At This Point, or, Pray For Us

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Things escalated kind of quickly with the chorus drama, so much in fact that I adjusted privacy settings for a while. I know that feeling, those clues, when someone is suddenly popping up as “people I may know” or maybe they’re commenting on things I like when I haven’t told them I like said things…

there was a little virtual footprint hunt going on. And honestly, I understand. I’m a tracker myself.

I have mentioned joining a choir, feeling like an outcast from the seemingly dismissive elitists within it, and having found a friend to confide in. I’ve also told the story about how I secured a spot in the honors ensemble and got my own song with friends from the chorus. I’ve obviously been happy having the musical projects to work on in my spare time, and I have reaped the benefits of symbolizing unity by harmonizing with something bigger than Autumn. There is also admittedly some satisfaction – okay, not some, but a lot – in seeing those who never included me having no choice but to take notice in a change of season.

I’m so happy to be here with you girls! Yes, those are unicorns pulling the hot rod. This old thing, it’s my Hot Rod Slay All Day, no big deal.

Where I left off, NemmyNemz had stormed outside after hearing she wouldn’t have a solo this session (purposely leaving over $100 in tickets under her chair). Miss Divine, with her elaborate wigs and a history of numbers all to herself, had decided to quit the choir.

“You could have left that alone, you know,” Beth insisted. The way my nemesis would raise her hand and insist no one was singing correctly, how she bragged about having gone from opera houses during her university years to singing on risers in a church “only because her school kicked her out for financial reasons”, the things she published online about how “people who can’t even sing got solos, and they’re boring songs”, yadda yadda yadda negative energy yadda yadaa, it was suggested to me that if I had let fate run its course, the group may have been better off without the former headliner.

I live for the juicy juice. I pry. And in all honesty the thought of the divorce being so suddenly settled left me with the threat of a certain emptiness inside. Is that why we always see the Joker and Batman live another day together?

I reached out to Nemz. I reminded her that she had bought tickets for her friends and family to see her, told her that she was an asset to the group and that the best revenge is definitely not accepting defeat. I told her she could just claim she had been having a rough time, slap on an ignorant looking smile and return to practice glowing in the face of her haters while taking some time to reflect and rebuild. A few harder jabs of tough love were thrown in there, too: I suggested she consider her last honors performance and tell me it wasn’t nasally (phrasing it “I just assumed you were really sick”). I suggested she still had growing to do, like learning to appreciate the talents of others and find ways to shine without body glitter.

She rejoined. It didn’t take long to realize that her personal brand may have left her with few supporters because she instantly started spilling the tea and inviting me out to places. I met up with her once, to hear her out, and I learned that the “dinky little choir” she was hating on had been the best and most important thing in her life for several years. She had an ego, made remarks that dropped my jaw, but something in me was totally living for her passion, her madness, her dissonance, and the empty chair next to her I had eyeballed for months wasn’t a challenge anymore. It was over. The goal’s behind me.

She went from totally ignoring me to “I have a great idea for a duet next session if you’re interested”.

Beth went from calling her “Nemz” to “Your Little Friend”.

“Maybe you should go talk to Your Little Friend, the director asked us to stand and she’s just over there sitting with her arms crossed. If that was a student in my class I’d be concerned.”

She’ll be fine. Maybe a little sitting before she stands again. And if so, I’ll support her.

In news more tangible, I am nervous for the concert. I hate micro-managing myself for things like “dress wrinkles fix” and “remember step stool”, etc. I hate leaving for one song to dress for another in record time. I hated learning that the best venue they could secure has folding chairs for the audience, meaning I had to find a supportive chair for my mom because the “chorus tooshy cushies” we apparently sell in the lobby are not to my level of recognition.

Nope. No ass pillows here with my name on them. I absolutely refuse. Don’t exist.

Also. We keep going flat as a choir during a capellas and it is hard to hear around me. I’m singing quietly and listening to the pitches get lower and lower. The director permitted music to be used for our German piece and I really wish the group could have shown him that we could all memorize it. And one of my dear friends is struggling, so I’ve made her special practice tracks, but I wish I had made them sooner. The director is not happy with the lack of covered vowels during our Latin song. Oh, and when the narrator introduced our small acts song he neglected to mention our violinist’s name, as if she is just some hired stagehand to the song, so I have to correct that before show time… did I mention I forgot the words to part of it too? That was a great way to show everyone how much everything means to me…

I hope this Christmas concert is entitled to a Christmas miracle.

