Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Refuge

The chair is black, only the smallest semblance of a back. The pedals are three brassy, slightly cool metal levers; my right foot on the far right, my left foot on far left—I leave the center one on its own. The keys are familiar wood, somewhat glossy, smudgy in places but still comfortable. Gold lettering names some obscure manufacturer from Baltimore. Above, 264 little pegs—three for each of the 88 keys—hold wire strings taut for worn hammers to tap or pound. The lid, with its faintly peeling black, paint, is closed.

My fingers and my brain think together, one leaving off where the other begins. I find some sense of peace here that I cannot find elsewhere. My problems are reduced to coordination of my hands, producing the next chord in a pleasing way, deciding whether high notes or low octaves are better, dynamics. And none these decisions is constricting, inalterable: I can take back anything, play it again, experiment with different melodies and harmonies. I can play the same two F sharps with my left hand for half an hour, and no one will care, because I’m alone and listening.

Sometimes, when I am done with an idea, I like to play a nice ending chord and hold down the sustain pedal. I can take my fingers off the keys and listen to the notes fade into nothingness. A minute, two minutes can go by before I can no longer detect the notes.

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