A to Y: Yore

Sam couldn’t believe their luck. Not only was the bagpipe set a minimal part of the museum exhibit, and not only did they have to pick it up them self, and not only were they given the whole thing in one piece in nothing but a plastic bag from a grocery store, but they missed the last bus of the night.

They collapsed on the bench and the bagpipes sighed in their lap. They knew they could call a cab, or just walk, but they decided they needed to take a break before they could bear taking another step. The expensive, giant, useless instrument was heavy and awkward to carry, and Sam just wanted to throw it on the ground and dig their heels into it. It was only going to be in the museum to show a modern set of bagpipes as compared to the ancient set in the “Instruments of Yore” exhibit. It wasn’t even important. There wasn’t even any history.

Sam closed their eyes and held their head in their hands, their elbows joining the tangle of pipes and plaid in their lap. When they finally raised their eyes they nearly screamed in surprise—a man was sitting next to them, a disheveled man with clothes that matched the bagpipes and skin nearly as black as Sam’s (though, very few people are as dark as Sam). Sam fought the urge to run. The man smiled, and his mouth smelled like the subway.

“I was wondering if you were alright, Ma’am,” the man said. “Are you alright?”

Sam nodded, not quite looking in his eyes.

“Is that a bagpipes?” he asked. He must be fifty, maybe sixty, Sam thought. Sam was barely twenty. They searched for another person, for help, but the two of them were alone on the darkening street.

“It’s for a museum,” Sam said, and their voice cracked. They tried to keep their face neutral but weren’t sure how they were doing. The man kept his hands folded in his lap, but somehow that scared Sam more.

“Mind if I play it?” the man asked. “I used to play; my mom bought me one when I was little.”

Sam handed him the bagpipes, and his grimy fingers grazed their wrist. Sam couldn’t imagine telling their boss that they let a strange homeless man play the museum’s bagpipes. They didn’t care at the moment, as long as the man didn’t try to touch them.

The man played pretty well. Better than Sam expected. Amazing, even. They played a jumpy dance tune for nearly five minutes, his hands squeezing the fabric and adjusting the pipes as he went. It seemed like he may go on forever, which Sam may not have minded, but he suddenly succumbed to a coughing attack. The coughs were wet, violent.

“Sorry,” he said, between hacks louder than gunshots. “Pneumonia, I think. Thank you, Ma’am. That took me back.” He was smiling with smelly teeth. “See you around.”

The man left. Played a beautiful song and left. Sam made it back to the museum and even had time to arrange the bagpipes behind the display glass. In the end, though it was scary, they were glad they had met the Bagpipe Man. Now, in the halls of sculptures and crowns, even the useless modern bagpipes in the “Instruments of Yore” had a bit of history to them.

A to N: Nutella

Bonnie ran her fingers through her fully straightened hair. Flatter, longer, darker. It made her face seem bigger. Fatter…she pinched her cheeks, then the skin around her ribs, then the ring of fat pushed up by her tight jeans. Freshman fifteen? Not…already, right?

She got so close to the mirror her nose touched it, and changed her focus to her face. Skin so light you could see through it, so starchy white her teeth looked yellow. Blackheads across her nose and chin, a sizable red spot above her right eye. The way her mouth drooped, the closeness of her eyes, the bushiness of her eyebrows. She prodded and stretched her skin, her hair. She coated her face in moisturizer. She sat, exhausted and disgusted.

She could have at least fixed her eyebrows, if she had remembered to pack tweezers.

Sam wouldn’t be home for awhile yet, probably. Bonnie glanced at the door, then tip toed to Sam’s side of the room with a dancer’s lightness and began poking around in Sam’s make up. There wasn’t a lot, it was mostly for her hair, which was short, jet black, and startlingly obedient compared to Bonnie’s stubborn locks. Tweezers, tweezers…Sam had to have tweezers, her eyebrows were always perfect.

The door handle clicked, and Bonnie leapt across the room to her side, searching frantically for something to do. She picked up the lotion and squirted some in her hand.

