Blesok no. 70, January-February, 2010
The Pianist's Touch
The storm was coming, you could feel it in the air, which was all pervaded by its presence, electrified and heavy didn't give anyone to raise their heads, except for Glen Gold, who walked the sidewalk observing the passing by clouds how they wandered on the sky while blindly avoiding the passersby in a fast step through the crowded street.
He urged to go to the New York Concert Hall to catch a concert, where they had to perform The Brandenburg concert of his beloved Bach. Even thought he had the feeling of being late, he arrived quite before time to the concert hall, so that he could stop and calmly smoke a cigarette before entering the crowded lobby, full of people, mainly elder ones. He never understood why those, who were frequent concertgoers, for which one needs a fine ear, were mostly elder people, which are mostly half-deaf and so to speak with an ear already in the grave. He smoked in front of the Hall watching all the grotesque charade walking by, a serial of gentlemen dressed in monotonous evening blackness and covered with boring grey overcoats, a ashen-haired old lady with a gaudy-red comb, which with the same style make-up looked like an aged prostitute, a fat, loathsome lady with a to big one-piece of a robe which on her looked like a reckless white sheet, accompanied by a smaller, bold, opulent gentleman, another one, which discerned from the sameness of the other by an one-hundred years to old swallowtail, but even more because accompanied with a hundred years to young woman, dressed in a very short skirt an a deep neckline, and more and more of the same “good old society”, for which he thought, that the only good reason they existed was, that with their full pockets they made possible events such as this one. In a way he respected their deaf support to the music, a support of someone, who cannot fully enjoy what he loves but nonetheless persists in doing so, this was to him, aside of being grotesque, some kind of noble tragic quality of the rather deaf in the concerts
Still, he hated high society social events in general, and this kind especially, mainly because of the expensive evening costumes and presumptuousness with which they were worn: as if a good-looking dress helps listening and understanding music better! Regardless, the same Glen tended to be well-dressed on concerts, not only to conceal himself in the crowd: he dressed black to rend homage to the death of music, because in every concert, in every performance he heard the fugacity of her, that, in difference from a picture or a statue, at the end of the last tact dies in the echoing of silence. Every concert was for him a funeral, a ritual, at which people come dressed in the right way, these means respectful, but with wrong reasons: they sit there, in their dresses, to show them before and after the performance, instead of being warped in black in respect of the music.
Regardless, what he thought about the concert and the audience attending to it, but most of all about his role in it, had nothing to do with what actual happened, when a tousled, half-unshaved, just apparently tidy-looking young man was loitering around the entrance of the hall: people, especially older ones were staring at him with that look, “What is this kind of person doing here?” Because he was used to this kind of situations, he had himself a trick or to how to handle it: some time he was pretending that he was waiting for someone, nervously looking at the watch, then he went inside and whirled around like he was looking his balcony, even though the hostess downstairs already directed him to his place in the pit. When he walked all the hallways and staircases, each exactly for one time to not be looking too suspicious, that is what he though, even though nobody didn’t pay that much attention to this curious being circulating around, the concert hall grow already half-full and the lights were lightly darkened, so that he could enter relatively discrete and unnoticed.
The orchestra played, as usual, some casual notes to tune itself, and briefly the conductor entered, which was accompanied with a boisterously applause, in a way like the ancient Greek generals were accompanied to war by the shouts and clapping of their fellow citizens. True, the conductor is surrounded by a some kind of divine aura if you looked at him how in one single gesture of his magical rod lined up all the orcheststra, ready to obey to his commands, and when he brandished it through the air provoking the rumble of the corna da caccia, the hasty blasts of the violins, viols and of the violoncello, and all the other magical attacks, that only musical instruments can, do and toward which you cannot remain equanimus, if you only have a minimum of sensibility in yourself.
