Snippets from the work of Michaela Stone Cross that I really enjoyed… Wish I could write like this!
Greg had always been effortlessly happy, which has the unfortunate effect of making me feel like a bad lab experiment when I’m down. Amongst his friendly, happy, successful friends I felt like a weird, evil flower, snuck into their paradise.
I smiled to myself. In all the sad songs I knew, C was never happy, and I thought it was just like Greg that he’d think of C as happy, and just like me that I’d think it had a tragic sound.
There I was, stuck in my blue pallet, him in yellow, him with Rebecca Sugar, me with country songs. My favorite chord was E minor, the two-fingered chord, resonant and deep, dark, pulling at one’s core. I was attached to the sadness, to these sad songs, to this sad chord.
Sadness like that puts a strange film across your eyes, and I’d gaze at my yellow-palleted friends like I was a spider in a zoo exhibit, envying a liberty I could only observe. Every obstacle that confronted them they’d overcome easily, every thought seemed to come with sugar on top. One mean word, a glance, and I was writhing with anger and envy, with hatred that filled me, stinging me inside. I wanted to curl up into every shadow: I was an ugly, hateful, harmful thing.
Right, I remembered. Some people actually wanted to live. It’s impossible for me to conceive of, fantasizing, night after night, about being dead. The most I could accomplish, it feels like, is outliving my parents. Or planning some way of killing myself where no one knew I was dead.
I’d begun feeling a nauseous embarrassment when it came to the instrument. I stopped playing my guitar. I stopped writing, singing, eating, stopped everything. I realized, once I did, that all the songs I knew were sad ones, and all the words I had were sad ones, and all the songs I could sing were sad ones and I’d rather not eat than eat alone. When I was happy, living and writing in Bulgaria, surrounded by animals and trees, the songs would add a new texture to my happiness, a depth.
“Aural emotion.” A philosopher, Feuerbach, described music as such. A note pulls out a feeling in you, it ‘pulls on your heart strings.’ My favorite note to play was E minor: Two-finger, resonant, dark and deep. If Greg was the happiest note I was the saddest. I played Cash because I loved the feeling of his deep notes in my lungs, his dark thoughts in my head.
And I realized that there is no why to pain, that pain is a gift from God. That it is the place we launch ourselves into ecstatic joy, carrying that gift lying from within the darkness, the gift that makes the A chord on the piano make me cry, and yet feel so happy, feel so good. That the pain that had been hanging like a stone around my neck for months was not dragging me under water, but the keystone that connects me to others, that helps me read pain in someone’s eyes. That E minor followed by C is the happiest sound in the world: it is no miserable depths of one grey sound or the saccharine emptiness of only good things. It is the reason we have words like ‘ecstasy’ which is the mixture of the greatest joy, and greatest pain, the emotion brings us close to God because it reminds us that the earth is more wonderful than any heaven, with all its horror and pain. We are born, not soft, but hard, and as the Talmud says, “For we are like olives: only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us.” But it is sometimes so hard being crushed.
My fingers play upon my instrument at random, songlessly, picking the notes to feel them vibrate through me. Sometimes I wish that chord existed, the happiest chord, one I could find and play, one that would shatter all evil thoughts from my head. But life is not a color or a chord but a painting and a song. And even in pain, I am grateful.