The moon is an island ...
The island of lovers, dreamers
Island, the island of poets ...
We meet up there, in the dream

- Carmen Gavrila

CHAPTER THREE: THE RECORD COLLECTOR

Soon after Emily started her senior year of high school, she decided to do something a little different. She was inspired by the Grossman Burn Center, and the special care they showed for their patients, especially the children. She wondered whether some of the younger students might need a little help in their studies, to catch up in certain subjects like English or math. So, she joined an after-school program to help tutor kids from younger grades. Something else happening for Emily at school these days was her admiration for a boy named Liam. She first noticed Liam after the teacher read a Shakespearean sonnet outloud, in their English class. When the teacher asked the students to share their thoughts about the poem, Liam was the only one who could explain the sonnet to the class. Liam got teased a little by a classmate, after he spoke to the class about the sonnet, but Liam stood up for himself in a good-natured way and even got that heckler to become his friend. Emily was impressed with Liam, but she was not yet ready to socialize with hardly anyone.

Likewise, there was also a time when Liam got impressed with Emily. It was in their history class. Their teacher, Mr. Jennings, was a stern and serious man – and a very strict teacher. He always had a solemn expression, and he rarely rewarded any student with an A on any of their school work. One day, Mr. Jennings gave the class an assignment to write a five-page paper about daily life for an Allied soldier during World War II. Emily devoted herself to the assignment, spending long hours in research at the local library. She crafted a 12-page paper describing moments of extraordinary beauty and hope amidst crushing despair. Emily earned an A+ on her paper. Rumor quickly spread throughout the classroom about Emily's impossibly-high grade from Mr. Jennings, and, soon, Liam learned about Emily's amazingly high score. Liam also observed that Emily occasionally stayed after school, to tutor younger kids. Liam wondered whether he might be able to meet her someday.

A few days after her seaside picnic with her uncle, Emily was walking down a hallway at the high school when she saw a special announcement on a bulletin board. The notice read: "The Junior Astronomer's Club meets tonight!" The club would be meeting that very night, just a few short blocks from her house, at a big parking lot next to the fairgrounds where the annual carnival always takes place. That evening, Emily walked through her neighborhood until she came to the large parking lot, where a couple dozen students were assembled. They were all holding telescopes and gazing up at the stars. Emily suddenly felt a bit embarrassed, when she realized that everyone had a telescope except for her. She had never owned a telescope, even though she always loved admiring the nighttime sky. Then, reassuringly, she heard a friendly voice, coming from right beside her at the parking lot.

"Beautiful Moon tonight, isn't it?" someone said.

Emily was startled by the question. No one had ever shared Emily's delight over the Moon with her. She turned to see who was there, and recognized that it was her classmate Liam. He was the only one in the crowded parking lot who greeted her.

"Very beautiful," Emily said.

"Here, you can borrow my telescope, if you like," Liam offered, holding up his telescope. He gently handed his telescope to Emily. She looked through Liam's telescope and beheld the Moon like never before. The craters were clearly visible, in stunning detail. While still gazing through the telescope, Emily said, "I heard that one of the biggest craters on the Moon is called Apollo. It’s named after NASA's Apollo missions."

"Hey, you're pretty knowledgeable!" Liam enthused.

Emily spoke with Liam about the Moon and astronomy in general. Then, Liam revealed that he knew about Emily's astonishing, high grade in their history class. She felt flattered that Liam knew about her achievement with the history paper, but she was so accustomed to being private, and living a solitary life, that she was also a bit startled. Emily very much enjoyed her conversation with Liam, yet she was also a little guarded, unable to be too friendly only because she was so used to people letting her down.

Then, Liam asked Emily, "Do you like poetry?"

"Yes. Why do you ask?" she calmly replied, holding back the enthusiasm she felt.

He explained, "I wrote a poem about the Moon earlier today. Want to hear it?" Liam took a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolded it, and started reading aloud, "The Moon is an island… the island of lovers, dreamers. Island, the island of poets… We meet up there, in the dream."

When Liam shared his short but very romantic poem with Emily, she felt overwhelmed. She simply wasn't ready to get close to anyone. She said goodbye to Liam, and briskly walked away. Instead of going home, Emily tearfully hiked through the forest, over to the river where she would sometimes go to find peace and solitude.

