by elizabeth wing
Sir Francis Drake High School
Early October, my friends Anne and Murphy and Aisha and I stopped on our drive for lunch. We joked about Nietzsche on wide granite slabs in the river. We thought we were big.
I excused myself from the conversation to explore under the overpass that spanned the river. I found generations of the little mud nests. Swallows swirled, scolding, cawing. There was a crunching underfoot. I had stepped on paper-crisp bones.
A car thundered across the overpass. It crescendoed, tidal in my ears. I held the swallow skeleton and shuddered with the terror of knowing exactly how small I was.
Isaac hadn’t left the house in five days. It wasn’t that bad - fifteen days was his record, during a hideous spell the summer before. Agoraphobia, the word that led him on a leash: it had a face. He pictured it as a squat crone in purple bedroom slippers, a Baba Yaga, a Yubaba. He called her Agora . Broad nose. Earnest eyes. Green hair in a grandmother bun. Sometimes she sat across from him at the breakfast table There were conversations.
Isaac: I’m going out today.
Agora: Oh really?
Isaac: I have a class.
Agora: How far away?
Isaac: You know. CCA. (that was the community college). On Grant’s Avenue.
Agora: That’s a mile and a half. You think you’ll make it?
Isaac groaned and took a bite of toast. Agora raised her teacup in a toast.
Around noon, taking a break from his biology homework Isaac watched recordings of his band. That had been senior year of high school. Electric Thumb. The name was just okay, but their lyricists had been a millimeter short of genius, their bassist worshiped the art with a monkly devotion, and Isaac was proud of how he had done on the drums. Even in the fuzzy video his face gleamed with sweaty glee. He kept the floor tom and the snare rolling steady, used the high hats with effective restraint. But there was something off, a slow thump he hadn’t heard before. He paused the video and took off his headphones, one eyebrow raised. The noise was still there. It came from his neighbor's house. Isaac felt a prickle of annoyance and went back to his biology homework. He was disciplined about homework - why shouldn't he be, with so many hours in a day? But the thumping evolved to a banging. Isaac went to the door and turned the knob. He stood on the porch. He told himself he was okay. Agora stood shrugged in the doorway.
Sure, she said.
Whatever, she said.
He stepped off the porch onto the sidewalk. The air pulsed with a deafening humidity. Cars wheezed past in violent blurs. The shadows of a tree branch choked him.
Isaac: You were right.
He shuffled back up the walkway and closed the door behind him.
Later that night the noise resumed. Someone was smashing cymbals. He couldn’t sleep. He tried reading Voltaire, tried masterbation, tried distracting himself with cat memes. He decided a slow approach to the noise might work. He eased down the hall, to the foyer, where he tied his shoes. He took five deep breaths as he turned the knob, five deep breaths as he walked to the sidewalk, took five deep breaths as he walked over six, seven, eight concrete slabs. He had though the dark might be more soothing. Cicadas rose and fell like feverish tinnitus. A dog’s bark startled him a foot in the air. Agora smirked, almost tenderly, and put a hand on his hip as she led him back inside.
Isaac missed class the next morning again. He had ramen for breakfast. As he stirred the seasoning packet in, chopped green onions, and cracked an egg into the noodles he tired to figure out why the racket had shook him so much. It wasn’t anger, but it wasn’t sugary nostalgia either. As he took his first sip of the broth the drumming started up again. Well, Fuck, he said aloud. Agora was dozing off in the bedroom. Well Fuck, he said again. He wolfed down the egg, slurped up some noodles. The drumming was faster now. Isaac slammed the bowl on the counter and ran to the door. He didn’t bother with shoes this time, jogged down the sidewalk in the blazing sun, to his neighbor’s driveway. The garage door was open, a kid about fourteen or fifteen as practicing on a drum set. Butchering it, really. It sounded like a racoon in a trashcan. The kid looked up. Isaac stood panting, shoeless in sweatpants and wild hair, framed in the garage door. He realized that he might have let the door lock behind him. He also realized that Agora was still sleeping. The kid was a girl, a tomboyish one, in a black button-down and shaggy hair.
“Um. Hi.” She said. “What do you want?”
“Can, I, uh, give you some pointers?” he shifted from foot to foot.
She pulled a folding chair up beside the drumset. “Show me how it’s done.”
Elizabeth Wing is a high school senior in California. Her work has appeared in venues including Hanging Loose, Euphony: Prose and Poetry of the University of Chicago, Jet Fuel Review, the Defiant Scribe, and is forthcoming in Cease, Cows. She looks forward to attending the Pratt Institute of Art and Design next fall.