Unbelievably, I am reunited with my oldest love, after fourteen years.
I was fifteen and vague with deep introversion when we came together. I had no real tools other than my ears and a fierce invisible longing that Named Me, so I struggled as if blindfolded. I didn’t know how to properly approach the impossible, let alone get through it. Nevertheless, he felt me through all the awkward then and he answered, full and deep, rich and old and stable, as Fathers can.
I’m not overstating things when I say he became as always as bedrock to me. As permanent as sky. More than anything else in my young life, he taught me that I was More.
We stayed together and things happened. Impossible shook me and took me like tumbleweed into places I had no business being, places that could so easily have trapped me, cloistered me, shaped my forever into defeat and imprisonment. In retrospect I can see that I was protected then by a great naivete which was the only visible edge of the longing that Named Me.
He was with me through those years, enshrined in a corner, voiced in a stairwell – a place of joining always on offer, where I could shed what I needed to and reclaim what I needed to, if I felt strong enough to meet him.
I didn’t feel strong, though, in that time. I still thought myself a child who ought to seek approval. I was afraid to show my teeth.
Drips from paint I threw at canvas on my studio walls splattered his belly. I sang in a band that laughed and drank and smoked and toured. I abandoned myself in lovers who saw, but didn’t see.
Then Ed phoned and I answered, as I’d done many times before. I took my Always up to compare to the new girl, who had been rejected by a student, & why, what’s wrong with her. Played new girl for twenty minutes, then picked up my Always to compare sounds, as I’d done before.
But I couldn’t play him. He was gone. Tried again. No. And again. Nothing.
With no warning, New Girl had claimed me over him. I couldn’t buy her and keep him, so after two weeks of tears and trying, I traded. Fifteen years ago.
He went to a place of silence and while he sat like a secret inside a hard case, I played New Girl. She pushed me, like a bitch. She made me work for every note, she called me out on every bad habit. She could snarl like a tiger, and scream ugly like a stuck rabbit. She demanded that I use my teeth.
So I found my teeth, and learned how to use them. I learned to love her, and we learned to compromise well, my sister and I.
Oh but against all odds, the man who bought my cello 15 years ago found me and offered me first right of refusal.
I said YES quickly without thinking – knowing I couldn’t afford it, maybe I’d exaggerated value, romanticized connection. I said yes, and months later & five days ago Impossible came like tumbleweed and delivered him back.
There are splatters of paint on his belly.
I’m not overstating things here: this week my fifteen-year-old self has been re-introduced to me, 36 years later, through this 1928 instrument from Germany via the hands and ears and exquisitely focused, raging love of Edouard Bartlett.
In the two concerts I’ve played since then, in the hours of practise I’ve put in I can hear that we have teeth now. We have better tools. We have Possible, and great, sweet Beauty. We are full to the brim with Longing… for more.
I listen to Stravinsky’s phoenix rise, and my face is wet.
This post is for Fran, and for Sue, who told entirely different firebird stories to me at different times on the same Day-of-Change.