Tuba

9 o’clock already, Dad’s waiting outside
Hoping he won’t notice black pools in my eyes
Pats on the back from Martin, Danny, Roxy
Creasing in their lips, thinking “rather you than me”
That night we’d seen the walls get sucked into the window
I’d filled out Lorna’s T-shirt and made the colours glow
Alice, Wonderland, VHS on repeat
“Literally” – new and original mean
At the peep of dawn we’d seen gorillas in the Levenshulme mist
Crystal clouds crashed on a ciggie mish
But the real mish had come
Run my sandpaper tongue over furry teeth
Crack back
Clap hands
And it’s done
Ten worried friendly faces observe from the gallows
Small talk never felt so big nor so shallow
I get in the car, avoid eye contact, deal with the chat, sit back and we go

Trafford Youth Concert Band, Bridgewater Hall
Last wink of sleep 30 hours before
The score was a minefield escaping my view
My tuba a life boat for me to cling to
I’m seasick and sweaty and sitting on stage
Desperately begging to reach the last page
We finally do and the ogres applaud
One third over, two parts more
I’m exhausted, my eyes refuse to stay open
Doze under stairs until sharply awoken
Rumbling claps as I mope back to base
Raise the mouthpiece cover half my face
Am I keeping in time?
Can I even play?
I mime half the notes, you know, just in case
It’s hell, it’s anguish, but I’m getting away with it
Despite performing as shit as this
We reach the last piece, to my trombone friend
I say “I don’t know if I can go through this again”
He gives me a look half puzzled, half despaired
“For part two we just had an empty chair”
“But this was part two?” Am I going mental?
I read his words as existential
“No this was part three, we did part two, but we had no tuba ’cause no one could find you!”
Guilty and embarrassed but ultimately relieved
For the first time that day I could honestly breathe
And once again in disguise I plod outside
To my waiting father who never realised
If not trying to hide the madness inside
At that exact time I could’ve broke down and cried


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