Wednesday, July 12, 2017


First times for everything are always special and you want to look back fondly of it. To be yourself in trying new things doesn't mean losing what you are or want to be. The first time I wore toe shoes I fell and twisted my ankle but that's not the thing I remember. I recall I did put them on and lasted a while before hurting myself so... I put them on and tried again when the injury healed. The same is for life, things may not always work out the way you expect, you have to find the joy within each moment. Because each moment is a first that you'll never get back. 

Here's an old one about firsts.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? 

Kisses, m.


It‘s been a great many years since I’ve taken on a new pupil. The entire flat has been empty for nearly six months and most of my things remain packed away in storage. I’ve not been here in over a year. Sooner or later I knew that I would be returning back, but the introduction of a new pupil was quite unexpected. It isn’t often that I take on a new pupil. I’m still trying to remember where the furniture goes and what rooms held the music books. My housekeeper Greta has been kind enough to keep the place in order through my absence.

Life here has changed much since I’ve been away. Not at all how I remembered it. The last tenants painted the kitchen a shade of ecru. Greta hadn’t mentioned it. Sometimes when I sublet the place there are changes, this particular one makes my stomach turn. Outside the South Windows, the lights of summer dusk seem much more alive with the sounds of people in streets. The old Bechstein sits quietly in the corner of the room beneath a sheet. Certainly not the same as the Steinway I’d been playing on for the last several months, but nonetheless a wonderful instrument.

I can faintly recall the distant moment when it came to stay. With that very first introduction along came my first pupil, Victor. Just like the piano, he stayed on with me, although not as long as the piano. Victor helped a man to deliver my large black beauty. The two men carefully positioned the Bechstein against the far wall where it seemed most at home.

The introduction seemed harmless enough but proved to be more. I can vividly remember the hours spent talking to Victor about the nature of music and its significance. He was awkward but with impeccable manners, often waiting for an indication on my part. Our conversations would drift into discussions of performance, drive and passion for the craft. At the time, I still hadn’t been able to accomplish much between my performance schedules and it was a pleasure to talk with someone willing to understand more.

Victor almost instantly became a fold to the flat as well as the Bechstein. Days were spent at rehearsals and nights spent playing for Victor. My talk of harmonies and the instruction of finger placement captivated him thoroughly. We never mentioned lessons although he was quite content and mesmerized by the piano. Every time I played for Victor I knew he was absorbing every movement and nuance that my body made in an attempt to understand.

Mozart sent his hands around my waist and lips upon the back of my shoulders. Berlioz made him grow heated with desire. His arms would wrap around my body while his hands would find their way upon mine; mimicking the dance upon the keys. His fingers became longer extensions of the ivory while he questioned me about the piano and its voice.  Something about Victor’s curiosity felt comfortable. There was a reassuring manner in which he spoke, a willingness to take on anything that incited my interest.

Soon his curiosity became my pupil culminating in a passionate and relentless pursuit. The instruction came by way of technique and ear training. Notes on the page did nothing to stimulate Victor’s motivation. And it was quite easy letting the sound of my voice train his ear by example of pitch and harmonies.

Often my hands would gently find solace guiding his across the keys. Firmly directing the fingers to flatten and uncurl to become longer as I linked my arms around his to support the proper movement and accuracy for tone. Taking my turn to dance upon his hands. Gently nurturing his motions with the pressing of my lips.

The cabinets next to the Bechstein should have had the books. Greta must have moved them when she left. No matter. Perhaps the study then, I will need to make a final tally of the furniture in there as well.

It was remarkable that Victor required little to no teaching by book. Although he wasn’t fluent, he was quite adept. My favorites of his interpretations happened to include Bartok and Schubert. These were the pieces that would send my hands down, around embracing and desiring more from my pupil. His lips always managing to meet mine between breathes. Night after night we would be completely spent on or around the piano after a thorough instruction.

Dust seems to permeate each break or opening in every room. The simple movement of opening a door sends a cloud of haze scattering through the air. As I pass through the thin cloud I can see clearly that the previous tenants hadn’t made use of my study.

