A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Creative Corner

“Guitar Notes” by Jackie Branch

His yelling became a quiet purr after a few minutes. The drops of saliva turned to tears as he opened his arms for a hug, sobbing apologies. Goosebumps form on skin, hands turn cold. This bedroom, once a comforting place filled to the brim with rich memories, now feels like a depressive prison cell. The blue paint symbolizing silence, lone existence in the walls. Images of still, grinning figures hanging on the wall representing the bittersweet past, a place one cannot return to, no matter how much they beg. The silent guitar lying in the corner, the mini wood-carved piano resting on the dresser. Mom passed away 7 years ago, but that’s not the reason Dad turned sour. The salty tears cool the new bruise blooming near the eye.

He’s just drunk… again goes the same mantra. You can’t blame him, it’s been hard for the both of you…

He exits and leaves the door open, ashamed of his behavior. As he should be. Turning to the mirror, it reflects a distressed soul, trapped in an adolescent body. Short, lightly curled bleached-white hair, amber-gold eyes, a dying rose-colored swelling on the left cheek. The eyes well up again, face breaking apart with a metal letter opener jabbed in its center.

Downstairs, leftovers must be reheating in the microwave, as it beeps three times. Stepping out into the hall feels like floating in space, unnatural and cold. A heavy voice calls over the soft jingling of keys.

“I have to head out for… business.” He calls in a gruff tone. Tch, of course. Dad and his “business” only means trouble for us when he returns. The door creaks open, his heavy footsteps stomp and the door shuts. The house falls silent again. The clock above the door ticks 7:52, and the sun’s rays stream lightly through the back windows. Lila is hiding in her room, but pressing an ear to the door reveals she’s listening to Billie Eilish. A marvelous singer, though Lila’s the one who listens to her most in the house. She shared one of her songs, Ocean Eyes with me. Fantastical vocals, remembered with closed eyes and reminiscing on the sweet bonding moment.

The room closes, and the guitar is picked up again. Images flash into memory, playing like an old, dusty movie: those three years of learning guitar for the first time, playing at the school talent show and winning first place, the four of us eating out on Mother’s Day. Mom’s enveloping hug when the “secret” was out. The night we found out Mom was killed in a hit-and-run. Finding Dad passed out on the table next to four wine bottles and a half-loaded gun. Comforting Lila and cleaning the cuts he left on her after smashing a bottle next to her. The heart pounds violently, blood running cold throughout the body. Without any real thought, as if controlled by the flow of inspiration, notes string themselves and a fiery voice slashes through the frigid air. The lyrics flood the room, cleansing the toxic pain he leaked out. The emotional scars slowly cease their bleeding. The scribbling pen blocks the incessant pounding of the front door, the stomping up the stairs.

I do what I can, but it is never enough for you~

Our once pure bond, now poison running through.

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