UNHEARD written by Joyce Martin Perz January 1, 2016
Her eyes sparkled when she heard a bird sing. The corners of her mouth turned up when rain tapped a delicate cadence on her polka dot umbrella.
One October morning she stood perfectly still, listening to a sonata played by the wind through dry leaves. That, however, proved to be a mistake.
Melody Fortissimo failed to hear an approaching school bus that smacked her into a hedge full of sparrows.
Melody Fortissimo was unconscious.
She missed the usual flurry of activity surrounding such an event. Her eyes were closed. The corners of her mouth turned down in a way that suggested a scowl. She was unaware that the para-medics braced her neck and put her in an ambulance.
Melody Fortissimo was unconscious.
She slept for thirty days and thirty nights. Melody later said she’d seen doctors and nurses moving about her room. And she claimed to have heard her Aunt Irina curse at her bedside saying, “You are a very, very stupid girl.”
Melody did not speak of the lovely tenor voice of an orderly, who serenaded her each evening.
Melody Fortissimo got better. She left the hospital. Her Aunt Irina sued the school district that owned the bus that struck Melody and put her in the hospital.
The lawyer got a third of the settlement (after all hospital bills were paid). Aunt Irina took a third and went home to the Ukraine. Melody deposited her thirty-thousand dollars in a savings account.
What to do now?
Before her accident, Melody was studying to become a teacher. She had dreamed of sharing her love of music with young people.
After the accident, she closed the door on her studies.
Melody Fortissimo became a collector.
She bought a very expensive portable digital recorder and a sound editing program. Day and night Melody wandered the city streets, aiming her microphone at sounds she later assembled into compositions.
The sounds she collected were not bird songs or raindrops or the rustle of dry leaves.
“It is the sounds you don’t hear that change your life,” Melody explained to her friends from the university.
They shook their heads and were soon unwilling to listen to Melody’s music. If ‘music’ is what her compositions were called. The sounds she collected were a cacophony of rumbling trains, screeching brakes, horns, sirens and running feet.
Melody Fortissimo was alone.
Although she continued to be thrilled with collecting sounds and creating compositions, Melody longed to share them. She wanted someone to listen to her unheard sounds.
Melody remembered the orderly who had serenaded her in the hospital. “He will listen,” she thought.
Late one night, Melody Fortissimo went back to the hospital.
The hall lights were dimmed. Nurses spoke softly at duty stations, looked at charts and wrote notes in file folders. It was easy for her to slip past them. She gently pushed doors, opening them just enough to peek inside and see if they were occupied.
At the end of the hall, Melody found an empty room and slid under the bed covers.
Melody Fortissimo closed her eyes. She touched the ‘play’ button on her digital recorder and was immediately surrounded by her compositions of the city’s unheard sounds.
From the other side of the room came a tenor voice. The sound was more beautiful than she had remembered. Round warm tones of his abstract melody hovered delicately above the roiling noise in her compositions. The orderly listened and gave his music to her until dawn.
The nurses found Melody Fortissimo in the morning. She had died without a sound.