My desk has remained in place uncovered. A thin sheet of dust now coats its surface. I can make out a small stack of papers in the bottom right corner. Although curiosity compels me, I choose to open the window and air out the room. With a small rush of air the papers fly off the desk and a stack of thin books tumbles from the corner bookcases out onto the floor. The papers swim through the dusty air until finding a home upon the dusty floor.

I’ve been in this room before. Almost exactly like this. Standing amidst a sea of ransacked papers and music books. It was like this when Victor left. After seeing the room taken apart, I’d almost half expected to find the Bechstein destroyed. We just finished a set of Beethoven’s Sonatas and he said it wasn’t there anymore. Something missing in my voice was what happened he said. I’d only come from a quick rehearsal. He had three hours to get angry and leave. I had fifteen minutes to cope. Victor’s absence came as abruptly as his arrival. Sometimes things come to an end without warn. My time with Victor was no more than it needed to be, but no less significant. Somehow, the Bechstein will always remind me of Victor.

Picking up the papers and dusting the room reminds me of another pupil, Ana. During her stay, she would spend considerable amounts of time in the study. Ana was always quite particular about details. I think perhaps during her time here, my study was at its organized peak. The music books that now lay in complete discord once had an order, a system attached to them.

Ana came to be my pupil by chance. At the time I had continued to stay busy with the Symphony.  It had been at two years since Victor left and at least three months since my lover James had left me for a cellist interning in the summer symphony at the university. I’d made the mistake of introducing them at a benefit dinner over the Fourth of July weekend. The thought of taking a roommate had become immediate as there was a possibility I might be taking work as a pianist in London for a couple of months.

Ana had been a guest vocalist with the symphony for the previous season and had accepted the offer to return. The concert violinist had arranged the introduction with the promise that I’d consider tossing in a lesson or two as a part of the agreement. Ana was lovely and very charming. She was taken with me instantly and begged me to consider her right away. We agreed and she came to stay.

With Ana came three packed bags and the tale of a jealous ex-lover; whom felt completely betrayed by her actions. A situation that I never pressed further for information. She was quite happy to stay on and habitually asserted that I give her instruction. Her eagerness to know the craft came unexpected to me. From the very first lesson I could sense a feeling of satisfaction and infatuation from Ana. It was almost like an instant desire to please me.

Show me more she would often ask. Aside from her vocal training, Ana passionately spent afternoons at the Bechstein without pause. Typically I would find her immersed in a Schumann dance or Beethoven sonata. There was something refreshing about her talent. Unlike Victor it wasn’t all fingers and arms without technique. Ana sought theory and meaning to deepen her appreciation for the piano. I couldn’t help but encourage her desire and provide the proper tools. She was quite an exceptional talent. At times, my own skills seemed to pale in comparison. Like most undiscovered things, living unnoticed amongst the ordinary. Until something new and foreign is taken in to find an unknown capacity that lay dormant.

Despite the pupil surpassing the teacher, Ana continued to be captivated by my performance. At times we would play for each other until the early hours of the morning. Upon my turn, she would sit next to me at the edge of the piano seat. It was the passionate chords of Rachmaninov that changed her posture. As though she was the pianist performing she’d lift her head accordingly and watch my movements with an appreciation of beauty and understanding. To her it was far more than fingers pounding against a keyboard. With her head slightly turned she would whisper into my ear and gently let her arms subside into my movements. Many times after the performance did we find ourselves down upon the thick rug beneath the piano completely exhausted.

And over time, I accepted Ana as a companion in addition to being my pupil. It wasn’t that I reached for her, or she reached for me. The desire was set into motion through mutual participation. Ana stayed on with me for nearly two years until she agreed to visit Paris for a season and chose to remain abroad. Now and again the opening notes of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise hang close to my heart like a souvenir left behind.

Six years later my study shows the strain her absence. I have no system for my books and the oversized mailbag in the corner reminds me that it’s been a bit of time since I’ve received a letter from her. Somehow we’ve managed to continue an intermittent correspondence since she left. Perhaps there is a note in the pile.

