end of summer

a short story

Her nails were bitten down to stumps; chipped black polish heightened the gruesome look of her bloody fingertips. Her heart felt permanently in a state of distress; most days, she hung somewhere on the precipice of tears and panic. Nervous thoughts bounced across the spaces of her brain relentlessly; there was little rest for the anxiety inside of her.

Today was no different. She sat in a bright green lawn chair, trying her best to cherish the first signs of fall; the sun still hung bright in the sky, but a crispness lingered in the air as a reminder of the ever changing seasons. She talked about the weather and the news; she danced and laughed with her friends to the sounds of an end of summer concert. She tried her best to ignore the beating in her brain, the whisper telling her to worry; it all felt familiarly forced. She’d spent every second, for as long as she could remember, warding off an inner darkness, a sense of desperation and despair that seemed to lurk in even the most subconscious corners of her mind. She counted through the reasons not to worry; an inner monologue played through her head, rehearsed, completely memorized by now, a series of things she could tell herself to try to calm down. She focused all of her energy on only this moment, urging her inherent anxieties away. She reminded herself constantly that today was a good day, trying in vain to quiet the anxious whispers in the back of her mind.

Concert crowd, hands up, toned

Then it started. Like being wrapped in a blanket, a sense of security washed over her as the sounds of electronic guitar riffs, steady drums, and a deep voice tinged with emotion echoed out through the crowd. The band she was there for had taken the stage; and the moment their energy filled the air, she began to float away. In a way, it felt utterly unexplainable. She had never exactly been able to put it into words, but the hold this band had on her was deeply special. In their music, she had found much needed solace; she had found her exact feelings, her anxiety and pain, reflected back at her in a way that finally seemed to quell the darkness in her heart.

As the sun faded, the intensity of the show got louder. She jumped up and down to the music; her entire body overcome by each song. The booming speakers and the vibration of the band’s 80’s rock sound rattled her body, buzzing in the empty spaces of her brain, the only thing loud enough to drown out her worrisome thoughts. She screamed every lyric as loudly as possible, the burning in her lungs a pain she welcomed over that inflicted by the anxious storm inside of her. The band played with an intensity matching that of her emotional release; it was as if they knew, in that moment, that they were saving souls. It was as if they understood that by playing, they were digging people out of their own graves, or maybe even, that they were digging out of graves of their own. She felt light and alive for the span of their set; for a while, the unrest inside of her seemed to have floated away with the frenetic notes of each song.

The concert ended; she drove her friends home. In the quiet of her car, she slowly felt the blackness of the night encroaching again on her mind. She relived the moments of liberation, using up every last drop of the energy remaining from the show. She brushed her teeth and washed her face. She slept in the band t-shirt she’d bought, clinging to how she’d felt when they were playing, relishing in the reprieve from her cripplingly fretful thoughts. She hoped it would serve the same purpose as the band’s earlier performance; that it would be a blanket of comfort as she drifted off to a much need sleep. Instead, it was at best a threadbare sheet. She reminded herself that today was a good day. She bit her lip; “today was a good day,” she whispered again.

for Jack and Mikey and Evan and Shawn/Sean and Jon Shiffman and his replacement

also for anyone who is as emotionally connected to music as me

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