I Played Tinkling chain link rolls open. Heart pounding, heart pounding. Breathing heavy. Deep breath – get ready. Want creeps in. Want to win. Want to shine. Want to sing, my heart wants to sing, my body wants to sing. Calm my mind. Whistle shouts. Stand at attention. Hands curl on chill brass. Horns lay still, body straight. Still, oh so still. Heart still pounding. Let me in there! Taylor High exits. Marching so smooth, knee to knee. Regal black and red, terrible black and red. Makes me quiver. Show so good, never lost. Makes us look small. Twice our size. Two big semis, trailers full of shiny new instruments. Salt treads on my face. Heat washes me. Hot suit, hot helmet, hot, silver helmet – and Taylor. Oh, Taylor. Oh no. Want to run. Want to hide. Tear off silver and blue. Kiss black and red shoes. Not worthy. I try, I try so hard. Six years playing. Three years marching. I’m good. Go to State Solo. Go to State Orchestra. Major in music early, in high school, skip to college. Write my own drill, own music. I’m original. I’m good, good as them. Yes, good as them. No big problem. Practice every day. Good as them. Wait – am I? Didn’t make elite marching corps. No money to tour or join good groups. Only a small State. Not many people, not many people. No competition in school. They were all lazy. I could be just bad, just the best of the bad. Had cheap tutor. Played in cheap ensembles. Judges were easy at State. Orchestra only because they were short, guy called in sick. Want to be good. Good band, three hundred, not thirty. Hundred dollar a week teacher. Go to college even earlier. Private tutor for composing, too. Large state, large competition, beat them all. Ten professors next to my house. Tour with Blue Devils. Everyone in school supports band. Parents support band, spur me. Not here. Not me.
How can we show our face? How can we go in? I want to die. Whistle blows. Start march. Forward, onto green. Green and white, that is my canvas. Green and white. Form up. Straight paths, tight angles. Crowd to play for. Taylor fades. I forget small band. I forget good or bad. We play. Lift our horns high, sun gleaming, ever gleaming. Drums crush earth, brass pierces sky. I scream soprano. High jazz soprano, rock the stands. Now for the melody. Now my solo. Every part a new buzz. Every part a thrill. Clapping, smiles. Hard to play while smiling. We dance. We march. Cool moves, practiced forever. Make art on the field. Wipe shapes, little gears, huge wheels, folding squares. Spinning around, flip back and forth, freestyle it. They love our dancers. They love our marchers. Cheering for our images, our portrait, our gift to them. A few mistakes. That’s ok. I don’t remember. I don’t know myself. I see nothing. I hear nothing. I am nothing. Grass, feathers, metal, man all one. Ever existing in one note, one step. Autopilot, stream takes me, wave pulls me, body controls itself. Joy. Sheer joy. Could do this forever. Will do this forever. Cymbals rumble, timpani hurl, tubas wail. Climax. All in center, running, sprinting. Hit spot, go, hit spot, go. Brass is blazing. High, high notes; loud, loud notes. Stands tremble, mountains echo us. Standing audience, speeding drill. Rifles, flags all in air. All one creature, band. One megalith monster. His heart beats so hard I cry. Can feel the energy, the sweat, the heaving. Cut off. Pure silence.
Drums tick off. Cadence flares. We leave. Sigh of relief. Head stops spin. I played. Not good, not bad. Not with thirty, not with three hundred. I just marched and I played. I played, and thatâ€™s enough.