Four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Sunlight beams radiantly through tall windows, illuminating our makeshift chapel in the nursing home lobby. The priest thoughtfully blesses a freshly baked loaf of bread on a wobbly card table. A saint carefully pours grape juice into tiny plastic cups on a platter; another meticulously thumbs through pages of Hallelujahs for beloved hymns. I sit at the upright piano in the far corner. Out of worn keys, my fingers string together a single melody, clear and determined. Kissed gently by nostalgic harmonies, the theme swells the room in a certain splendor. Regal, yet subtle. Majestic, yet subdued. Ravel’s “Pavane.”
Captivated by the music, I am suddenly startled by a boisterous voice. I turn to see a man in a wheelchair. He must be 70 – no, maybe 80 years old, but his eyes sparkle with childlike delight as he speaks very emphatically … in Spanish. I apologize for the limits of my fluency in broken words, but fortunately, my new friend doesn’t seem to mind. He responds in seamless Spanish, “My name is Faustino, and I want to listen to your music.”
He stays for bread, grape juice and Hallelujahs.
From that day forward, Faustino regularly visited our monthly gatherings. Though few words were exchanged, he charmed our services with his toothless smile and his great enthusiasm for the music. He grew fond of my repertoire – Chopin’s nocturnes, Debussy’s arabesques, but above all, Fauré’s “Pavane.” Together, we crafted speech through melodies and harmonies to make up for lost words. Together, we relished the simple pleasures of Sunday afternoons.
When the inevitable befell Faustino, I tucked our moments into the solace of the past and continued to play the “Pavane.” Perhaps he peered down at me from Paradise; perhaps he hummed along as he did on Sunday afternoons. Here, in these glimpses of times gone by, we dwell in this untouchable space – forever our own.
With strokes of ivories, Faustino and I eclipsed the arbitrary limits of language. In all our yearning and bewilderment, we had created a fragment of infinity – the ability to exist unrestrained, if only for a moment. We were meant to create, to inspire, to transcend the confinement of hollow words. Because of Faustino, I strive to craft these untouchable spaces – without words, without judgment, without limits.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.