Words to include: twitch, guilt, bow.
It’s always the same dream. It’s the end of my performance, I stand up from the piano stool and bow as they cheer for me, but as I raise myself out of the bow, I find myself doing it all over again, making my way to the edge of stage, bowing perfectly, getting the applause. It happens over and over and over, until finally I’m just standing there, bent half over as they all cheer relentlessly at me.
I wake up, startled and twitching. I jump out of my bed, trying to regain the feeling of control, shake away the discomfort, but when I finally feel a sense of relief that I’m in my home and not up there, I feel so guilty. Guilty that I could feel such a way about my performances. After all, my mum sacrificed so much to get me here. Growing up she was the only one there for me, dad was long gone, and she always took care of me no matter what. One day, at an OP shop buying me clothes, I found a keyboard and started to play a short tune. It was the song playing on the radio that I’d never heard before, and suddenly I felt as though I knew every note. I was 4 at the time, but that didn’t stop her from saving up enough money to buy me a keyboard and some lessons as well.
She loved watching me play. It made her proud and it made me happy to make her happy. Every performance was for her, but the older I got, the more I fell in love with science and mathematics. My mum couldn’t understand why I would rather spend my time solving chemical equations, instead of playing the piano and sharing my ‘gift’ with the world. Every birthday it was new sheet music, or a book on how to tune a piano, never a scientific calculator, like I’d asked for. For my 18th birthday she even bought me a baby grand piano. She’d been saving for it since I was 6, when she realised I was gifted, and she’d finally accumulated enough savings to buy it for me on my 18th birthday. After that, I just couldn’t let her down. I had to keep playing, for her, for her sacrifice. So I crossed the globe to attend Julliard and make her proud. Now I work as a concert pianist. I have been for the past 20 years. Every concert was easy, knowing that I was doing it for her, to make her proud. But now, now every concert is like that dream. The monkey doing his tricks over and over again… if only she were still here, then it would be so much easier, then I’d know what to do.
It’s been 6 months, and I got back on the piano stool for the first time today, only because of financial obligations. Thousands of people have already booked tickets, and I couldn’t bring myself to let them down, let alone stomp on my mother’s memory.
Her last words to me were, “I’m so proud of you, my little pianist.” And yet, ever since then I’ve only been thinking about whether or not she was wrong. I’ve been a concert pianist for so long, I can’t remember who I was before that, who I am without it. I gave my whole self over to her, and now I’m lost without her. Go figure.
And yet, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, signs of a way out of these lost woods. It would mean giving up everything I’ve ever known, ever been, letting go of everything she was ever proud of. And yet, the more it stews around in there, the more appealing the idea seems to become. The more the me, without piano, without her, comes into the light. And I like the look of me, without her. I like the person I could become, without her. Surely she knew I’d have to move on at some point in our lives?
She’s not here anymore, she doesn’t have a say. I know that sounds selfish, but how else can I move on, be me, without her?