“How much do you want for it?” I ask her, my eyes glued to it.
The woman behind me pauses, and I turn to her, suddenly afraid that she will change her mind. And then I won’t get it.
But she just shrugs her shoulders.
“Both my kids played it before they left for college.” She says quietly, almost nostalgically. “They have their own places now, and neither one wants it. So I’m selling it.”
I swallow, my throat tight. Another unwanted piano. My fingers yearn to touch those white keys. I can almost hear in my mind how they will sound, I know how they will feel.
She names her price, and I write out the check. She offers to let me try it, but I decline. I want to be alone with it. For our first hello, for our first conversation- it’s almost too intimate to share with this woman I don’t really know.
I walk down the steps from her house, back to my car, and think about that other piano, all those years ago.
Did they think it was unwanted too, the Russian couple that came to buy it from us? I was a child then, but I still remember the sense of free fall when they came to our apartment in Moscow. A bucket of ice water dumped on the excitement of the immigration to America. Someone else will have my piano. Someone else will play it, music streaming from its keys, candlelight flickering on the walls of their room, not mine.
I blink, and I’m back in the woman’s driveway. I wave to her, and get in my car, closing my eyes for a moment. Piano. I hear Fur Elise, light and flighty, dancing across its keys. The Moonlight Sonata, mingling with it, adding its gravitas and somberness, weighting it down. Not all lightness and excitement, immigration. Even for a child.
It’s three days later, when I pull out the piano bench and sit down. My house is silent. My husband, at work. Our daughter, in school. Just me, and my new piano. I run my fingers over smooth black surface and lift the lid up, exposing the white and black of the keys. My fingers touch them gingerly, almost reverently. It’s been such a long, long time. It needs to be tuned; the sounds are not perfect and yet so beautiful. A metaphor for life, I think.
We are alone, just us. I look at it, and think of a story I want to tell it. What would I call it? I smile. “From a Piano, to a Piano”.
I close my eyes, and let loose. My fingers suddenly fly over the keys, in a hurry, making mistakes, and yet moving on without fixing them. No perfection, only beauty.
I start my story.
First, tell it, there was a golden brown Piano. It was so beautiful. I was still in first grade. We talked over candlelight and laughter, we shared stories about boring teachers and good friends; There were bright lights and performances, and elementary school frenemies and dramas. Then music got darker and quieter, and the outside world got darker and louder. But we still had our talks with candlelight. Maybe we didn’t talk everyday anymore, but I always knew that my piano was there for me.
Then the world got really fast- like a whirling dervish, and really loud, and I could barely hear the music. But I still knew my Piano was there, and I heard the heavy notes of Moonlight Sonata swirl around me. And then, I played again, The Fur Elise dancing on the keys, my fingers flying and my Piano telling me, see, it all worked out! You are going to America! How wonderful! Finally!
I stop playing, and open my eyes. I am here, in my home, but in my mind I can see them walk into our old apartment, all those years ago. A regular looking Russian couple, a little colorless, quiet.
“What are they doing here?” I remember asking my mother.
“They are taking the Piano.” She answered me.
“They are taking my Piano? Oh… Right.” We are leaving, going to America. But without the Piano. The colorless Russians are keeping it.
I blink, and I am back here and now. And so, there was that Russian couple, I tell my new Piano, as my fingers, clumsily find the notes for Moonlight Sonata. And then… well, then was The Immigration. And me pretending that my desk was my piano. It wasn’t such a bad piano… it just was mostly a desk.
I wasn’t a prodigy, I confess to my new Piano. Before it gets any ideas. I didn’t perform all over, but I enjoyed it when I did! It was just … my friend, my Something! And I grew up a bit when I realized it was such a luxury, and that I won’t be getting a new piano for a while.
And then, I tell my new Piano, as my fingers play something louder and faster, almost tripping all over themselves in their hurry, then there was a new country that felt strangely like home I didn’t know I had, a new school, and new friends, real ones this time, for life. I forgot the colorless Russian couple, but I remembered the golden brown of my Piano.
My fingers continue playing.
A breeze from the open window brings me back. I take a deep breath, smelling the lavender from the pot on the front porch of my house. Everything is silent, and so is my new polished Black Piano. I get up and go to my kitchen, taking comfort in its physicality and realness. I make myself a cup of tea, enjoying the feel of smooth porcelain in my hands and the scent of freshly brewed tea leaves, and come back to the piano room.
Tell me more, says the piano.
I sit down, take a sip of tea, and go back to the story. My fingers gather strength and music picks up.
And then I found myself, I say, and found my “Something” within myself. And I found my true place where I belong.
I get up and hang our wedding and daughter’s baby pictures over the piano, on the hooks that my husband put up yesterday night.
And sit down again, my fingers reaching for the keys, almost of their own volition.
And then, I say, smiling, we bought a Piano. You. My fingers are now flying over the keys, Fur Elise swirling in the air, and candles, waiting to be lit, are all around me.
This is it, I realize laughing. The End of Immigration. I am truly home.