Music Collections – A Polished Personal Response (Visual)


PROMPT: What do these texts suggest to you about the ways in which individuals deal with the
uncertainties of the past? (January 2015)

*I responded to the above visual titled “Dislocations” by Alex Webb.


Music Collections

Anne does not remember the first day she lay eyes on him. In fact, she can hardly remember the structure of his voice or the way his hands felt when they wrapped around hers. No – she only remembers the sound of his laugh and the music that would play in the back of her mind. Carnival music. The sound of merry-go-rounds and games…


But with every divine rise of jubilant organ trills and upbeat fiddles, Anne would only be reminded of the love game she made him play. They both lost.


She was the type of girl who liked people for herself – that is, she would form connections with people who would let her drown in the blissful music of human connection until she became deaf to the hurt she inflicted. She collected people like she collected records, and the most beautiful sounding of relationships she would add to her collection.


The boys she collected never stayed in her mind. She would have to seek music in other people until she was able to find it herself.


It was the summer of 2003, her third year of university, when she added yet another boy to her steadily growing collection of failed relationships. This boy was not particularly interesting, at first; she was only dating him for the car he drove and for the dates he took her on. Both of which made her become lost in the carnival music of make believe.


He was nice, she thought at the time.


She remembers the kind eyes, the soft hands. The jackets of his she wore, the daffodils he bought her, and the cologne he seemed to bathe in. How every time he thought she would break up with him he would get this look of accepting the inevitable – how his brows would furrow slightly and the smallest of sighs would escape from his tired lungs. Tired. She now realizes she made him tired. Tired of waiting to be cast away like the long line of other collector’s items.


When carnival music started to replace the broken beats of her heart, even long after she cast him and his symphony away, she realized she must have loved this boy.


Other days she built a soundproof wall around her chest in an attempt to get rid of the nagging music streaming into her ears – to get rid of all the feelings she had and the regrets that came with them. The feelings made her think about what could have been if she hadn’t broken every violin string between them in the name of adding a masterful sonata to her collection of brokenness.


Here, now, at the age of 31, Anne sits at a splotchy bench watching her daughter line up at a Ferris wheel that must have been 50 years old. She remembers it here, and she remembers the car that he drove to take her here, 14 years ago. The Beethoven that played over the car stereo as she thought about leaving him.  


She looks over at the ride where they shared their first kiss and wonders what his lips look like now. The ride that goes backward with a high pitched wail was the last ride they rode before Anne broke up with him – too afraid of the unfamiliar song that moved to the rhythm of her palpitating heart.


Occasionally, in between watching her daughter and their friends, Anne would snatch a glimpse at the ride, viewing empty seats and hearing no familiar hum of the machinery or the carnival music.  It seemed to scream the past to her – beckoning her to it with a silhouette of the boy she once loved in the seat near the front. She could see his bare feet sticking out from the edge of the car, almost beckoning to her, saying, “Look at how you left me.”


She stood up and started toward the figure of the past, but something in her brain told her to sit back down. Her heart was performing a dislocation, of sorts – wanting to run toward what once was and being hindered by both logic and the knowledge that the past was behind her.


There it was again, she could hear it. The only song she remembered from her collection – a jumbled mess of organ notes and violin strings, coming together to make a beautiful and broken masterpiece that hammered her heart and shattered her skull.


Suddenly, she was cut from her reverie and the image of the bare feet by her daughter:


“Hello? Mom. We’ve been ready to leave for five whole minutes.”


Anne shut off the carnival music playing in her head and peeled her eyes away from the figure lying lazily in the car of the abandoned ride.


“Oh – I’m sorry. I must have been caught in a daze. Let’s go then.”


As she grasped the shoulder of her 13-year-old daughter and started to turn in the opposite direction, her daughter turned her gaze toward what her mother had been looking at and noticed the abandoned ride.


“Who is that? He  keeps staring at you.”


Anne looked over at the carcass of metal and locked her eyes with a kind pair of a stranger’s.  He had his right hand wrapped around a bouquet of daffodils and was leaning beside a blonde woman around Anne’s age who was tending to a toddler. The man locked eyes with Anne, looked at the abandoned ride, and disappeared into the crowd with the blonde. Her breath hitched with the sight of a leather jacket and the faraway sound of a Beethoven symphony laugh.


“He’s – I don’t know. What a strange person.”


Anne turned away from the ride, and passed a rugged sign that read “THIS RIDE IS OUT OF SERVICE.” In spite of herself, she hummed a slight carnival tune, but it sounded somber and mournful. Eventually, she forgot the notes to the song as her daughter began explaining how her friend Sarah had ruined her day by refusing to share her game tickets.


