When asked what she wanted for Christmas, she didn't even hesitate: "A string quartet."
"...Oh," they would respond, with furrowed brow--perhaps trying to envision the foursome tucked picturesquely under the tree, caroling away. How would one wrap such a present, anyway? She answered, "With duct tape, of course."
Yes, duct tape would do just fine. Using precision when making incisions with her handy pocket knife, she could extract the cellist without losing more than a couple of bow hairs, maybe an eye. The filler items--viola and second--would be left in their packaging for later, when post-holiday boredom struck. And the first violin? "I already have one," she would explain on the telephone when inquiring about the cost of return shipping.
I'd already seen this Bach earlier today, when the bare branches made lines on the snow in front of me, and the shadows echoed their form. Then the black notes suddenly took flight as ravens, circling, toying playfully with each other, being supported by only air.
The morning orchestra class ended in its usual manner: the teacher concluded, the students shuffled, the bell rang. There I sat, practicing my first movement of a Bach Partita in the high school orchestra room between classes, when suddenly I became painfully aware:
This is not in tune.
Up until that point, I'd assumed I knew that I was in tune. Certainly, as the concertmaster, I'd spent my fair share of time hollering at everyone else to fix their notes when things went sour during orchestra rehearsal. This time, however, my own notes had met their match against the stumbling stone that is unaccompanied Bach, his tight-fitting structures exposing a chink in my youthful armor. No, this doesn't sound right. This doesn't sound good. Not good at all.
I stood up and immediately felt a ripping sensation in the backside of my jeans. That didn't sound good, either. I sat down again, reddening in the face, aware of the fact that I now had a large tear right where I least needed it. While all my classmates were stacking chairs and stands, I sat perplexed, until finally I was all alone, in the middle of the room with my music stand and Bach in front of me, thinking about the large hole in back of me. Perhaps I could tie a sweatshirt or something over my backside to cover the embarrassment for the remainder of the day. Reconsidering, I sent someone to call my mother. My next class, music theory, thankfully took place in the same room. The bell rang, the students changed, and class began--all while I sat there with Bach and the hole in my jeans.
...If it was true that I wasn't as in tune as I once thought I was, could it be possible that I'd strayed further from the truth than I'd previously thought? For the first time ever, I glimpsed the future that lay before me, one of various pitfalls and shortcomings in my musical career as a violinist. Up until that point, I'd been invincible. It never even occurred to me that I was anything but the best musician, hands down, destined for fame and legacy. But that day, Bach held a mirror and gently posed a question: Are you sure about that?
College careers have an unkind way of rigorously funneling young adults into strict agendas and deadlines. They seldom make space for retrospective revelations that need time for personal adjustments. A senior in high school either needs to strive forward under the cloak of self-perceived greatness, or step back while other more confident musicians grab the scholarships and enroll in the conservatories. Halfway through my senior year, my own introspective epiphany could not have come at a worse time. Though I can't deny its necessity in the long-term--in the perspective of musical progress, it was the best--humbling experiences best not happen while applications are due. And certainly not between first and second hour, when theory assignments are due.
Twenty minutes passed as I waited for a change of clothing to arrive from home. Jeans never rip at home, I observed. At last, a friend appeared at the door, holding up a paper sack. Thank goodness! I ran to the restroom to restore my backside to normal decency, relieved to be able to resume my studies with a less precarious posterior.
As unsettling as the gaping hole in the backside of my pants had been, the brevity of the encounter snuffed like a candle wick against the burning horizon that Bach presented that day. In fact, to this day, I reach to cover that which Bach has laid bare.
I felt too frumpy for a ninja this year. No, something more reserved would have to do. And since the Community Orchestra's Halloween concert mandated costumes, going as myself was simply not an option. I took a look in the mirror. No, definitely not a ninja.
Let's see, part the hair this way... add a lace trim and a broach, grab this shawl here... Look, it's-- --Emily! Not bad, not bad... I practiced a couple of stiff, intense gazes, and then snapped a self portrait with my digital camera.
Actually, it felt quite comfortable being Emily: all you have to do is simply take the symphony from the violinist and she's already more than halfway there. I could envision myself a few years down the road, after gradually neglecting more and more of my dwindling relationships. I'd drift quite naturally into my own little world, filling up secret blogs with thoughts for no one else to see. All necessary correspondence could be maintained on facebook, and through my colleagues at violinist.com I could continue my string studies. Since I already buy all my supplies on the internet; I could send George in for things like groceries (and while you're at it, pick me up an americano, too). I could even conduct my lessons via webcam--now there's an idea! No, it wouldn't be difficult at all to set everything up so I never had to leave the house. Ever. Again.
Everyone back stage at the Halloween concert complimented my Puritan style and how well it suited me (though some mistook me for Jane Eyre or Hester Prynn). I couldn't disagree with the suitability; I appreciated the way my hair kept its manners the entire day, even through high winds and extreme humidity changes. Plus, black has this wonderful way of disguising lumpy figures, doesn't it? Who needs skinny jeans when I've got this fine floor-length skirt? Surely, with enough frump, you can flatter just about anything! Comfortably content in my costume, I reclined--somewhat properly--on the couch late into the night musing and composing in my undisclosing black skirt and scalp-hugging bun,
With cryptic verse--a Dash--like this
And capital for Emphasis
In time--would Beyond my time
My Voice prove Infinite?
...Eh, maybe not.
More entries: October 2009
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