With one step I close in on her, and hang over her shoulders; which brings a shudder over her. In an instant, Anita pulls her hand away from the keys, as if she has been caught—by a bad stroke of luck—in something worse than theft.
“Don’t,” I say. “Please, don’t stop.”
“No,” she denies. “I didn’t even start.”
“Please, let me hear you,” I plead, taking a step back, to give her some space.
Anita takes a deep breath. For the first time I realize how afraid she is, afraid of anyone listening to her music, especially my father. I suppose he expects her to be perfect; which must be an impossible burden. I understand it, because I have been there: growing up with a mother who had no tolerance for errors, and no forgiveness either, I have carried that burden before.
Even so, I have no idea what to say, how to calm her down, and make it clear to Anita that I get it, I do. To me, this is a moment of revelation: I can imagine not only how she feels—but also, how my father looks at her, how he thinks of the forgotten woman then, and something shifts in his mind, so that all of a sudden he sees in her that which, for a long time, he must have been yearning for: mom coming back—back from that place, a place called Sunrise—perhaps to forgive him, at long last. Let bygones be bygones.
In Anita, he may catch a glimpse of mom, reborn.
Mirrored in the open wing of the piano, her face is so young, so alive with the red glow of her hair. Her green eyes shine back from the polished surface. This, I suppose, is why my father is so drawn to Anita. Apparently, he wants her to learn to play the piano, but then—even though she is just a beginner—he expects her to reach a level which no one can sustain. Not even mom.
In our family, forgiveness is something you pray for, something you yearn to receive—but so seldom do you give it to others.
And so, Anita may never stumble, never make any mistakes, because he wants her to be exactly, just exactly like mom, who in her good years—before losing her balance—could produce such a heavenly sound, and vary it over an incredible range, from a murmur to a powerful burst, until her music would swell in you, and bring tears to your eyes.
Ben in Apart From Love
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Volume I: My Own Voice
Volume II: The White Piano