Brio walked down the icy alleyway, with melodies ringing through his head. As he danced onto the sidewalk, he took no notice of the trash cans lining the alley. While making his way to the local high school, he felt he could hear a saxophone on every street corner. The most joyous smile lit up his face upon seeing an old man with a harmonica. The man’s fingertips poked through his black woolen gloves and his earlobes, which showed from beneath a cap, were red with cold. Next to the old man was a damp cardboard box with jagged edges and “tips” scrawled across it with marker. Brio paused with his hands in his pockets to listen for a few seconds and then pulled out three crumpled dollar bills and placed them into the bottom of the cardboard box beneath some change to prevent the wind from lifting them away. As he turned onto the next street the notes of the harmonica continued ringing through his head.
He hummed along all the while and didn’t care to stop even once he was in the vicinity of other students just arriving at school for the day. In response, they only glanced at him briefly; everyone had become accustomed to his unashamed enthusiasm for music.
As Brio walked towards his homeroom, he made a point of rapping his knuckles on locker 342. Although it was his designated locker, he hadn’t opened it since the beginning of the year. There was nothing to use it for: he carried around his book bag from class to class and didn’t have a bulky winter coat to store away. Still, he had made a habit out of knocking on number 342 every morning. The metallic sound his knuckles had made against the locker began to loop in his mind to create a beat. As he shrugged his book bag off of his shoulders and took his seat in homeroom, he tapped his worn out sneakers to the locker beat and waved his fingers to the harmonica melody that no one else could hear. Today the music playing in his head matched up almost perfectly with the bell ringing to signal the start of first period.
Brio stood up with the impromptu music running through his thoughts. He stepped out of homeroom still humming until he found himself in his first class: history. For the first half of the period, Ms. Jones had a one-sided conversation with the class concerning the Persian Gulf War. Brio played melodies inside his head in the background of her lecture. After about fifteen minutes he added in a bit of percussion by quietly tapping his fingers on his desk, earning himself a sideways glare from the girl next to him.
Halfway through the class he was jerked out of his sonic daydream as everyone jumped to get to the limited number of computers along the border of the room. Most likely, Ms. Jones had just assigned them a research project and given them the rest of the period to begin working on it. Now he had lost the chance to use one of the computers, but he simply shrugged and scanned the wooden bookshelf for a textbook to use in the meantime. Settling back down at his desk with the textbook, Brio continued with his humming and tapping.
In his peripheral vision he noticed Nate, a scrawny boy with hair that constantly hung in front of his eyes. Nate was hunched over his desk with a textbook and a pencil in hand. Behind him, two other boys were nudging each other, gesturing toward Nate, and laughing silently enough that Ms. Jones didn’t raise her eyes from the tests she was grading. This was becoming a routine, and an infuriating one at that. One of the boys ripped off a corner of his blank sheet of loose leaf paper and crushed it into a wad with one hand. While checking repeatedly to make sure the other boy was watching him, he launched it at the back of Nate’s head. Brio saw Nate take a breath and noticed his shoulders sag as he turned around to face the other boys.
“What?” Nate’s voice had an annoyed tone yet it lacked any force. It was as if he had barely mustered the energy to push the word past his lips.
The boys laughed in response. “Nothing, nothing,” one of them brushed aside the question. After Nate turned back to his textbook, the two boys continued to stare blankly at their papers and laughed senselessly on intervals, always looking to each other for some sort of approval. Brio shook his head, and suddenly became aware that the music in his head had gone silent. He stood up abruptly, but the bell rang and Nate was quick to escape the classroom without bothering to put his textbook away. The two boys sauntered out of the classroom, still laughing amongst themselves.
Brio shook his head again and picked up both his textbook and the book abandoned on Nate’s desk. After pushing both books back into their designated spots on the bookshelf, Brio headed out of the classroom and thought distractedly about Nate and the two boys throughout math and chemistry. Later, as he headed toward the cafeteria for lunch he remembered that he had already spent his money listening to the old man with the harmonica this morning. He wheeled around to head towards the band room instead, his mind still void of the usual music. Brio turned the corner to see none other than Nate, sitting in the hallway and humming to himself while finishing up the math homework that had been due that day.
Nate looked up and quickly stopped humming.
“I love that song!” Brio smiled and took a seat next to Nate. “Have you heard their new album? I thought it was great.”
Nate brushed his hair away from his eyes and allowed a smile to brighten his face as he agreed enthusiastically.