It was time for me to change. To grow. To do something else. I knew that. I’d known that for years. And fought it for years. Told myself 90 billion lies, too. “If you stop, if you go somewhere else, do something else, what happens to the people around you?” That was the obvious one. There were others. “What happens if you don’t make as much money?” With bills to pay, that one would hurt. “What happens if you fail?” That was always the fear.
But, I’d played my piano for 30 years. More, actually, if you count the time I spent learning to play. Started in 5th grade. Took lessons clean through high school. Took more lessons, and more classes at the university. I didn’t count those years in that 30.
And it was always the same thing. The same story. I wrote something, played it, everyone listened, spoke of how talented I was, told me how great I could have been, asked me why I stayed where I was. On, and on it went.
All the images were there. One big image. Of me, being a gifted, talented pianist, and composer. Able to compose tunes off the top of my head that were better than anyone expected. Able to play for hours on end.
It was exactly how it was supposed to be. I was who I was supposed to be, and how I was supposed to be. Everyone else knew who I was, and what I was, and what mattered to me. Life was running according to the perfect little plan.
Another soul would have stayed put. Too afraid to move. Too afraid to change. “I’m too old. What if I fail? What if I go broke, and have to sell everything? What if I get sick, and can’t afford the medicine I need?” Another soul would have sucked it up. And toughed it out. And been a grown up, responsible, and mature, and tried harder.
What do you do when you realize everything you are is a lie? When everything you do, everything you say, the way you behave, isn’t you, but is some character played by an actor on the stage, before an audience.
She’d asked me to write a song for her, just for her, no one else. “Make it something about the color yellow.” I’d sat down at my piano intent on doing so. Except. My fingers wouldn’t work. I don’t know why. Every time I raised my hands to the keyboard, to play the notes, my hands shook, and my fingers failed to move where they were supposed to. It felt like touching my fingertips to hot burners on a stove. Fire. Burning.
I stared at my keyboard for hours. I’d closed my eyes, and tried to picture the score in my head. I’d done that countless times. But all I saw were blank staffs. No notes. And the paper was always burning. Always.
I failed to write a note. Not a single note. The score was empty. Blank. The next day, I tried again. And failed again. And again on the third day. And the fourth.
The fifth day my eyes saw the truth. It was a moment I can’t forget. I try. I’ve tried since that day. But always, I remember everything, every detail. The keys on my keyboard, worn from decades of use, some chipped, some with the white top missing. The F sharp that never worked, no matter how hard my fingers pressed it. All it ever said was a soft, felt muffled “tock”. The stains on the top, by the music rack, left by thousands of cans of soda, spilled, or so cold they formed puddles of water from condensation. So many details. So many years. So much time.
I looked around that day. Studied the entire room. I knew it was a room, that’s where the piano was. Where it still is today. When I looked that day, there were no walls, no floor, no carpet, no bookcases along the wall, no lamp next to the piano to provide light for me to see with. Only a barren, parched field of sparse clumps of weeds, and bare dirt.
But off to one side, I could see mountains, near the horizon. They were miles away, I knew that. I knew too, they were green. Full of life. Full of flowers, birds, trees, squirrels, maybe even streams, and creeks, with fish in them.
It was a place I wanted to be. A place I knew I was meant to be.
I’d known for years I was supposed to move on. Known it was long past time for me to change. That I’d been locked in time, stagnant, unchanging, not growing. If anything, decaying. Leaving nothing but that image of who I was, and what I was.
That was the day I turned off the light next to my piano, stood up, stared at my keyboard one last time, and left the room. That was ten years ago. I have never been in that room since that day. That day when I realized how empty, how barren, my life, my world, had become. That day when I started this journey I’m on now. To reach those mountains I see, over there, miles away, near the horizon.
I’m looking for something. I know that. If I ever find that something, I’ll let you know. But, for now, and for all the days since I closed the door to that room. I have never felt happier.
This is written for Week 65 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. Miranda says I should write it out, what I feel. We’ll see. In the meantime, you can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.