The Snail and the Piano

November 27, 2012 by gabriellatal

How to enter this story?   From the outside to the in?   Like the swirl of a snail’s shell spiraling from the larger to the smaller?  From the simply obvious to the impossibly personal…

My dear friend, my best friend, what does that evoke for anyone?  It is different for each.  With us it meant the ability to look dark eyes into blue eyes without changing direction or intent.  Singing together where every corpuscle of sound blended into one garment of friendship. You drawing dew from your piano as I stepped between the drops.  Stepping in time together…until I found myself in a wheelchair – and you said, “Nothing has changed.  Things will just happen slower now”.  And we drove to remedy the lack of movement.  Drove the country roads where the pebbles thrown behind the tires fell like gemstones and the wind carried all pain and pretense away.

Now you were hurting.  At 42 a shocking heart attack.  You were in a parking lot after giving a concert and dancing your heart out – literally.  By chance you were there with 2 nurses, but neither one imagined that at your age you would have a heart attack, so the CPR they gave you was late and your brain,  your beautiful mind had been damaged.  I crumpled a tissue in my hand.  You lay before me with tubes and bottles.  I had come as soon as I heard.  We had a few precious moments alone but you were not in this world.

We didn’t know if you would live.  I came every day, lumbering in my wheelchair.  Others came too.  You were deeply loved, almost revered, by many.  I sang to you, determined you would hear me.  My love laundered you, it misted you, it came to you like a diamond in  12 points.

As days went by, I grew tired but I was driven.  Sandwiches and diet drinks in the cafeteria.  Phoning the community to set up teams. Eventually, you were  put in a private room and were off the machines.  Now you were like a child.  You could not speak or eat.  You grabbed food like an infant.  It was the recapitulation of growing up.   At night from my wheelchair I couldn’t get into the lounge chair that was offered for family members so I stayed in my wheelchair and leaned over the bed, resting my head on my arms on the bar near your head.  I slept there, close to you in cocoon, alert for any need, still I slept in a haze of sweetness, a closeness to you I’d never known.  The silence, the lack of speech was part of it.  You knew me. You smiled.  Eventually you said a few words.

Like a miracle you healed a great deal.  Others helped as well.  I looked forward to my shifts.  One night, (you had improved a lot by now.  You could speak and you had motor ability in your hands), I’d asked around and there was a piano on a nearby ward.   I think you were still in a wheelchair.  We wheeled together quietly to the piano.

And you played.  When you touched the keys I was not sure if you ‘d be able.

But it was all there.  That part of your brain was fine.

You played differently than before.  Like angels sending a fine rain.   Like fire in the night.  It was sent to you direct and you did not hesitate.

I pulled back and sat a ways behind you.  And you played and played.

Tears puckered my heart.  How wounded we both were.  And how much more beautiful were the gifts then given.  Joy flooded me.  You would be o.k.  I knew now.  Other things might be lost, but the music —

You called me to you then.  And we sang together.  A few simple songs.  That we’d sung forever before the flood.  Almost as a reflex, we took up a songbook that was sitting there and sang “Amazing Grace”. Our little boat bobbed on.

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