By Abigail Roberts, year 10
Travelling with a Beat
The joyful chimes of the xylophone fit perfectly with the slow, deep beats of the drums; as Alice gently strolled past four men whose music seemed to radiate across the whole city. She smelt the aromas of spices and herbs, and the smoke that bled out of the firewood which diminished over a boiling pot of rice on a crumbling sidewalk. Distant calls from the open door of a tiny shoe shop echoed across the road, not that Alice could understand the voices of course. “Tae anak nowenea?” a busy Cambodian woman cried to her daughter who immediately scurried to serve another customer.
The atmosphere invigorated her – it was something one could never experience in Australia. She wished she could capture it in her hand. Yet, that was the thing, she thought: the point of an atmosphere is that it is not an object, it is a result of the sounds, sights and smells unintentionally created by people and objects themselves. And what created an atmosphere this unique, she thought, was music. It was the way that beats complimented each other, and the way that these beats made a place unique.
Her last day in Cambodia was deeply saddening; as she hopped on to the plane she began to miss the monks she had met, or the lively children she had cared for at the orphanage.
Her taxi driver’s accent was stronger than the pylons that held up the Eiffel Tower, which soared above the car like soldiers.
“What brings you to such a city… when you are alone?” he asked.
“Curiosity,” she replied.
She hauled her tattered leather suitcase up countless winding flights of stairs in, until she reached ‘Room 406, Hotel Saint Germain.’
After drawing the silk curtains and heaving open a rustic window, a Parisian breeze suddenly hit her, pushing her hair off her shoulders.
An evening of strolling across just another city of sounds, sights of smells invigorated Alice. She walked past passionate accordion players, pastry bakers and taste-test takers. A glowing restaurant radiating with laughter caught her eye, as she read the words, ‘Restaurant de Musique.’ As if in a trance, she walked in. A room filled with fur coats, diamond rings and twinkling champagne glasses made her look down at her denim jeans and leather jacket and cringe. She fixed her hair and wiped the mascara from under her eyes. Coughing through a cloud of cigarette smoke, she observed French women in silk dresses perched next to their husbands in black tuxedos. Alice felt eyes looking down at her from all angles, and snobby mouth’s politely whispering comments into privileged ears. The restaurant’s atmosphere resembled a 20th century first-class ball: men discussed business affairs and politics; whilst women sniggered over gossip.
A lonely piano sat in the corner collecting dust and as if it was the elephant in the room, it stood out from the rest. Alice awkwardly felt that it resembled herself. All alone, in a city that never slept – and ironically, she was all alone in an uptight yet crowded room. And out of complete curiosity; as if still in a trance in such awe of France, she slowly stepped closer and closer to the piano. She sat down, closed her eyes and played the songs she had practised for hours on end as a child. The notes flowed perfectly: the song she played was ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. She no longer cared about the intimidating eyes of the restaurant and its occupants, all she could hear was the melody she was producing. Suddenly, she opened her eyes and realised everything had stopped.
She could hear the rims of two champagne glasses tapping one another by mistake, and the sound of a knife falling off a table, banging against the ground. The silence was the loudest thing she had ever heard: she had been seen by all, all eyes were now on her. Yet they were no longer eyes of disapproval, to her surprise; but eyes of wonder and admiration. After pausing for what seemed like minutes yet was really less than a few seconds, she continued to play. The atmosphere was no longer what it was before – now it was a lively one where you’d spot the odd couple with arms around each other, waltzing to the slow notes of the piano.