'A Quiet Art' by Gillian Walker
I stand alone above the crowd. Laughter rises through the chime of glasses and mingled conversations. My palms are moist, but my feet are set. My body draws air into my lungs and I swell. I hold my breath, but air presses against my throat, pushing me on.
My mouth opens and I fill the room with sound. The crowd is silenced. My tongue curls, lowering the note. There’s a room of eyes on me.
I sing a lyric of lost love and my child is with me. The child that stayed until it was the size of a plum, too underdeveloped to be a discernible gender. My throat contracts, the note wavers and dies.
My body replenishes the air because it doesn’t know how to do anything else. I open my eyes. I know this landscape, where my child is free to run. Her back straightens and there’s a flower in her hand. She turns, her eyes shy and her smile warm. She’s watching me.
My eyes are as wide as I can make them and the notes grow, higher now, my throat reaching. She waves and the sound is gone.
I blink. Below me is a shiver of enraptured faces. They raise their arms and clap without rhythm. I create a smile. Feet stomp. Vibrations pass through the stage and jar against my shaking limbs. Someone calls out for more. Air slides down my throat.
I step back, lower my head and long for a quiet art.