The Music that Brought Her to Life
Her fingers crawled towards my lap. As she leaned her face closer, I could feel her hot breath fanning against my neck. I dropped my jaw inwardly. After living for roughly eighteen years, I had never kissed a girl before, so when the moment arrived, my mind went haywire and made me feel like the dumbest boy alive. I squeezed my eyes shut and clenched my clammy hands into fist.
I lingered for the sensation of her smooth lips brushing against mine, but instead, I could feel her lips leaned closer towards my ear and whispered.
“When we meet again, I want you to play that music for me.”
My eyes went wide at her words. She smirked at my reaction. After studying me for a moment, she fled out of the room, leaving me with her vanilla scent and enigmatic nature.
Ten seconds later, I heaved a relieved sigh and leaned my frame against the wall behind. My muscles were jelly; that situation was too much for me.
I darted my gaze towards the old guitar sitting across me. I was not a musical prowess. I was just an obnoxious computer science freshman who yearned a thing or two from Ed Sheeran’s talent. I was not a musician that would sweep her heart away with my sloppy skills.
What did she mean? I turned to my guitar for an answer.
The guitar stared back at me.
The first time I met Erica was precisely two months ago. Being a geeky freshman who signed up for Binus International Music Society, I never considered myself as a music expert. I am only a guy who was infatuated with a guitar. Since BIMUS was a den of the mini Swifties and Biebers, I looked like a stick standing out from the rest. My guitar skills were standard. Everything about me screamed ordinary.
But out of all the flair and gifted musicians in the club, Erica stood out the most. Coming from Graphic Design major, she had piercings and tattoos all over her flesh. One time, the club president sent her out for smoking in class. I’m sure she did it on purpose. Everybody knew, but they never asked why.
Erica wasn’t popular among her classmates either. Rumors about her interminably spiraled around the campus. Even though her major was situated in the FX building, her name wasn’t uncommon to the students in JWC.
In spite of her infamous reputation, Erica was also known for her extraordinary flair on music. During one STUCOM event, the girl who dressed in chains and metal rings captured the hearts of the whole campus by her violin skills. The moment she swept the bow against the strings, the world exploded in kaleidoscopic colors.
One evening, I stayed up late in the clubroom to improve my guitar skills. Fortunately, the club president Lena understood my passion for music and let me remain in the clubroom as long as I would lock the door before I leave. Even though Lena was a considerate person, her detest towards Erica was apparent.
After Lena’s departure, I started plucking my guitar strings. As the clock kept ticking, the night had risen together with my built-up frustration. Even though I’ve been thrumming the guitar strings for an hour, my guitar formed off tuned beats paired up with ear-grating noises. I managed to master the first few lines from Ed Sheeran’s song though, but my current skills would kick me out from Indonesia’s Idol first audition.
Suddenly, a sharp knock on the door snapped me from my reverie.
“Cut it out. Your music would bring back the dead.”
I stifled a gasp. Shocked, I turned my head over my shoulders to acknowledge the sharp critic.
Erica stood by the doorway, arms crossed.
My mouth hung open for a second. This wasn’t the first time someone insulted my skills, so I let it slide and shrugged. “You don’t have to tell me that, prodigy.”
Erica giggled. “Shush little junior. You’re too nice for your own good.”
My heart leaped. As my face bloomed in myriad shades of red, I tilted my head downwards to hide my blush. “I-I’m just telling the truth.”
She hummed in response. After a long moment, silence permeated the room. I could feel Erica’s keen gaze fired behind my shoulders. Trying not to look at her was like wishing winter in Indonesia; it was impossible.
Before I could act, Erica strolled towards my direction. As her footsteps came closer, my heart quickened its pace. She sat across me and began stroking guitar’s surface. When our fingers faintly brush, I flinched at the sudden electrifying sensation and shoved the guitar towards her. She shot me a weird look.
“What year are you?” she asked me while playfully plucking my guitar strings.
I gulped. “I’m a freshman, what about you?”
“I’m in my final year. Going to graduate in the following December,” she replied nonchalantly. “Then I’m going to UK.”
I nodded. “I see.”
We spent the next few minutes in silence before she melted the wall between us.
“Ren, did you love to play the guitar?”
I was taken aback at her attempt to continue this conversation. “Of course, this is why I join BIMUS in the first place, in spite of my talent.”
