Thursday, March 17, 2005

vignette: in silence

I heard about this teacher, this music teacher, in Belize or Peru or some other Latin American country (or at least the place where the event took place sounded like one of those places, the ones where butterflies, wings tipped in outrageous colors, trail like devoted puppies after those embroiled in a one-way love affair). This man loved his work but felt that his entire life was a failure to produce music that provoked rapture in all that heard it. His voice, always a source of embarrassment to him and those he taught, had all the musicality of splintering glass; a truth made more painful by the fact that he was otherwise pitch perfect. But against his lips, the flute acquired an altogether different aspect, lilting, rising, falling, persuading, leading his audience almost but not quite to the precipice of utter joy. Constantly, at the precise moment when the next note would transport his audience to an unearthly paradise, he would falter, reversing in mere moments the experience of delight and replacing it with a cacophony that could only rouse an exasperated sense of regret, enveloping those in his immediate vicinity with the fading echoes of his desperate longing.

One day, right after another truncated performance that ended in the manner all his performances did, this teacher walked out of the music room, in tears. His students followed him at a cautious distance down the corridors, past the classrooms where voices expounded on genes and peas, down the stairs past the glass-enclosed trophies that proudly attested to various students’ victories in volleyball, origami and spelling, and out into the pristine and uniform length grass of the quad. It was there that the teacher turned to the kids who followed him outside and said, “Fuck this”, followed a moment later with “And fuck you all.”

Witnesses claim that the whirlwind that engulfed him appeared out of nowhere. It came as an inverted cone, swirling with the tip on top, ten meters tall, colored mostly green and smelling strongly of crushed leaves. It just covered him, they said, like a cup in a shell game, then was simply not there the next moment. The fascinating thing about their observations, in fact the very last thing that everyone pointed out, was that the entire event took place in silence. There was none of the expected sounds associated with a whirlwind, even a completely supernatural one. It just came, upside down, covered him completely, and vanished, all in silence.


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