Emily sat beside the river in sorrow, hoping that Liam would forgive her for leaving so abruptly. While she sat beside by the river in the murky gray shadows of the night, she occasionally looked back toward the path which led to the parking lot where she had visited with Liam that night. Mostly, she just tearfully gazed at the river. As usual, she looked for the Moon's reflection there in the rippling water. As she stared at the shimmering moonlight on the surface of the river, Emily realized that she could see the full Moon, swelling brightly on top of the stream. It seemed to Emily like the Moon's reflection was sparkling. Wiping the tears from her face with her sleeve, Emily closed her eyes and bowed her head to rest. Slowly, she drifted into a reverie, dozing off for a moment – and a vision came to her. She could see far, faraway, into the distant depths of outer space. There, deep in the nighttime sky, she observed thousands of shining stars, radiant in their pure, milky light, and she could also hear consoling, celestial music. It sounded like countless chimes and bells performing cycles of grand, enchanting melodies. Once the vision passed, Emily opened her eyes and took a deep breath, straightening her posture with renewed strength, and the glimmer of a smile returned to her face. Meanwhile, Liam tried to enjoy himself at the Junior Astronomer's Club, but he kept finding himself putting down his telescope to look over toward the street where Emily had walked away.

A few evenings later, the yearly carnival took place, right next to the parking lot where the Junior Astronomer's Club had met. Emily decided to attend the carnival, along with her sister and her sister's friends. Once they got to the carnival that night, Emily's sister and her sister's friends played a ball-toss game without including Emily. Then, they left Emily alone at the carnival. So, she decided to stroll through all the festivities by herself in melancholy solitude. After a little while, Emily heard a pleasant voice calling out her name from nearby.

"Having fun tonight?" someone said.

Emily turned to see who had spoken to her. Standing next to a car in the parking lot, Liam smiled warmly at her.

"Liam!" Emily said. Her face brightened. "Hey, I'm sorry that I left in such a hurry the other night. I, um, I…"

Liam took a step closer and supportively told her, "Don’t worry about it."

Emily grinned and said, "To be honest, I was thinking just now that I'd rather be at home, listening to music."

"Oh, yeah?!" Liam answered, excitedly. "Same here! I'm a musician. I play in a band."

"You do?!" Emily said, impressed and intrigued.

"Yeah. I'm a guitarist."

Liam said he actually had some of his record collection right there in his car. He opened up the door to his car, and pointed at a crate sitting on the passenger seat. The crate was loaded with vinyl records. Emily joined Liam in browsing through his record collection. They had fun talking about many of his albums. They spoke about a celebrated psychedelic rock album from the late '60s, with a cover that shows a rock band standing in front of over sixty colourful, life-sized cardboard cut-outs of famous people. Emily commented that this band's guitarist plays the sitar beautifully on the song which opens the album's second side. They discussed another influential album from the late '60s, with a cover that shows five musicians feeding animals at a petting zoo, and with music full of symphonic arrangements, stunning vocal harmonies, and sound effects like a bicycle bell, dog whistles, barking dogs, and a train. They also talked about a singer/songwriter with a three-and-a-half octave vocal range who had a tough childhood but made albums full of catchy, comforting songs. They spoke about an R&B musician -- blind since shortly after his birth – who changed pop music forever with his groundbreaking inner visions in the '70s. They discussed a trumpeter who paved the way for several major musical styles in jazz including bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, and fusion. They discussed a British folk musician who made three albums in obscurity, with virtuoso guitar playing and deeply affecting lyrics, only to become an influence on major recording artists ten years after his last album. Emily noticed a sepia-coloured album cover, displaying a woman with a gold key in her mouth, leaning in to kiss a man who is bound in chains. Liam explained that the woman was portraying magician Harry Houdini's wife who would cleverly pass along a key like this when they embraced onstage, so he could unlock his padlocks after being submerged in a water tank.

Then, Liam pointed out a classical album in his collection, featuring a legendary "Ninth Symphony." Liam whistled a joyful melody, explaining that it was from the fourth movement of the symphony. He marveled that the composer of the symphony could keep writing music even while he was deaf during the last ten years of his life. Emily and Liam also spoke about an album with the word "Moon" in the title, featuring a superb ten-minute title track; and an album by a French woman singer who had a challenging life and only wore black; and a record with a light blue cover by a musician who made country music as if a rock band was playing it. This country-rock musician didn't have it easy, since he lost both of his parents while he was still a teenager, but he made a lot of beautiful music, and he performed fantastic vocal harmonies with a woman singer on both of his two solo albums.

As they spent time together, Emily felt a meaningful connection growing between herself and Liam, especially when they spoke about musicians who made beautiful music despite the hardship in their lives. Liam told Emily that she was very fun to talk to. When Liam mentioned a special slow song – a ballad on one of the albums in his collection, Emily asked him how the song goes. Immediately, Liam took Emily in his arms and led her in a slow dance, while humming the melody to the song. He quietly sang some of the song's lyrics, describing acts of sacrifice and faithfulness. Emily felt surprisingly comfortable with Liam, as they danced together in the parking lot, under the cool, peaceful moonlight.