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Big Things In Small Acts

A few weeks ago Beth approached our choir director about doing a small act for the concert. (Might as well invite family for a reason, right?) Not only did he want us to perform it – he hoped, in the event that we were selected from auditions – that we could build it in to a larger ensemble. We heeded the feedback on our song as his blessing.

I spent some time tracking down the sheet music and researching renditions, made sure the pianist would have what she needed and penciled in the layout for an even vocal duet. The concept made me nervous though, because it wasn’t a big band number… the song was simple, sweet and a bit forlorn. I knew it might not fit in with a joyful theme.

We happened to notice that Nemmy Nemz had penciled herself in for a solo on the clipboard being passed around… “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, and I could already imagine the three and a half minutes of self-celebration as she absorbed the spotlight. The chorus was used to this.

“She has kind of been the star,” I heard someone say.

Fair enough. Beth and I auditioned our song and kept our fingers crossed. While we waited for the results we went over and over again, anything else we could have done. You know, like pick something fast, practice together, stuff like that… we had literally sang it for the first time during auditions and agonized over if the director would realize that we were waiting to breathe the actual “life” in to it.

“Why work on it if he’s not gonna pick us?” Beth reasoned. Meanwhile I was freaking out that you don’t BRING unpolished selections to the director. I wish I had Beth’s chill factor.

When he announced the acts that made it, I was trying to seem distracted. I grabbed something out of my recruit’s hand and pretended to read it like I wasn’t listening. Recruit, by the way, is growing on me. She packs a powerful unbridled sound and, strategically placed directly behind Nemz in its unbridled form, occasionally throws off the self-appointed star of the show. I don’t think she can stand my girl’s tone to be honest, and I have to slap her myself on occasion but I can see past the unrefinement and have big plans for little Recruit…

“13 different acts big and small came out for the auditions and I’ve chosen 6.”

My mom was even waiting to see if I had snagged an extra song. How would I tell her that the thing super easy in life to do, I couldn’t even get right.

He started rattling off other people’s names, their real names, and they sounded foreign, the farthest thing from our little song. We had tried. You just can’t have everything and it would all be over in a second-

“…Beth and Autumn May”. I’ll never know what it looked like, only how it sounded as my eyes were down.

Oh MAN! WE’RE IN. I texted my mom. Now she could think the whole thing was silly BUT appropriately designated at least.

He moved on to the chorus song solos, and my Little Recruit landed the big fat role in our delightfully cheesy country western number! I scratched the top of her head and gave her a huge smile. That was MY GIRL.

“Woof. Thanks!” she said.

What a cool buzz to have at the end of rehearsal. I still had to stay behind with Recruit and Nemz for Perfect Blend practice but I was happy, the late night was okay in light of events.

“Hey did that one girl get her solo?” I asked Recruit. Recruit was clueless, too innocent to even wonder.

Beth got our time slot for Small Acts and headed out with most everyone else… during which time she must have been witness to some drama.

Probably at about the same moment I looked around and realized that Nemz wasn’t at Perfect Blend.

Beth texted me: Things just went down with your rival. She stormed out and said she was done.

In that moment I felt the shift, the position, the unimaginable manage. And with it a loss, for I was the newest person concerned with their stage time. I was already feeling less guilty about charging for tickets.

“It might just be us 2 Sopranos now so stay strong,” I quietly warned.

“Me? I sing with Nancy for these. You’re the one singing alone.”

So this is what it looks like.

Considering the forces of nature I’ve just disturbed,

It had better sound good.

For Entertainment Only

A long-time friend warned me that joining an established choir would certainly bring more drama than music, and I had to ask Andy what he meant by that. His console controller is probably held a lot more than his saxophone these days, which is how things can go. We were each on our own couch, sitting back and playing co-op on the PlayStation 4 when he warned me.

“They’re just really petty,” he reasoned, probably drawing on his own experiences with bands.

Then the question remained, why would that matter?

