Not Quite Like I Used to.
“Oh, well,” I began as I gave a friendly wink to little Anna, “These old fingers don’t play like they used to.” I sat down next to my young granddaughter and gave my fingers a good stretch; the sound of the cracking of those old bones stunned even me, let alone the little girl at my side, and the stool- once so familiar- was stiff and hard under my now much softer rump.
“Now, let’s see here,” I said as I found the correct fingering, “Ahh that’s it,” I continued as my thumb hit middle C; I was ready. I began fast, so fast that I forgot my weakened bones and frame. I played the tune of my youth, a song of my own creation: Eternal Youth. The strong notes pulled me back fifty years; just like that I had forgotten my audience for another. My ears led me away from my house, back into Carnegie Hall at the full house.
The crowd sits in rows, they are here to hear my fingers. The anxiety pulls them at a puppet’s string and the heat of the spotlight causes my scalp to ooze with sweat. Just like that I am young and beautiful again. I slam my fingers down on the keys, at this time they are the only love that holds any meaning to me. White and black, they play the tune as I command. It flows, it becomes mellifluous, it beats with the heart of the young. The crowd, now tied as one under my composition claps to my beat. I want to clap too, so I play the beat louder and louder.
I smile because I know what comes next- a secret until now as I give it to them: a thunderous silence with a mezzo piano. I give them a quiet so beautiful so loud, in a smooth transition so calming that even my own face streams with tears. I am magnificent, marvelous, free. I float above the stage with the sound of my own creation, a child of my mind.
The song approaches its end, and the tempo jumps as I crescendo. As if unwilling to let it end, I pull them along while the song’s crescendo fades as youth inevitably does. Back and back and back into an old skin, into the woman I became through years upon years. My hair fades to white, my mind becomes wise. my fingers then thicken and became clunky, but they play the last notes as I fade back from nostalgia, no longer young, no longer beautiful.
In time these things I found lost importance anyway.
I opened my eyes as I played the last note of Eternal Youth. My soul was filled, though my body had emptied of what I had been. That was when my granddaughter, with bulged eyes and a gaping mouth spoke, “Grandma that was beautiful! Where did you learn to play that?”
“I wrote it, God bless America I did.”
“You wrote it? Really?”
“Sure did, and I guess I can still play it well,” I said, again gave to Anna, my greatest creation- the child of my child, another wink, “But not quite like I used to.”
No, not like I used to at all, I thought, because I play a different tune now, the tune of a good life lived to its fullest.