Heroic (Personal Essay)

"She will soon be putty in my calloused hands..."

I’m teaching myself to play Chopin’s “Polonaise in A Minor”. This task has proven exceedingly difficult given the fact that I have no piano. See, in San Francisco, even those of us with modestly impressive household incomes are relegated to studio apartments. Though mine is roomier than most, it will not accommodate a Steinway.

I envision Chopin playing this on the bedroom upright for Georges Sand. He then turns to her after that last dissonant chord fades into the Paris night, and she attacks him, sexually I mean, with nary a word necessary. This piece of music is just that powerful.

I’ve always pictured myself sitting down at a piano in a stranger’s living room as cocktail-toting passersby inquire, What do you know?

“Faithfully” by Journey. “Home Sweet Home” by Motley Crue. Oh, and a little Chopin.

Then I launch into all six-and-a-half minutes of the rollicking, vagina-numbing power of No. 53. The audience is flabbergasted at the sight of me, tousled hair, brow drowning in the saline representation of my labors.

There’s a problem. This piece of music is really hard to play. And I’m no special talent, either. And there’s that minor detail of me not having a piano.

I really did try to teach myself this piece of music once when I had a piano, a full-size electronic Casio that I’d ordered online for $600. How about that? I thought. Ordering a piano off the Internet—now that’s progress. It came in a cardboard box. It was perfect for the narrow confines of an overpriced San Francisco dwelling. I had to sell it when I traded down for a smaller apartment, which I had chosen to share with my own modern version of Ms. Sand.

I practiced a lot, initially. Within no time, this little ditty had me on the hooch, whiskey my only respite from the unbridled mediocrity that this opus had so violently exploited. The sheet music was tucked away for years.

I think about the day that I’ll finally be able to play this piece of music. I need time, and I need time that refuses to be wasted, which is an elusive brand of time indeed.

If I pull it off, I imagine my girlfriend would want to have unbridled Georges Sand-style whoopee with me. I may be invited to play with the San Francisco Symphony, or at least I’ll impress a merry band of half-crocked professionals in someone’s living room someday.

I can see my heroic reflection in the shellacked surface of the Steinway; I can’t tell if it’s the mirror image of the ivory keys or the blurred representation of my teeth, bared in a rare ebullient smile.

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