Coward in Me is based on a true event that happen to me while in college. Yinee (pronounced ‘yin-nay’) believed that she was just playing another last minute gig with her comrades in Pep Band. However, she is forced to come to terms with the rejection that still leaves her cold and her shaky set of emotions for the boy who does not see her. In the end, she is reminded the fact that she is not a hero but merely a silent coward. Like “Superhero” character Cassandra, Yinee takes her wake-up call with masked emotions and pondering thoughts.
“So what’s the big deal with this gig Brian?” I asked my conductor as I pulled off 4 pieces of tape from a tape dispenser, “I see alumni and we’re standing in the president’s personal area in the stands.” I gripped my sheet music firmly as a sharp, icy gust of wind attempted to blow it off my stand. Once the brief burst of air had passed, I began taping my music down to the stand I was sharing with piccolo players Traci and Marie.
“I don’t know for sure but they said it was some alumni sports dedication deal,” Brian told me as he pulled a pair of drumsticks out of his back pocket. “They wanted Pep Band aka us to come in and bring the pep to the event. So hey Yinee, that RA thing, did you get it?” Traci, Marie, and a few other players turned their heads in my direction at his question.
The bitter reminder of the rejection letter hit me as soon as Brian uttered the dreaded question. I had casually mentioned to him earlier in basketball season that I was looking to become a resident advisor in the residence halls next year and he jumped on my words. First it started out with a flurry of complaints he had with the Office of Housing during his undergrad studies. Then it transitioned into him supporting me with my decision. He said that he would be very surprised if Housing said no and put much faith (and pressure!) on my shoulders. Maybe it was because I had mentioned that I wanted to fix some of the growing problems in the current residence hall situations. Well, whatever the reason, Brian seemed to almost bolster my application into the job as a superhero stepping to face her destiny. But instead of defeating the challenges and having good overcome evil, I got a splash of cold water thrown in my face after reading my letter stating the same sugar-coated paragraph given to all of the rejected applicants.
Ironically, I was starting to feel like that character from this short story that I had to read for my English class called “Superhero.” In brief summary, Christina, renamed Cassandra, casts aside her Catholic religion as she steps forth into a little world called college. She is deceived into thinking that she is invincible, like a superhero in the comic books, but later she is brought back to a harsh reality when she becomes pregnant. Her wake-up call was much more than a few slaps on the cheek; it was several buckets of cold water hitting her in the face at full force. I pretty much felt like her minus the post-abortion emotions as I gathered up the courage to tell Brian the dreaded news.
“I didn’t get it this year,” I sighed lifelessly. My eyes watched Brian as he slammed his fist on the balcony railing behind us. He looked bummed but also surprised in an angry manner.
“What is wrong with them!” he demanded angrily, “Are they blind or something?”
I shook my head no at him. “They had 300+ applications come in for this year,” I weakly offered him, “A lot of great candidates with great qualities out there. Not just new faces but some old ones who probably were unable to get it again this year.”
“Sugar-coated…,” he cursed under his breath angrily, “I’m sure they wrote that to every rejected person that applied this year.”
“Yeah,” I murmured faintly. Traci gave me a sympathetic look and Wilson, my trombone friend, crushed me in a comforting hug. They were being supportive but I didn’t need everyone staring at me and making this a sympathy case for me. A few alumni had turned their heads to view the brief scene but quickly resumed their normal conversations with others. To my relief, Wilson had let go of me just as Pete the Panther came striding over to our group.
“What’s up Pete?” crowed Brian as he waved a drumstick at him. Pete shrugged and began looking around for something. He pointed to the drumstick in Brian’s hand then began air-drawing an elongated trapezoid.
“Sorry Pete,” apologized another trombone player named Carl, “We didn’t bring the cowbell with us.” Pete shook his head disappointedly and put his paws on his hips. Brian tried not to laugh and Traci’s lips twitched slightly as she watched Pete stare at Carl for forgetting the cowbell.
“Hey Pete,” said one of the coordinators as she joined our group, “Aren’t you going to greet our guests as they arrive?” Pete jumped up in surprise and ran over to shake hands with some of the current athletes who had just arrived.
“Saved by the coordinator,” muttered Carl as he shut his trombone case.
“Pete looked ready to kill you for forgetting the best instrument,” chortled Adam under the sousaphone resting on his shoulders. Carl glared at him before blowing some low notes into his horn.
I became engrossed in securing my music to the stand that when someone said to the group, “Hey how’s it going?” I nearly jumped out of my skin. The voice belonged to Jeremy, a graduating basketball player who was part of the starting line-up. I looked up at that moment to see that his companion accompanying him was none other than Aaron. Aaron was busy pinning his name tag on his t-shirt when Jeremy greeted the group. He looked up at that moment and I hurriedly lowered my gaze.
