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The Boy in the Piano
It was the gentle chiming of the piano that I fell in love with first. Each key had brought a scenery soaring at me. One of crystal blue water and sandy hills. One of dark green shrubs and giants decorated in leaves. One of a field where golden stalks danced to the furious song of the wind. One of a home sitting alone under the quiet blanket of winter. They were all there and all so very real. Or at least that's how it seemed. But with one touch those fantasies were like ripples on water: one moment there and the next gone. A scenery so unimaginably beautiful but yet so far out of reach. By the time the sound of the piano had stopped, it was as though I had been forced back down into the world of reality. Abrupt clapping would fill the concert hall giving the pianist a whirl of gratitude. It was only when he stood up from his bench to take a short bow that I really saw him.
It wasn't his bright blonde hair, or the brilliance that radiated off him in every direction, or even his polite smile, that drew me towards him. It was the sadness and pain that reached every corner of his deep blue eyes. They looked as bright as the sky but yet as dark as the depths of the sea. How was it even possible for someone to play such brilliantly beautiful music and yet appear to be in so much pain? That question still puzzles me. There were applause and cheers calling out to him but none seemed to reach his ears. He looked as though he were drowning in an endless ocean of despair. As if the waves were down on him one after another, suffocating him and depriving him of his free will. It was nothing like the scenery the piano had painted for me.
He was nothing like the scenery he had created.
A pleasant smile hid it all too well. But when our eyes met for a brief moment I could see it, and I mean really see it. Thousands of doubts and questions swarming his head. Fears, difficulties, the past, the future, all of it compacted into the demons that ruled his mind. But when he looked away and took another bow it felt as though it were only an illusion.
My hands trembled, taking on the tremors my anxiety causes every once in a while. The very thing that sometimes keeps me away from the piano, no one wants to listen to a musician who can't will their fingers to hit the keys right. I hadn't always been like this. In fact this, whatever this is, just started about two years ago. Sometimes they were merely small tremors in both my hands, affecting nearly anything. I could still will my fingers to move where I wanted, which was all my parents could ask for. All they ever wanted was a brilliant daughter with an even more brilliant knowledge of the piano. Their wish was granted, if only they would have wished for a happy daughter.
"Come now." My mother hissed at me as she grabbed my arm causing me to snap out of my thoughts. She'll lead me in whatever direction she wants, just as she always has, just as she always will.
We had just left the concert hall and entered the lobby when another roar of applause erupted. The young pianist was walking through the crowd throwing out his polite smiles and waving at those who called his name. He ducked his head down as he made his way towards the wall of windows facing the hazy autumn sky. His expression was pleasant and yet so miserable. His lips seemed to have the hint of a smile but a guarded one his eyes were an ocean of despair. His hands were filled with tremors as he ran them through his golden hair. He was the picture of a pleasant person. But pleasant doesn't mean happy. My legs seemed to have a mind of their own as they dragged me toward him. He didn't seem to notice or perhaps care, at least not until I was directly in front of him.
"Hello, can I help you?" He asked, his voice a soothing melody of perfected notes.
"Your piano pieces were beautiful." I replied, trying to convey the emotions I had stirring inside me. He nodded his head curtly before looking off to the window, his eyes never straying from the ground. Trees stood like giants below with splotches of red, orange, and yellow blanketing the grass around them.
"Beautiful." He muttered as he fixed his gaze on the trees. He only glanced at me once but I could feel it, an understanding none other could comprehend, a connection. "Tell me, when I was performing, when were you the most surprised?"
"When you stopped." The words slipped out of my mouth without much thought, which in reply he raised an eyebrow in my direction. My mind was jumbled as I tried to pull my thoughts together. "Throughout your pieces, I was in different worlds entirely and then when you stopped it was as though I'd been left in a dreary world. Honestly it scared me a bit, it was like I had forgotten where I was."
"Interesting." He smiled as he leaned the side of his head against the window, this smile looked different though somehow. It wasn't fake but it certainly wasn't genuine.
My smile is quite like that too, I suppose. To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure what happiness is. Is it the high-pitched notes of our life or the deep low rumbling ones? Is it possible to have those keys mix together into perfected chords to create the moments we hold dearest to us? Or perhaps it's the feeling that you gain when you sit down at the stool and allow your fingers to glide over those polished white and black keys? It's truly a mystery.
