*Editors note: this is the third full draft of this story … that I wrote last night … I feel like I’m trying to convey something I haven’t quite got a grip on. It’s like my own little Jane Eyre moment and for now I feel like all I can do is word vomit, so bare with me, and maybe if you see my point in there somewhere could you be so kind as to let me know? Thanks.
I was driving to pick Kamel up late from work on Sunday night when I started thinking about my Piano teacher. It was dark, the music was perfect, the roads were clear, I could have driven forever. I felt like a super hero zooming through the night. And I was thinking about a woman I can’t quite remember the name of.
I took lessons until I was in 7th grade and then I just stopped. I was never going to be amazing and I hated to practice. It bored me and I had better things to do. Now, over ten years later I have to remember that I once played the piano, because sometimes I forget. I have, though, completely forgotten how to read music, I couldn’t tell you which note goes where or what they are supposed to sound like. And now, more than ever, it boggles my mind that I was in this woman’s house (whose name I have also forgotten) for 5 years, every week, and only knew a fraction of who she was. Yet two nights ago, on a dark road, listening to the radio, I realized I must have witnessed, at least peripherally, some major life events.
At first she was living close to my neighborhood, but then a while later she moved farther away, to a bigger house, and I followed her. I was only allowed into certain rooms – not because she told me so, just because I was never taken there.
We had a dog growing up, and when we moved into the house I mostly grew up in, we never took him past the stairs to the kitchen, so he never went any further.
To me her house was only three rooms big, because I was little and my world view was about the same size. But one day I remember there being a man. He was trying to keep out of the way, but for some reason was having difficulty with it. It was like I had been hit over the head. There was a man in my piano teacher’s house. There was another person living there. Had I just never noticed before? Suddenly I was aware there was a life for her outside of what I was allowed to see.
Did that boyfriend eventually move out? I think so. Did another move in? I feel like I remember that as well. Did she eventually get married? This is a possibility. Did she have another form of income? I have no idea.
There were other things, too. Like how I eventually carpooled with a classmate to her house. How her mother made me feel like a charity case by driving every other Monday. How much I hated having her there to watch my lessons half the time, how I felt she was looking to compare me to her daughter, trying to see that her daughter was better than I was, more talented, somehow seeking to justify the expense of the class through my mistakes.
I spent a lot of time as a kid confused, only understanding half of what was happening around me, only understanding the base of social nuance, but never the how or the why. And I don’t think it gets easier as an adult; navigating the space other people allow you to see, working within the confines of other people’s expectations of you. When I remember myself at seven or eight or nine I’m able to piece it all together so clearly; the jealousy, the resentment, the power struggle and politics even within the adults at my elementary school. Why I wasn’t invited here or there, why some houses were messier, why some families more disorganized. I see it play out in front of me and at the same time still feel that childhood bewilderment.
Driving in the dark on a Sunday night I still can only see those three rooms in my Piano Teacher’s house. As an adult I can now make guesses and draw parallels, but I’m still limited to a seven year old’s interpretation of a woman I don’t remember the name of.