Sara

 
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Originally won the Grand Prize in the FictionAddiction 2002 Poetry Contest


Let me tell you about Sara. Sara
     was undoubtedly the best orchestra student I had.
     I never heard her say "I can't", "I won't",
     or "that's too hard." Sara was in junior high,
     liked by all. She was a can-do girl.
     Sara was also blind.

Public junior high school is tough, especially
     when you can't see. She had an aide, but
     Sara insisted on carrying her cello herself.
     It had a case she wore like a backpack, using
     one hand to steady herself and the other
     hand to sweep her white cane before her.

Sara started working before anyone
     else. She memorized everything we played, from the warm-up
     exercises to the concert pieces. I never heard
     her miss a note in class. During lunch,
     she came to my office to practice, preferring music
     to food. She would play till her fingers bled,
     stopping occasionally to check her music with one
     hand, balancing her cello and bow in the other.

After lunch Sara would carry her cello
     and I would carry her books into the cafeteria
     where the orchestra met. With the janitors cleaning
     the lunchtime mess and sometimes buffing the floor,
     Sara struggled to concentrate on the orchestra and me.
     She and her best cellist friend met
     after school for weeks learning a piece for the concert.
     Sara had a dozen family members coming.
     It was going to be her first public solo.

With her cello in one hand and her bow in the other,
     Sara couldn't carry her cane. I walked
     her out to her seat on the stage, surrounded by the hush
     of a crowd of parents who'd never seen our cellist
     before. Sara couldn't see me raise my arms,
     but she knew it was time to play by the rustling sound
     of the raising instruments around her. I counted beats
     too quietly for the audience to hear, even to start the solo.

When the solo was finished, the theater was silent
     for a moment. Anxiety was plain on Sara's pale face,
     tensely awaiting some sign of their approval. Only
     when the applause burst forth did I face the standing crowd-
     standing. The first standing ovation the junior
     high auditorium had seen, and for Sara, who so deserved it.
     "Sara, they're standing," I told her, turning round
     to face her, and then I saw her tears and knew    
     somehow Sara had seen them too.