It will be the greatest piece the world has ever seen. But it's splitting my head open.
|I am composing. When it's finished, it will be the greatest piece the world has ever seen. But that's easy, because I am a great composer. I have played in all the greatest halls across the country, and in a few weeks I will play in them again. But I'm forgetting myself. It's time to begin. I raise my hands to the keys, and begin the first movement, the only part I know. It's soft and quiet at first, but it will get stronger. The melody changes key and repeats itself; a bit higher this time. I'm surprised when the next notes come by themselves. With my hands in control of the piece I let my thoughts drift through the corroded hallways of my mind.
I will conduct this, with the largest orchestra for the largest audience in the largest hall anyone’s ever known. The piano is overshadowed by a chorus of strings that breathe life into the music, transporting me to that hall. I hear the silence of an appreciative audience at my back. The music is rising, falling, breathing. I hold my breath, in awe at the living, pulsing creature the orchestra has turned into. They have so much potential, so much unrestrained energy brimming below the surface. I hold it in carefully, coaxing the sound out, giving them a path to follow. Out of the murk comes the first night with that girl; a deep, rich sound, trembling and raw.
Cello is the first everything. The first night, the first pain, the first wounds that bleed more than I thought they ever could. It’s that girl’s harsh, dark hair – passion that doesn’t stop to ask if it’s alright first. That girl’s been hanging around more than she used to. I couldn’t deal with it at first, but I don’t mind her now. Her, and her takeaway coffees and her bagels and her “I was just in the neighbourhood’s”. I think I even had lunch with her last week. Or...maybe I’ve just been meaning to. It’s all a bit hazy. She wants to be close to me, but –
I don’t want to forget you.
The cello falls back into obscurity and I sigh. The piece isn’t halfway through yet, but already I realise I can’t finish the music. The ending’s been troubling me for weeks, months maybe. I can’t move forward until I make some decisions, but I don’t want to choose. Do I hold onto a memory, or the woman in front of me? It’s the same in my music. I should keep the cello for the rest of piece, I know, but I find myself aching for something lighter and sadder. Violin. I can’t. I can’t, because I don’t think I could handle it if I did. I haven’t used the violin in a long time. Ever since – part of a smile forms in my mind, hidden by soft hair and sad, green eyes. My fingers stumble over a discordant F and the image is gone again, back to somewhere I can’t reach.
I breathe deeply and close my eyes. Easy now. When I open them, the score of instruments in front of me has turned back to one lonely piano. Easy now. I raise my hands and, after a moment, the melody’s alive again. But it’s the reprise now. Ignoring the voice that tells me I shouldn’t, I lift my hand to the violin to begin her solo. God. I know that sound so, so well. The violin doesn’t tremble so much as sing. It has no firsts. It’s settled and familiar, and you whisper to me, calling me, reassuring me. So, dangerously, I extend the solo. I’m surprised at what I hear. There are old memories, old pain, old wounds that bleed more now than I thought they ever did and there was no first night and there never will be because –
You’re not here anymore.
I realise with a start that I can’t hear the violin. I panic and struggle to regain my grip on the melody. But it’s too late. It all has to change. The quiet drumming signals the start of the coda. The rhythm is picked up, carried along by the new melody; the sound pushing out in waves. I’m standing in front of a wall of water in perfect pitch, watching it come towards me, and I know there’s nothing I can do. I feel nervous. My hands tremble. My breath hitches in my throat.
The end is coming.
I hear a slight rumble; a warning; the music trembles on the edge of nothing and then crashes over it. The instruments rise up together in one chorus, lifting each other up, the notes stepping ahead of themselves. This is it. I will finish it. I will choose. And I see...everything. I see you standing with your hand outstretched to me, smiling, and I reach for you but then I blink and you’re gone. I clench my teeth ‘til they hurt to fight back tears while the music is loud and painful in my head. My friends are in front of me. That girl’s glare is making me cringe.
“You weren’t the only one that lost her”.
But I didn’t lose you...
I am composing. When it’s finished, it will be the greatest piece the world has ever seen. But it’s splitting my head open. End it. End it. I’m gasping for air and my knuckles are white around the conductor’s baton. The sound swells, and I want it to go away but I have to finish it; I have to hear the last note. Almost there. The music is rising, the instruments are lifting higher and higher, I can’t see your face anymore and I’m sorry and the piece is in its last notes, someone’s screaming, the instruments are still playing, the door opens, a hand grabs my shoulder –
My eyes fly open and I forget to breathe. Tears stain my face. Moonlight streams in through the cracks in the concrete. I turn.
A man in a white coat has his arm outstretched to me, a bottle of pills in his hand.