Bach’s melodies already at the first cadences overfled the hall, fast and plentiful as the water covers a valley when the thunderstorm descends from the mountains, so that everything, leaves, branches, bushes, even smaller trees are drawn with it. Glen tried to let himself to the music, it’s embrace, tried to descend to it’s invisible world in which only he could really feel at home, feel oneself, being expelled from his self, tried, because every time anew something pulled him out of the charibantic trans: be it a neighbor, who breathed to loudly from time to time or someone else, who coughed, be it a bad-catched tempo of a trombone, be it a curtly played note on a violin, all of which of course didn’t do any problem to the other audience. Malcontent as he was, he stretched into the scarlet seat, now already totally lifted from the music’s spell, he was contemplating the people around him, laughing by himself to those who listened carefully only in appearance, surprising himself because of those who remained so cold like all of Bach didn’t looked to be touching them, and despising those, who came only to dream a little. Only the younger public, the ones of his age more or less, which of course was the minority here, seemed to him like they could really sensitive to what he in his vaingloriousness typical of a musician reserved only to himself. When he looked at some of them, his heart did tremble, and in this moment he thought, totally against his usual narcissism, that there are others beside him, who could not just hear, but listen to music
While so contemplating the younger public, he sow the silhouette of one, her face in half-dark when she turned to her friend to slightly speak something in her ear. A dark-haired, slightly curled girl, totally caught his gaze and bound it to her, so that he spend the rest of the concert waiting her to turn again, so that he could take a better look to that beautiful image. But till the end she never did, so Glen remained focused on her wild hair tied together in such a way, that her swan-like neck reigned in it’s beauty atop of her elegant shoulders, and if she stretched her fingers to put a tuft of her hair back behind her ears, he attentively followed her move, every single movement of her fingers, the soft glittering of her rings, the whole hand which for a moment remained still on the naked shoulder, and then vanished back in the dark, out of his sight.
When the concert was over the unbearable silence of music reigned for a moment, which was, like always, interrupted by the public with a vociferous applause, perhaps because they can’t, cannot listen to it, Glen still remained seated still and stupefied gazed straight on, and only when the girl left her seat he came back to his senses. “She’s leaving!” he panicked when he saw her moving to the exit, and already he was forcing his way through the crowd, awkwardly staggering between people and chairs, all the same to him now, an obstacle on the way to her. She disappeared out of his sight for a time, but he found her in front of the main hall entrance, dressed in a white, gently dress, which was uncovering her shoulders and covering her knees a little bit, so that her tiny legs could discreetly fall in her’s simple but smart dove-color shoes. She was standing there, smoking a cigarette and waiting for her friend, who went to lift up their wardrobe, and Glen almost instinctively step toward her and addressed her without even knowing with what or how he did it, he just did. All that left a mark in his absent consciousness was her name, her beautiful name: »Hannah« he silently repeated to himself, and the girl, who heard it but didn’t quite understand, asked: “I’m sorry?” so that all again he couldn’t hear what she said, he just listened to her voice, her French or Arabic intonance of the “r”, the raising and the falling of the intonation. At last he started to talk reasonably, so that after a while, when her friend came and said she wanted home, Hannah wasn’t bothered inviting him to take an after-concert drink in one of the nearby clubs.
The two of them left a few blocks away to the jazz-club Nightingale, where they play sooth music, which doesn’t belong neither to high jazz not to popular blues, and where the locale never fill up over the border of a socially bearable limit. them This evening, like many others before, the darkened place was filled up with the presence of a regular guest of this club, a singer named Leyla, who with her voice was capable of calming down the most stir of the seas and of moving the most cold of the stones. The winding short-haired princess of the night in her long, bloody-red dress stood in the middle of the dark-wooded stage, ornamented with scarlet-velvet curtains, sovereign ruling between the sax, violoncello, drums and a synth: all of her band was despite their skills unable to catch up with her singing, while she melodically, slowly waved her tiny, pale hands as if drawing the images of her song:
In your hand, I want to be, in your hand,
I would like to be an other, all the time,
In my shadow, I draw your silhuette,
I see you, I reach out for you, to touch you.
I imagine you touching me,
I would so much like to please you,
And I would so much like to displease you,
I dream of living without you,
I dream of crying out for you,
But I only want to forget,
That you’re even not here.
