Play Me a Love Song

May 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

She inserts the disc into the player before easing down into one of the impeccable, rarely-sat-in armchairs to watch the piano keys sink on their own, creating deep reverberative melodies with each string of depressions.

After studying both the pedals and keys for a while, she shoots up and hurriedly pushes the piano seat out from under the piano, situating it to just where a pianist might sit.

Scanning over the back of the cover, she quickly presses ‘next’ till a red number 7 blinks into existence before curling back into the perfectly-fluffed armchair. Really, she’s not supposed to sit there — the beautifully brocaded armchairs and sofa are for decorative purposes only. The whole living room oh so carefully arranged as rococo-style tableaux of modest wealth, every detail meticulously thought out (like her mother’s flawless manicure, refreshed every week) and tightly controlled (like her father’s iron grip on the family).

She darts a quick glance at the clock; her brother has secluded himself at university, her mother is out with her friends so she won’t be back till midnight at the soonest, and her father already mentioned that morning that today’s surgery would run through the night. All in all, she has both the afternoon and evening to herself tonight. Her mouth curls in a tiny smile at that, and she hugs her knees to her chest, sinking deeper into the plush armchair as the piano continues to sing, its rich voice echoing throughout the empty house.

She imagines that a tall, dashing pianist is coaxing those notes out of the piano, glossy black swallowtails elegantly draped over the back of the piano seat. Long, refined fingers fly and flit over the keys, almost chasing them as they spell out that incredible fey song, Fantaisie-impromptu Op. 66 by Chopin.

His eyes are barely open, only enough to see the keys; no composition sheets stand before him, the notes and the path of his fingers already ingrained within him. His head sways slightly, lost to the music.

She almost imagines that little fairy sprites, glittering and translucent, skip and prance among his fingers, leaping a swift-footed fey dance to Chopin’s quick, impossible, airy composition.

Fantaisie drowns to a close, the fairies fading with it. She crawls out of her cushioned cave, presses the buttons till she finds a red number 3, and settles back into the forbidden brocade as the fingers of her illusory pianist dance along to Mendolssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso Op. 14.

She imagines his left hand imposing order and structure, evoking wisdom and maturity, while his right hand cavorts and capers, a capricious entity full of play and spontaneity.

Perhaps that’s why piano music is her favorite to listen to; it balances out oppositions and melds them together into one harmonious complexity.

She’s not quite sure what the pianist looks like, his visage shifting from pale and sharp to olive-skinned and gentle. He continues to play, oblivious to his hair darkening from slicked platinum blonde to wild curls of ebony.

She imagines that she loves the pianist and that he loves her, imagines that he plays because he knows that she loves hearing him play, that the piano is one of the few ways he can truly express his heart. She imagines that she leans against him as he plays, mutually drinking in the music as they share a moment beyond words.

Rondo ends on a dramatic flourish, sweeping a very low bow before saluting itself off the stage.

She jumps up and switches out the classical composers for the Beatles, letting it play through from the very beginning.

This time, she closes her eyes and gritty films of protests and riots fill her mind, taken and distorted and magnified from snatches she’s seen on television, when her parents didn’t know she was watching surreptitiously behind them.

Words of love and peace blossom in her ear as she recalls bits and pieces of lyrics heard here and there. Something her friend said the other day — why can’t people just be nice to each other, dammit — floats in and melts with the rest into a goppy, gooey mess of why?

She squeezes her eyes as couple after embracing couple are torn apart, shouted and screamed at and beaten and killed for no other reason than being human and loving another human. Family, friend, lover — what did religions or skin color or gender matter when it came to love?

The last note of the Beatles fades away, and when she lifts her eyelids at last, she frowns ever so slightly, just a dip of the corners of her mouth, wondering why All You Need is Love isn’t on this disc.

Now she wants to listen to a piano version of Imagine as well.

Sighing, she unfurls herself from the armchair to rummage through the drawer for other discs. Glancing outside at the flaming, darkening sky, she turns on the lamp above the piano, bathing the maroon-varnished instrument in a soft, yellow glow not unlike nineteenth-century gas lamps. Ah yes, some Simon and Garfunkel would be nice.

She pops it into the player then lies back into the not-meant-for-relaxing-to-piano-music armchair, allowing all her anglophilic dreams to wash over her and carry her away down the stream of British-tinged fantasies.

She only recognizes Bridge Over Troubled WaterCeciliaThe Boxer, and El Condor Pasa, and she’s not familiar enough with their lyrics to sing along, but she doesn’t mind that much. After all, it doesn’t make her any less of a fan, does it?

The music tugs at her, stirring something deep within her. Vivid images of stretching landscapes of rocky green and labyrinthine grey cities full of flitting faces all fade and bloom and burst before her eyes. Rich traditions and histories curl and unfurl through her mind, the whispering Fey dancing alongside Keep Calm and Carry On while Shakespeare and Sherlock flourish their respective wits. She wishes she could go live in the UK, particularly London. She yearns to escape this dollhouse, where everyone has a prescribed role and her father plays puppet-master. She wants to backpack across the rolling countrysides and bustling cities, meet all sorts of people, and write about everything.

Her life is such a joke right now. Her father wants (insists) that she becomes a doctor yet he also expects her to be pretty and slim, marry a wealthy man, and give up her career in order to have kids and look after them while her man goes gallivanting off. Her mother supports her but she won’t go against her husband so she advises and pleads for her to follow her father’s wishes; it’s for her own good, after all. He’s only trying to keep her safe and provided for. Her mouth puckers at the thought; sure, safe and contained like some pretty little song bird, it’s melodies caged and never allowed to fill the open sky. It’s all such a misogynistic farce, a commedia dell’arte where she’s crying and screaming silently behind a mask twisted with beaming smiles and uproarious laughter.

