On Life,  Wander, Wonder, Write


“Within my reach!
I could have touched!
I might have chanced that way!”
—Emily Dickinson

I may have led you to believe that D and I moved into an unoccupied apartment. The truth is that the absent master of the house has left his roommate behind. It’s an exceptionally well-behaved roommate who doesn’t make a noise unless we solicit one. The roommate never leaves dirty dishes in the sink or stinks up the toilet. And the roommate is absolutely gorgeous. Big, black, and beautiful. Gleaming.

Music is a language I understand but don’t speak. My father was a pianist, not professionally trained yet proficient enough to be on stage during his college and after-college years. He performed songs with his group of cabaret friends and later played at home almost every night.

I went to music school as a young child, learned my notes on a wooden flute, then switched to piano. I loved hearing my father perform—he would light up the room with his half-improvised tunes—but playing didn’t come easy for me. I remember practicing scales, endless scales, then the simplest of songs, whereas I desired to play real music. Perhaps I had no talent or no stamina at that age. I dutifully went to my lessons and trained at home until my parents divorced and I moved into a house without a piano. 

I could have gone to my father’s house each day. I was nine years old, and my old home, where his piano waited, was at a walking distance from my school. I could have continued learning to speak a language I adored. 

D is a trained musician who can play several instruments. Although we’ve been together for almost twenty years, the times I’ve heard him play are limited. He’s a self-conscious player, unwilling to perform unless he knows the piece well. Unwilling to perform for people more accomplished than he is. Unwilling to perform on out-of-tune instruments. Unwilling to perform just for fun, because for the longest time, music was also his job: playing it put him in a professional mindset that invited stress. 

But now we live with this big and beautiful roommate who almost seems to demand his touch. And I’m the only one around. And he’s allowing himself to try out some compositions and just play, just play. It makes me so happy. 

It’s a shame my father never got to meet D. He died two weeks after I met the man who would become the love of my life, and in my memory, the grief and the falling in love and the music is all mixed up. I must write about that one day. 

* Photo: I don’t think this one needs any explanation.