I am wandering in my studio apartment--studio: the name breathes beauty, creativity, and airy space--picking up clutter. It is everywhere, teetering on every horizontal surface, of which this space has too many. One of them is the glossy upper surface of my closed laptop, and the tiny green light of its charger stabs at me: "Go, the way is clear"; and my resistance rises to meet the invitation. I toy with the "why" of it, but it is illogical. Logic's supercilious voice says "you will get paid, and you will feel better," but I am feeling better putting things away--a roll of tape and a tea towel and one dish out of many in the rack and then--yes, I will practice the hymns for Remembrance Day. I approach the chair at the piano, and from its seat I put away some guitar books, and displace the songwriting binder to a new perch, which I first clear by tossing some empty electronica boxes in the direction of their kin.
The amp bangs to life, and the piano flickers through its boot cycle while my fingers hover on the smooth surface of the keys--no clutter here, just a bit of grime. Another thing to take care of, before I share these keys on Sunday. There is an old upright piano in the theatre, but I don't trust it. I don't know if they even attempt to tune it. Each year for November 11th, I haul my own keys there and perch the folding stand on the sloping floor in the side aisle, adjusting one leg longer than the other, getting the keys approximately level and ignoring the tilt of my own bottom on the tilted chair, the compensatory distortion of my spine. I wonder, if I opened up the old piano and sank my fingers into those yielding slats of ivory, would my braced nerves receive the expected jolt of dissonance? Or would my breath flow out in a wash of astonishing harmonious pleasure?
The home screen appears, and I sink my fingers into the familiar resistance of the weighted keys, but the sound is faint. The master slider is way down, and as I bring it back up, my right hand still holding a chord, the notes well up like the swell of an obedient choir. I repeat the opening chord, move to the second, and the faint ache in my chest wells, floods, carries me. "Let there be peace on earth." There are more words, even that contentious phrase about "brothers," but I am in the music. How many repeats? It doesn't matter; I'll pencil a note in that day; for now I take them all, and then some, riding the swells of these sweet progressions again and again, each time feeling them anew.
Here comes my mind again, narrating, analysing: music turns my aches into sweetness, takes me back, no, lets the adult clutter fall away so that my okay-ness can surface, sail, and soar. And my okay-ness smiles at my busy mind and leaves it behind.
But there is that buzz in the amp . . . just the one note? The low F? No, it's there in that delightful accidental in the mid-range, too, turning its pleasant tension into something grating, turning the resolution into sheer relief that the buzz is gone. The song has to start winning me all over again from that point. I'm running my hand over the surfaces of the amp, repeating the trigger notes, searching for the spot where the buzz will stop under my hand, but it doesn't stop, and I go back to the song. My mind is playing with the metaphor: things left untended, irritations growing into burdens that breed and multiply--but I'm tired, and I just want to play. I tune out the buzz for a while, but the intimacy is ended. I leave the piano turned on, untouched, while I carry a chair to the desk, flip open the laptop, and write. I'm not getting paid. I'm not feeling better. I still don't know why.