She shakes her head, dispelling the dark clouds, and tries to drift back into the wispy fog of daydream.

No, not daydream! Nothing so frivolous as that. She will make it happen!

As if to echo her sudden determination, the piano soundly rounds out El Condor Pasa, bringing the Simon and Garfunkel disc to a resounding end.

Oh, the disc didn’t have Scarborough Fair/Canticle! She pouts outright at that, brow furrowing at the disappointing lack of her favorite Simon and Garfunkel song.

She turns the cover over and over in her hands, studying it as she muses whether or not to play the disc one more time. Eventually, though, she decides to return to classical music.

She first runs through a Nutcracker Ballet Suite Op.71a disc. As the piano plays OvertureMarchDance of the Sugar-Plum FairyRussian/Spanish/Arabian/Chinese DanceDance of the Mirlitons, and Waltz of the Flowers, mirages of ephemeral ballet dancers leap, twirl, arch, bow, and pirouette behind her eyes, as if they’re faeries prancing and skipping from key to key, creating and undulating to the music simultaneously.

She makes a mental note to ask her mother if they could go see a ballet, preferably The Nutcracker, at some point in the near future. Her parents are more likely to allow a ballet more than ‘those rubbish movies’ as her father calls them.

She pops in a different disc, and skips right to number 5, Dances des Cygnes by Tchaikovsky, which is followed by Chopin’s Nocturne No.2 Op.9-2 and Bizet’s Intermezzo de Carmen. After those, she skips again to number 9, Ballet desChamps-elysees, number 12, Dances des Mirlitons, and number 13, Flight of the Bumble Bee, composed by Gluck, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, respectively.

This time, she doesn’t imagine a handsome young man in a polished inky suit but rather a refined young woman, sweeping and graceful in her gown.

The gown glitters as if made from the same fabric as the universe, full of exploding stars and glimmering planets, reflective moons and arcing comets. A band of stardust encircles her left arm, high above her elbow. No rings or low-slung bracelets; that would scar the piano, which is blasphemous of course.

Like the man, though, she couldn’t seem to settle on the visual details of this woman. Bright flaming hair would douse into cascades of onyx, classically upswept bundles would unfurl and waterfall down a plunging back V, covering an expanse of exemplary carriage. Long hair would be gathered into one long stream with a large, satiny ribbon while rebellious shorter locks would be pinned back with twinkling flashes. Mercurial eyes continually shifted from icy blue to stormy grey to forest green to earthy brown while skin would reflect any and all shades of polished wood.

Regardless, the woman still takes her breath away as her beauty mixes with that of the piano’s operatic voice. She imagines those long, elegant fingers gently plodding over the keys during Nocturne and Ballet desChamps-elysees or prancing lightly and swiftly with the airy notes of Flight of the Bumble Bee or Tchaikovsky’s Dances; she imagines those long, delicate eyelashes fluttering close as the pianist sways to the music, lost to its chime-like reverberations; and she imagines draping herself around the pianist’s stardust-clad shoulders, nesting her chin in the player’s shoulder or on top of her head while the latter plays on, smiling softly, unperturbed.

As the Bumble Bee flies to a rest, her pianist gracefully stands, the folds of the universe within her gown unfurling and pooling around her. She smiles, eyes sparkling and unreadable before turning away and vanishing like the morning mist.

She sighs, reluctantly shaking her head free from the lingering afterimages. She continues to sit curled in the armchair, adding those visions to the other fantasies, such as the UK and writing ones, that her father would condemn.

Her heart starts a little when she checks the clock; it’s already that late? She hurriedly unscrambles herself from the armchair, fluffing its cushions as much to its pristine, pre-sat-in conditions as possible. Next, she turns off the player, and gathers all the discs, snapping them back into their covers before carefully reorganizing them back into the drawer and pushing it close. Last, she turns to the piano, gently trailing her fingers over the distinct black and white keys. Letting out a deep, wistful breath, she lays the wine-red cloth across the musical steps, smoothing it out with reverent, trembling hands, before gingerly lowering the lid with a soft thud. She then tucks the piano seat back under the majestic instrument and reaches up to roll the knob on the lamp until it clicks off, swathing her in dark silence.

She takes a step back, then another. She stands there in the echoing emptiness of the house, and breathes in the moonlight that filters in through the sheer-curtained windows.

If she closes her eyes and strains her ears, she can almost hear the musical words of the piano still reverberating throughout the hushed house. If she allows herself to become momentarily lost in the various phantasmagorical sensations of the evening, she can feel ghostly arms wrapping around her and a voice — man, woman, doesn’t matter — whispering notes of encouragement and love into her ear.

And if she really concentrates, truly gives herself over to her fantasies, she imagines that she feels soft lips press gently against hers as something light and delicate is pressed into her right hand. Curling her fingers around the object, she opens her eyes to find herself completely alone in the silvered silence.

She gazes at her hand to find a snow white feather lying there, long, crisp, and strong. One of the primary flight feathers of a fairly large bird, she guesses. Yet, it retains a sort of illusory delicacy, evoking the intangible air for which it is a part of. A sort of paradox between airy abstraction and absolute actuality.

Holding it between her fingertips, she brings it up to the scant light, noticing how the end of the shaft has been cut and pared down into a nib.

She smiles — she doesn’t have any ink, they use pens and computer nowadays anyway — but she understands what the feather truly stands for.

She smiles one last time at the piano, grasps the feather firmly, and walks straight out the front door into the cool, moonlit night.


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