"Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." ~ Charlie Parker
The grey door was half-opened; fast notes of a jubilant piece luring whoever passed by the small room on the second floor. Curiosity led some to approach it, peaking unperturbedly through the fissure.
Upon reaching the door and slightly cocking their heads to the left side, their eyes would encounter a young woman, who was gliding her left hand skilfully up and down the neck of a cello, her elegant fingers pressing the strings according to the song she was executing. Her bow was manoeuvred fast over the resounding metal cords of the instrument held between her jeans-covered legs.
More could they not distinguish, for the room was held dark: only a thin streak of light managed to creep from the gap between the blinds that covered the room's sole window to lighten the beautiful, dark-wooded instrument.
Many drew a small smile at the sight of her; others shook their heads sympathetically. Then, they hurriedly left their little star alone.
Oblivious to the silent visitors, Olivia Camden played the third movement of the Cello Concert in C Major by Haydn, remembering her teacher's words.
"Feel the joy, Ms. Camden." The aging man had ordered from his seat. His thick, greying hair was held dishevelled: a habit he had never lost from his youthful, unruly years. Dark eyes framed by equally grizzling eyebrows, surveying the youngest student, belonged to a face that held former beauty, ghosts of wrinkles giving it personality and, if possible, even more charm. For he was a charming man and he knew it.
She complied, imagining the sweet, warming flavour of green tea, which enveloped her with affectionate rays, accompanied with her mother's sinful cheesecake that pleased her tasting buds. What bliss.
"Have you never felt joy before?" His deep voice had then harshly asked shaking the hard-working student out of her thoughts.
Her teacher's question reminisced, she gripped the frog too tight, deranging the flow of the bow and, thus, failing the note. How dare he say that I have never felt joy before!, she thought irately, stopping her practice. I had countless happy memories!
She didn't see how she should lack joy. Therefore, she had answered the question positively.
"Then show it." He had instructed, softly that time.
She had tried during the following hour.
Her teacher had drawn a small, bitter smile at the end of the lesson, stating that for the next encounter he only wanted her to experience joy.
Olivia had hidden her emotions until, after having placed the straps of her case on her shoulders, she had left the room. Then, she had stomped her way to the front office with raged purpose in her moves.
Upon reaching the small man that kept the keys to the practice rooms, she had hurriedly asked for one, signing the paper where it stated that she took full responsibility for the room.Bureaucracy, she sourly thought, internally rolling her eyes. She was not in her best of moods. However, she had forcedly smiled to the kind, balding man and had taken off to the room 211, located on the second floor.
She had burst into the room, caring less about the state of it, having hastily taken the cello of its case and settled herself on a stool. After having prepared the instrument, she had wildly begun her practice.
Two hours later there she was: her fingers, again, blazingly fast, her bow touching the strings at an equal speed, performing her joyless interpretation of the piece. When her anger wavered, the memories, then, sent her movements forward eagerly.
Only half an hour later, after consecutively misplacing the fingers three times, she acknowledged her tiredness. Heaving a sigh, she freed her brown curls from under the neck of the instrument, which rested on her left shoulder. She let the cello fall onto her body, as she rubbed her eyes, the bow cleverly placed between the midget and the ring finger, in an attempt of pushing away the fatigue.
Still feeling weary, she decided to take a bite of the sinfully sugar-coated cake the cafeteria sold.
With watering mouth Olivia placed carefully her cello sideways on the floor and left the room, locking it, before flying down the countless flights of stairs to the lower lobby, where the nice old lady, assisted by her husband and nephew, sold the beverages and nourishments.
There was a one-man line in front of the cashing-machine, behind which the woman stood concentrated on the mumbled demands of the young man. After taking the order, the woman turned to her husband and asked him for a sandwich -cheese, no ham and easy on butter- while she got the drink from under the counter.
"Is it everything you want?" She asked, handing him the Coca-Cola. Her words were spoken uncomfortably, as she pinged the 's' a little, due to the tooting she had put recently.
The teen in front of Olivia gave a positive answer.
"One-seventy" was the price she named for the service.
"Put it on my account, please." The young man said timidly, embarrassed he had forgotten the money at home.
The old woman smiled, opening a black-cover book filled with names on the 'g'-section. "Your name's Giulio Agani, right?"
"Yes, Ma'am." The teen sounded relieved.
She finished scribbling the amount down, when her husband placed the plate with the sandwich on the counter. The boy grabbed a napkin from a supply placed on the latter and wrapped the food with it, leaving with a sweet smile on his freckled face.
"Olivia!" The old woman grinned, pleasantly surprised to see her. "Shall it be the usual?"
The younger one smiled, nodding.
It was when she sat down with her cake and tea that she felt her muscles heaving. Her eyebrow fell- she had practised longer than that before and hadn't felt nearly as tired as she was feeling. Still incomprehensive, she took one bite of the cake, letting the sugar melt in her mouth. She hummed, closing her eyes. How is that no joy? The sour question threw her off the pleasant state of mind she had found herself in.
Sighing, she stuffed the cake insipidly in her mouth and rapidly drank the tea. The sooner she went back to practice, the faster she would solve her joyless problem.
Leaving the plate on the counter, she felt energy pumping again through her. Olivia returned to her practice room, properly closing the door that time and opening the blinds, which let the cold sunshine of a late February morning in the small quarter.
She sat down, picking up her cello and placing it between her legs. After having prepared the bow, she positioned herself to start.
To hell with joy, she thought bitterly, when she misplaced her finger once more. She had been too focused on her teacher's words and forgot about the position change. To hell with him.
Clearing her thoughts, she began...
She made her bow jump as she performed the short notes, her fingers caressing the strings as she reached the position of each note. The speed of the piece was thrilling, but not nerve-racking. A feeling of peace settled in her core; a slight, pleased smile displaying on her lips. Her muscles were aching from all the hours of playing, however, the pain did nothing but increase the harmonious feeling in her body.
Soon she felt an immaterial coat lift off her, letting her soul pour out, liquid and unhesitant. The notes she then played came from deep within her, wrapped with her very essence.
The otherworldly atmosphere didn't falter when she reached the minor part of the movement. It was as if, even in the most tension-filled part, the warmness couldn't be annihilated. Even when the piece required a rougher treatment, the cosiness she had let herself fall into wasn't to be shaken off...
The melody progressed and she was again in the beginning key of the movement. From the tips of her fingers the intonation of the notes was decided, her bow pulled them out to vibrate in the otherwise silence-filled room. The sound flew into the air, glistened by the sunrays, creating a bright and colourful spectrum of wrinkles in corners of eyes, appearing teeth from under stretched upper lips, pulled up corners of mouths, which elevated and enriched the room.
The piece was coming to an end. Olivia did a final accelerando, her bow expertly gliding through the cords, while her fingers danced speedily on the neck of the instrument. All the while, she drew a crescendo, finishing the piece in its glory. She let out a satisfied breath, opening her eyes, which had closed during the piece.
The last note lingered in the air, fragmenting the light that caressed it into overwhelming memories. The melodious evil laugh of her mother adoringly echoing through home; the off-pitch, one-note hums of her father, whose sense of music was as null as round the circle is; the clumsy dance steps of her friend to an upbeat pop song during one of the many cosy sleepovers... It all flashed pleasantly in front of her eyes.
Lastly, the note drew one pair of eyes, admiration glistening behind their honey-shaded orbs, which gazed at her lovingly.
She let out a hushed 'Ah!', liquid soft warmth wrapping her essence, elevating her to a golden cloud lightened by rays of pure bliss.
This is so much better than green tea and cheesecake, she decided.