Saturday, December 27, 2008

Late Morning, Before The Memorial Service by Anthony McCarthy

Walking down the hall you don’t recognize the students automatically going to where they’re going. You think one might recognize you but you must be mistaken. The smile that could have been a smirk is gone into 208 as fast as you recognized it. They think you’re an older student taking music appreciation and are surprised, on reflection to find it makes you burn.

It feels strange but you know the way as well as any of them, you were a star here, an honor student, now a strange face to be ignored or wondered at.

Suddenly a teacher you had comes from a door, double takes and smiles. Oh, what brings you ... Of course, the memorial service

I’ve been asked to play a piece. .
Of course. You were close.
Well, we were. We talked on the phone once in a while. Hadn’t seen him in years.
You both liked modern music.
What are you doing now?
Teaching, private lessons.
Oh. She’s embarrassed at the modest outcome of your life. Well, speaking of that,.... I’ve got to get to class.
Of course.
See you later.

ou nod, she goes. The door closes. * OK, let’s get started.....* her conductor’s voice muffled through the door. You go on.

Someone upstairs is playing scales on a bass brass instrument. You go up and see the walls still the same ugly color they were. Unfamiliar posters and names on faculty offices. You remember a student who you’d known when you went here was one, only she’s gone now too. You wonder if that same awful piano is in the practice room on the end. It’s not.

How many days were there in a semester back then? You don’t have any idea, then there were the days during the summer you stayed here and practiced, got a job at the hardware store. It’s not there, you noticed on your way in. You go to the fire escape and look out over the campus. It’s an old building. You wonder how many students, most of them dead, you imagine, stood here and looked out.

Looking at your watch you’ve got to get down stairs to see the department chair to get the details of the service. See if what you chose was short enough. Minor Seconds, Major Sevenths. He taught it to you, told you to play those scale fragments more lightly, said you were a natural Bartok player.

He’s tall and smiling, a young department chair, affable enough, though someone you don’t know. He's intrigued with your choice, has good people skills. He says it's a good length.

The secretary is different. You wonder if V’s still alive, retired somewhere. She was always the one who ran the place back then.