Dee always maintained that she never listened to music. She liked to say she hadn’t ever bought a cassette or a CD or owned an iPod or downloaded music to the computer or turned on the radio. Music is distracting, listening to it is like a boring assignment, she said. An unnecessary accompaniment to household chores, the discord doesn’t allow you to concentrate. You should not take this to mean Dee was averse to a social life, or that she was unfriendly. Quite the opposite, really. She had close friends and not-so-close friends, she had fun at parties, she could be interesting and charming. Sometimes, she watched videos of babies reacting to music: crying as their parents played them Tchaikovsky, their lips trembling and their eyes bulging; swinging to the call of the saxophone; nodding and bumping along to things their parents called lilting melodies.

At times, it was a bit strange, when others spoke of a favourite album, or artist, or a song that brought back memories of childhood. Dee knew numerous songs though, in over twenty-five years of coexisting with people’s eccentric tastes. She had ended up learning the words to many of these songs—popular, obscure, loud, and old songs. She recited them, without inflections in her voice, the beginning, middle, and end all coming out of her mouth in the same way. No rise or dip could be detected in her tone.

Dee’s boyfriend, whom she decided to date because music wasn’t one of his conversation starters when they first met, listened to music all the time. At work, while cooking, or while doing the dishes, even if Dee tried telling him that the sound of running water was noisy enough, he didn’t have to add a song to the cacophony. She suspected he believed something was wrong with her, but he may have been too nervous to ask. He was one of those people who claimed life was colourless without the beauty of music. She found this out when it was too late, and it disappointed her. She let it go, and took to grinding her teeth when he insisted on disrupting the quietness of the car during their long drives.

A long time ago, Dee’s parents had taken her to a neuroscientist, whose office was also a laboratory, located in a corridor of a university building where natural light never reached. He had tested her, he had studied her responses, her answers, her pulse, her irritation. He had pronounced her normal, after all of that. And even given her money for her participation (her mother spent the money).

Dee eventually had a baby with the music-lover, once she convinced herself he could be tolerated (he was funny and helpful, and not a bad person at all). Their baby, they thought, was the best of both of them—silky hair and dimples and tiny eyes, cheerful and quick to laugh. The kind of baby that strangers wanted to pinch and cuddle. The kind of baby who bobbed to nursery rhymes, tapped her foot to hiphop, squealed at the sound of the cello. Dee saw that the child would grow into another music-lover, headphones an extension of herself, attending concerts and performances with a serious face. Dee wondered if she should take her baby to the neuroscientist, who was still performing experiments in the dingy labyrinth where she first met him.

Prompt #1: What if music didn’t exist?

Prompt #2: Gregarious (character trait)


10 thoughts on “Tuneless

  1. Even when reading as fiction, there is something unrelatable about people who dont like music.

    Forget people who dont like music in general. I have scant regards for anyone who finds illayarajas music boring or old fashioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked how you presented your MC – not simply that she didn’t appreciate music, but that to her it was nonsense, even an affliction. Her resignation when she found out her partner actually liked music gave me a giggle. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

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