The studio I moved into has a piano. Its wood is scratched and its sustain pedal, polished from contact with many socks, creaks gently when I push it. When my clumsy fingers move over the keys, my foot clings to the damper pedal out of fear that neighbors' complaining will stop my playing. How strange to play a piano in a lonely city apartment.
I didn't grow up studying piano seriously, but I grew up playing music and I grew up around many pianos. As a child I would sneak into the narrow space between the wall and the piano my dad inherited from his mother, hiding trinkets and hundreds of folded paper cranes.
In choir rehearsals, the piano led my voice. Conductors get too much credit for shaping an ensemble's sound and keeping everyone together - piano players have always reached my ears with immediacy, carrying to me a piece's notes, tempo, and tone. Once, our pianist invited us to sing into the body of the piano, and I heard the strings resonate with our song, the music of many instruments swirling through the ceilings of the church.
And then there was that boy, the center of my grade school obsession and hurt and angst - he played piano, too. I watched his fingers graze over the keys with intense emotion and focus. He played at talent shows in musty gymnasiums, on cheap music classroom keyboards, in practice rooms, and on the tip-tap of a school desk. When I took up piano lessons in high school, we fought over practice time - his time was important, he claimed, and mine was not.
Piano could be considered a solo instrument, but my memories of piano-playing are always in relationship to others. My partner playing alongside my voice. A spacious home filled with loved ones and memories and the sounds of me repeating that one phrase until I get it right.
How strange to play now, alone in a strange new apartment with strange muffles of strangers' voices coming through my ceiling. I miss sharing musical space with people.