full circle in the hundred acre wood


I cannot speak with the voice of myself as a young girl. I cannot hear her voice. I can barely see her.


I feel her anxiety, though. She is sitting on the piano bench, back to me, hunched over the keys.


“You never play for me,” Mother says, her voice a weapon, finding its mark. “You play for everybody else, but you never play for me.”


I want to please her. I always want that. “I would love to play for you. Do you have time now? Please, what would you like to hear?”


Mother sits on the couch nearby, back straight, palms flat on the tops of her bird-like thighs. “Oh, anything. You know I like it all.”


I pick out a Clementi sonatina, bright and sunny in the key of G. I’ve finished the first short movement and barely begun the second, when I notice a small movement at the edge of my peripheral vision. Mother’s hands, lifting both up together, palms rising and falling back to her thighs in a brisk motion. Impatient.


We have been through this song and dance before. She will exhort me to play only for her. “You know how I love your playing. I take you to your lesson every Saturday morning, but you never play for me, just everybody else.”


I eventually cave in this ritual. We assume our positions: me at the piano; she on the couch.


She has sat, pretending to listen, for as long as four minutes. This day, it was almost three.


I finished the Clementi, and then moved on to Chopin and Brahms, finishing with one of Shostakowitch’s dark Fantastic Dances. Two hours passed. I disappeared into my head and the room shrank until it was only a cutout of the piano, the lamp, the bench, the music and one dark-eyed young girl.


I don’t know how I got to Peru that summer, that summer of firsts, that summer of almost everything, that summer when my lips were always chapped and my mouth bruised from kissing.


But I do know this: I will always regret returning home still a virgin.


If only I had stayed in Lima one more week, so overheated, it would have slipped naturally away in that city apartment near the plaza. Each time we went there and lay on the sofa, clothes on, touching, kissing, my resistance was like fat in the fire, burning, dripping, and sizzling into the Peruvian afternoon, so far from home, Mother, and the piano.




{excerpt from Ruination, a piece of the puzzle I’m currently working on}


0 thoughts on “Summer of ’68

  1. Leslie says:

    Beautiful….looking forward to the next piece of the puzzle.


  2. Sid says:

    And the days are not full enough
    And the nights are not full enough
    And life slips by like a field mouse
    Not shaking the grass.
    A little Ezra Pound, borrowed for that very naughty word in the next to last paragraph. Knowing you a little bit, I trust that regrets are a small piece of the puzzle – some blue background – and not a corner piece or a foundation….
    But however it is, and however you choose to present it, I loved this piece! Will there be more soon????


  3. Denny says:

    Gorgeous! Thank you for sharing this excerpt. A piece of the puzzle fits nicely in the one-page poetic structure of the best blog post. I have to say, it’s quite tantalizing. It really makes me want to relish the completed puzzle someday.


  4. Walk says:

    What a cliffhanger! Will the puzzle be complete soon so we may feast on it piece by piece? (Using the feast image to relate to all the wonderful meals you describe here.)


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