Mrs. Beene’s May recital. 1986. You in that unlikely garment: a dress. Ready to play Debussy’s Arabesque #1. Braids, two-foot lengths of coppery brown hair, tossed in indignation and impatience at formality. You sat down at the Steinway grand piano and began. Melodiously, the delicate meanderings of the first notes started painting a shimmering landscape. The bell tones of the right hand connecting the rising and falling arpeggios of the left, then joining both voices together in a rippling cascade of notes. Halfway through you stopped. We suddenly awoke from the dream you wove. You adjusted the seat and began again. We slipped back into the watery grace of the music’s curves and turns. Once again, at the same place, you stopped. The pause longer this time. Everyone’s attention returned to you.
You stood up and said, “I can’t remember any more.”
No apologies, no nerves, just the bold reporting of a fact. And a freckled face that told us you’d rather be outside and wondered why anyone would want to spend a bright May afternoon in the dark recesses of a wooden lodge, attired in ridiculously inconvenient clothing when we could be roaming the canyons instead. You took your short bow and sat down.
In the wake of your blunt courage, I golliwog cake-walked my contribution to the afternoon’s recital as quickly as I could trip my fingers through those dancing chords, having heard your call for adventure. Those words were an invitation to sunshine and I was ready to join your carefree band the instant your impetuous blue eyes flashed their stubborn intent.
And now, twenty five years later, miles and marriages away from that wooded room, will those magic words still work? If we simply stand up and say “I can’t remember any more,” will we once again be released from the holds of ceremony and custom? Could I, too, have a glorious memory slip to dismiss, just for an afternoon, all the past selves and past lives that layer the room with the dust of skins we long ago shook off? Will that string of words brush away the trailing cobwebs of ghosts who rise to our faces with every creak of the warped wooden floors?