Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Pretty Girl in the Pink Dress

The following is a piece I wrote around two years ago. It's for those times when you're in the mood for reminiscing...

It was in those mid-elementary years that I found myself competing in my first major singing contest. It had been forthcoming, really. After years of training with my music teachers, and after much exposure to singing on stage, the opportunity came to test all that I had learned.

It was an interschool Chinese singing contest. Held yearly, this outfit showcased the best singers from Chinese schools all over Metro Manila. Liberty Hall had become an icon for many Chinese students who would travel to Binondo – to Chinatown – and test their nerves and singing prowess.

For me, however, it was an altogether uncomplicated matter. Inasmuch as this contest was a challenge to my skills and a stake at my school’s pride, I was in it for simpler reasons. I loved singing. I enjoyed performing. This, however, did not take away the pressure involved in the daily preparation of having to practice my notes, rehearse my gestures, clarify my diction, and so forth. But behind these outward paraphernalia, I secretly held on to the joy and pleasure of being one with music as my spirit blended in with song. It was after all, a passion that had been growing steadily those years. And as it was also a craft in itself, I slowly grew to appreciating the art as I fell in love with singing all the more.

The day of the competition finally came. Young girls and boys like myself slowly trudged up the stairs leading to the performance hall. I supposed that like me, they too were filled with mixed feelings of anticipation, anxiety and excitement. None of us looked up as we climbed seemingly endless flights of stairs. Our heads were probably drowned out with trying to remember our songs, going through them again and again in our minds.

The stage was brightly lit. There were many decorations. Adults were chattering away. Excitement was brewing in the air. But none of us noticed these. Our hearts were too heavy with an unspeakable emotion. Most especially for me, I was trying to focus, to put my anxieties aside, to look only at the task at hand. Repeatedly, I breathed in, and breathed out…

A young girl about my age came and sat a few seats in front of me. This was very distracting. There was no one seated in the many chairs between us. I tried to return to the notes of my song.

But I could not help it. She wore a pink dress with frills at the side. Her hair was long and braided. She wore earrings that shook each time she moved her head.

I was staring. And for a period of time that even I could not remember, I just sat there, mouth slightly opened, looking straight at this girl whom I did not even know. All seemed so quiet inside me, so very peaceful... If not for the blaring speakers calling out my name, I probably would not have even awakened from this trance.

It was my turn to sing.

As I slowly walked to the stage, the nervousness all rushed back in. The piano intro played, I started to sing. Though I seemed to have faltered in my first few notes, I gradually gained momentum as my confidence steadily gained ground. The love of singing was pumping through my veins. The passion of song was beating once more in my chest. As my voice rose and fell and as my body glided in movement, I felt so at peace. I looked to my audience and sang to them – to each one of them – as I looked at them eye to eye. I felt good about myself.

“The mountains we shall level, and upon them we shall make passageways.”

The words drummed in my ears.

“No distance is too great, for we are all bound together in one heart.”

My spirits were lifted higher as the music resounded all the more within me.

And then my eyes came to the girl in the pink dress, whose hair was braided, and whose earrings shook as she moved her head. I was now singing to her. I was overcome with silence. My soul was engulfed in such sweet passion. Even as the piano continued playing, and my voice and body kept on with the song, it was as if all these slowly melted away. All that remained was a heavenly consolation. She was very pretty. She had a pretty smile.

The audience applauded loudly. I awakened once again from my trance. My teachers were below the stage, beaming with pride after my performance. They called out to me in congratulations. But my gaze returned to the girl in the pink dress. Her hair was braided. She was clapping. She was smiling.

I won first place that day. Everyone was so happy for me. I was saying ‘thank you’ again and again. As I shuffled between people, my head continued to look around for the pretty girl in the pink dress. She did not win at all. I felt sad for her.

Finally, I saw her. I tried to ease my way through endless waves of people moving at all directions. My heart and my mind raced. What would I say? Her name. Ask for her name.

As I drew closer, I saw more clearly the designs on her dress, the pattern of frills. The thin bracelet on her left wrist… A dimple on her cheek…

She did not see me draw closer. A woman moved in between us and swiftly guided her away to the exit. I stood where I was. I felt lost.

I would return to this competition yearly. And yearly, I would keep on winning, too. But my secret desire was to see her again, and to sing to her once more. I would think to myself of the things I would say when I would finally meet her. I’d imagine how she would look and how she would respond.

I would say, “Hi. You sang so beautifully. Congratulations.”

And then she’d smile her pretty smile. Or she might even blush just the same. She would have her hair braided. And a thin bracelet would be on her wrist. She might wear her pink dress once again, the one with frills on the side.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I got your name. My name is Terence. And you are?”

She would give her name. And I would repeat it to her and to myself, just to be sure I got it right, mulling it over again and again as it would sink ever deeper within me.

And then we’d talk about our schools, our hobbies, and why we love singing so much. We would share our favorite songs and the kind of tunes we really like.

I was very excited. My imagination was consumed just thinking of what might happen. I was thrilled with the anticipation of seeing her again, of finally meeting her and talking to her.

I never did. She never returned.

Many years have come and gone. Since then, music has grown ever more deeply within me and held its hold. In many ways, I have learned that passions can have different faces, both in the rapture of high notes sung by a tenor, and in the warm embrace given by womanly arms. I have seen that passions, too, are like colors. In glittering beauty or in dullness, they take on different shades. Even black seems to glisten as blue to lovers who frolic beneath the evening twilight. Dusk’s play of light can make the deep rose-red dress look like a heavy drab of grayness to a jilted lover’s sight. And eyes—bloodshot and tired—staring at the white innocence of an orchid, begin to see shades of pink seeping in from the petals’ edges.

Music, in its multi-tonal harmonies, seems to be less complex. But it has sent me soaring and diving just the same, its capriciousness matched only by the conductor’s baton. From the sidelines of jazz cafés to the limelight of stage plays, I have loved women and learned to hold them close in sweet desire. I have sung them songs of love and pain, peace and regret. At the beckoning strums of the guitar and at the gentle pleadings of a piano chord in G, my heart reverberates with anticipation, and my voice echoes in song. The great backdrop of moon and stars had been set and I had filled the night with sweetness.

But memory has its way of easing me back to yesterday, to times far simpler... When peace was found in the quiet purity of a simple heartfelt song. I return to these times as I never seem to forget them. And I remember a pretty girl in a pink dress, who had braided hair and had dangling earrings. She wore a thin bracelet on her wrist, and had a dimple on her cheek. I sang to her once. She was very pretty.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Arlene said...

"Passions are, after all, like colors. In glittering beauty or in dullness, they take on different shades. Even black seems to glisten as blue to lovers who frolic beneath the evening moonlight. Dusk’s play of light can make the deep rose-red dress she wore look like a heavy drab of grayness. And eyes – bloodshot and tired – staring at the white innocence of an orchid, begin to see shades of pink seeping in from the petals’ edges."

I just fell in love with this. Exactly what inspired me to finish my senior write-up... :)

Keep those insights coming, Bro! :D

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Cat Furniture said...

Hey, I have been out blog surfing and found this one... Yes, I found your blog while wondering aimlessly around the internet... Just thought I would let you know.

4:39 PM  

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