Regarding my first post–reflecting on writing in the flash genre and my first submission to a writing contest–Brevity just announced the winners of its flash nonfiction essay contest inspired by Philip Graham. Although, I didn’t win anything, I can now post my short submission in full:
Headphones, Sound Effects
“No,” I said, secretly shocked by my own answer. I should be ecstatically answering the opposite, which is exactly what any of my buddies would do, and moments before I thought I would too.
Moments before, when our eyes met and held each other’s gaze for what felt like an eternity—my mind, heart, and body was fevered with desire and lust for her. At that moment, it was as if God had touched the neurons of my mind, stopped all synapses, and unraveled my senses.
But here I was, five minutes later, with my fever cured and thinking the exact opposite. She seems surprised by my reply, and asks again, “Do you, like, want to go study up on history after school?” “No,” I say statically, dryly, and look away at the wall of lockers that line the hallway and finger the headphones hanging on my shoulders. She eyes me for nonverbal cues a few more seconds, then walks away.
As she walks away with questions and a deflated self-esteem, part of me wants to explain to her…
To explain that in the five minutes from when she said, “Hi!,” to her invitation to study, she had uttered the word “like” at every five- to seven-second intervals and had unnecessarily inserted “up” after certain verbs to make the phrase sound catchier. But her voice was nothing like music. Whatever visual poetry her outer beauty possessed was undone by her dissonating speech patterns. It was the opposite of hearing poetry—where internal rhyming patterns, repetitions of similar sounds in different words and settings, and systems of symmetry create long-lasting sparks within the mind. I remember nostalgically the sonically complex qualities of Ben Jonson’s “Song: To Celia” or Shakespeare’s sonnets or the witty banter and dialogue in movies, such as When Harry Met Sally… or Gross Pointe Blank.
More classmates walk pass me. I overhear their stereotypical conversations filled with the same verbal crutches and linguistic trends, disrupting the poetic trance within my brain. I look at the time, our lunch break is almost over.
With their loud insubstantial chatter flooding the hallways, I put on my headphones—though its sounds limited to the range within my ears, the volume is loud enough to tune everything out—and head towards my next class.
I’m happy with my submission — which achieved the funny effects I wanted but was probably not for a contest looking for more serious tones “that capture a different shard of memory’s mirror, a shard that both reflects and cuts.” Next time I’ll go for a contest that aims more for laughs than cuts.