Hidden Symphonies

Listen to Brianna read this piece.

Apple podcastsGoogle podcastsListen on Spotify

It wasn’t until I was miles from the crowded corridors of Albuquerque, in the wide-open palms of Santa Fe that I was struck by two realizations. The first came before my tires even had a chance to peel out from the driveway. Alejandro offered one last kiss through the window, midway into his stay-home speech, when I was forced to admit, stubbornly, that Albuquerque had slowly morphed into a semblance of home. That, maybe, it was something I could even miss the moment I left, Bernalillo blushing in the sunset dust of my mirrors.

The second was this: in the crushing quiet of a campus under quarantine, I’d been starving of sound all along.

Of course, sound flourished quietly behind closed doors on campus, betraying that its empty halls weren’t really all that empty. Student voices echoed, hushed, around corners. Still, it wasn’t the cacophony of noises shot-gunning around the pinball-machine of Albuquerque I’d grown used to either. Before I set out on my drive, Alejandro and I threaded our fingers together in the golden glow of his room. I just finished explaining the intro of Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and he, ever-observant through his symphonic studies, broke down the city that cocooned us. What makes an orchestra? I asked, remembering how my tiny palms once fumbled across viola strings at Rockfish Elementary.

He popped his fingers into the air, rattling off memorized categories. Percussion, he began with an index finger. I pictured the hazard lights of cars skidding sideways in snow, unaccustomed to desert blizzards. I heard screaming sirens of cop cars clashing with racers down Montgomery Boulevard, followed by quick-fire rounds exploding in fields. Brass, he followed with a peace sign, and I imagined cars crunching together in traffic, muscle cars screeching through corners, the shopping-cart wheels of families scouring Albertsons for a quick rotisserie chicken. Winds? I guessed, and he nodded along. Hummingbirds flittering delicately through arroyos hushed through my mind, quiet yet necessary. It would be the flapping wings of roadrunners surging midair for crickets in the falling dusk.

Finally, strings, Alejandro concluded. We sat for a minute in an unexpected intermission. It wasn’t the spray-paint of muralists painting rainbow jungles downtown. It would be the breeze shivering softly through Sandia forests, or the roller skate wheels spinning on the soft asphalt of the school’s running track. My niece would be laughing, her body jerking forward in the uneasiness of skating. I would catch her, quick as always, before she fell. We’d tumble backward in the grass, damp with frosty dew, and she would sing as we guided her home, her feet growing stronger, surer, as she glided over the sidewalk cracks. Strings, I decided, were the heartstrings plucking in the percussive pace of a city growing wild all around us.

Now, in the weight of silence cushioning around me in Santa Fe, all I can do is pick up my pen, a new composer, and uncover the hidden symphonies blooming in all this silence.

Brianna G. Reed is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Leave a Reply