“I hate one-sided conversations."
Dallas snickers, flinching at the sound of telltale rattling in her hands. She throws a glance around her bedroom. Is this an inappropriate time to laugh? Her Uncle Trevor once said that lonely folks talk to themselves.
“I’m not lonely,” Dallas argues with the empty room. “I wish people weren’t dumb.”
Dallas, Texas. Where her parents first met. Her father died on an operating table before she was born. Her mother relocated, affectionately calling her daughter “Dal Gal” while the girl was still young enough to crave picture books.
Her mother hasn’t called her that in years.
Dallas coughs against the painful nothingness in her throat. “So? Just a dumb nickname. I’d change my name to something pretty, if I was old enough.”
She’d change more, if she could. “Pick up the pace, Dallas,” a curvy girl in her gym class had scoffed one day. “You’re skinny as heck, running like a fat old fart.” But no matter how Dallas scrambles and puffs, she consistently lags behind most of her peers during laps and games in gym.
She almost would like to hang her math and geography grades over a few admired heads at school, to get even. “There goes Dallas, off to read books and play her trusty violin in the woods,” a comedic girl once jibed as Dallas emerged from pre-algebra class with a perfectly-scored test in one hand, her familiar black case in the other.
“It’s not a violin,” Dallas had murmured.
“Oh,” the other girl had sighed as she turned to walk off, “who cares?”
Dallas entombed her test paper in a wastebasket that day, but not before she took her routine afterschool trip to the empty orchestra room, where she regularly pours her determined, adolescent lifeblood and love into her instrument, making hours of her best intimate music, which no one ever hears.
Well, Mark heard some of the music one afternoon. Mark, who Dallas has always thought to be one of the most incredible boys in all existence, had been passing by the orchestra room and paused to poke his handsome head in. “Dallas?”
Dallas had jumped, stopped her music, and blushed. “You know my name?”
“Yeah. Kind-of a boy’s name,” Mark had said, shrugging before he disappeared.
Naturally, Mark now has a gorgeous girlfriend named Rose.
“So dumb,” Dallas whispers to her bedroom, more rattling in her hands as her shaky fingers fumble with the lid of a pill bottle.
A knock at her bedroom door makes her jolt. “Dal Gal?” she hears her mother’s voice in the hallway.
Dallas freezes. Sudden, burning tears shoot into her eyes. “M-Mom?”
“Our new neighbors are here for dinner. And their kids love music! Bring your viola, baby.”
Dallas motionlessly listens. Sure enough, she soon hears her mother addressing company downstairs.
An infinite minute passes. A few tears escape. And then a rattling bottle goes flying underneath Dallas’s bed.
She’ll go flush the pills later. Right now, humanity is waiting to hear her life.