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“The Score”
By: Faita

“If I had known what trouble you were bearing;
What grieves were in the silence of your face;
I would have been more gentle, and more caring,
And tried to give you gladness for a space.
I would have brought more warmth into the place,
If I had known.
If I had known what thoughts despairing drew you;
(Why do we never try to understand?)
I would have lent a little friendship to you,
And slipped my hand within your hand,
And made your stay more pleasant in the land,
If I had known,” Emily read. The class clapped without enthusiasm as she took her seat. The teacher took her spot standing in front of the class. Terry leaned over closer to Emily.
“That works on so many levels,” he whispered to her. The teacher cleared her throat. She was an elder woman, slight gray hair, and her age showing on her face. She pushed the wire-rimmed glasses further up her nose before beginning.
“That was an excellent reading of Mary Carolyn Davies’ poem Miss. Grayson.”
“Thank you Mrs. Lucki.”
“Now, Miss. Grayson was our last reader and since the bell is about to ring I’ll give you your homework assignment,” she said. The class sighed and mumbled angrily among themselves.
“But it’s the weekend!” a young man yelled out.
“I’m aware of that Mr. Welch, believe me. My daughter is getting married Saturday; her husband is a horrible man! Believe me I’ve been counting the days until-“ she said but the bell rang in mid sentence. The class stood up to leave but she motioned for none of them to go.
“Your assignment is to write your own poem about something in your life recently, at least 8 lines, due Monday,” she said and the class exited the room.

“I hate poetry!” Terry said as he, Emily, and a girl with short blonde hair walked through the hallway with their coats and backpacks on.
“Me too. But we still have to do it,” the blonde haired girl said.
“I like poetry, all be it I don’t like writing it, but reading it is nice.”
“I have no idea what I can write mine on,” Terry said.
“I’m gonna write mine on something that’ll make her sorry she ever gave us this assignment,” the girl said with a grin on her face.
“And what’s that Jerzy?” Emily asked.
“My nephew’s circumcision,” Jerzy said. Terry coughed in surprise and almost tripped on his own feet. Emily and Jerzy laughed. Emily patted him on the back.
“There, there big fella,” Emily mocked. Terry gave her a nasty look. Jerzy laughed again.
“Sorry Ter. As for your problem, I highly suggest you use this assignment as a patch.”
“What does that mean?”
“Write a love poem about Dana! It’ll help “patch” up your relationship,” Emily interpreted.
“Yea Terry, you’re on real shaky ground.”
“How shaky?”
“Well, a guy asked me if it is was safe to ask Dana out now.”
“That shaky!”
“Yea McGinnis, that shaky. There comes a time when the job interferes with the love life.”
“I still don’t see how working for Mr. Wayne is better then being with Dana,” Jerzy said. The two stared at her for a little bit.
“My family kind of needs the money. Besides, if I didn’t have that job I wouldn’t be able to take Dana anywhere.”
“Not that you do anyway.”
“Don’t go there Grayson.”
“And we’ve reverted back to the last names.”
“What do you mean reverted? You’ve never stopped calling me McGinnis!”
“Oh not true!”
“So true! McGinnis this, McGinnis that! And that reminds me! Don’t think you can push me around and tell me what to do! Just because your family is rich as hell doesn’t mean you’re better then me!”
“No it doesn’t! But my skill, brain, conscience, morals, and strength do!”
“What so do you want me to call you Queen Emily? Her Royal Highness, Queen of Everyone and Their Cousin, Emily freaking Grayson!?”
“I just want to be Emily Grayson!”
“What a shame she’s such a horrible person!”
“You’re one to talk! I’m surprised you can walk around since you have you have your foot in your mouth most the time!”
“GUYS!” Jerzy yelled. The two jumped in surprise and turned to look at her, angry expressions still on their faces.
“No wonder neither of you like this assignment! The only things in your lives are each other for the most part! And you hate each other!” Jerzy scolded them and stormed off. The two stood silently in the middle of a crowd, suddenly feeling every set of eyes.

