samedi 5 décembre 2009

The absence of no

The plate, gold-leaf restored and polished
Steinway Model A 1911
Pianos Baudry, Us, France


"No", it turns out, is not "yes". Le même s'applique pour "non" et "oui".

I knew that. I really did. The absence of "no" is, however, closer to yes than is the presence of "no". I knew this, too. The dinner table is becoming the marketplace, the corner café, the place where news is sought and exchanged, for better and for worse.

"C'est vrai qu'on va avoir un piano?" asked his youngest daughter, past 12, not yet 13. She got me. The moment of truth was thrust upon me, and by no treachery on her part. She looked genuinely interested in my answer. My answer. I glanced at her father, and then back at her before replying. Think quick.

"Ben [that's a form of "bon", or good, that means "wellll" or "OK"], peut-être," come on, say it, there's no use pussy-footing around here, "Je veux dire, oui."

"Ah bon?" spluttered her father, seated across from me at the table. This was the first indication that the absence of "no" is not the presence of "yes". Think quick.

"Enfin, si votre père donne son accord final," I glanced quickly at him. His daughter continued without missing a beat; our exchange being irrelevant at past 12 and not yet 13.

"Parce que d'ai envie de jouer au piano," she finished. She is turning into an excellent ally. Now I know why mothers require at least one daughter.

"Alors, tu joueras au piano."

"Comment on va payer ce piano?" asker her father without missing a beat; my exchange with his daughter being irrelevant as bread-winner. Think more quickly.

"Euh, avec un peu de notre argent et un peu de ce que j'ai aux States."

"Avec l'euro à $1.50?"

"Ah bon? C'est à ce point là?" As if I didn't suspect. The dollar has been weak against the euro ever since we arrived, more than 7, but less than 8 years ago.

"Où est-ce qu'on va le mettre?" asked his youngest son, more than 15, but not yet 16, although he's gaining, without stopping to pay attention to the exchange between the bread-winner and his lovely partner.

"Pas dans le salon," his father replied, decisively. Remember, he thinks pianos are ugly and make an unpleasant noise.

"Ca serait dommage quand même car il est beau. Il serait la plus belle chose dans la maison."

"On peut le mettre dans le petit salon," said his son, mine remaining quite quiet during all this. It struck me that I had another ally in my stepson. Somehow, the subject petered out, for the moment. I did the dishes with my husband, dejected. I went to bed and wrote in my journal (that's where I say all the things I would never say here. You didn't think I tell you everything, did you?), dejected, while he read.

"Tu fais la tête?" he asked, not without concern. I shook my head, but I was pouting. Absolutely. I felt terrible about wanting a piano -- this piano -- so much, when we need so many things that I want, too. Like a sofa. Ours is, well, a hand-me-down, beat to hell and an embarrassment.

I woke up, dejected, next to my husband.

"Qu'est-ce qu'il y a qui ne va pas?" What's wrong?, he asked.

"Je pense au piano." He laughed. "Je le veux."

"Tu viens à la gyme avec moi ou non?" I was too miserable to answer. How to tell him why I want this so much? Worse, how to explain to someone who feels exactly the opposite way why it's so important to me? I was going to have to. That, or renounce. I shrugged. He went to get ready to go, and I pulled the duvet up closer to my chin and stared at the wall. I was going to have to get up eventually, and the car, it appeared to me, would be, after all, the best place to talk to him. It's always that way with males. But, in the car, I was still mute and miserable.

"Tu penses à quoi?" he asked.

"Au piano." This time, he laughed out loud.

"Mais, si tu le veux tant que ça, achete-le. Je ne sais pas comment on va le payer, mais -- "

"Je ne sais pas t'expliquer pourquoi je le veux -- "

"Tu ne dois pas m'expliquer pourquoi -- "

"Si, je dois. Je dois t'expliquer pourquoi."

And I did try to explain why I want it so badly when there are so many things we both want. I tried to explain about playing when I was little and why I stopped. I tried to explain how when people tell you that you will regret having done so, they are right because you lose what you once had, and every time you pass a piano, you remember and you know that you can do nothing with it now. It's a real loss, and a real regret. I tried to explain how music had been in my life since I sat with my mother and watched the symphony on television and she taught me which instruments were which, since she bought a piano and I began lessons, since I sang in chorus and we were surrounded by musicians in high school, where our select choir won top honors in the state competitions, just like the orchestra and the jazz band. We ate lunch in the chorus room, listening to the stereo, gathering for jam sessions with Jeff Millstein improvising at the piano.

Jeff was the other reason I stopped playing. He had the quality that Fabio had, and that my nephew has; they know where the music is in the piano, and they only have to bring it out. I had to look for it, knowing it was in there, somewhere. But I found it, and I could play it. Today, I can't.

Then, Sam played the violin, and I listened to his teacher and wanted to make those sounds. I wanted a fine violin for my son, so that the sounds he could make would be the most beautiful and the most emotional possible. He stopped, and CDs in the stereo cannot come anywhere near real music in your home, whether you make it, or others make it. I tried to explain that I want the possibility of real music in my home and to make my efforts to make it myself, but it cannot be on just any piano. I need a piano that sings with warmth and vibrancy.

"J'ai besoin -- tu vas dire que c'est stupide --, mais j'ai besoin d'embellir notre vie."

"Ce n'est pas stupide."

"Je ne parle pas de la beauté superficielle, mais la beauté de la manière de vivre et les possibilités de cette vie."

"Je comprends."

I believed him.
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