Copyright© Autumn Writer 2006, 2007
The final two strong, staccato chords completed, the piano fell silent. A sharp rap-rap sounded on the door to the practice room. The student looked up, annoyed at the interruption.
"Yes," she replied. "Come in, please!" she called out a little louder.
The door swung open, the janitor leaned in. "I waited until you were finished with your piece."
At least she thought that he was the janitor. He wore the tan work clothes with the college symbol on the left chest pocket that all the janitors wore. He had a vacuum cleaner in tow and a tool belt hung around his waist. What else could he have been but the janitor? There was something about this young man that did not fit the part. The janitors were older, grizzled men. They always appeared to be in a bad mood and never spoke to the students. This janitor was much younger, and nice looking, in her estimation. He wore long sleeves, so much of his physique was hidden from view. She noticed that he was slender, yet appeared angular and wiry.
"I just need to clean up in here; would it be alright?" He flashed a toothy grin.
"I only have another twenty minutes," she replied. "Could you come back then?"
He didn't leave as he should have. He advanced inside a step, dragging the vacuum cleaner along with him. His wide grin remained, but now he was closer to her. His eyes were leveling themselves right into hers. It made her a little uneasy. She glanced down at the keyboard.
"Sorry," he said. "I'm new at this job—part of work-study. I'll know better next time."
Of course! She remembered him from the dorm. She had seen him a few times with his friends, or bounding away with loping strides to class. She didn't know him, not even his name. She didn't want to. Why wasn't he going to leave her alone so she could finish?
She pretended not to recognize him. "That's okay; I'll just get back to practicing now."
"Actually, I was standing outside the door during the whole time that you were playing. I shouldn't have—I should have been working. I hope you don't mind."
The statement lit an ember of curiosity. Here was a janitor who was not a janitor. A man who said he was leaving but remained standing in front of her piano, grinning unabashedly as she tried to dismiss him. He was a young man who she should know, but did not. He was popular and athletic, with many friends who must enjoy sports and beer and cars. Yet, he had stood outside her closed practice room door for fifteen minutes while she played classical music.
"Did you like the piece that I was playing?" As soon as the words exited her lips she was scolding herself. This was sure to lead to more conversation, less practice, more feelings to sort through.
"Yes, I did. What is the name of it?"
Now she knew that she had entered into a ridiculous maze! This young boob had purported to enjoy her music, but couldn't name the piece that he enjoyed so much. He had hidden his identity behind a janitor's outfit, but his telltale friendliness had given him away. He was killing time at her expense. He would rather idle about than go away and do his vacuuming. Her habit of suspecting all men was paying off as the facts unfolded.
She knew that he had no interest in her music. For sure he had none in her. Although he was standing over her, he could barely see her tiny frame behind the grand piano. It was a good hiding place. It was only there that she felt "special" as music flowed out of her long fingers. Everything else about her didn't deserve attention.
She was short in stature, possibly five-three. Her slender body had few of the curves or bumps that many young women delighted in flaunting. Her hair was neither jet black, nor light brown. It settled on a shade in between. It had no waves or curls. It hung down to where she trimmed it, halfway between the bottoms of her ears and the base of her neck. She wore glasses. She had considered contacts once, but why bother? She knew that when she graduated in the spring she would have to get some kind of makeover before she went out looking for a job. In the meantime, a cloak of drabness would preserve her reclusivity.
She decided to play along with him.
"It's entitled 'Moonlight Sonata'. It's by Beethoven."
"I enjoyed listening to it. I think that you did a nice job playing it."
"This guy is slick," she thought, "and he's not giving up." Well, she would not give in easily, either.
"What did you like about it?" She was certain that he didn't know an arpeggio from a G-clef.
He didn't flinch at the challenge. "I was outside the door. It was hard to tell exactly because the sound was muffled."
"A good parry," she thought. The challenge of his repartee offered a diversion.
"Sit down in that chair. I'll play it for you again."
