In the middle of my memory and in the center of my childhood, there settled a small brown piano. I didn’t know how to play it, but I wanted to. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant either.
“Mama,” I said, “Can I learn how to play the piano?”
She was surprised by the question. At the time, she was half-delighted by my curiosity, half-fearful that it would bind me to the indistinct grouping of other Asian children. But a passion, she believed, is something of a reluctant burden in this world that needed to be nurtured.
And that was the start of my lessons - once a week, for half an hour, at a dingy studio.
I looked up to you back then. The simple touch of cold keys brought warmth, a swell to my heart, a touch of unrequited lovers. I craved the reflection of my fingers in the black gloss. I swayed at the creaks of the pedals. I treasured our time together. I was happy.
When did you become a burden?
Getting home late, getting home early, I found an excuse to stay away. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” I would say angrily as my mother forced you on me. “It won’t help me in the future.” I wanted to make time, but time could not make me want you. The thought of you brought passionate frustration and black anger. The duality of my desires and my actions fell out of alignment, and I found us stranded at the crossroad.
I practiced for hours that day. We sat together in the middle of my memory, in the center of my fading childhood, in empty noise. I no longer felt the ?life, the fervid lull, the wandering stillness.
I played for my teacher the day after. She tsked at me sharply at the finish and my hands and the keys of the piano quivered in response. ?You quivered in response.
“Yes, you played the notes very well.”
“Then it’s fine, isn’t it?” I felt the familiar unwarranted frustration rising from my stomach to my throat. It was suffocating.
“You played the notes, but you didn’t play the music.”
I lost you that day.
The simple touch of cold keys brought coldness, a sinking of my heart, the blow of jaded lovers. I questioned the reflection of my fingers in the black gloss. I blanched at the creaks of the pedals. I loathed our time together. The simplicity of the cold keys grew complex and tedious, as did my desires.
And yet you endured there, in the middle of my memory and in the center of my childhood, an immovable and immutable force in the face of evolving emotions and abstract adolescence. You stayed. I left.
I found you again today, in the corner of my memory, in the corner of my childhood. On top of the white jade, dust piled on. You endured and you gleamed under the blankets of dust and neglect. Your presence unwavering and unwilting, alive despite being slaughtered by the baneful bloom.
I sat down with you again today in the corner of my memory, in the corner of my childhood. I apologized and you listened as the cacophonous clamor grew untroubled in the quiet standstill. I apologized and you listened as the groan of tired bones grew lost in refreshed youth. I apologized and you listened as the creak of aged wood grew quiet in bloomed flowers. I apologized and you listened and as dust piled atop of eternal white jade, I found silence.