Three mails, unopened.
One dark brown violin and a loose bow,
Two books on classical music, checked out from the library yesterday.
Those things were scattered on the carpet. So felt my body. One hand didn't know the other. Heart and brain not connected. Not sure how many hours, days and years had passed like that. Was I sleeping? Dreaming? Overhead a large hole appeared at the ceiling and through that hole I saw stars against the night sky. The books and the mails looked decayed and disappeared; the violin broke and got buried halfway under a pile of dust. I began to sweat as I sat there.
January, 4th, 1962. (I always write my diary in second person. Except this one)
"Now this doesn't make any sense, don't you think?" Jeffery said holding the moleskin notebook close to his eyes. His grand daughter Arielle wanted to hear a story from his life. Every Friday evening after her piano lessons she came to see grandpa, stayed for an hour or two before her parents picked her up. Arielle was leaning against his recliner; last month she turned twelve.
Winter had arrived late that year in Pittsburgh but apparently making up for the delay. People were getting used to the piles of snow by the side of the road.
"It is mysterious, like a bad dream, isn't it? What happens after that?" she asked. Her age was eager to find a story in everything.
"It was an epiphany rather, I wouldn't call it bad though" Jeff, replied gently, "after that dream your grandpa happened, music happened. I will tell you one day when you grow up," he pointed to the piano at the corner of the living room, behind it there was a violin in a leather case.
He hadn't touched the piano or the violin since Linda had passed away almost fifteen years ago. His world of music was permanently silenced since that day. Occasionally he tuned both the instruments and for a long time wiped the golden letters of Steinway & Sons engraved on the piano with a silk cloth. At nights when Jeff woke up because of his age related issues, he occasionally heard the piano reverberating around the house. As though the piano was playing itself from memory. Light as a feather, indistinct like a whisper the melody of the Aria from Goldberg's variation was lifited and suspended in the still air. Only person he allowed to touch the piano was Arielle, in an odd way she reminded him of his wife. An echo of Linda through generations, he liked to think that way.
"I am not a child anymore, tell me more," she demanded.
"Do you want some hot chocolate?" Jeff asked and noticed his granddaughter is getting taller.
"I do," Arielle shook her red hair, now like a child.
"I will tell you then, how music came about around here," Jeff got up slowly, warmed two giant cups of milk and dropped a couple of Belgian chocolate sticks in them. She was then sitting near the fireplace facing him.
Jeff felt the presence of two other people around him. Linda was smiling at him from a photograph on the wall and a thirty five year old Jeff was eagerly waiting outside under the giant windows. He was wondering: will he make it then? He wanted to know his future from his past.
It was a dark dark night above and beyond the lights of the city and Jeff was walking around without having to go anywhere. That's when he heard it; bits and pieces of a song were making its way to the sidewalk through an open window. He stopped. The notes were tiny raindrops, falling from the sky in a place that sufferred years of drought. A quiet lake that existed in him all these years, kept some sides of his personality barely alive, was almost dry. He couldn't decide if the music was Jewish or Indian. The melody began to strike a chord deep, reminded him of his mother long ago, of slow Autumn nights as she told them stories, of freshly baked breads on Saturday mornings in their two bedroom apartment. It took him to those days when he used to visit his mother in the hospital on weekends and watched the sun go down behind the skyscrapers of downtown as she slept with a mild dose of tranquilizer. Such were the days of joy and times of heartache. Jeff took a deep breath as though he could inhale a long-gone past.
Later his mother was transferred to the residential unit of Eastern Psyche. She was losing her memory, fast. And those last few years of her stay in the facility Jeff's mother had an empty look or it seemed she was concentrating at something miles and years away.
"I miss you Ma," he whispered.
"Can I help you?" A young red hair woman broke his spell.
He realized, he was not on the sidewalk anymore but sitting on the steps of that house and there was no music playing anymore.
"I am so sorry, I was listening to the music," He said those words fast and then added slowly, "I am Jeff by the way."
"No worries! I am Linda, I was just wondering if you needed any help, you know, if you were sick or anything," she said.
Jeff didn't want to wait any longer and give her more reason to consider him a freak.
The melody that had stalled him in that awkward situation stayed with him; like a shadow it followed him wherever he went and ultimately to his apartment.
After his heart, his brain took it over. Do, re, mi, so,and la- it was a simple pentatonic melody, simple and beautiful. He was trying to remember the exact tune but a different melody stood in his way. Jeff picked up the violin, tightened the bow and moved into the small dining area beside his kitchen; he always thought the acoustics was much better there. They he lost track of time. Single-mindedly he played well into the night, on the table his dinner turned cold, walls around him vanished; couldn't remember when last time he had experienced such freedom. It was his first composition as a songwriter.
That was how music came to his life the same day he met Linda. Or everything was always there for someone, Jeff happened to show up?
His grand daughter fell asleep on the couch for sometime now. Before calling his daughter to pick Arielle up, Jeff put a quilt over her. Fake flames and occasional crackling sound from the electrical fireplace created the mood of a real fire.
The day Linda never came back from the concert, Jeff was sleeping.
"Dad? Get up! We need to go," his daughter woke him up. Looking at her face, Jeff didn't have the courage to ask anything.
For a week he himself was suffering from a nasty form of seasonal flu. Before leaving for that night's concert Linda gave him some painkillers and a kiss on the forehead.
"Before you know it, I will be back. I wish I didn't have to go tonight," she had run her fingers through his hair.
"I will be fine, sweetheart, good luck tonight," he had replied drifting into a trans.
For a long time he didn't understand the irony. I wish I didn't have to go, he couldn't forget that was the last thing she had said. He didn't press charges against the seventeen-year-old kid for the involuntary manslaughter although people wanted him to. Was Linda rushing to cross the road to come home? Was she thinking of him as the car hit him? Was the boy distracted? He didn't want to know.
"Leave me alone, I don't want to do anything," Jeff told the police. He couldn't put revenge and grief of losing Linda together, one touching the other.
"Your mother is not coming back and I am sure the boy has to live with that for the rest of his life. That is his punishment. There is no point," He had told his daughter.
Jeff had cancelled all his assignments for next two months after everything was over. The boy and his father wanted to come to apologize and ask for formal forgiveness, a local reporter called few times for an interview and asked what kind of Christian he was. He didn't want to see anyone. The decision of not playing music came rather naturally, he was not able to find any reason to compose or play music anymore. Linda, music and time had left him.
Jeff got up from his chair and realized Arielle was gone. The quilt was kept at the bottom of the couch, folded. His daughter left a note and didn't want to wake him up. His heart was weak. He was sensitive to being waked up that after Linda's accident.
Everything is good dad, I will call you tomorrow morning. Her handwriting was like his own, anyone could tell that they are related from that. He stuck the note on the refrigerator door alongside many other similar notes.
He then walked up to the living room window to make sure no one was not waiting behind it. His past, the younger Jeff was long gone. Like every night, he heard the piano again, now coming from his bedroom. He was sure it was one of Chopin's Nocturnes. Linda used to play for him.
"Linda, I am coming. I know you are there," he said softly and left his notebook on the table and closed the door.
January 17th, 2013