The somehow skinny singer, in a way not alive nor dead, but more alive then the living and more in touch with death then the dead, moved Glen’s ear with her magical music and singing, and this was the first time that Glen liked to hear the human voice rather then the music of the instruments. But if his ears were drown into this uncanny voice he was hearing, he himself was drowning into Hannah’s big, dark eyes every time their eyes met: in moments like this he just couldn’t stop loosing himself in her eyes in a way that it would be unpleasant for any other girl then her who didn’t feel it intrusive, quite the contrary, she liked his strange presence, and felt for him the same closeness he was feeling for her. During the vivid conversation she was continuously slightly touching him, his upper arm when she wanted to stress something in particular, or his knee when she smiled and wanted to say, that it was only a joke, but in one particular moment their hands accidentally met in a way, that it interrupted the conversation and silence took its place, a silence, that needed no fulfillment with excuses or laughing.
Somewhere in the time, when the late evening broken into the night, when the band was playing its last notes and the green-eyed Leyla was singing her last song, the two come so close one to each other while talking and arguing passionately, that their faces were almost so near, almost at the point of touching each other. And when this point was at hand, when the two almost reached each other, she smiled bashfully and lowered her face, stood up from the chair, elegantly unshod herself, and started to move with the waviness of the music.
Like a star I fell,
At all times I fell,
In an image of myself,
Forgeting my own self.
Stars get close and closer one of another,
and far and further one from the other,,
I get close and far from you,
'cause stars don't touch each other,
In any normal circumstances she would have attracted the attention of the others, if only because no other was dancing, but she moved so softly, like a butterfly flying through a lawn of herbs lightly moved by a slow wind, where you cannot distinguish the blade of grass from the wind, nor the flower from the flying being. While all the guests contemplated the stage like hypnotized by the magic of the singer’s voice, the time almost stopped: the glasses half the way to the thirsty mouths, the cigarette’s smoke half the way to the distant ceiling, and the same Glen, who didn’t know where was the floor or where his feet were, all of his being absorbed in her dance and all of her dance embodied in the iris of his eye. Like the candle slowly burning down to the end, so was the flame of Hannah’s dance slowly extinguishing with the song, which pervaded her dancing body, and when the blaze of the voice silenced, another one brightened, which begin to burn between the two, and which escorted their way out of the fairy Nightingale.
The clouds that many hours ago announced a storm didn’t break their promise: they ripped open and let fall at least so much rain as humanity shed tears in all its history. Fat drops felt so densely that one drop was chasing the other’s tail, so that you almost couldn’t distinguish one from another: where one ended there began the other. Glen and Hannah moved embraced without haste through the water curtain, and while his shoe firmly step from one plash to another, her naked little foot nearly floated on the surface. She stopped for a moment, covered her soaked head with her shawl, and the looked at him smiling she gently said: “Would you hold my hand?” He didn’t hesitate, and the moment her hand laid in his, their pace harmonized and it was like the sky descended to earth or if the earth raised to the sky. Who knows how much time passed, since their walking so embraced, where no one lead the pace, but it wasn’t important any more, because time had no role at all in this descant, which heaved them over the surface of the many plashes, under the bare light of the city lights and through the cold of the soaked air, which ruled their path no more.
The two arrived in her apartment, a small, pleasant basement flatlet, while the storm outside now reached its apex, like a snow avalanche which begin like a non-nothing and at the end develops in a unstoppable force. She insisted on leaving him her comfortable bad and on herself taking the sofa, to what he protested for a while, but then accepted the quite uncomfortable situation. The striking of the raindrops on the window drown Glen’s loud heartbeat when she asked him to turn around so that she could undress, leaving only the nylons on, and covering herself with a white chemise. They were lying so for quite a bit, talking funny nonsenses to avoid any direct contact, and then he couldn’t resist and asked her: “Why don’t you came to lay next to me, I promise I won’t touch… unless you want me to.” He added half-seriously, and she answered: “Rather not, ‘cause I can’t promise I won’t touch you – if I come there to you, I’ll have to kiss you.” He was confused by her answer, not knowing what it really meant, he asked: “And why not kiss me if you want to?” – “Because it would be like to touch the ocean…” she answered and in answering she pierced him.