“Hey,” said Sam, in her uniform for the museum where she had been working since halfway through high school. It was a much longer commute now, but as an art history major it seemed silly to quit. She looked exhausted but beautiful all the same, much like how she always looked.

Bonnie said hi, watching Sam with stiff curiosity. They hadn’t had time to bond much since move in about two weeks ago, with Sam working all the time and Bonnie trying to keep herself occupied, but now here they were together, both awake at a reasonable hour, though it was dark.

Sam fell onto the bed face down and groaned into the pillow.

“You’ll never believe what just happened,” Sam said, reaching into the food drawer and pulling out a jar of Nutella and a spoon. “Seriously, I barely believe it happened.”

Bonnie finished putting on the second layer of moisturizer and hopped into her bed, opposite Sam. Sam was very much the opposite of Bonnie in appearance: very dark skin, spotless complexion, short hair, an hourglass figure that made Bonnie’s thickening boyish body seem even uglier.

“I had to pick up bagpipes for the museum—which is crazy enough,” Sam began, eating the Nutella like ice cream. “But whatever. So I’m on my way, I miss the bus, I’m pissed. And this old guy sits next to me, and just starts like, swear to God, playing my bagpipes!”

Bonnie’s face flushed. There’s no way that happened…had Sam seen her dancing? Did the RA from the floor below tell Sam that Bonnie was being disruptive? Bonnie laughed with Sam, decided to play it by ear. Maybe, just maybe, this ridiculous and coincidental story happened to be true.

“Hey, mind if I borrow your tweezers?” Bonnie asked after listening to Sam’s story.

“Oh, sure.” Sam dug around in the makeup and hair products and produced a black set of tweezers. “You can just use them if you want, you don’t have to ask about tweezers. Tweezers should be a fundamental right, in my opinion.”

“Sure,” Bonnie said. “Thanks.”

She rose the tweezers to the top of her eyebrow.

“Whoa! Hey,” Sam said, bounding across the room. “Mind if I help you out?”

“Not at all.”

Sam taught Bonnie plucking techniques, how to only pluck from the bottom unless in a dire emergency, how to find the arch angle by laying a pencil across your nose, how to tell where the borw should begin and end based on the size of one’s eyes.

“There you go!” Sam said as Bonnie finished her right side. Half pretty, Bonnie thought. Amazing what a difference those little hairs could make. “Hey, I like your hair like this. It must have taken awhile, no?”

“Yeah, quite awhile.” Bonnie sighed. “I wish I had nice, natural hair like you do.”

“You do,” Sam said, then quickly, “Hey, um, can I talk to you about something?”

“Sure?”

“I kinda go by ‘they,’” Sam said, mixing around the Nutella with the spoon. “Not ‘her.’ If like, that’s okay I’d rather you call me by ‘they.’”

“’They,’” Bonnie repeated. “Sure, Sam, no problem. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Sam shrugged, then reached into their bag and pulled out a jar of Nutella. “Wanna be a classic college kid with me?”

Bonnie smiled, but her hand went to her side, grabbing at her skin.

“Oh, shut up, Skinny,” Sam said, smiling. They jumped up and grabbed a spoon out of their top drawer, tossing it at Bonnie. “Come on, let’s bond.” Sam patted their bed, and Bonnie sat beside them.

Bonnie scooped the Nutella into her mouth. Delicious, sugary, fattening…oh well. She needed a friend more than a pretty body. They talked for hours, until the Nutella jar was empty and their bellies were full. They talked and talked, and soon Bonnie began to loosen up.

“I tell you what,” Sam said. “You ought to start dancing again if you miss it so much.”

“Well. If I agree to dance again, will you agree to take that drawing class next semester?”

“That’s barely fair! That’s a lot of money for a drawing class.”

“But you want to, right?”

Sam twisted their mouth up, scratched their chin. “You got it, Bon. I’ll draw, you dance.”

“Deal.” They clicked their spoons together.