Performing the Heart

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The piano groaned in dismay as my fingers struck the wrong chords. My wrists were stiff, my shoulders hunched forward, and my gaze was expressionless—but I continued to play, unconcerned, as this broken Chopin spiraled downward into a crumbling mess.

As I landed the last dissonant chord with an ironic flair, I looked at my mom expectantly. She sat at the dining room table, listening to me practice with her fingers curled around a coffee cup, a perturbed grimace expressing exactly how she felt about my performance.

“I really hate piano,” I explained, as if it really needed to be said.

I had been telling her this for months: I was not a piano player. There was too much technicality in this lifeless instrument; not enough smoothnessin which I could express myself. It was simply impossible for my wild mind to sit in one spot for hours like this, staring at nothing but black and white, black and white, black and white all day.

“Violin!” she exclaimed suddenly. She slammed down her cup. “Michelle, don’t you want to try violin?”

I blinked at her. Violin? It did sound oddly appealing: Violin. Violin. Violin…

A week later, I stepped off the school bus into the cool November weather. My mother stood waiting for me, car keys in hand.

“Today,”...

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