I turned 30 without fanfare last week, an ordinary week for what I’ve considered a milestone –and perhaps a millstone– for so long. However, as soon as I get my pictures developed, I will share the Tropicana Adventure that preceded it.
For today, it’s a rainy day in Manhattan. The sidewalks are slush, and the constant rush of traffic is nearly indistinguishable from the sound of what’s coming down from the clouds. I sang to myself as I made the trek to work, Wynonna Judd and Bengali folk songs, and remembered auditioning for South Pacific in high school.
I sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” a capella, and afterwards someone told me, “Mala, I didn’t know you could sing.” I couldn’t. I can’t. Not really. I’m better suited to showers and Karaoke bars than soloist in a church choir. But oh, there were some girls in that high school with voices that could make you see God even if you were an athiest. I remember a girl with a golden voice who no doubt hoped it was her golden ticket out of a house where her mother rolled joints on the coffee table. Where is she now, that magical creature with black polish on her nails and a musical theatre repertoire, that girl who made my belly tighten with envy and perhaps something else entirely?
If life were a Hillary Duff movie, she’d have a scholarship to Juilliard, a recording contract, fame, lights, and fortune. But I turn on MTV and VH1 and she is nowhere to be found. Her life is no movie, her song on no movie soundtrack.
Nobody knows she could sing.
But I won’t forget.