Tuesday, November 12, 2002

This One's For Emily

I am Claire Davies, and I am the student of a masochistic Russian. My hair is blond with brown roots. My bangs are too long, so I blow out of the corner of my mouth and puff them aside. I am wearing a fuzzy cardigan sweater and a tweed skirt. The skirt is very itchy, and I have to hold it down with one hand. It's a very windy day. My other hand is occupied with five or six piano books - heavy ones. I walk up to a dusty, severe wooden door and lift an iron knocker. The door swings open and hits the far wall with a bang, a plaything of the wind, and I jump unintentionally. There's a withered claw on my arm. I yield to it and the tiny, powdery woman it belongs to, following them both inside. The lights aren't on. I ask the woman why. The raspy voice comes out of her chipped, yellow smile -- "I don't like the light." I gulp, "ah." Her menacing heels are tapping on the marble. The claw releases me and she scuttles through an arched doorway, leaving a smell of iodine and burning leaves behind her. I am very very small in this house from fiction, from a Dracula movie. My hands are trembling. "Claire! Come!" It's time to be ritualistic.

I am having tea in the house of a masochistic Russian. She doesn't speak to me. My legs are too long for this chair. I am in a parlor where the sun through the shutters is as thick as a dustrag. There is a plate of cakes on the table which must not be touched by me. The claw daintily skewers one and brings it to the fuscia lips. Her skin is greenish and she chews so noisily, it's the only break in her manners. Her hair is powder yellow. It is the same color as the dead canary in the cage next to the light switch. I am fiddling with my hands under the table. "Stop," she barks. Her mouth is tight and merciless. "So sorry, Madame V." My lips are rife with teeth marks, and I know she sees me sweat. "So. What do we play today?" She asks this lightly, folding her claws perfectly in her lap. "I thought the Chopin, Madame V." "Pfff," she spits. "French... what they know about music?" I try to sit demurely, the perfect silent pupil. She stares with her buggy fish eyes. "Well. Play me a C arpeggio." I cringe. I haven't practiced it. I walk toward the aging brown baby grand -- I am a condemned prisoner, a Death Row inmate. My ears hurt listening to the halting notes, my long nails tapping on the keys like crickets. "Stop!" I slump on the piano bench. Madame V., her back taut and veins in her neck pumping, stands. I am a meek beaten puppy. Her teeth click. "Why your fingers like spaghetti?" she snaps. "Hm?" Her claws fidget frantically with the lace of her blouse. "You like spaghetti?" "....yes." She sighs heavily and sits, creaking the piano bench... or perhaps that's her bones. "Well." She says, "Maybe that why. Again!"

I am Claire Davies, and my fingers are made of spaghetti. I am playing piano in teh house of a masochistic Russian. The dead canary over my right shoulder has just beun to chirp.

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