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The letters stretched across the page, one by one. Hurriedly they raced to fill the empty space and mark their spot. A dance of patrons hastily shuffling, filling the hallways to the red double doors of a grandiose concert hall as the lights flicker and dim announcing the second act of Lucia di Lammermoor. The letters. All the vowels and consonance, coupled with numbers, characters and punctuation, congregating in a unified formula, rising from inadequate individuals to unified words, sentences, paragraphs, erecting a monument preserved on soft, smooth, bright fibers pressed into a lone, delicate paper. The snap of each independent, raised, reversed letter attached to a long, thin, metal type-hammer, housed in a curved carriage, ready to erupt and create its own, nearly inaudible musical note, promptly lost in the symphonic elegance of a typewriter’s sonata. An incomprehensible Irish step dance of stiff upper body fused with flexible, deceptively informal fingers on a swift journey. A journey of conversation destined for a specific individual or unnamed “Whom It May Concern.”

A brown-eyed girl entranced, inspired, standing to the right of the large, green, electric machine, sitting on the kitchen table, controlled by an elegant lady, her hair short, curled, precise; she, nearly immobile, except for the fingers. Her eyes follow the letters as quickly as they appear on the page, yet they show no curiosity for what her fingers do, only the letters that expand across the page. These letters appear modernly, a rotating golfball imprinted with every character spins, presses a ribbon against the page, forms the inverted clone of a sharp, near letter… letters… words…

The girl commits, pledges a mental contract with herself... a promissory note for the adult she will become, if it be God’s will. She gives her word, to herself, that she too one day shall make her fingers fly. Her eyes will never ambush her fingers. Her fingers will glide across the keyboard like figure skating Olympians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov skated across the ice to Mendelssohn, Chopin and Mozart, and won the gold medal.

Now in high school, filled with motivation, she can hear the symphony of the keys emerging as she sits in a typing class. The record spins, crackles and skips as the male voice, which just wasn’t interesting enough for radio, echoes throughout the walls of the old classroom:

F-F-F-F space J-J-J-J space D-D-D-D space K-K-K-K space S-S-S-S space L-L-L-L space A-A-A-A space L-L-L-L space F-F space J-J space F-J space F-J-F-J space D-K-D-K

“Do not look at your hands,” the stereotypical teacher with the glasses and shoulder-length, wavy, brown, Nice ‘N Easy hair that is slowly being infested with gray demands of the students.

That would defeat the goal.

“Do not henpeck. Use all of your fingers” over the crackling monotonous record, the commonplace teacher insists as she strikes the industrial carpeted concrete with her physically inessential walking stick to the staccato pattern of A-A-A-A space D-D-D-D space K-K-K-K.

Who would do that?

“Now we will speed up the pace,” the cliched teacher utters, the rush of a worm carrying her orthopedic shoes to the record player.

Thank goodness.

Day by day. Week by week. Month by month, the brown-eyed high schooler with the long pony tail clicks in the classroom with the commonplace teacher. Fingers aching as they learn to extend in hereto unfamiliar stretches and jumps. Her eyes never glance at the keys, nor the paper. Instead, they crawl across the room, observing the deception, scrutinizing the annoyance. She speculates 90 percent of the typing inmates dismiss the instruction, giggle, flirt with shared-desk partners, cunningly lower their eyes to the keyboard, slyly exercise only their index fingers. The drained teacher with the foggy, bifocal glasses hammers the floor offensively, agonizingly, counting down the remaining days of the semester and the A-A-A-A, which has now evolved into “Jack and Jill went up the hill” and WPM counts and typing accuracy grades.

The middle-aged, brown-eyed woman sits before her computer. Her fingers sail across the keys and she remembers the little girl who watched the elegant lady’s hands create swift, purposeful characters of ink and flying metal that filled a blank page in meaningful message. She remembers the nameless teacher with the irrelevant, walking stick that beat a monotonous lifeless pulse into a dream accomplished. She remembers the oath of a little girl to herself. And she is proud.

Copyright: 2021 All Photos and text by Ivana Segvic-Boudreaux

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