Play Me(3)

By: Katie McCoy

As the door closed behind him, I was suddenly aware of how quiet it was. Back at Mark’s place or at my parents’ house, there would be music—jazz or classical—emanating from every nook and cranny, whether it was my father listening to his favorite records in preparation for his class on music theory, or my mother blasting the latest album she had been sent to review, or my sister, Nina, playing the horn in her own room. It had never been silent.

I flopped down on my mattress that was shoved into the corner closest to the kitchen that I was sure I was never going to use. Cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup were what I lived off of. All I needed to survive was a can opener and microwave. Unless my life depended on me locating the box I had packed it in. Then I was a goner.

I surveyed my apartment. It was small, but it was mine. I got a thrill. I was on my own, truly on my own. And it was quiet.

Even though the thing I wanted to do the most at the moment was play, I knew that there was a good chance I’d get lost in it and lose track of time. I really needed to unpack, so that I wouldn’t be scrambling to look for my clothes and toothbrush and other necessary items in the morning. I also needed to figure out which bus I needed to take to get to the location for the upcoming round of the competition next week since I was so used to coming across the Bay from my parents’ place near Berkeley.

My excitement dipped as nervousness rose in my chest, squeezing my heart painfully. No, no, no. The last thing I needed right now was a panic attack. Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that the next round of the competition wasn’t for another week. I had plenty of time to practice. And now I could practice on my own, without Mark or my parents interrupting to tell me what I was doing wrong. This move was a good thing, I told myself. It was going to help.

I set about distracting myself with my unpacking. I hadn’t brought much—unlike my sister with her closet overflowing with colorful clothes, I had a rather small, extremely versatile wardrobe. Black went with everything, after all. After I had hung everything up, I was pleased to see that I still had plenty of room in my closet. Despite not having anything else I needed to put in there, it was still nice to know I had space if I needed it.

The closet door had a full-length mirror, making it hard to avoid my reflection when it was closed. My hair had come loose during my unpacking, so I quickly smoothed it back into its usual bun—the most efficient way to style my long black hair. I also didn’t mind the way it made my eyes look bigger, though my dad always joked that I couldn’t change that no matter what.

“You look like one of the things in the Gremlins movies,” he would always say. “But the cute one.”

In the mirror, I noticed that my loose black shirt was covered in dirt, which I brushed away, making sure none had gotten on my black pants. Getting dressed was easy when everything matched, which was good, since I had a tendency to hit snooze on my alarm more than I should. My quick and easy morning routine was the only thing that kept me from being late for rehearsal every day.

There was a small dresser in the closet where I put my few foldable items, mostly pajamas and lingerie. It was the one piece of my wardrobe that had any color. I was a fan of pretty lacy things, just not of showing them off. Even when I had been with Mark, I had only shown him my more conservative bras and panties. Somehow, I had sensed that he wouldn’t have approved of the more . . . interesting items I had. Those, the thigh-high stockings, push-up bras, and silken thongs, were carefully arranged in my top drawer. It was a part of myself that I never felt like sharing. But a part that I really liked indulging. I had a hard time passing up La Perla or Agent Provocateur lingerie. My unofficial motto was: when in doubt, buy panties. I seemed to be buying a lot of panties these days.

I unloaded the box that held my meager collection of electronics—my phone charger, which I immediately plugged in right next to my bed to charge my phone, and my second-hand laptop, which I mostly used to watch classical performances. Next I took out the bedding, placed the extra set in the closet and made my bed, which at the moment consisted only of a mattress on the floor. There was no way a bedframe could possibly fit in this apartment. But I didn’t mind. I liked how cozy it all was. And how it was all mine. And if I wanted to sleep on a mattress on the floor, well, then I was going to sleep on a mattress on the floor.

The sun was beginning to set, so I took my first shower in my new apartment and was thrilled to find that the water pressure was strong and the water was steadily hot. The city outside was still awake, lights on in every house on the block across from mine, but I found I liked the darkness of my apartment—it made it feel even cozier. I put on my favorite silk cami and short set—a recent splurge—and sat down at my piano. The first notes echoed beautifully in the room and I soon lost myself in the music.