Emily lay on her stomach on her bed facing the foot of it. She tapped a pencil eraser onto the pad of paper in front of her, trying to think of something to write about. The only thing of interest in her life that she could write about, she couldn’t write about. She sighed and let her head drop onto the pad of paper. Her head landed softly thanks to the mattress below her. She lifted her head and laughed slightly.
“All my life I’ve only had soft falls,” she said. The statement trigged a thought in her mind and she quickly looked at her watch. The date was in the upper right corner of it, March 3rd. She covered her mouth with her hand. She knew what to write about.

I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style.

I remember walking into the church. We had gone for a walk, and as we had passed by the old, aged church, from within I could hear it.

And so I came to see him and listen for a while.

We walked in, because of my debating techniques.

And there he was this young boy, stranger to my eyes.

He stood there, on the wooden rows for the choir, all by himself. He was singing a horrible song about the pain of loss, but how God had saved him from his grief.

Strumming my pain with his fingers.

He was just my age, 13, maybe 14. He sang the song so deeply, so well. I felt he knew I was there, knew all the pain I had felt since my Mother left me.

Singing my life with his words.

The sad song brought back images into my eyes. My Mother’s face; her cries.

Killing me softly with his song.

Her blood, the sound of her head hitting the pavement.

Killing me softly with his song.

It was like he knew me. Like he had been me for the past six years. Like he had been with me when she died. Like he knew everything that I was.

Telling my whole life with his words.

Like he had known all my pain.

Killing me softly with his song.

The idea of someone else knowing that made me sad and nervous. And the thought of a God helping me with my grief made me angry.

I felt all flushed with fever.

My savor stood next to me. As tall as he was proud. He knew how I felt, the same had happened to him. He made me feel weak, needing this song, even for a moment.

Embarrassed by the crowd.

The boy continued. The words he sang seemed like they came from my diary; had I ever kept one.

I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud.

I began to hate the song, and the young African American boy who sang it for me. I hated how he had dived into my life, my heart.

I prayed that he would finish. But he wouldn’t stop singing.

But he just kept right on strumming my pain with his fingers.

He kept on singing my sorrow from the past years. Turning pain into music.

Singing my life with his words.

He made my heart ache, my mind spin.

Killing me softly with his song.

I was about to faint.

Killing me softly with his song.

That boy knew me.

Telling my whole life with his words.

And I knew him. No one could sing that song so well unless they knew grief. He and I were the same despite our differences. We were the same.

“Killing me softly with his song,” Terry finished reading. He stood by Emily’s bed and she sat on it. He just surveyed it with his eyes then looked at her, amazed.
“You like it?” she asked.
“It’s so moving. Did this really happen?”
“Yea. Most of it is lyrics from an old song, by the, ah, The Fugees. Isaac loved those old type bands.”
“The boy, we became friends.”
“Hmm. I hate to burst your bubble, but I think she said something that’s happened recently.”
“I know. Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death.”
“His death!”
“Yes. Isaac died two years ago, he got hit by a bus.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I’m not, not really. Isaac was very religious, and he led a very cruel life. I’m sure he’s happy walking with his god.”
“I bet he’s happy his god didn’t want him to be circumcised,” Terry said. Emily laughed.

“I didn’t see you come in.”
“Sorry. That’s a very sad song.”
“My father wrote it, he wrote songs.”
“Were they all so sad?”
“No, this one he wrote right after Mamma died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. My mother is dead too.”
“Mine died of cancer.”
“Mine was stabbed.”
“We live in sad times.”
“And we have songs for it. Hi, I’m Emily.”
“I’m Isaac.”
“You sing very well.”
“Thank you, do you sing?”
“I try.”
“Come on, I’ll teach you a song. A nice one this time!”

Dedicated to Darnell Smallwood, that guy knew how to smile.