The sound of the bell interrupts my efforts to re-stack the fallen books. The movers have brought the remaining pieces of my furniture.  The conservatory is quite bare without the Steinway. During Ana’s stay we acquired a Steinway that properly resides in the conservatory. I think that’s the first piece I want brought in. It has been away for too long. Absent from its home next to the East Bay Windows overlooking the lights of the city.

The absence of the Steinway brings me to my last pupil, Lamont. He had stayed with me over three years. Longer than any of the others and we were nearly married. Lamont would have been completely aghast without the Steinway and it was the first piece I had sent away. He had detested the Bechstein. It was a cheap thing to him and beneath his expertise. Sadly of all the skills I bestowed to him, humility was not one.

Greta has returned and brought a set of dishes from the store. I honestly could not have remembered about the dishes without her assistance. It’s nearly eight o’clock and the movers have finished setting up the furniture. It seems as though I may have forgotten a few chairs but it’s nothing that can’t be done without. My last months spent in this place were without most of the furniture amidst a sea of boxes. Another thing that could not have been done without Greta.

Leo is an unimportant man that left me in London six months ago. When he left, the music became my passion once again. I ran off to London last year, after accepting residency for the season. That unimportant man came along. Leo has been here after Lamont left, but the Steinway has not. Sitting down before the piano sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, I think of the only music that can bring it all back. Chopin. There is no easy way to remember Lamont without it. Every memory is guided by an emotion set to music. As I gently tap the keys I find that she is out of tune. I’ll call the tuner in the morning. There will be no lesson tonight.

Lamont came almost immediately after Ana. We met through friends at party where he was playing an Irish jig on a harpsichord while dancing alongside. He thought I was pretty and brought me chocolate so I would dance with him. I found him to be charming and funny, so I did.

Lamont never moved in, but never left. And wasn’t my pupil when he came, but was before he left. His favorite room was the conservatory. He enjoyed sitting at the bench in front of the Steinway with a glass of red. His glass would be empty before asking me to play him something by Chopin. Chopin was his standard. Although he couldn’t play it, he arrogantly refused to allow me to teach him. Always preferring to listen and distract while letting his mouth do unforgettable things as he knelt before me.

Unlike the others, Lamont could play piano, but not very well. The idea of instruction made him feel apprehensive. After two years he finally let me teach him how to play Chopin as long as told him about her. He was always curious about her. Why she came before he did. When we started I didn’t have an answer and eventually put away the pictures and played him Chopin. After I told him about her, he thought he knew me completely, the part of me that couldn’t be captured in a photo or through a glimpse. I don’t think he ever knew me at all.

Lamont insisted that I use the Steinway to teach him. According to him it was a creature of higher quality and the only suitable choice for Chopin. I despised his arrogance but loved the idea of instruction. Our lessons were not smooth, but he made progress in a matter of months quickly learning to imitate my technique. Regularly he would engage me in lessons by candlelight and then seduce me before we finished. Nodding his head to call me closer, indicating that I should sit with him then grabbing my face to kiss me roughly, until I kissed him back. Once he was satisfied my lesson was over and I was left atop the Steinway with my bare skin and tossed hair listening to his interpretation of something by Chopin.

As I gently tap at the out of tune key I recollect how heat can quickly make an instrument lose its harmony.  Despite our passion for one another, in the end things began to sour swiftly. With Lamont, it was always more, more to tell, more to know, more that he didn’t want to be bothered with. I had grown impatient by his arrogance as he had grown exhausted of my instruction. My refusal to marry him was something he couldn’t understand. He locked himself in the conservatory and stayed another week playing Chopin. So I decided to send away the Steinway. That he could understand. And he did.

Occasionally I wonder if Chopin will ever have a different meaning.

It’s ten o’clock and the bell is sounding. He’s finally arrived. As I make my way down the hall, I can only stop for a moment to take my hair down and fix it in the mirror. Although I had planned for his arrival I wasn’t sure of how to continue. It’s been a week since I’d seen him in London. Methodically I find myself creating rules when there should be none: Practice on the Bechstein, not on the Steinway, I will not teach you Chopin, and you can’t ask me about the others. All these insecurities are swimming in my head, but I pause and let him in. Then I tell him, it‘s been a great many years since I’ve taken on a new pupil, let’s see how this goes.

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