From what I could tell within the first session, people were divided by generation more than anything else. And it wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for – the ones who ignored everyone else, belting their notes like sopranos who did no wrong. And let me tell you. They did NOT have a spare seat in their row, and they gave zero fucks for me.

My motivation for joining was to be part of something else, fewer solos in the shower and more group singing. But after one of our first shorter concerts my boyfriend’s first remark afterward was,

“Who was that girl singing all of the high notes?”

Not a blended sound, if you stick out like that. Not the ideal situation for me. If a measure needed working on she would raise her pointer finger and declare, “They’re singing the wrong note” as if she hadn’t already established that there was us, and then there was She. This girl in the first row, whom I had been watching, I nicknamed this soprano Nemmy. For arch nemesis. Her second in command turns around only to eerily, quietly take attendance with her cold glance. 3 absences and you’re out, so she’d better see you.

Picking a spot during practice was sheer hell. If I got the wrong woman next to me, I had better luck plugging my ear than using nearby sound for help. I thought you had to audition to be here. Apparently the struggle of trying to establish myself doesn’t always bring out the kindest thoughts.

People would approach me during break for the fellowship aspect of community choir, and I would give my best fake smile but always in some way dismiss their ice breaker. These notes needed to lead somewhere and I refused to settle for coffee and crackers. I had to figure something out. If there was no room in the front row… I would just have to redefine the coolest place to sit.

Immediately I latched on to a new member the second I heard she could sing, mold her before the nature of the thing got its hands on her. She thought my “us vs them” mentality was absolutely hilarious and then I told her I had auditioned for the honors choir sect, a small ensemble that is composed largely of Nemmy & Friends.

“I have to be honest… I kind of hope you don’t get it.” As in, you think I’ll disappear in the front row, never to turn around again? As in, you’re already helping with damage control after I don’t make it? Either way, a real friend sounds like that.

During the honors rehearsal, I treated them exactly how they’ve treated me. I sat, purposely, apart from them on the floor. And when the director gave us the section to sightread, I memorized the sounds and never sang them out loud. Instead I hummed them to myself like a secret, learning something more each time it was played.

I listened to how the other girls were doing. I noted their missed notes, struggles with breathing. I coached myself, stay cool, this is no big deal, these are not particularly big fish.

Then he called out one person for each part and had them sing the section a capella. Everyone was nervous and taking this little choir game awfully seriously. Soft singers sang softly, sweetly, and Nemz got up there and pushed out those high notes with something to remind us.

For whatever reason, I was called last. And I was singing with other parts that had already auditioned with other voices. After I stood up I set my paper on top of the piano so I could see the other three, as if seeing them meant hearing them better… Nemz went with her vibrato. My strategy was to move in toward them and act like I was trying to hear them so I could “understand” and “blend” better.

Within the first 20 seconds I saw the other girls’ hands fly up and it nearly broke my focus so I turned back to the piano. They seemed upset that I had memorized it? – I couldn’t waste a second figuring that out, I just went on like I was smiling. When everyone else had taken a breath, I pushed through the phrase, and I didn’t get louder – I never got loud, because I already had the melody that would be heard. I got softer instead, and for that last string of notes I hadn’t heard anyone get right, I got those notes right.

“You’re really good,” I heard one of them say, almost sadly, but I had a hard time not looking at the floor as I went back to my seat. When I did look back, watching them as I always had, they looked very different. They were uncertain. They had doubt and questions. If the whole thing turned out to be a loss, if he honestly preferred someone else’s sound over mine, I had done exactly what I wanted to do and it felt great.

The results weren’t announced for a week, and I knew they would wait until at least halfway through the rehearsal, so I asked my real friend if we could sit, specifically, away from the elitists but still directly in front of the director for practice.

“Whatever you want. I’m scrappy. You’re practically an amazon. We can take em.”

Well the chairs weren’t exactly as I’d remembered and we were still suddenly sitting right behind the other girls. One of them leaned to their friend, cupped their hand and whispered to another before they both looked back with emotionless expressions.

I smiled. Heyyyy!

