This is a piece of writing I did in my senior year of high school. It’s an imitation of James Joyce’s short story “Eveline” from the collection Dubliners. I strongly recommend you to check it out if you’ve never read it! It’s not as dense as his later works such as Ulysses and has a very vivid depiction of Irish life in Dublin in early 20th century.
The Key to A Major
The girl laid her head on her chilly, hard Brazilian Rosewood desk. Outside, the rain was pouring, as if the city, too, had something to be upset about. She was restless.
She was awaiting letters from multiple colleges and, having been born with a distinguished heritage, she thought that she clearly deserved to be admitted to the best schools in the country. She let out an emphatic sigh and looked down from her two-story villa. Below were people lumbering through puddles of slimy sludge; their slack movement tired her. There was a time when she appreciated routine and consistency. Her parents used to take her to the opera every Wednesday and to the LACMA every Friday and from such excursions, she assumed that she had developed a superior taste in all music and art. But now these activities had become uninteresting and she had grown weary of the overall monotonous and dull aura of Los Angeles. Nothing happens. Nothing ever happens in this city. Not even at night. Beneath the gaudy LED signs and roaming crowds was an insubstantial world, a mirage.
She couldn’t wait to leave for college, to explore the vast unknown. She was content with her current life, certainly, but she was sure that she was capable of handling whatever lay out there, whatever lay beyond her comfortable abode. Yet, in all the vastness that constitutes the world outside L.A., her parents were fixated on a single spot in Boston: Harvard University. Ha, Harvard. What made them think she wanted to go to Harvard? Of course her parents were charmed at the idea of having its reputation bring honor to the family and of using it to boast in their circles of friends. What would they say of her at the Country Club when they found out that she had chosen Oberlin College & Conservatory over Harvard? Snicker at her naiveté, perhaps; and her parents would have to bear public humiliation for a long time, even after she left for college.
She recalled the ordeals her parents had gone through to ensure her a spot in the most prestigious university. After entering middle school, a phenomenal institution, she started meeting with private tutors for most subjects—algebra, world geography, biology, history, French and English and the SAT. She, however, never triumphed: she was too overwhelmed. She used often to burden herself with these trivialities; but usually her teachers understood her mental strain and were sympathetic when assessing her academic performance. Last summer she had done some strenuous volunteer work in Botswana; she ambled near the woods and river basins, jotting down all her meticulous observations and notes on Giraffa camelopardalis and Hippopotamus amphibius, being pleased with her own involvement in wild life preservation.
And yet, she found that experience lacking in authentic, enduring value; in all honesty, she would have rather tolerated the company of sweaty teenage musicians at Idyllwild Music Camp and played piano peacefully, for weeks, without her parents inharmoniously nagging at her to study this, study that. She would have loved to have immersed herself in the masterpieces of Beethoven and Clementi, of Chopin and Liszt, of Debussy and Ravel, of Stravinsky and Shostakovich. She had already known what her parents’ answers would be when she asked to go last summer:
—Music camp? What use is music? Nothing but artistry to entertain guests. It is not a practical allocation of your time and intelligence.
And she understood. They were a family of doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople. But to live a life of music, that was an inconceivable dream. Having been deluged with such memories, she returned to her reality, which appeared rather bleak in comparison. Now her mother was passing down instructions to the maid:
—Melissa, could you go pick up the groceries at Whole Foods and my daughter’s evening dress from the tailor’s?
Melissa mumbled a barely audible “yes, ma’am”; the girl heard the cutleries clanging and clinking as Melissa finished setting up the dinner table. The ring of the dining utensils echoed through the grand foyer, through the piano room. The reverberation reminded her of herself clicking away at the piano keys whenever her mother hosted a dinner party. Her relatives and family friends always said her playing exhibited remarkable talent and finesse, that she had an elegant poise, that her every note was replete with sentimentality, and much more, for she was fairly devoted to her instrument.
She reveled in her reminiscences. Suddenly—a thud. She dashed down the spiraling staircase to the mail slot. On the marble floor was a mound of envelopes. Isn’t this a little too thin of a lump to be acceptance letters? She tore them open with haste.
She ransacked through the pile and was met with more of the same. There were two envelopes left. These two felt more weighty to her. She unsealed the packages very carefully.
Oberlin College & Conservatory. Accepted.
A blanket of relief enveloped her shoulders. She clenched one of the letters in a firm grasp.