Emily truly enjoyed her delightful visit with Liam, but she remained a little distant from him in her emotions. Even while they happily danced together, Liam could tell that Emily was still feeling a bit cautious. After their dance, Emily was smiling, yet she also became a little quiet. Liam could see a lingering sorrow in her eyes that she couldn't hide. So, Liam decided to do all the talking for a short while, to put Emily at ease. He told her about the kind, outgoing, middle-aged man who owned the local record store where he got all his albums. The record store owner, named David, is an expert on music. Ever since Liam was 13 years old, he learned about important, influential musicians just by having quick, fun chats with David at the record store.

Liam explained that David has always made his record store a joy to visit. The walls of the store are covered with: colourful, intriguing artwork, along with posters of iconic musicians, and framed album covers. Sometimes, David has a little incense burning in the store, or he might light some scented candles, or dangle exotic lanterns from the ceiling. All of the co-workers hired by David are friendly. Each of David’s assistants at the store has his or her area of expertise, such as jazz, folk, or R&B. David himself has a passion for every kind of music. Sometimes, when Liam talks with David about certain albums or musicians, David will make warm, heartfelt comments like, "This record is good for the soul," or "This band's music got me through a time that wasn't so easy." Once, David even said, "The best music takes you to another world for a little while." On another occasion, Liam overheard David talking with a customer about the relationship between music and nighttime dreams. David told the customer: "I think music and dreams have the same kind of magic. I've heard the most beautiful music in dreams. I make sure to hum the melody into a tape recorder when I wake up." David is very much in tune with the blessings that only music can give. Whenever Liam talks with David, Liam waits until David makes an especially earnest recommendation, with a gleam in his eye, because then Liam knows he is in for a real treat – an album or song that will be a great discovery. David recommends albums to people with kindness and scholarly care, suggesting just the right music for people, depending on their age and what they're going through. As Liam has grown up, David has helped Liam to create a nice soundtrack for his life. Over the years, David has suggested albums that have been more and more interesting and profound.

Then, Liam paused from talking with Emily for a moment. He thought back to a recent visit he made to David's record store. Liam was browsing through some albums when he noticed a woman suddenly come into the store in a very troubled mood. Tears were in her eyes. She picked out a couple records and went to the listening station, where she put on some headphones – and, right away, she began to smile. After seeing the woman get cheered up, Liam walked over to David and asked, "Hey, what do you think is the most comforting album in the store? Let's say you cared about someone who was feeling really down. Which record would you give them as a gift, to help them feel better?" David gave a friendly smile and then he walked across the store and entered the back room where many supplies, crates, and boxes were kept. After a moment, David emerged from the back room holding an album in his hand, and he strolled back over to Liam. David handed the album to Liam, and told him, "Save this as a gift for someone special, Liam. Someone you admire, who's feeling blue. You'll change their life. I guarantee it."

When Liam finished thinking about the memory of this recent visit with David, he looked warmly at Emily for an instant and then he told her he wanted to give her a gift. He reached into his record collection, and took out the last record from the very back of the crate. Liam told Emily that David gave this album to him, insisting that he offer it as a gift to someone someday. Emily looked down at the album cover and saw that it featured magnificent artwork – with towering white-and-gray trees, and a night sky that was swirling with gray clouds and flecked with dozens of white stars, and a few golden stars shooting across the sky. The album's title, embossed at the top of the cover, read: "The Magic of Dreams."

Liam excitedly announced that he still had his telescope, there in his car. Emily looked over at Liam just as he found his telescope on the back seat of the car. Then, for a moment, Liam simply gazed back at Emily. He told her, "You know what, I always like looking at the Moon. But, right now, I'd prefer to look at you. You have lovely eyes."

"Thanks, Liam," she said happily.

At the very next instant, Emily heard her sister loudly calling out her name and complaining, from right behind her. Emily parted from Liam in bitter frustration. After all, it was Emily's sister who had abandoned Emily at the carnival, yet Emily was the one being scolded – and with a timing that was interrupting her enjoyable visit with Liam. Barely managing a smile, Emily waved to Liam and made her way across the parking lot, over to her sister's car, holding tightly to the record that Liam just gave her. Meanwhile, way up above the parking lot, in the dark nighttime sky, the Moon shone with an uncommon vibrancy. Emily and Liam had been so focused on each other that they were not aware of the white glowing star, falling slowly toward the Moon. The star looked like a giant pinwheel of radiant white light, as it drew near to the lunar surface.

 

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