"I want to hear them again." I whisper to the boy, finally unable to hold it in. I must escape in his melodies, I have to. For this air is toxic and the people it carries with it.
"Then come on." He chuckled as he grabbed my hand and walked me over to a door with a sign labeled: practice room. "What do you want to hear?"
"Whatever it is that you wish to play." My words seemed to carry a lightness for him, he looked more relaxed, more like a young boy.
Oh how I had wished for someone to say those words to me. To tell me that I could play whatsoever that I wished. To allow me to play the songs I want to and to create the places I wish to escape to. That is a freedom I have yet to discover. I can only create such places now with the piano. But even that has been restricted from me, piece by piece, note by note, and key by key.
"You can't play something so childish!" My mother once screamed at me while I had been practicing piano.
The song I was playing was simple and beautiful. It had reminded me of a small stream fighting against a larger current, something I could easily relate to. I loved that piece very much but my mother found it too "childish" for her tastes. I then discovered just how ignorant some people can be. She didn't see the deeper meaning because she didn't seek it. Maybe if she would've tried she would've at least been able to understand, but that's asking a lot. Understanding people is something that no one seems to be able to do all the time. My last piano instructor taught me that.
"You can never understand anyone unless you know them and you can never know them unless you make an attempt to." She would say.
She was right, as usual. But talking to people is something I've never been good at. I could blame the long hours of piano practice for my nonsocial lifestyle but deep down I'd know that's a lie. I can't keep conversations going, I can't even start them. My palms sweat enough to fill a pool, my hands shake as if they're being electrocuted, and my heart beats louder than any of the piano keys I've ever struck down. I tried to explain this to my mother, she didn't understand. It was inevitable though, after all she never did make an attempt to get to know me or even talk to me for that matter.
It was a school counselor who brought my actions to my attention. We talked for an hour about the feelings that had been conflicting me for so long. The next day I had been called down to the counseling office, my mother waited for me there wearing her usual scowl on her face. I hadn't expected the counselor to tell my mother everything I had told her.
"Anxiety?" My mother shouted in shock. "My daughter is perfectly normal! She doesn't have anxiety! This is ridiculous! Are you trying to make her out to be some disabled little girl?"
"Ma'am, anxiety is quite common in teenagers and in adults too. It's not an abnormality or anything and I'm not trying to make it sound as though it is. It's normal for people to be diagnosed with anxiety the same as other mental conditions. I only told you these things cause I think your daughter should see a therapist." The counselor's voice was opposite of my mother's: calm and gentle.
"She doesn't need a therapist, she is normal!" My mother screamed at her, losing whatever little self composure she had before.
They went back and forth like that for hours. I had never wanted anything more than to just disappear or to escape to the world's I had created in my music. My mother had come to the conclusion that my counselors "crazy accusations" would be dismissed without a second thought. With that, I had been left to practice the piano until my fingers went numb. This taught me the definition of freedom. Every little action is a small freedom we're given although we can't realize that until it's taken away or when we're denied the very thing that might be able to help.
"It's been so long since someone's allowed me to do that..." There was a pause in his voice as if a memory from long ago was playing in front of him. I gave him a confused look, my thoughts had distracted me from whatever we were talking about before. They had dragged me into a whole other world. "To play whatever I want."
Before I could even respond his fingers began. He pressed down each key with intent, each note binding together to form a hauntingly lonely song. I watched his hands move from one side of the piano to the other, picking up speed by the second. Loneliness, pain, sadness, restraint, all the emotions came pouring out of the boy. His fingers controlled the furious storm that erupted with each note until no emotions of fear were left lingering. All the way until he had faded away into small specks of light, dancing around the piano. He was free. It brought a smile to my face and for the first time in a while, it was a genuine one.
The eruption of applause snaps me out of yet another little world of my own, but this time I'm in the real world and the boy of the piano is not here. He is left in the world I created with the music of my piano. Each note a person, each melody a place, and each key an emotion. The world where I created a boy to mirror myself and the feelings I harbor along with me. He has freed himself and I shall do the same now. As I stand to take a bow I can finally feel it, it's the freedom I've chased for so long and now it's finally in my grasp.