The Atrium

The clumsy melody of keyboards flickers through the ceiling. Marble stairs behind me lead to its origin, the study. The stairs are noisy too. I often hear my heart on them, sobbing that I need a break. 

When living in the dorms, I can hardly get a moment alone, not in a shared room. Studying, eating, sleeping, are all done on edge, with caution. There is no relaxing when I can hear someone, or when they can hear me; I’m reminded of myself, how separate I am, how little I understand. Being around others is the loneliest I can be. 

My refuge is a lonely ballroom with columns and piano rooms and a stage. The glass doors are locked, but getting a key is a matter of asking for one. 

The lights remain off, as long as only I’m down here. Metal-barred windows pass little light inside, only enough to see how slick the floors are. I feel the keys, earbuds, and phone twisting in my pockets and I take them out, trusting them to a solid wooden pillar’s ledge and sit down, hearing almost nothing. The little sounds are magnified. The keyboards patter their melody above. It’s so clear now. This room is proof that I can live without distraction. 

I look back at the doors – the light softly tracing through – the noisy marble stairs I came from, and I drift away from it. The light disperses on the floor. A gradient forms, and almost reaches me, but I am indistinct. I am like a piece of wood, like an atrium, a lung. My breath is a countermelody, and the silence is beautiful.

Austin Thornton is a nonbinary writer from Newberg, Oregon. At age seventeen, they began writing to explore the small tragedies of human life. One of their goals when writing is to better understand people, including themself, and to portray our contradictions as they can be felt. They are currently attempting to study English, microbiology, and assorted hobbies at Oregon State University.

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