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.
“Go away, Ben,” says Anita, without even turning around. “I don’t want to play. And you, you can’t make me! Hell,” she says sharply, “I’ll do as I please.”
Now she darts a glance at me as if to ask, What, you laughing at me?
No, I wish to say. What I want is... Well, I am not really sure: perhaps, just to lay my head here, on your shoulder. Perhaps, to lean my brow against your lips. Perhaps, to touch the tiny freckles on your cheek. Above all else, I want—but cannot bring myself to tell you—I really want to hear you laugh.
Just like here, this note. Listen, can you hear it? This soft sound, rolling, rising, ringing up here?
Anita shakes her head, as if she could detect the whisper, the quiet whisper of my thoughts. To me, her pose is so alluring when she bends down to the floor, in the shadow of the piano, to pick up some crumpled piece of paper. Then she starts twisting away under me. For all I know, she is aiming to get up, to leave me here, alone.
Is this a game she is playing with me? I do not have the faintest idea. But if it is, perhaps I can beat her in it.
So then, bang! I pound the keys, this time fortissimo—with full strength!—as if to cry, Stop! No more darkness, no more gloom! There’s a thud, there’s a boom! Hear this, right here? Hear my voice? Tell me, Yes—you have no choice!
And before this phrase fades out Anita straightens her back, and places her hand on the keys. Then, to my astonishment, she plays the next phrase of music, this time with raw, intense force, which I never knew existed in her, bringing it to the verge of destruction, making it explode all around me. And I, in turn, explode with the following one, because how can I let her outdo me? I am, after all, The Entertainer...
Here I come! Here I drum! No more woes. Let me close! Let me in, hold me tight! Don’t resist me, do not fight—
At this point Anita kicks the bench back, and I tip it over behind us. She sways her hips to the beat, and I tap the floor. And we find ourselves bouncing there, almost dancing in place, playing the piano side by side: she on the high notes, I—on the low.
Her intervals are somewhat uneven, her melody is off, here and there. But these things do not matter—not to me, anyway—because just like Anita, or even more than her, I happen to be out of control, maybe because it has been a long while since the last time I practiced. I have not touched the keys for so many years, out of nothing else but rebellion, a silent rebellion against my mother. So my fingers feel a bit rusty—and yet I respond, quite swiftly, to the way Anita plays. I do it in an instant, harmonizing the sound, filling in some of the awkward intervals with a flurry of chords.
Sometimes I find myself having to take my hand away, so she can play the same key immediately after me. On some notes, my right hand crosses her left hand, in an exchange that is wild and fiery—like no duet I have ever seen, or listened to! One way or another it blends, it mixes into a sound, which you might call a crude, unruly, unrestrained racket. But to the ears of a madman, it can be called music.
If my mother could see me now... If, out of nowhere, she would appear—which would make me jump to attention—I can only imagine how she would draw back, how she would wince at having to listen to this thing, this terrific uproar, which for some reason, makes it all the more delightful to my ears.