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Amateurs rehearse until they get it right.

It's not a difficult piece, just a long one, familiar territory revisited thousands of times. The sostenuto pedal rises and falls the same way every time.

His wife surprised him with a piano. She's Deaf, but he and their children love music, so she gave them a way to create their own. I don't know her in person, but I can only love her for that.

This is the first piece he's tried, using the light-up piano keys to guide him through it, one measure at a time. It's not an ambitious piece for an adult to target up-front. It's good to have goals from the beginning, and this one is a good goal to have. He doesn't know that - I'm the piano teacher here, not him - but he smiles when I tell him this, that he's set his sights on a very reasonable and worthy challenge.

We don't speak again for several weeks, which is normal for us. This relationship is acclimated to the rhythms of his work. He's my best friend; he arrives at my thoughts quicker than I do, sometimes. When he's away, he tolerates me using the empty chat as a sort of diary, addressed to him instead of to myself. He always comes back with stories for me.

It's a slow tempo we measure, calm and drawn out. We move against each other with the deliberateness of tectonic plates, finding no fault in each other, no tremor of uncertainty in our dynamic, no insecurity or imbalance in the shared work of maintaining what we have. Slow. Sustainable. Adagio sostenuto.

We have a video chat when he's around again. This is a rare treat; text is usually our sole medium of interaction. His voice is beautiful. He has six minutes left before he has to leave. I place my laptop on the top of my piano, making sure the camera faces me.

Here's something that belongs to me, something I can give him. Nobody else serenades him. It's not jealousy driving that thought, only the ardent abiding wish to share the single most sacred thing in my life with one of the four people who are most important to me, and the one I see least often.

The moment is an embarrassment of riches. I could give him Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky. I'm a dab hand at Mahler and Bach. I could show off. I could play something that sounds like I'm showing off, that isn't too hard at all. My repertoire slides across the back of my mind, one piece after another summarily rejected in favour of one thing I know he enjoys, one thing I could do in my sleep, upside-down, backward, and blind.

I show him what he's striving for, in C-sharp minor. For six minutes, I show him perfection in the gentlest, slowest, most plaintive keystrokes, saying everything I refrain from putting to words. My longing. My adoration. The ache of distance and long absence. The immutable certainty of us. I hear the tremor in his voice when he softly thanks me, and in the stillness between his breaths, translated into electricity and back into sound directly into my ears, I hear the unspoken shapes of everything he's saying in reply. The song was my way of loving. Listening was his. He smiles audibly when we give our farewells and sign off the chat.

Weeks pass again before he touches base, and it's brief: confirmation that he's okay. This is our normal. Missing each other is our normal. Picking up where we left off. Making minutes count. Making music. We're good at this; we have a lot of practice.

Professionals rehearse until they can't get it wrong.


Iron Noder 2017, 10/30

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