Saturday, April 03, 2004

Maybe Tchaikovsky is not such a good idea after all...

What was that?

I’m awake now. But what woke me?

My mind congeals around the recital. I am to play the piano for an informal Saturday afternoon gathering in my neighborhood. The thought burns in my belly.

Everyone is so friendly here. Yet no one has a name. I thus don’t offer my own. The buildings are two-storey townhouses, yet strangely yellow-orange, adobe perhaps, and there are even these imbricated tile roofs, like in the southwest. But we are in the northeast.

One smiles at me from the walkway before my yard, and I return the greeting. Ah, he says, the weather is changing. He indicates with a glance the fallen leaves under the oak of a neighbor. He moves away, leaving me to study the leaves in the yard.

I am awakened that very night by a truck operating on the street outside. There is no motor traffic on our red-bricked narrow roadway except for service vehicles, most often moving vans. I stare at the ceiling and listen.

In the morning, the house of the leaves is vacant.

Perhaps I should play some Tchaikovsky. After all, since the fall of the wall, there should be no sensitivity. It must be something light, brief, with a positive air about it.

I worry.

I realize in a flash what has awakened me. The wind. And not just the wind, but what the wind blows, which is branches, which means possible trash on the roof.

The clock is ticking.

I don’t have to live here if I don’t like it. I can call the moving van myself. There would be no known consequence to moving away. After all, after a careful vetting by the Township Association, I moved in of my own free will.

My hand is on the door. I take a breath. What if I meet someone, some nameless other? He will be dressed as I am, in a robe from Abercrombie. It’s acceptable to venture out of doors before dawn in your robe.

But what will he say? (And, another question often occurs, why is it always a `he’? I see the moving vans bring the sort of attractive furnishings which mean women, and childrens playthings, so why is it I only meet men like me on the road? I am alone in my life; why is that?) And what will I say in reply?

This requires some thought. Jobs are in the news. Unemployment and job loss are prominent. This is both good and bad. Good because it means our set has less labor cost due to productivity gains, outsourcing, or downsizing. It tends to render such labor as we require less expensive. This is good.

But it means also possible trouble this election season. There are more of them than there are of us, although they seem extremely gullible generally. And it’s always election season. The Party (no one need ask which) carries a countenance of vexed optimism. There, that’s the expression. It’s good to set your face before you venture out of doors.

I have been living here for six months. I was good once, three weeks after I moved in. I was very good that day. I retrieved my newspaper in the acceptable manner and two others encountered me. One smiled and said, “Looks like a famine in Africa. The IMF expects to deplete their funding this year.” He is looking at the headlines, his brow knitted. He speaks in almost a murmur. I can just make him out across the narrow roadway.

“It’s artificial and counterproductive to keep feeding what is failing,” I say. His smile broadens. We all three turn, almost in military precision, and retrace the studied path to our separate doors.

There is a loud knock on my door in the evening. The other is there, the one who did not speak. He speaks now.

“Do you really believe that? I have to know. Do you, really?”

He is staring at me. He seems very exasperated. Also, there is a bottle in his hand. I remain quiet, expectant, waiting for him to explain himself. I even nod, encouragingly.

He slams the door. Late in the night, I hear a crash from across the street. I lay in the dark and stare at the ceiling and don’t move.

I hear the trucks before dawn. When I go out for the paper, there is no broken window, but the house is vacant. I go back inside at the regular pace.

What did he mean by that? A psychotic, most likely. Do I really believe what? What difference can any of that possibly make? What good does it do? Shouldn’t you leave behind those childish quizzes after your sophomore year? Why does he ask me that?

Maybe Tchaikovsky is not such a good idea after all. Maybe a Rogers and Hart medley would be more appropriate.

I take another breath. Turn the knob.

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