Aaron had been in my American Government class last semester. We spoke only once and I learned from our exchange that he did not do the assigned reading, maybe skimming it if necessary. Later I had discovered that he played on the men’s basketball team when I was setting up for my first basketball season gig with the rest of Pep Band. The familiar spiky hairdo caught the corner of my eye as he jumped up and made a practice basket during team warm-ups that night. Initially, I never thought much of him until then. He seemed to me at first like an average guy who went to class to do the bare minimum to pass. Maybe it was his confidence that drew me to him. Well, anyways, I harbored a small secret crush on him ever since. One problem though? He barely knew I existed. Sure, he did talk to me once as I said earlier and he did accept my lousy FaceBook friend request. Yet that doesn’t mean that he tried any harder to get to know me more. I mean, I was guilty of being so shy that I’d purposely pretend that I was caught up in something else as he passed by, but even when I felt somewhat brave enough to acknowledge his close presence, he barely noticed who was saying hi to him with a shaky smile on her face.
I was startled out of my reverie when Traci uttered the phrases a girl would say to protect herself from rape.
“Stop. Stop. Fire! Fire!” she recalled as she acted out a scenario with Marie who pushed back.
“Studying for your self-defense workshop?” I offered as I watched them act.
“Yes,” sighed Traci as she picked up her piccolo off the stand, “We have a final next week on what do in those cases. Can you believe it?” I shook my head no and began blowing miscellaneous notes into my clarinet. Brian looked over at one of the coordinators before announcing that we were going to start performing.
“Hey!” Brian loudly barked at the distracted group, “Carl, that includes you too. Get out Gonna Fly Now then Land of 1000 Dances.” Jeremy and Aaron broke off their conversation with the members of women’s basketball and turned to watch us perform. My eyes fell to the sheet music taped to my stand and stared at the first line until I heard Brian count off. I tried to ignore the stares from alumni and current student athletes as I played the accompanying melody to the trumpet’s loud blare in Gonna Fly Now. My fingers had accidentally pressed wrong keys in 3 places and I was feeling quite flustered. Usually I’m fine playing on stage in front of audiences but when people are literally inches away from me, it can really shake me if they’re staring too intently.
“Great,” I muttered to myself as the applause died down. That performance sucked. Traci and Marie sounded ridiculously flat and because they played an octave higher, my right ear had become temporarily deaf. Kenny, a showy, somewhat sarcastic trumpet player, had purposely overblown his notes to sound über obnoxious. And the fact that I had messed up more than usual didn’t make it any better.
“Take a breather guys,” Brian announced, “I’ll let you know when we need to play the school songs.” Pete the Panther took a break from greeting guests and tapped the drum heads with his paws. Eventually he grew bored of that and walked over to where the trombone players were standing. When Wilson turned his head for a brief 5 seconds, Pete swiped his car keys and handed them off to Brian as a joke. Wilson turned his head just in time to see Brian jokingly thanking Pete for giving him a new car.
“Gee I wonder what model this is,” he mused lightly. He looked at the keychain before handing it back to Pete. Pete studied the keys for a brief second before placing them in his mouth. Traci gasped and I howled in laughter at the sight. Wilson gave Pete a very stern look while everyone around them began laughing at the sight.
“I don’t think my keys taste that good,” Wilson announced to Pete firmly. True to Wilson’s words, Pete immediately spit them out and dropped them back into his hands.
“Well…thanks Pete,” mumbled Wilson as he pretended to wipe off Pete’s saliva from the keys. Pete shrugged before petting Wilson on the head.
“Oh wow Pete,” chortled Marie as Pete walked past us. He paused briefly at our stand and pointed to my instrument. He put a paw to an ear and gave me a surprised shrug.
“I can’t play very loud Pete,” I informed him, “The clarinet isn’t built to dominate over the Band. That would be the trumpet’s job.” Pete covered his eyes at my words and I laughed a little.
“And its just me sticking it out on clarinet,” I reminded him, “There would probably need to be a ridiculous amount of clarinets in order to hear what it sounds like.” Pete sagged his shoulders and gave me a sympathetic look. I gave him a shrug of my shoulders. Honestly, what could I do in a situation like now?
“Hey Yinee!” Wilson motioned for me to join the low brass guys in their conversation. I turned to say goodbye to Pete but he was busy analyzing Traci’s piccolo.
“You’re just going to ask her because you want to see her blow up,” Carl told him knowingly.
“Ask me about what?” I questioned Carl as I stood between him and Wilson. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Aaron turn his head to watch me engage in the controversial discussion, whatever it was.
“Oh The Twilight Saga,” Wilson offered lightly, “What’s your take on it?”