And when we sang, he heard us individually. How could he not? We had both also taken advantage of another lesson learned – that in the beginning of the session, no one really bothered practicing. It was like singing alone. Almost like cheating. In case you had to hear me one more time, and clear up any thoughts you were having on the fence…

So Beth had just told me she hoped that I hadn’t made it. She added that the whole thing, the jokes we shared, the separatist stance we had taken, was never necessary and that it wasn’t too late to just enjoy everyone and every moment equally, to which I said, “Be honest with yourself. That would be so, incredibly, boring. Because without this little game, the whole thing is just a little bit laughable, don’t you think?”

She must have agreed, because she laughed.

“If I call your name, congratulations and please stay after rehearsal. The rest of you can stack your chairs and I will see you next week.”

It mattered, okay? It mattered to me. I was hoping, and I never hope. I endure. I adapt. I survive. But suddenly I had dreamed a little dream and dammit I wanted to live that dream.

Nemmy’s name was called. For whatever reason it was at this time that Beth had decided to pick up her chair and begin walking away from me. A few more names, then mine. YASSSSS BETCH.

Eventually I realized, one of the Elites, the one who took attendance every practice, who had to learn everyone’s names while I made up stupid nicknames, she hadn’t been called.

“Alright! See ya next week!” she said, grabbing up her stuff quickly. There are so many ways to perform.

Later nights, more music, and scrutiny upon us. The director calls this ensemble Perfect Blend.

Andy was right. Choirs are petty.

And as I stood beside Nemmy for the first time, I admitted to not minding how that sounded.

On the Half Shell

Remember the words of your teacher, your master:

Evil moves fast but good moves faster than LIGHT.

I tried ordering these when they were limited edition releases but they sold out in 30 seconds before PayPal could even complete the transaction. Imagine waiting, planning to be doing nothing else at a certain time just to find something you couldn’t throw your money at! I was so bummed.

I watched them sell on EBay for over $300 and decided that if a manufacturer didn’t care enough to supply then I wasn’t going to care anymore. Or so I told myself.

Several months later and NECA has come through and offered them again, cheaper even, as a Game Stop exclusive. I just pre-ordered something I won’t even get until winter next year and they’ll just go in to a toy chest but I’m happy and I can’t wait to see my four heroes again.

A Far Cry

And when I grew old, I was riddled with sin

Locked my soul in the dark, never let the light in

I crawled to the gate, with little time left

I cried, “What have I done?” as I took my last breath

***

This Summer I tried something that I had only seen men do: I put a gun in my hand.

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A machine gun, actually. And a flame thrower. And a grenade launcher.

My introduction to the first-shooter world was Far Cry 5. I roamed around a beautiful depiction of Montana, through lakes, forests and countryside, assassinating predominantly white cultists who were taking over field and farm with a false religion.

It was absolutely exhilarating.

Stealth is just so quiet. So many slow crawls to vantage points and all of those deep breaths while you aim. I can only stand it for so long. I tried to use the technique, find nearby cliffs and silently snipe outposts one by one, throwing enough explosives to decimate the entire site without ever being detected. But after I had explored and hunted enough to level up, I had the tendency to run in to their camp with the most ridiculous automatic weapon and murder everyone in a circle as they approached.

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Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sorrow

From fear of tomorrow

Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sadness

From worry and madness

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I felt really bad about that one. My side mission was to gather eagle feathers and it lead me up a tall cliff where all of these eagles were flying around, so I started shooting them out of the sky. And when I kept missing and ran out of bullets I used the torch. It was modern ‘Merica. Then I realized I just needed to climb a little higher to their nest and grab the feathers from there. Whoops.

I’m not going to review the game – there are plenty of informative reviews out there. I’m just going to say that the concepts reached me. The songs with controlling, evangelical lyrics, friending a giant cat, destroying shrines emitting poison that seemed all-too-familiar, militaristic theology (“Cull the herd!”) and perhaps the thing that resonated most of all was, of course, Faith. I mean, who hasn’t reached out to her at one point or another?

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Lead me to the bliss.

Default Courses Can Suck It

I love being a mezzo soprano.

I know I didn’t say anything about it, but I was treading carefully. Testing the waters. If something had happened, had I failed the audition or refused to wear the dress, I could have just acted like it wasn’t an idea. I can be shameless in that which never happened.

Honestly I didn’t think I’d fail the audition. I was, however, worried that my register would land me in the alto section. And I am entirely way too self-important for that.

