Uncle Tony's Symphony

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Uncle Tony‘s study felt like it was a part of a different house. As I walked in, a slouch snuck up and trounced my perfect posture; my runway-ready hair started to tangle. My shoes untied themselves. The study’s dark, wood-paneled walls were covered in glossy, autographed photographs of jazz musicians. His big, imposing desk was littered with an odd assortment of vinyl records, CD’s, puzzle pieces and other cheap kid’s toys. There were no books on the bookshelves, just an endless amount of records, and music memorabilia. He had two very executive-looking overstuffed chairs in the corner of the room where a wet bar was positioned in such an enticing way; it almost invited you to make yourself a drink.
No one was home, so I walked over and sat beside the bar. In my mind, Uncle Tony walked in the room, “Hey Amy.” His tone was casual and nonchalant. He didn’t mind that I had broken into his study. “I can see you found my secret hideout. What do you think? I know my tastes aren’t as good as Jolene’s, but its home. Do you want a soda?” He un-tucked his shirt, loosed his tie and took his blazer off. “You would think,” he joked, while closing his eyes, and pouring himself a glass of scotch. “these expensive clothes would be more comfortable than this; but what can you do?” Uncle Tony poured me a coke, and sat down in the chair beside me. “Here’s a virgin rum and coke.” he said with a smirk. I chuckled. I loved bad jokes. They’re so much better than real ones, so much more sincere.
The Uncle Tony I’d conjured up untied his shoes, and started humming. It was a deep, melodic hum, with lots of grunts and dramatic pauses, like he was trying to fit a symphony into his vocal chords. It almost sounded nice. He closed his eyes again. He moved in perfect rhythm with his song. He pulled each shoe off and threw it across the room, in perfect sync with the beat he set. He was a good dancer. He kept humming after he had taken his shoes off, adding a whistle solo here and there, and sometimes clapping his hand against his thigh. But, I didn’t feel like he was ignoring me, nor was he performing for me. I was just a bystander, watching an artist make his art.
As I listened, I really wanted to hum along with him. But I kept myself quiet. I thought ‘There will be other songs, Amy. This one is just not yours to sing’. And I’m glad I did keep my mouth shut. The song was so unpredictable, each note so erratic—that even though I knew, it was all happening in my head; that I was the one making all of this up. Uncle Tony was definitely NOT in the room with me, and he was certainly not humming. Still, even I didn’t know what was going to come next. He would alternate between clicking his tongue, wailing, scatting and babbling like there was no tomorrow. Then he’d sink very low into his register, being very quiet, and guttural. He’d chant and grunt like he was a rain man, praying to the gods during a drought. And even though it was all very wild – the song fit together perfectly.
Each bar of the song was an entity of its own, but it was all held together by the soul of the piece. The key element that was hidden behind every groan and whimper, every pop and snap—Uncle Tony’s Symphony spelled love, and acceptance. It was a welcoming, affectionate song. Being allowed to hear him sing of such intimate things was almost a sacred experience. The two of us bonded, under his music. In that moment, there was only me and my Uncle Tony, conversing under the cover of his music. ‘Amy, will you be a part of my family? Amy, can we get to know each other a little better. Amy, will you open up to me?’ he sang. And, by listening, I answered ‘YES’.
My fantasy Uncle Tony’s one man symphony carried on in my head until Ella got home. The sound of her slamming the door as she came inside overpowered the hum of the music in my head. I slid out of my chair, grabbed my shoes, and quietly walked out of the study. I was careful to lock the door, and re-hide the key on my way out. Then, I padded down the hallway to my bedroom in my sock-feet. I was sure to not breathe too loudly, or make any quick, conspicuous movements. The last thing I wanted was for Ella to get any angrier with me, and for whatever reason, I didn’t think Ella would like it if she found out I was in her dad’s study.





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