Issue 64 / July - August 2008
Al Feliz Pescador
As I stroll in the park on a Saturday afternoon, I enjoy the gentle touch of sunrays coming through the trees. A flute is playing Bachâ€™s Badinerie in the distance. It is a beautiful day. I find a warm and quite spot to read the last chapter of the book I started today. After one or two pages, for some reason, I find myself secretly watching a father with a toddler. The father is just a few years older than me, but apparently he is much better off. They are having a picnic and the toddler is laughing herself crazy whenever her father bounces a little red ball. My heart starts thumping with longing and discontent. I wish, for an instant, that I was that father.
I love my daughter, I really do. When my daughter laughs with me right now, itâ€™s as if that is the definition of happiness. But I came home from work at midnight yesterday and had to run errands this morning. I really wanted to stay home this afternoon and get some rest, but my wife wanted to meet her friends. God, I feel so tired, and I havenâ€™t even been able to read the newspapers today; I wonder what the repercussions of yesterdayâ€™s market crisis are. I hope the day I will retire comes soonâ€¦
My days in this house are rather routine and lonely. I watch the news, eat, walk, read, and once in a while get together with friends in the neighborhood. My wife left me after I retired, which I understand happens often in neglected marriages. My daughter visits me in the summers and stays with me for a few weeks at least, for which I feel blessed. An interesting development has occurred in my psyche: Recently, I have been feeling this growing envy for people who do physical work. All my life, my job entitled making abstract decisions about abstract situations. Not once did I do something that I could step back from and take a look at the outcome of my effort. Just today I was watching a construction worker building a wall. What a great feeling it must be to start in the morning where there is no wall and in the evening to see the result of your daily work, a wall that you have built with your own hands.
Being a worker is no great feat. Sure the pay is not bad, I canâ€™t complain about that, but everybody knows it canâ€™t last. I mean, first off, you donâ€™t get much contracts in the winter, then the big companies take up most of the stuff and letâ€™s face it, I canâ€™t earn my money on this when Iâ€™m fifty, then you lift boxes in a supermarket, what else? You may find this funny coming from me, but I always wanted to be a musician, a cello player; thatâ€™s what I wanted to do. I wish I could be in the shoes of that cello kid in the poster in front of the concert hall.
I am a cellist. I have loved the sound of cello for as long as I can remember, I do not know why, and now when people ask me I tell them I love the cello because it is the instrument that most resembles the human voice. That is not why but it sounds better. I have practiced hard for more than fifteen years now, on average four hours a day. This practice may have its rewarding moments, but most of the time it feels like you are trying to achieve something that is in no way achievable. My parents never approved of my choice and I think they never will, unless I reach the level of a Rostropovich, which for me is clearly impossible. Everything set aside, the upsetting thing is that my real passion is composing music, although I am not very good at it. I have been taking classes with an instructor in my college on music composition, and I am in awe at his achievements. I would give up everything I have at any moment to be able to compose like he does.
Some may say that I have contributed some pieces to our musical library. I would say that they are either too kind or they do not know music. I teach music composition in a mediocre music school and until now I have been able to convince my students and colleagues that my compositions are important. Fortunately, I myself do not share that delusion. I say fortunately because I know that I have in me something waiting to be written on score sheets, something sublime, somethingâ€¦ that I havenâ€™t been able to get out of me in the last couple of years. I do love the process, even though many nights the candle on my piano burns down and I havenâ€™t been able to write a single note. Am I burned out too? Is my hope for a sublime finale the real delusion? Why cannot I be like the great master Beethoven?
I am Beethoven. My music has been hailed as the work of a genius, which still gives me great satisfaction. However, there are two substantial catches with my present situation. First, I am deaf; I went deaf in the last thirteen years of my life. As an ironical twist of fate, I, the great Beethoven, was never able to hear any of my greatest work, my 9th symphony. Second, I am dead; I do not know how long I have been dead, a year or hundreds of years; I have been waiting in this grave in complete silence and in complete darkness. Often, I find myself imagining a scene from my life. No, not the time when the Archduke celebrated my work, not the time when the Eroica was first performed either. It is a much simpler and at the same time, a much more handsome memory. There was a time when I was strolling in the park one afternoon and I was enjoying the gentle touch of sunrays coming through the trees. A flute was playing Bachâ€™s Badinerie in the distance. It was a beautiful dayâ€¦
Firat Kocol is a freelance writer. He lives in Boston. He can be contacted at [email protected]