As the exit to the amusement park neared, Anne found it got harder and harder to remember what song had been stuck in her head. Perhaps she would look through her record collection when she got home to find another song to replay over and over in her mind.

She would have to find something without organs and fiddles, she thinks.



THEME STATEMENT: How an individual – when confronted with a past uncertainty or regret – will ignore the uncertainty for the sake of the future.

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4 thoughts on “Music Collections – A Polished Personal Response (Visual)

  1. Dear Carmen,

    Wow! I absolutely loved this piece. I had never read any of your creative pieces, but this is incredible. I felt that your writing clearly reflected the prompt/visual, as well as the theme statement that you provided. Your use of imagery to invoke an understanding, the feeling of an observer rather than a mere reader, made me want to keep reading. I enjoyed the musical element of it and thought that it really added to the creativity of the piece.

    My only piece of advice would be to weave in words from the prompt, such as uncertainty, a bit more to make your point clearer (although I do recognize how this is difficult without sacrificing some of the natural flow of your writing).

    Thanks for posting this! You will do great on your diploma.



  2. Dearest Carmen,

    Oh, how you never realize you need something in your life until it comes barreling back towards you. This is precisely how I feel about your creative pieces – I forgot just how much your simplistic yet so in depth stories could both move and inspire me. I failed to notice how much your words bury themselves into my skin, leaving me itching for more… Being in only AP together, as opposed to creative writing and AP ELA like last year, this has been strikingly obvious to me and I wish I could experience both once again. However, no matter how unfortunate this (conflicting timetable induced) turn of events is, I instead receive the privilege and full experience of the more analytical parts of you. And so, it feels refreshing to receive more of this experience even in your creative personal response here.

    First off, I thoroughly enjoyed how you tied in the constant motif of music and descriptive words to continue this theme in both the past and present. I was able to understand that her mind, at least for this fleeting moment, was getting stuck in the past and warping the world around her, resurrecting her memories. Along with your words I was able to form a vivid picture in my head of these specific memories.

    What I also find so intriguing about this piece is how easy it is to connect to Anne because her story can be applied to humanity itself. This also proves you are answering the prompt to an excellent degree in which will surely prove to be successful. While not everyone has experienced a situation like Anne, they have certainly experienced her feelings – going back to a place which holds significance in one’s heart, as the memories in their mind replay in front of them like a movie. This is the feeling of longing, of remembrance and of pain striking your heart once you realize there is never going back to that moment.

    You can’t forget experiences like these no matter how hard you try. I love the closure Anne feels at the end. It serves as reassurance to anyone who reads this that it is okay to look back at your past while ultimately letting go. Anne isn’t ever going to forget her relationship with this boy and how it made her feel, but it helped her grow to be who she is and allowed her to continue her path into the future.

    Thank you for choosing to post this Carmen! I can’t say it enough in my comments to you – I am so blessed to have gotten to work with you for the past two years. I don’t know where my writing would have gone today if you weren’t here to help guide me… From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.



    P.S – Nevermore.

  3. Dear Carmen,
    I typically never ever pick visuals as I struggle to articulate a well thought out story such as this. However, you are the type of person who can pull this off with such ease and grace that it leaves me envious.
    To begin, I immediately noticed and also enjoyed how you were able to weave the theme and idea of music into just about every image in this piece. The line that caught me the most was, “Beethoven symphony laugh’ as it requires the audience to not only have the ability to picture the story in their head, but also to have a background in music. For those who don’t understand, by looking it up online they can find the music and immediately imagine the scene you are trying to portray.
    The only improvement that I could find, and agree with, is the need to perhaps articulate vocab that reflects the prompt’s questions more directly, as to really demonstrate that these two pieces are 100% connected.
    Amazing piece Carmen!

  4. Carmen,

    You used a very unique structure in this, and I personally really liked it. You broke everything up into tiny little paragraphs, each of them reflecting a different thought of the narrator’s. I found that this made the story very easy to read, as it allowed the plot to progress quickly and gave the reader a quick glimpse into the narrator’s inner thoughts. What really stood out to me about this personal response was the rather poetic tone that you had. Even though they were only short statements, lines such as “blissful music of human connection” and “masterful sonata of brokenness” really stood out to me and drew me into the story. With this being a personal response, I found it easy to make connections between the visual and what you wrote. In some cases, the connections that people make are either too literal or too vague, but I found that you had just the right balance between the two.

    In order to make this personal response even better, I would suggest that you use more of the wording from the prompt you had. While I could understand the connection between the story and the prompt, I feel that just in order to make the connection to the prompt more obvious, that you could use words such as “uncertainty” or “past” more often.

    – Genevieve

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