He stood up leaned to his elbow, because he wanted exactly the same as she was afraid of, the deepest sea, where you lose yourself, where there would be no him or her and nothing at all, and in leaning over the border of the bad toward the sofa he wanted to kiss her, but she withdrew behind her long hair. He caressed her softly and called her name silently, but his call didn’t sound simply like her name, because with the first syllable he expired all his being, and with the other inspired all of her’s. To her this call was like a shot in the middle of the opera, which interrupts what should never be interrupted, and that’s why she grabbed his hand, with her face leaned to it, the deep breath and moan bear witness of her pain, which through her breath he inspired into himself. She looked at him with her big, besprinkled eyes, in which he found himself drowning without defense, with which we people usually use to prevent the other from coming too near to us. With his hand he caressed her darkly-skinned cheek, soflty, even more softly than a falling tree-leaf which skims the surface of a still lake, and she shuddered like a spike on a summer-winds slightest blow. To her “Please…”, which was pronounced like asking the impossible, to her “…no.” he withdrew from her embrace, and this withdrawing was to him like a falling, a falling which lasted till she seated next to him, where she without touching just looked at him, and being touched like this he wasn’t able to respond in any other way than in trying to embrace her once more. Feeble in his arms she was hiding covered only by her thick hair, and when with his fingers he slowly uncovered the look of her face, it was for him like to stare at a star being born. He kissed her on the front, only on the front, because he knew a stolen kiss is never a real kiss, and this time it was him who drew back, unable to bear so much beauty, at which point he would have cried like a baby if only the pain didn’t stir with the joy, so that the tear was dried at the very moment it was born on the board of his eye.
Hannah went back to the sofa and barely covered her with the sheet while he just felt down on his back and shut his eyes, at this both maybe felt asleep, maybe just half-asleep, at some point, when the night was coming to its end, she waked herself up with him saying: “Are you still here?” – “Who knows where I am, myself, I don’t know where’s up or down, where am I or you…” and before finishing he silenced, because at turning back to her he sow the most beautiful image in his life: her, lying half lied on side, with the head sustained by her hand, and the hair freely falling down over her deeply melancholic face, while the first morning-sparks trickled through the thick mist and raindrops, gradually brightening the room with a golden whiteness which poured over the girl, so that she glow up in front of his eyes, dewed by the scene in the knowledge, that daylight is coming, when no magic is possible anymore. Glen couldn’t help himself, he had to hopelessly come near to her, caress her hand, which she didn’t withdrew, quite the contrary, she leaned her head on his beating heart, with the lips carefully hidden from his, which at that moment and for a long time ahead also couldn’t taste anything but her. He tried, but in trying he was himself tried, in trying to touch her he was himself touched by an untouchable touch, upon which no touch can reach.
The dawn at last defeated the defenseless night, and the sun illuminated the room, the sofa, the bed, him, her, although without reaching that hiatus that come to light inbetween and that made him loose himself: the same she was so afraid of, if they would have kissed, the same untouchable ocean at the end touched upon him.
That day, after the light chased away the shadowy daybreak, the two seated at the table drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and talked about everything but what has happened – of course, how to talk about something that isn’t supposed to be spoken? They met in a moment in their lives where the very time and place was put into suspension, but even though you abolish everything, time makes so that all abolished comes back even more violently knocking inexorable at the door. Before he left he hold her once more in his hands, he hugged her like he would never see her again, and then they did what every true lovers do: they parted.
On the way home he wasn’t paying attention where he was going, so that when some time passed and he wanted to get in touch with her, he couldn’t find her where he left her. Many times Glen returned to that concert hall, and then endlessly roved the nearby streets looking for a way to come back to her, but he always ended in the Nightingale, where he seated on the same chair, gliding the other chair, where she was sitting, feeling her presence with his bare hand while his fingers touched his forehand, feeling the scent, that she left on him like a scar, that no drug or medicine can heal. Leyla watched him with her sad eyes, which were more empty than the vastness of space and more full than any full moon at the same time, he felt that she could understand his pain while she was singing:
Ajourd'hui c'est le jour que tu pars, et je pars avec toi,
en partence touchent le point ou le toucher ne touche pas,
ne peux pas toucher, si on veux que il touche vraiment:
ne me touche pas, mais caresse-moi avec un touche vrai.