Fur Elise

August 13, 2008
By Yi Ting Tang, Livingston, NJ

“My heart is filled with many things…There are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all.” -- Beethoven

I recognize the tune footsteps away. The harmonies in A minor and E major blend, mingle -- pouring out of the practice room. The trickle of notes continues in the chord progression from C to G major. A melody follows the blithe transition. His silhouette sits on the bench with fingers grazing the black and white keys; two hands dancing to their private waltz. Fur Elise. This must be a morning blessing from the heavens -- an apology of some sorts -- mother’s reassurance perhaps. I close my eyes, listening only to the fluttering in my chest.

Her name was Elise. This I found out mornings later. That summer she was a girl of seventeen. I could only imagine how lovely she would have looked with pink lurking behind her cheeks. Her gossamer dress was a size too big for her frame. Her transparent skin resembled that of a fragile doll. Somehow one morning’s unexpected meeting in the practice room became a multiple of deliberate meetings which soon turned into a daily routine -- our secret rendezvous.

His name is Edward. I’m drawn to the practice room each morning although this would later cause dark blotches beneath my eyes and yawns during class. Regardless of how many hours I sleep, my body will never be satisfied -- so why not spend my hours awake and enjoying these moments? I dare not interrupt his practicing. I bring a novel to read until he is finished; sometimes I lose myself while gazing out the window. I never noticed how serene the courtyard with its budding trees are this time of the month nor have I realized the simple joys of watching song sparrows ruffle their feathers in the bird bath beside the pathway.
While sitting in the practice room, I drift to a frequent topic -- Mother. She was a lover of classical music. Her favorite was Beethoven’s Fur Elise. My existence is as inexplicable as the ambiguous woman whom Beethoven dedicated his composition to. How could the village’s beloved girl have had a child before marriage? Grandmother wishes to forget Mother’s blunder; she does not allow my asking about Father. Could she be ashamed of me as well as her daughter’s sin? Although I do not have any remembrances of Father, my name is a constant reminder of her, as if her spirit lives on within me. I’ve only heard secondhand stories and seen faded pictures of Mother. There is this one vivid photograph I’ve always kept in my memory: one of her wearing a brimming hat under the sun before a field of sunflowers. I often wonder what kind of woman she was. I was told she had a disarming smile and an euphonious singing voice that charmed the most disagreeable of individuals. I imagine her to be a woman with soft hands, a gentle voice, the scent of honeysuckle clinging to her hair and dress.
When the results of the screening were released, she was the first person I thought of. What would she have said if she were alive? How dearly I need her guidance, a maternal tone that would tell me that I would be fine, that the doctors might have been wrong, that everything will be all right. How fortunate that amid my nonsensical longings and loss of faith that I heard the piano solo which gave me the strength I desperately needed. I must live each day, every hour, all the seconds I’m granted knowing that any bit of remorse would shame the sacrifices she made in exchange for my life.

Our mornings usually started with pleasant silence. As she sat on the velvet love seat positioned around the coffee table, I practiced on the piano bench. Sometimes she would look my way, give a small grin and return to her novel or her observation of the surroundings. I often wished I could interpret her doleful eyes or those fleeting smiles. I initially thought that her fatigue was due to recent recovery from an illness; however, she often had drooping eyelids and a shortness of breath. After a few weeks, I detected that bruises on her arms and legs had only multiplied. Before she told me about her condition, I had already guessed. My reaction frightened me. For days I did not know what to say to her. When a ray of sunshine illuminated her form, I glanced at her sitting, wondering whether or not she would disappear once I looked away. I asked myself, ‘Could this be the last morning I’ll see her?’

Edward and I are eating in front of the bistro at the corner avenue. The change of environment is welcoming to the both of us. We took the bus out to a nearby town. I must have fallen asleep after the first stop -- and embarrassingly enough -- with my head against his shoulder. I haven’t had an appetite for weeks now. I could barely finish the croissant I ordered. After a last bite, he dabs the corner of my lips with the napkin. He shouldn’t have done so because such actions make me envision dreams that I have no right to envision. These actions make me regret and long for the impossible. I will remember Fur Elise, brilliant sunshine, and the kiss of his napkin until my last seconds. For the moment, I wish for the staggering of the pedestrians, frozen passages of time.

I haven’t been outside since Sunday. I was told that strenuous activity should be avoided and of course Grandmother follows no one’s instructions more closely than the doctors. I’ve been preoccupied with writing these weeks. When the unfortunate occurs, the compensation is clarity of insight. Upon retrospection so much sadness, self-pity, and anger over the years were wasted. Those instances when I lie awake before the sun rises, the sky a scattering of white feathers upon cerulean, I wonder what thoughts pass through the minds of soldiers -- ready for combat even during slumber, ready for mortality. I’m no longer afraid.

The author's comments:
I write more poetry than fiction. This came out of an assignment at a summer program I attended this year. Hearing students practice in the piano rooms in the mornings and evenings inspired me to write such a story. Fur Elise doesn't seem to be complete, maybe just a snippet that I managed to finish.

It might be a bit confusing at first but there are two perspectives that switch back and forth. I don't think the italics for Elise's voice would appear.

I hope everyone enjoys reading! :]

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