Ah yes, the famous or should I say infamous series called The Twilight Saga. I had a feeling that Wilson would mention this in a heartbeat since he had a tendency to ask me the most unusual questions at the weirdest times. I could feel the eyes of Wilson, Carl, and Aaron, from a distance, watching me intently, waiting to hear my response.
Unlike my fellow female readers, I found Twilight to be a poorly written account of a whiny teenage girl’s obsession with a moody, negative vampire. I had picked up the book out of curiosity at the bookstore and began reading it. I found that the main characters were not my ideal figures that I enjoyed reading about. I was not obsessive like Bella and I most certainly did not act like an angst-filled vampire who believed that avoiding a person equaled protecting them. Since I am an optimist, I forced myself to give book 2 a try. Boy was that Hell. If I thought Bella was annoying in the first book, then the second one made her look even more like a brat. The facts holding the book’s fantasy aspects together seemed very shaky and quite questionable in terms of sounding believable. The idea of becoming of an immortal seemed romantic to some, but to me, it sounded awful. And I could never wrap my head around drinking blood since I have a fear of needles. Ironically, as I recalled, “Superhero’s” Cassandra had dreams of being a vampire when she gave up her Catholic faith. She explained that she dreamt of a vampire because they were known for their immortality and stealth. They had no fears of death with the exception of an old fashioned stake in the heart.
“I’m not a fan of it if that’s what you were asking,” I told Wilson slowly, “I’m part of an anti-Twilight FaceBook group anyways.” Wilson looked happy to hear my answer and Carl pumped his fist in the air. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Aaron study the group curiously.
“Nice,” Wilson agreed, “I’m not into it either. I just don’t think it’s that great of a story.”
“Well, it basically says that Bella is a necrophiliac,” I snorted.
“A what?” asked Carl as he leaned in to hear what I said.
“She’s a necrophiliac,” I repeated to the group, “It means she has an unhealthy obsession with a dead body.”
“Oh man I totally missed that,” Wilson hooted, “But that makes so much sense!”
“That is weird,” Carl chimed in as he shoved his hands in his pockets, “Wow. We’re teaching our kids to be obsessed with the dead!” Wilson broke out into laughter and I smiled as the conversation lightened. My eyes slowly drifted from the group and over to where Aaron was standing with the members from the basketball teams. He had turned back to his conversation with them and he seemed very engrossed in what was being said.
Maybe I had imagined that he was paying any bit of attention to my discussion with the guys about being a Twilight hater. I didn’t get much time to consider the idea since Brian began shepherding us back to our stands to play again. Aaron and Jeremy moved past the Pep Band and checked out the food table as I set up the school songs on my stand. This performance went smoother with a single mistake from me, less obnoxious overblowing from Kenny, and Traci and Marie playing their music in a medium octave. Probably it was because people had found old classmates and friends to mingle with and decided not to swarm around the Band too much longer. Frankly, I saw it as a good thing since I didn’t feel like I was under pressure to get everything perfect with everyone watching. Applause was lighter than the first performance and Brian beamed at us.
“All right everyone!” he called the group together, “Awesome job today. We’re officially done here but you are free to stick around, mingle with alumni, and eat some free food.” Wilson put down his instrument carefully and strode over to where the food was. Carl followed him slowly and Kenny, eager to eat, ran past him and grabbed a plate. I packed up my gear and bade everyone goodbye before pressing the down button for the elevator. I folded my arms across my chest and began people watching as I waited for the elevator to arrive. Brian chatted with some alumni about our music we played for the event. Kenny piled his burger high with several toppings and was attempting to take a bite out of the tall sandwich he made. Traci and Marie went back to practicing for their self-defense final. As for Aaron, he had his back turned to me and was laughing at some girl’s comment. The melancholic ding of the elevator alerted its arrival and I stepped through the doors before pressing the L button for the lobby.
“Don’t close yet! Don’t close yet!” cried out Marie as she dashed through the doors. Traci slid in quickly as the doors closed shut. Both girls began talking about weekend plans while I allowed myself to get lost in my thoughts. As the elevator began its descent, I could feel my confidence sinking with it. Way to go Yinee. You could have said hi this time but you didn’t. You could have maybe walked up to him at one point and casually compliment him on this season’s results but you didn’t. You could have looked him in the eyes like a brave person should do but you didn’t. The elevator arrived at the lobby and Marie and Traci strode out, poking jokes at each other the whole way out. I stepped out slowly and silently took the back way to my dorm room.
I could still hear the sounds of the alumni event going on above me as I walked along the backside of the building. My eyes drifted up to where the event was still going on and I heaved a deep sigh. I was not a hero. Most definitely not a superhero by any stretch of the imagination. So where did that leave me?
A sharp blade of wind sliced across my face as I rounded the corner and headed to the crosswalk. Then the very definition hit me. I, Yinee Kesslor, was nothing more than a coward. A silent, hopeless, invisible coward.