Suddenly, Erica broke into a fit of giggle. As her shoulders rose and fell, I contemplated at how Erica should smile more often. “Come on I’m just playin’ around dude. I love your play style actually, it reminds me of my humble days.”
I raised a brow, intrigued. Before I opened my mouth to ask, she cut me off with a wave of her hand.
“Back in my old days when I’m still learning music, I spent nights trying to figure out the notes in my guitar string. It took me two months to do so.” Erica smiled wistfully. “Back then I’m still fighting, struggling and trying.”
She paused for effect. I urged her to continue.
Her smile mounted into a frown as she spoke. “But now I’m too good at it. Music it’s not fun anymore. Where are all the challenges? It makes me feel dead.”
Anyone would wrinkle their nose at her arrogance, but I simply nodded without a word.
She gave me a light pat on the shoulder and grinned. “Being too good at something sucks! That’s why I love your style. It reminds me when I feel the most alive!”
Before I could comment, Erica fumbled her pocket and pulled out a tiny capsule and consumed all the pills in one gulp. Drugs, I presumed.
After swallowing the last pill, Erica turned to me. “Ren, I want you to make a promise.”
That’s when she crept closer to me and whispered those statements that I never forgot for the next four years.
When Erica disappeared from the room, I saw a tiny piece of paper slipped into my guitar bag.
It was her home’s address in UK.
Four years had passed since then.
I graduated proudly with a considerable high GPA. Even though there was no progress of my music, I still decided to see her again, since my mediocre skills attracted her to me in the first place. Three days after receiving my graduation tube, I booked a ticket to UK to see her again.
Twelve hours of drowsiness later, I suppressed my jet-lag and quickly hired a taxi and shoved the crumpled piece of paper to his face. After three-hours of driving all around in UK, I finally arrived at a tall and white Bungalow nearby the city. I begrudgingly paid around ninety dollars to the taxi driver.
With my guitar bag strapped behind my shoulders, I smiled sheepishly as I mounted the steps to the main entrance. I pressed the bell. Hurried footsteps echoed behind the door in response. I rubbed my hands in anticipation.
Finally, the door flew opened. A tall woman with dark raven-haired greeted me with a smile. Her pale face highlighted the pair of dark moons under her eyes.
“Good afternoon sir, how can I help you?” her British accent was thick.
I rubbed my head and smiled timidly. “Umm…I’m Erica’s friend. I’m here to see her.”
A heartbreakingly torn expression flashed on her face. Shaking her head wildly, the woman yanked my hand and shoved me into an old van parked in front of the house. Before I properly locked the seatbelt, the mad woman started off the engine and ventured to the unknown.
On the way, I peppered her with questions, yet my effort was fruitless. She never acknowledged me; her eyes were fixed on the road. Restlessness settled upon me when I noticed she drove us to a remote area. My eyes shifted back and forth from the obscured road to the woman driving beside me.
“Where are we going?” my voice trembled. “Please tell me!”
“We’re almost there.”
After a few drifts later, the car screeched and jerked to a stop. She pulled me out of the car and leaded me to a certain place.
My jaw dropped. Cold ache leeched on my chest.
She led me to a cemetery.
Erica was dead.
The moment she dragged me inside the graveyard, I couldn’t bear the anguish heaving my chest, loading my heart with stinging needles. I started choking my own tears when I saw Erica’s name engraved in one of the well-polished marble stones.
My knees met the ground. I stared at her name in horror. It all felt like a dream; I refused to believe it was real.
When I turned around, I saw the woman behind me started weeping as well. That’s when I concluded that this woman was her mother.
In spite of the turmoil in my heart, I unloaded the guitar off my shoulders and hoisted the instrument between my arms and legs. Erica’s mothers stared down at me in confusion.
Ignoring her puzzled stare, I strummed my guitar.
As my fingers thrummed the guitar strings, a plain and unpleasant melody echoed from my instrument. Erica was right; my music might wake the dead.
But I am smiling because I fulfilled her promise.
As my odd music filled in the cemetery, the flowers and patches of grasses nearby rustled by the wind. I was shrouded by the gentle whispers of waltzing plants and trees. It all felt like a movie, yet it all felt real.
I believed she was responding to my music.
After all, this normalcy made her feel more alive than anything else.
A bead of tear escaped from my eyes, trickling down across my cheeks. “Good bye, Erica.”
After bidding my farewell and talking with her mother, I realized that the pills she took that time was Chlorambucil – drugs treated for blood sickle cancer.