He seated himself in the corner chair. She proceeded to play the piece, all three movements, for the next fifteen minutes. She was determined to play it well. She used every talent. She played as though in an audition. She could not answer why she took the trouble to do so. She only knew that she felt compelled to give her best to it.
She finished playing. She had done so flawlessly. He stood. The toothy grin was gone, replace by a sincere and pleasant expression.
"Thank you. That was really nice. You did that so well. I appreciate it. I've taken a lot of your time. I should go now."
She felt suddenly remorseful. She had played the piece to expose him. She wanted to embarrass him in his ignorance so that he would cease bothering her. Now, she suspected that she might have been in error. She couldn't allow him to leave with the last word.
"Well, what did you like about it?" she reverted back to the original theme.
She hadn't meant to challenge him again. She just couldn't find any other route of conversation. She had little practice at small talk, and especially with men.
"Sometimes," he started to answer, "a person just likes something without knowing exactly why. That is what it is like between me and this piece of music. That is what it is between me and some other things, too."
There was silence for long moments. He had turned the tables on her. The double meaning of his words hung like smoke in a room. She had aimed to pierce him, but his answer showed her that no hypocrisy existed to form vulnerability. She felt guilty at abusing him. He was a very likable person. She needed a recovery.
"What are you studying?" she asked.
"Accounting," he answered. "I'm getting out this spring."
The answer puzzled her.
"I don't know many accountants who enjoy this art form. I'm pleasantly surprised," she conceded.
The toothy grin returned. He sensed progress, forged ahead.
"Someday, when you're a famous soloist and rich, you will appreciate the accountant's art form." He thought that the joke would compliment and amuse her.
"I'm going into teaching," she replied.
Oops! A rebuff. She hadn't meant it. She was so clumsy in these encounters.
It didn't faze him. "I'm Louis—call me Lou," he announced, as if it were something that she needed to know.
"I know," she said. "It's on the name tag sewn to your shirt."
More silence followed. He was looking at her expectantly; she looked back confused.
"You don't have a name tag sewn onto your blouse."
"Julie," she said. She was blushing; she was so clumsy in these situations.
"Thanks for playing "Moonlight Sonata" for me, Julie. Sometime maybe we'll dance to it."
Her technical instincts took her over. "You can't dance to that!"
Oh no, another rebuff, issued before it could be taken back.
He wasn't hurt. He just smiled back at her.
"Have you ever tried to?"
"Well, no. I would never try to. It has no rhythm for dancing. Besides, its fifteen minutes long." A fifteen minute contact would be worse torture for her than the rack.
With that, he raised his hand to his forehead to salute a "good-bye for now". He grabbed the vacuum and strutted down the hall. As she was putting her sheets of music in her tote bag she heard him vacuuming another room.
"He never did vacuum in my practice room," she thought to herself.
On her walk back to her dorm she kept wondering how one could dance to the 'Moonlight Sonata'.
"Moonlight Sonata" is a beautiful piece of music, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1801. He was thirty-one years old when he wrote it. It has three movements. Beethoven did not give the piece its romantic name. In the times when it was written, that task was left to the publisher of the music. Beethoven's name for his composition was merely Opus 27, No. 2, Sonata Quasi una Fantasia (Sonata in the Style of a Fantasy). Its title adds mystery to the music. What could have been the turnings in his mind as he framed the evocative strains?
A hint might be that he dedicated it to a young woman, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. The lovers' ambitions were ruined by her father, who questioned Beethoven's financial prospects. Beethoven never married. Was he crushed or still hopeful? It is known that at his death a small portrait of his lost love was found in his desk. It is a sad story. Perhaps the composer's emotions and desires were expressed in "Moonlight Sonata".
The first movement of the Sonata is the approach of lovers toward each other. It is played slowly, softly, tenderly. At the start the lower notes of the melody approach the higher range of the scale.
"May I touch you?" he asks. There is no reply from above. Again, he sends a plaintive and gentle entreaty, "May I touch you?" Absence of response follows.
.... There is more of this story ...