Piano with Hatchet
Playing piano is just too hard. You whine. It does no good. You cry.
Your mother continues to flip the pancakes. In the car, you try
counting trees as they whiz past, chew on your coat lapel, draw smileys
in the fog you create with your breath on the window -- anything but
think about the lesson you’re hurtling toward. The living room scent of
mothball and dusty rug with a whiff of cherry. His collection of
snowglobes that all contain little lumberjacks, each one clutching a
hatchet. That time he took you in the kitchen for a peach. You’ve
arrived and there’s no stopping it now as your mother ushers you out of
the car with a “Have fun, honey!” as she simultaneously pops the lock
on your door. You climb out and up the porch steps, ring the doorbell.
He’s listening to an album on that ancient record player, a 78 as thick
as a pizza. He grunts and rises, and you see his outline through the
sheers. The door creaks open, leaving a slice of grand piano, half of
his body and face, part of a portrait of his dog above the piano, the
bust of Mozart. The record pops and crackles. “I hope you’ve
practiced,” he says. His bony finger curls your invitation into his
Every freckle on her face glowed like a star. No, literally. I had to
leave her. She kept me awake at night. Imagine trying to sleep next to
the milky way. Or a jar of fireflies. You have? Well, the freckles
weren’t her only issue. She used to get up at 2 a.m. and make toast.
While she was still sleeping. She’d sit up, put on her pink fuzzy
slippers and pad down the hallway, the walls aglow with her face. The
first time she did it I just thought she was restless. She works as a
nurse during the day, and sometimes the stress gets to her. Each
patient is befriended. She connects. But it wasn’t restlessness. She
was still asleep. Down the stairs, into the kitchen. Toaster. Bread.
The scent of delicious morning rising up the stairs. Only it wasn’t
morning, it was the bedtime of a lush. The first few times she made
breakfast so early I escorted her back to her side of the bed and she’d
say funny things before snuggling back in like “For more information
check your local listings . . .” or “Take the cat out to dry.” It was
charming, but every night? And that face full of stars. It kept me
awake. I tried wishing on them. I tried connecting them into plausible
constellations -- the Pleiades, Orion. Nothing worked. I was cranky
every single day at work. When I announced our breakup, no one
understood. “You were so happy together!” and “My God, she’s so
beautiful.” How could they understand? They all fell in love.