was silence at the other end. “Hello?” I asked.
“I’m thinking.” Will said. “You know, there’s a Steve Jobs quote that I remember by heart. It defines me. It defines everything I do. I know I’m a popular guy and all, and i do a lot of stuff. But there’s a reason why I do all this stuff. There’s a reason why I’m in a a rock band and I sing and I play video games and write and try my best and just try to be fun and popular. There’s that Steve Jobs quote.”
“You said you remember it by heart. Tell me.” I said.
“‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living within the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown your own. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary’”.
I was silent. So Will carried on. “So what this means is you don’t need to care if you’re not that popular, that people are gonna gossip and talk behind your back, that you might fail. Have the courage to follow your own heart, because it already knows if you want to do this. Do you?”
I took a deep breath. “I guess I do.”
“Yay!” was the sound from the other end. “There’s another Steve Jobs quote that’s very simple to remember. ‘Make a dent in the universe.’”
* * * * *
I headed to Mr Nicholas’s office the next day, knocking quietly. “Come in!” came the response, and I opened the door.
“Hi Pete!” Mr Nicholas greeted before I could even say anything. “So what do you say?”
I smiled. “I accept, Mr Nicholas.”