Music is who I have been, who I am, and who I long to be. Music comes to a person in strange ways, sometimes it arrives in the form of a haunting whir of harmonics. But for me, its power resonates through the pauses between notes, the sound that breaks silence, and the moment of reflection in the chaos of life. For me, music came in the form of the instrument of my heart. The piano, a forgotten relic from the previous owners, towered in our sitting room like a sixth member of the family.
There she stood, proud and unfaltering in our small dingy shack with creaky floorboards, broken walls, and rats for pets. Yet my parents never sold her. Instead, my brother and I learned to play her; first scales, then Sonatinas our father used to hum while cooking dinner. My mother even made an attempt at cooking tunes, plunking away at the unfaltering grace of chords as I sat under its old wooden frame in the boom of the tingling strings. And somehow, music became our survival, as my brother and I toured around playing duets and cheerful dinner tunes for dimes.
After the war, I never went back to that excuse of a home; rather, I ended up at many. I started off playing at small parties where men and women sat in around me with their coffee-cups. I saw them as a circle of ghosts, lifeless and uncaring, sipping oblivion out of delicate china. And through my popularity, I was consumed by a world of lavished parties, figures of silks and satins, and faces of shining teeth and slickbacked hair. A wandering musician, I travelled from house to house, with music as my only luggage.
I was a master in the practice of benefitting from others’ wealth and hospitality; money flowed from their pockets like notes soared from my piano. But just like the house where my childhood began and ended, each large and stately manor I stayed in was just a house with yet another Steinway. Somehow, this beauty of mahongany surfaces and ebony skipping stones remained in my life as my fingers glided to Chopin’s rhythms and I shared my gift with the glitterati of New York. From house to house I traveled, nothing but an overstayed guest with music as a token of my sincere appreciation.
Then there was Gatsby, a surprisingly young man who attained an English accent. I met him at a tournament which Jordan Baker, the professional golfer of questionable integrity, was participating in, and his remarkable smile shone just as much as the hood of his Rolls Royce. He willingly invited me to stay at his house, evidently unaware of my reputation for a short stay to become anything but short. One would assume that to Gatsby I was just another object in his mansion, another nameless guest at one of his overdone parties.
But I was not just another acquaintance whose name he couldn’t be bothered to learn, another one of his “old sports”. For the first time, I felt welcomed. With Gatsby I was more than just a guest. Just as he provided me with shelter and protection, I did the same for him. There was a part of Gatsby not many knew, hidden behind the Italian shirts and polished shoes. He told me tales of an impoverished childhood, a lofty goal, and his motivation in acquiring his fortune for his love. For that, I traded my own story of a cold and empty childhood, warmed by my passion for piano.
There we would sit, as the sun stretched out her rays in a yawn at the touch of morning after all the champagne had been drunk, and the laughter had died off. I would play, and he would talk, and together somehow we would sing a song of sorrow and hope more beautiful than any other I had ever heard. The day I met his love, Daisy Buchanan, all I saw was her sad face filled with beautiful features. However, I must admit I wasn’t in the best of moods as I had just woken up from a nap and was quite embarrassed to be caught in the act when Gatsby asked me to play.
If I remember correctly, I made up some lousy excuse but proceeded to play a classic when I saw the desperation on his face. Once they left, we sat in the parlor with the hum of rain drizzling on the roof. “Without her, the seeds root, the rain falls, the grass grows, but I die. ” He smiled a little, and I did too. That was the last we spoke about her, or at all. I caught him a couple of times fleeing out the door in a waft of cologne or finishing off the newspaper as I strolled into the kitchen, but not much else. I continued my days aimlessly playing tennis and amusing myself with useless activities.
I would sleep late, wasting away my time staring at the clock’s hands go by whilst skipping my fingers on the piano until my eyes It was an ungodly hour when I looked up from the lines of black and white at the sight of Gatsby’s darkened face. His eyes were shadows and his feet thud the stairs like a broken heart hitting the ground. I heard his door slam into the frame and I ambled upstairs expecting the weather that day to be dark and ugly. It occurred to me then that I was becoming the unwanted visitor in Gatsby’s house, just like in every house before.
No longer was I keeper of stories, but just the piano man once more. The next day I sat in the kitchen sipping a dark cup of tea as Gatsby spoke to Nick, his friend who lived just across the hills of landscaping. They were talking in riddles, or so it seemed, about some occurrence the day before, which was a blur to me since Gatsby and I hadn’t caught up in a while. As I dabbed at the teabag floating on the surface, the gardener came in to talk to Gatsby about the pool. I hadn’t used the pool much that summer, but now its smooth and silky shine was intriguing even with the small whip of the autumn breeze.
Gatsby also made note of this and decided it was time he use the pool, and I decided to go play on the tennis courts instead. I wish he had invited me to join him, or made recognition to my presence, but rather he did a hop, skip, and jump to his room to change and Nick clumsily sauntered in the direction of his house. I slowly trudged to my room, stopping to observe Nick walking along the vast green landscaping of Gatsby’s garden.
I continued on and passed Gatsby in the hall, covered only by a thin towel. “Well hello old sport! He painted a smile on his face and as he walked off, I tried to remember the last time he had addressed me with such a name, and tried to shake it off as I entered my room. Gingerly, I removed my clothes and began to search for the appropriate attire. With time, I became more frustrated. Old sport? When had I become just another guest at his party, or acquaintance whose name he couldn’t be bothered to learn? When was it okay for him not to talk to me? Why had he started to ignore me? The thoughts in my head ran faster than clockwork and I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest.
It was then that the crisp sound of a gunshot, then another, sliced the air and for a second everything stood still. I did not move and then stupidly ran my hands frantically down my body just incase I hadn’t felt the gunshot. When I finally came to my senses and realized the gun had not been pointed at me, I ran downstairs to find the doors to the pool spread open. I did not need to go outside to realize what had just happened. I did not need to know the details. Death was detail enough. I ran to my room and found whatever loose items I could find and stuffed it into a case.
I did not think, I just moved and then I was gone. “So . . . ” they said, with their wineglasses delicately poised. They seemed to mock at something they could not understand. “So . . . ” they said again, amused and insolent. The silver on the table glittered, and the red wine in the glasses seemed to be the blood I had wasted in a foolish cause. As I played them my song of sorrow I cried my heart into my notes. I should have stayed for the funeral. I should have cared. Now, I have nothing, nothing but music. Music is my present. Music will be my future. But Gatsby was my past.