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Music blocked out the world, but from my perspective, music echoed in my cold loneliness. I needed it to think and breathe. Without music I couldn't get through my day. Life would throw lemons at me, and I hated plain lemonade; my life felt dull and dark. That dependency on music failed to let me live the life I was missing out on, adventures that would melt the loneliness, a future with a warm colorful exciting life. Sneaking out at night, driving until the gas was empty, blasting music with my hair waving wildly in the wind. Moments of my life I will keep as my greatest treasure. Maybe if I tugged those headphones off sooner I would’ve noticed a symphony next to me; I was missing out on a symphony that is all my own.

Smelling the rich ground coffee beans brewed into hot caffeinated coffee drinks called out by the barista; the belly laughter of my friends drown out the droning loud crackling of the espresso machine next to me. I always wondered why we chose that table. One of my friends, Q, shuffled the playing cards. We would fake gamble using pennies and dimes, passing the hours waiting out the rain with damp clothes on our backs. I heard the faint songs playing in the background of the coffee shop. I knew I'd see them in the morning but the "goodbye" and "get home safe” as we all parted ways caused the cold loneliness to creep back in. Tomorrow just felt so distant.

I remember the speaker blasting loud music next to me, the cold metal benches, and skateboard wheels snapping against the cold concrete of the skate park, where skaters flipped boards mid-air, doing trey flips, and 360s with beaten-up vans. Monster cans hissed open with stubby black fingernails, the chains around their necks clinked together as they rode over the ramps. Those skaters were my best friends. We would hang out for hours even when the weather was blistering cold. Especially my friend Maddie; we would sit on those freezing benches talking for hours until we couldn’t feel our faces.

Car rides blasting music with Ash and I screaming the lyrics together, driving to the mall, searching for our next photoshoot setting, even exploring abandoned buildings covered by colorful graffiti tags. In my government class with my bestie, Emma, our laughter echoed down the halls as we skipped hand-in-hand together on the way to lunch. At sleepovers, we would sneak out on bikes to the railroad tracks to watch passing trains, feeling the wheels shake the earth around us with loud repetitive thumping. We'd dance to loud music, breathing that cold winter air under a cloudy sky with pockets of stars peeking through, and our shadows in the yellow streetlights struggling to keep up. I'd give anything to experience that one night all over again.

I take this symphony to golden memory, where once it was sad, silent, and melancholy, where it felt so uncomfortable without music in my ear - I couldn’t stand hearing my own breathing. Where I stayed in my room passing the time by reading books or binging TV, where my friends felt fake. That silent, melancholy life was erased; this symphony, an explosion of warm, lively color has my phone ding all day and night, and I’m going out every day enjoying the bright sky and the warm sun on my face with friends I call family.

Removing those headphones, I hear the voices of familiar faces, life-long friendships, calling me. All their colorful eyes on me, rib-bending tight hugs, toothy grins, and joyful voices saying “Hi” and “How are you?” The old me would’ve been overwhelmed or vexed. Now that I’m melted from the ice, I can't help but smile in the warmth that thawed me out of a glacier of loneliness. I'm confident and stronger than I've ever been; instead of playlists on Spotify, I listen to a symphony with my life-changing best friends. A symphony that is all my own.

© Karry Williams. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.