When I decided to move back to the US from Hong Kong, I chose my neighborhood in part because WC told me that I would need to live on her subway line if I ever wanted to see her. (Although I've noticed that she suddenly has no problems trekking to the east side of town to see her BF, but hey, I understand - he possesses attractions which I lack.)
But I also chose this neighborhood because someone I once knew lived here.
When I was 16 years old, attending music school on the weekends, I cut my afternoon theory and composition classes one Saturday to go to Patelson's Music House. I was comparing two different scores of Beethoven's First, when I got that familiar tingly sensation on the back of my neck. I turned to find myself watched by a frighteningly elegant older woman. She asked me, "Are you a musician?"
My response was something like this, "uh... well... I take lessons... but... uh... you know... uh...."
She placed a perfectly manicured hand on my arm to cut short my eloquence, and said, "So, you are a musician."
There was something both challenging and reassuring about how she made that statement. So I took a breath, threw my shoulders back and said, "Yes, I am."
I never learned that much about her. The sum total of our "relationship" was that I would go to her townhouse on the occasional Saturday afternoon and practice on her Bosendorfer grand piano while she read or typed or even talked quietly on the phone. Often, she wasn't even in the same room.
The Bosendorfer was astonishing. Sweeter than a Steinway - and with those extra keys on the bass end which I never quite knew what to do with, but was terribly pleased to see there.
I remember once I decided to take extreme liberties with a piece so I could take advantage of the extra keys and that was the only time she ever commented on my playing. She told me to stop and just play it as it was written. I must have looked crushed, because then she added, more gently, that when I got more skilled, I would figure it out. That was also one of the longer conversations she and I ever had.
Then I went to college and never saw her again. But I've wondered about her and I've written her story in my mind a number of times. But it always goes back to a simple question: "Why?" To my chagrin, I am nearing the age she probably was when I met her and I ask myself what would drive ME to "befriend" a young music student? I've explained it to myself that she was a music lover - but then why spend the time listening to a student practice when she lived in a city where you can't swing a cat on the sidewalk without hitting a gifted, professional musician?
I've pored through my journals from when I was 16 and 17 looking for clues, and while I documented copiously detailed accounts of the boys I liked and the calories I consumed on a meal by meal basis and countless drafts of college admission essays, there is nothing more than the barest of references to this woman. I never even wrote down her name. Certainly not her address. Apparently I thought that this was a secret I should keep - even from myself.
Sometimes I think I'd like to find her to talk to her and tell her that while I've never figured out when or how to use those extra keys, I think I've learned when not to. But then I always decide that I would leave her in peace, even if I could find her again.
Sometimes a moment just passes and you should let it do so.
But that doesn't stop me from walking down a tree-lined street of townhouses in my 'hood and peering into the windows, looking for a Bosendorfer.
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6 months ago