Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Playing Black and White

College Essay (Sept 2004)

The warm rays from the spotlight are filtering down through the dust particles to brush my right arm, cheek and ear. I can feel the suddenness of the pupil of my right eye contracting when the bright light reaches it. Room quiet, heart pulsing, and adrenaline rushing, my hands float up toward the black lacquer encased instrument. My arms tense as I bravely take the upbeat and bring my hands down violently to make my first note. The audience shudders at the unexpected burst of sound coming from the stage. My fingers dance over the black and white ivory keys, taking unexpected turns and leaping over one another. They play this game each time I sit on this flat black bench; a race to the finish. Pulling my entire body with them, my hands run up and down the eighty-eight keys to hammer the strings, which only I can see clearly. My heart beats out the tempo of the music, giving my foot no need to tap. Instead, it takes a different path from beneath the bench, emphasizing the importance of certain sounds.

With each sound, the notes become sensory memories evoked within me and my audience. A series of chords come crashing down the keyboard and flash a brief vision of my mother’s near fatal brain aneurism, when, as the chords, my life came crashing down around me. My mind flickers to times of hope, prayer and family unity that I experienced during those four long months and my eyes tear up. Each audience member has his own memoir which comes to mind at one particular sound that my hands methodically and rhythmically create.

The music continues to move forward, and although my hands never slow down, the violent thrusts with which my body moved before have become gentle, gliding phrases of soft, peaceful melodies and harmonies. Again, a memory is awakened. I am lying on my back in the grass, just as the sun has fallen from the sky. Staring up at the infinite number of stars in the universe, this easy feeling rushes through me as the faithful canine friend beside me has fallen asleep. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, taking in the aroma of fresh cut grass and pollen of springtime. When I open my eyes again, the smell dissipates, and I am back in the spotlight, dancing for the entire world to see on my stage.

Suddenly, the tone changes again, and my left hand leaps blindly, risking hitting a wrong note, but sets down firmly upon the correct keys. The many hours of practice spent at this very spot have prepared me for that leap today. My mind wanders to my short-lived career as a campaign manager for a friend who was running for secretary of the student government at my elementary school. Instead of a speech, I wrote a song about her, and sang it a capella in front of the entire student body. As I return to the piano, my stomach muscles remain tense from reliving that nervousness, and the corners of my mouth creep up towards my eyes at the fond memory. The audience feels the nervous shock of it, as the piece draws to a close. My hands roll off of the keys one last time in a circular motion. Silence begins to steal back into the room as my hands descend into my lap, but the audience tries to catch the sounds before they wisp away like a thin fog. In a moment, the room is on its feet, hands waving in the air, and a resounding “thanks” is given from the applause which responds to my performance.

I stand up, and my black dress slinks down as it hangs from my shoulders towards my feet, the folds changing direction. I slowly move one foot behind the other and bend from the waist, acknowledging the “thanks” with a simple “you’re welcome”. Hearing the gratitude in their closed lips and open arms, I silently make thanks of my own to my parents for enticing me to attend my first piano lesson, and buying me the piano which has become my favorite listener. I awake from the daydream to find myself in my own living room, sitting at my own piano, with an audience of stars listening and twinkling outside the bay windows.

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