23 | She Thinks About Pieces

She Thinks About Pieces

Her father gradually runs out of words to scream and holds out his hand for her violin case. She thinks quite seriously about running into traffic instead. Running across the street to the bus stop and the 25A bus she can see coming from the east, dodging cars. Leaping onto the bus before her father knows what’s happening, riding the bus to the subway, then the subway to the end of the line. Holding the case on her lap, cradling it in her arms.

But there her imagination runs out. Kipling Station, and then what?

And then what?

Her father’s face darkens. “Give it to me,” he says, and she thinks quite seriously about turning to the two women pushing strollers coming from the west instead. Saying, “He is going to destroy everything. I will have nothing at all. Nothing. Please, help.”

But there her imagination runs out. Pleading, and then what? The women with the strollers did not ask to be part of her terror.

She tells herself that she can wait. She repeats the number to herself: one thousand, one hundred, eighty-three days. One thousand, one hundred, eighty-three. Then she will be eighteen and the world will open like a flower. She has a graph paper notebook in the closet. Every morning she opens the notebook and carefully makes an X in the next empty square. There are already six hundred and eleven Xs. The notebook is not labeled. Just in case.

Her father wrenches the violin case out of her hands—and she thinks of that moment when her grade nine music teacher put the same case in her hands. So gently. How Mrs. Atif said, “A parent donated it, and the school has enough violins, really you’d be doing me a favor,” and she knew it wasn’t true but she didn’t know how to say, “Why are you saving me?” So she took the case and just said “thank-you” and hoped it was enough.

And then she and her father moved and everything went wrong.

Her father wrenches the violin case out of her hands—and she watches her fingers, as if they belong to someone else, flutter weakly in the air as he deliberately opens the case. Takes her violin out by the neck, then smashes it on the sidewalk. Into three, into six, into a thousand pieces. Cars stream by.

She stands there, whispering, “Don’t. Please don’t.”

The pieces lie on the sidewalk like scattered feathers from a bird that’s been shot. The two women with the strollers stream by. The 25A bus streams by.

She thinks quite seriously about running into traffic instead.

She thinks quite seriously. She thinks.

Sage Tyrtle is a professional storyteller. Her stories have been featured on NPR, CBC, and PBS. She is a Moth StorySLAM and GrandSLAM winner. She’s also one of those Americans who swanned around saying, “If this gets any worse, I’M moving to CANADA,” but then she really did. More: tyrtle.com.