I love the instant gratification of singing most of the entire melody and then sitting at the piano to pluck out the little parts where my part breaks off in to harmony. It’s like learning a remix, not different enough to be a new song, not so old as to seem repetitive.

I love encircling a sanctuary, hearing our a Capella voices ring through the pews, singing Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”. I love the dissonance in the highest point of Whitacre’s “I Hide Myself”. I love having to practice, having to try, having to learn and get better. I love knowing that I will be singing “Once Upon A December” over and over again until it’s ready to perform next session.

These were always my songs in odd coincidence, so it only makes sense I sing them now.

And I love the ways I have conquered at my workplace. When I look back on some of the shit I had to go through. Show up early, wrap pallets, listen as someone told you that your demeanor was “too overbearing” while they issued you an eleven cent raise, I am so happy I stuck through it all.

Everyone kept asking what I would do next. I just stayed put. Couldn’t they see their positions disappearing, didn’t they all expire in some way? Why would I accept a few dollars more and five times the responsibility when I could just cap out for the same “promotional” amount where I had always been? I wasn’t stupid. Just for staying there, I found the recognition and the bumps I needed. I love my four figure paycheck.

And I love catching people. So much. My average catch has gone up because the behaviors are guaranteed. Grab the same trending item, walk it to the same neglected area, begin compromising it in some way, move in and stop. Sometimes there is so little time and support that I just walk up, tell them I’ve been watching on camera for a while and that I need the shit back.

“C-c-can we please work something out?” she says, unzipping her purse, taking out merchandise.
“Yeah. You wanted it right? You needed it? Buy it.”

“Okay!”

One teenager was shaking so bad, over an extension plug he removed from his pants. My body language, having stepped in front of him and sounded kind of like a bitch, had trumped his body language. His was genuine, and I was pretending not to be just as scared.

“I’ll leave.”

I reached out and touched his arm.

“You can BE our customer. It’s ten dollars, what are you doing? Come on. Do you want to go to the register? You can.”

“Yea.”

Don’t think I’m offering any free passes. The bluff is all mine. In some way at some point they meander off camera and I don’t have permission to apprehend them via our policy. Every blind second is lawsuit territory. I have to make a move, choose words carefully, like “I want to talk to you about that blue and white box I watched you take to the back of the store” and without accusing them, suggest that our inventory is soon and that we need everything back in its right place, etc etc.

If they get to the bathroom alone you can easily lose. But nothing stops me from wanting to discuss the item of ours they took in there, and kindly ask if they would be able to “just get that back to me”. They’ll be so happy to oblige, taken by surprise, that they turn around and go back in to the stall, take what is stolen off their person, put it in the crinkled package they stuffed in the garbage and put it in my hand.

What’s your best move, after being seen and approached? How much do I know? It’s a lot like how our company suggests multiple points of contact. If someone is asking you if they can help you every 20 seconds after you did something dumb, you’d better undo it and get the hell out while you can. If you still can. I might have the cops outside.

And by the way: just don’t do dumb shit at all. Because it’s dumb.

Are people ever really kind or are they just whatever they can afford to be?

It’s all relative. If I bring attention to the fact that you aren’t immediately holding a receipt, you can accuse ME of accusing YOU. And you could always be psycho with a gun or a knife. There’s nothing safe about it no matter how many acronyms I abide by. I just try to watch as much as I can and believe what I see.

I’ve always been changing what was going to happen.

It’s every song I’ve ever had to sing.

The one with the metal pokey thing.

One day you might find that you do not sleep alone. You’ll have spent your fair share of time on an experiment gone all too well, and spent less time in your personal space. Just when it seems to have become old routine, maybe, you will find yourself in the night, unable to sleep. The person next to you will be there, connected to the world you share, fast asleep.

But you will be awake. Unfortunately you may have responsibilities the following day requiring this to be a mini-reflection, a quasi-spell. The thoughts in your head cannot keep you for too long or you worry of the havoc it will cause on your body. Knowing that rest is not immediate, you very well may get out of bed quietly and walk away.

I can hear insects outside, and I can see the glowing of internet boxes lighting up a shelf in the beast of an entertainment console. It glows orange and red like a cyber fire. The last time this happened was years ago, and I remember seeing an old DVD VCR combo blinking the time in green, over and over again.

