Slightly Off Key: Bonding Over Music

It was a bright, sunny, spring day in 2005 when two girls converged on the same dorm room at Overton College. They were both there for a sort of “camp” which gave the options of more school and study tips or a chance to try out careers for the week. “Career,” thought Emma. Everything about it seemed terrible. After all, she was only 16- well 15 soon to be 16- but who was counting. “I’ll just figure it out when I get there,” she continued thinking as her roommate began to unpack.

For a while, the girls unpacked in silence. Each was waiting for the other to speak first. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Emma caught the other girls eye and introduced herself. “Hey. I’m Emma.” The girl stopped dead in her tracks with that “deer in headlights” look on her face. Emma would have to remember this. “Don’t put her on the spot,” she reminded herself. She paused, turned around, and stammered “ I- I’m Leigh,” “how are you?” “Ok. I guess,” Emma replied. She hadn’t put too much thought into it. But, then again, there never seemed to be too much thought about anything with Emma. “How about you?” she asked.

Sorry about last night. I didn’t mean to be so short with you. Also, that T.V. thing, I know you didn’t mean anything by it. I was just tired.


Another long pause followed. This time, the answer did hold as many nerves as the first one did. “Fine.” Another long break followed this statement. One in which Emma waited for Leigh to continue. You know, maybe apologize for the shortness of the response she had given. But, there was no apology, at least not now anyway.

That night, after a tedious day of orientations, and a less than average dinner in the cafeteria- which was way larger than the one in either of their high schools- the girls retire to their dorm.

Emma grabs the remote and tries to figure out the T.V. Leigh notices in mild surprise. “How can she just assume I want to have the T.V. on?” she thought. Now, Leigh wasn’t trying to be prudish- after all, she came from a family with three siblings in it. She knew that this could happen. She just wished it wasn’t happening right now.

Leigh looked in the general direction of the T.V. which was on now, although the volume was almost on mute. Then at her new roommate. Emma looked up and registered the look on Leigh’s face which said “well,” and paused. “Weren’t you going to ask first?” Leigh continued, this time out loud. “Ask what?” Emma answered. Leigh sat down next to Emma at the foot of her bed and kept going “if I minded whether or not the T.V. was on or if I wanted to watch?” Emma waits for a tick to make sure that is it and asks “so, do mind if I watch?”

Leigh gets up and goes to her crappy bed to lay down. The T.V. finally goes off at what had to be 2 maybe 3 AM- and Leigh nods back to sleep. The next day, the girls don’t see much of each other. Leigh had chosen to “hone her writing skills” as her mother had put it to her when she was dutifully filling out the application. Although let’s face it, this was one of those things where pretty much everyone that “applies” is accepted.

When they do see each other again, it is after Emma found a note on her desk from Leigh that read: sorry about last night. I didn’t mean to be so short with you. Also, that T.V. thing, I know you didn’t mean anything by it. I was just tired.-Leigh

Leigh inches closer to the door so she can enter the room. Emma turns to see the doorknob doing the same. She takes three steps, puts her hand on the turning knob, and pulls Leigh into the room.

Leigh looks at the note which is still in Emma’s hand and tries to take a step back but upon seeing Emma’s face, decides not to, stating “everything okay?” “Yeah, we’re good. Thanks for the note.” “No problem. I owed you an apology.” There were lots of things that Emma could have said; instead, she put the note back down on the desk and turned to face her bed and then the window.

Leigh watches and waits for the opportune time to say something. “You hungry?” is all she can muster as her stomach growls loud enough to get Emma’s attention. It almost makes her erupt with laughter too. “Yeah, sure let’s go.” Emma manages through giggles.

That night over dinner, a friendship begins to blossom. The girls start bonding over music. “Wait, you like that? Isn’t that like 40 years old?” Emma asks upon finding out that Leigh likes some song “Riders on the Storm.” Leigh retorts “yeah, so, what do you like?”

Perched on Emma's bed, the girls excitedly scroll through her iPod. “Smooth,” “Temperature,” “Clocks,” and “Milkshake” flash in front of Leigh's face. “So, did you…” Emma starts to ask. “Did I like them?” Leigh finishes. “Yeah, I guess they were okay.” “How did you know that was what I wanted to know?” Emma asks. “Other than the fact that it's the logical question?” Leigh retorts.

“Oh, I guess it is,” mutters Emma, retreating a little. It always happens like this when Leigh tries to make anything that comes close to an assertion in conversation. “I’m sorry,” mumbles Leigh in reply. “It’s okay; you’re right.” Leigh turns her head to face Emma and says “you look like you have something to say.” Emma turns away from Leigh just as she can start to feel tears start streaming down her face.

Leigh gets “that feeling” in the pit of her stomach. She scoots over on her bed and reaches out her hand to try and console Emma. It stayed there, outstretched for what seemed like forever (at least to two 15-year-olds).

Finally, through tiny sobs, Emma asks- confusedly-without turning her head “is it still there?” Leigh replies steadily “yeah still here.” “Why?” Emma questions. “I want you to know that I am here for you no matter what.”


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