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In some cultures, what I do is considered normal.
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“I have an older brother and a younger sister too. Like I said, Aric’s in college in Maine, so we only see him in the summer. My little sister is Abby. She’s, like, musically gifted on top of the fact that she’s practically a genius. She’s a freak of nature.” Annaliese picked at a hangnail on her thumb. There was something comforting about the slight burning sensation it caused. Ray’s family issues made her irrational fears that her parents like Abby better because she caused them less worry seemed super trivial now.

“Sorry to hear about your brother. That must suck. And I’d suggest that we set up a play date for our little sisters, but Abby doesn’t play. It’s ‘too childish’. Like I said, freak of nature.” She winced at how lame her comments sounded.

Ray’s next question was a total track change. It came completely out of nowhere. Annaliese had to giggle, even though it seemed inappropriate to the mood. “I think I’m rubbing off on you,” she said with a hint of pride. “But, uh, yeah…. What brought me up the mountain, I still couldn’t tell you. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And then when I got most of the way there, I realized it wasn’t. Which, in the telling, makes me sound really stupid,” she admitted sheepishly.

“Once I was up there, it kind of occurred to me that I was all alone. It was not…not a pleasant feeling. “ Annaliese squirmed and started grinding the toe of her shoe in the dirt. She wasn’t sure what was making her so uncomfortable about being honest with Ray. Normally, she valued transparency in her interactions with other people. But there was something talking with Ray that forced her to reassess her sense of self. “But then I heard you singing. And it wasn’t a happy song, but it sounded…”

She shrugged again, trying to put her feelings into words. “It sounded sad but honest? Like, an honest expression of emotion. And I was drawn to that. A lot of what I’ve experienced here has been about hiding your feelings and motivations. But not your singing. So I had to find the person who was willing to be honest and open, even in this situation.”
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What Goes Up... · The Mountain