Just know that this will be normal. In case you haven’t lived or learned enough yet, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or right with your life. Sometimes we reach that odd combo of stresses, worries, anxieties, fears and what-have-yous, and without much focus on any one thing those unsettling ripples will come and go. You can get something to eat. Write. Pray. Whatever you want to do, because you just couldn’t sleep, and you needed a little time for the right chemicals to catch up.

Or it could mean that you are about to change your world. I know that I have come to feel swollen, tight in my skin, like I could hover over a sink, poke my arm with prongs and watch poison fall. Not in any sort of convenient rush, either – more like a small hole you have to squeeze for little drops. This could take a while.

I haven’t got that kind of time.

A few dreams can take you to a few too many places you probably didn’t need to visit. And oh, those unresolveds, those regrets. Just remember they lie within everyone.

I’ll always care too much about what other people think. It doesn’t matter how good I’ve tried to be, there will be people who put me in horns and made me the enemy. What’s important is that I never do that to myself.

My 1st boyfriend once got a message from his friend saying that I would be nowhere if it hadn’t been for him. I still remember reading it from a Razr phone. And there the fear was borne, that I would forever be nothing without other people. It took a while longer, but truth told that I could be something without the both of them. “Fuck her” was certainly how my chapter ended in their book.

I’ll always wish there could have been some magic way to make hurting someone okay. I’ll wish for the knowledge that I had qualified to dare, been smart enough to translate my own emptiness, felt strong enough to act on the fact that I was somewhere I would not stay.

An old pen pal thought I was atrocious. Someone I had drummed up as a hero found me after my adolescent demon had resurfaced, looked at me lost in its aftermath, and told me how disappointed they were in me. “If you’re not happy, GET OUT”, he said.

I would read his sentence several times over, like a question. Wasn’t that a crazy thought?

Wasn’t it nice, Codewriter, to live so many floors high in to the sky, and walk outside at night in a robe just like Spyder Jerusalem? A random pile of desserts and candy spread across the floor from the Asian market, a spreadsheet detailing just how much more money you spent in a relationship than without one? That feeling to be free, say whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted?

Shame on me for thinking the monster was finished. That you can act like you just forget about shit and distract yourself and start building parallel and it never comes back to knock you over. I was always headed right there, inevitably, to deal with it in final form.

We were all flesh and blood. It scares me to death to even think about. The people, the memories, how the universe I had created had alienated me from ever really feeling here or now, with the physical things that moved past. It was where my voice was, and it was my voice that ever made me anything at all, and got me out of the world of trouble I would have been in had I stayed frozen in moving times.

I’ve gotten much better at bonding to the now, and it requires a lot of work. I give it parts of me, things go practical and I lose the fantastical.

I worry about my family because they’re still all right there, in the older journal entries. They’re in that same place, connected to all of the same things, and sometimes bad things happen. My brother struggles with alcoholism and has remained invalid, my father is on a breathing machine for half the day and my mother had mobility issues due to the need for a second hip replacement. They’re still in that house, dysfunctional but loving as ever, screaming and worrying about me from several hours away.

It doesn’t get better. My brother doesn’t go drug-free and functional. My mother doesn’t walk better. My father’s lungs do not de-crystalize. We can’t just go back and re-read. Each day is the most stable day I have left. And it’s hard. It breaks my heart, trying to celebrate it all when there are times when I could just as well cry.

My moon sister knows something is going on. She posted a photo of her eyes, which I saw in my media scroll before singing “Private Eyes” at the bar, before Dan heard it and it got stuck in his head, and I never told her because of a strange silence I cannot understand other than the simple fact that the moon has always been bloody.

Always been a dark world for us. Always been a part of who we are. And I have been thinking, how poor behaviors were imitated by a others who only brought light of them. Only made good things happen, became the saving grace that makes me smile about the entire goddamn nightmare…

which it finally feels like it is. Enough of a distant memory. Flashes, and who can remember exactly what was real or just real to some one?

Private eyes, clap

They’re watching you *clap clap*

They see your every move.

It is up to me, if everything is going to be alright. Up to me to begin tomorrow and start something over. Up to me, what is carried on…

Then you will simply slip back in to bed.