I went to pick up a second-hand digital piano I bought earlier yesterday. On the same night, some random stranger came and picked up the dinner table I gave away on AsiaXpat.
On my way back home with my piano on the mover’s van, I was feeling both excited and slightly embarrassed. Excited as it feels like the start of a new journey, embarrassed coz it’s not really a new journey. I played piano for 5 years when I was in primary school and junior high, and have obtained a level 8 certificate. But after 18 years of obsolescence, if you put me in front of a piano now, it’d be the same as if you put a cow in front of a piano. I simply can’t play anything anymore. One may think playing piano is similar to swimming, the kind of skill that once acquired it would never be lost. Well, it’s not, at least not in my case. It’s a skill I used to have, witnessed it evaporated through time, and am now trying to regain.
After the mover left, I sat in front of my “new” piano and pressed the keys rigidly, I simply couldn’t believe a younger version of me used to be able to work her fingers fluently on this instrument. It somewhat saddens me. I always thought I’ve evolved in a continuous way, in a way that every frame of me is perfectly stored in a safe place. But sitting in front of the piano and not being able to reconnect with the skills I used to have, I realized I’m old enough to feel dislocated from “the past”. The memories are there, but you look at it like you’re looking at someone else’s life.
And if I’m being honest, most of the memories of my piano-playing days feels pretty blurred now. I only remember a few things. I remember my first piano teacher lived in a commercial building where the basement was a McDonald’s, every weekend after my piano lesson my dad would take me there for a happy meal and my fondness for chicken nuggets was deeply rooted since then. I remember losing my temper when I was practising Bach that I used a pencil to stab the score book, tearing the page off, crying, wishing to end the misery. I remember feeling very precious of having a piano at the beginning, I was 9. One day shortly after I got the piano, my father turned up in the school out of blue looking for me. My first thought was, something bad must have happened, oh no, my piano must be stolen. It did turn out to be some bad news, not that my piano was stolen though, but my grandmother had passed away. And I remember when I was in the first grade of high school, I told my parents I wanted to resume learning piano (after one year’s break due to highschool entrance exams). My parents objected the idea without any hesitation and told me I should focus on my schoolwork. I was 15, top-notch in my schoolwork, easily convinced.
During the period when I grew up as a kid, in China, especially in Shenzhen, having their kids learning piano just started to become a thing. Almost every child growing up in Shenzhen has learned a bit of piano. I remember my father used to always say, (as he likes to put a good reason to everything) that they wanted me to learn piano not in the hope that I’d achieve anything as a piano player, but to enable me to have a musical tool to find some consolation if one day I happen to need it in my life. And here I am, after 18 years of not touching the piano once, echoing what he used to wish for me. In my shock, I realized if I have to explain why I wanna pick up piano again, there’s no better way to answer it than my father’s initial intention. I guess I simply wish for some musical consolation as a 30-something woman living alone in a hectic city. And I need it so badly that I have to get rid of my dinner table to make room for the digital piano.
The best thing is, there’s no objection anymore. There’s no one there saying something like “No Ellen, you should focus on your career, it’s not the right time for piano.” I guess this is the beauty of being middle-aged. You have a better idea of who you are and you make your decisions at your well-earned discretion. If you want some consolation, you play some music. If you don’t have enough room for the piano to play that music, you sell your table to make room for that piano to play that music. And you tell yourself, it’s a right decision. You know it’s a right decision. Becoz you’ve only used that table 4 times in 3 years.
Now, I can’t wait to have my first piano lesson.
P.S. I’ve been using the same mover since 5 years ago. We never really had a real conversion, I only keep going back to him becoz he has great moving skills and reasonable price. And of coz, it feels good to “have a guy” for something. This time as usual I contacted him to move the piano. When we met at the pick-up place, he said: “I’ve known you for so many years and I never know you play music.” I laughed embarrassedly and thought to myself “of coz, you don’t know me at all.”
But I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. He does know me for many years. And he was always there when I was in need. He helped me move from Taiwai to Sai Ying Pun, from Sai Ying Pun to Tsing Yi. He helped me move many pieces of furniture here and there and he assembled my wardrobes both times, which is literally the center of my life. I couldn’t help marvelling at how strange people’s relationship can be. How easily I grant my loyalty to this random skinny mover guy, how familiar and dependable to me he feels in a certain way, how well he knows about me and how little I know about him. For Christ’s sake, I don’t even know his name.