london







London
Yaeko de Nirohmy






If you have ever watched someone smile and know that it isn't for you, that's how I feel right now. My lover is not smiling to celebrate me, or even to acknowledge me. I am not selfish so much as I am lonely. This man, the man I lie down next to every night, the one I take my meals with, he doesn't love me anymore.
He is talking on the phone, smoking a cigarette, smiling away. I'm not listening, because it would be rude, and because, in truth, I don't want to know what he's saying. If I really knew, I think I would be heartbroken.
I finish washing the breakfast dishes, and wander through our apartment, into the living room. It's the sunniest of the six rooms, and it holds my piano. I can sit and play piano in the bright afternoon sunlight. So I sit down and lay my fingers on the white keys.
I could play and play for hours without missing a key, without missing a beat, no music, all from my memory. But, right now, I don't. I just sit there with my fingers on the smooth keys, and listen to the silence. I can hear him in the next room, talking. But, presently, the sound of his voice stops and there is only quiet again in our flat.
Finally, I can play... My fingers lift up and curve over the keys, hovering for a split second. Then they plunge down and I begin to play. The sounds of what I'm playing fill my ears and my mind, so much that I don't hear my lover come up behind me. His arms wind around me and I stop playing that very instant that he touches me.
What's wrong?
I shrug, attempting to remove his heavy hands from my shoulders.
My lover is a croupier in a casino here in London. His hands are very strong, broad and large. I have always been mildly amused by the fact that my lover is a dealer. The things his hands can do in bed, the things they can do at the card table. His job requires him to be a magician. He is an illusionist in more than one way.
Why should something be the matter?
I dunno, he says, and lets go.
Who were you speaking to?

On the phone. Who were you speaking to that made you so happy?
He half laughs. My sister's boyfriend. They're getting married soon.
Are they?
If he can get the courage up to ask her.
I closed my eyes and half-nod.
He laughs again, and it sort of dances around the house in an odd, distorted sort of way. He walks off, saying, I'm gonna run some errands, but I'm taking a shower first, okay?
I don't say anything, just close the lid over the piano and stand up from the bench.
I'm going out, myself, I call, wondering at the two totally different types of sounds our voices make. His is loud, rather taut and twang, very much unlike my voice. I haven't any idea how to describe the sound of my own voice, having heard it day after day for twenty-seven years. I suppose it sounds more or less like everyone else's voice around me - my dad's, my mother's, my brother's, other boyfriends' and lovers', teachers' and the like. I don't know what my voice sounds like because I'd rather be quiet.

In the market, someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn around, my red plastic shopping basket in my hand, and I look at them
He is about my age, I think, and smiling broadly, although his face is very somber.
You're that pianist fellow, aren't you?
I might be, I say. Which one are you thinking of.
Don't know, he admits. You've an album, though. Completely uncharted music...
I shake my head slowly. It isn't uncharted.
No? I'd been told it was.
It isn't. It's all written, previously published music. It isn't mine, I simply melt it together from memory. I shrug.
I see, he says, and I know immediately that he doesn't understand.
I smile kindly. If you'll excuse me, I've shopping to do. It was a pleasure to meat you.

When I get home, my lover is gone, and there is a message on the machine. I didn't think I'd been so long, but he leaves earlier and earlier these days and my mother calls more and more often, worrying about me.
Hello, dear, it's Mum. I hope you've been well, your father and I would like to see you some time soon. Speaking of which, your brother called. Everyone's getting together week-after-next in our house in the country. The children will be there, it's holiday for them. You should both come. All right, I've things to do today, and so little time to do them. Take care of yourself, I love you.
There is a heavy click, and I wonder about her parting words. She orders me to take care of myself in a way that bears no resistance. But, I suppose she has an excuse. As a woman who has been sick for many years, during most of my childhood, she values health. I don't think she could stand it if I took ill, or died before her. She missed so much of me, she's always desperate to make up for lost time. But, still, what sort of slap on the wrist would she give me if I caught a cold?
I sit down in the kitchen to make a few calls. I'd like to speak to my agent about touring. I don't think I want to do it. Traveling all over Europe doesn't much appeal to me, and playing the same things over and over again doesn't hold my interest either.
I told the man in the grocer's that I mixed songs together. It's true enough, but when I tell people that, they always seem to think that I therefore can't meld them in the same way ever again.
Not true. I can do it over and over again, if need be. It's just that it isn't what I'd like to be doing. I'd rather be composing my own pieces, but for two years, nothing has come. It's the other reason I'd prefer not to tour.
I'd like to be working on my own things, Giles, I say to my manager. I've not worked on my own material in ages.
You said you hadn't anything to work on.
Things are changing, I think, I reply. I am standing in front of a bulletin board covered with snapshots. They are all of my lover and I on various occasions. These are from a trip to Holland, these from visiting his family in Texas, those, there, are from a pianists' convention on Osaka. I think something's coming to me.

He chased after me for so long, for years. At university, well, my time at university, anyhow, he came to my flat twice a week with three roses and put them on my doorstep. He never bothered to knock, even when he knew I was home.
I finally gave in. I have to admit, I was intrigued. Who could be so persistent as to leave 104 roses a year on a doorstep, and trust me to pick them up?, I wondered. I was not disappointed. He was as passionate, fervent, and trusting, as I had imagined he would be.
The only problem is, I can't trust him. I don't know anything, I haven't any solid proof, but there's always a cold feeling that spreads through my hands whenever he takes them in his own hands.
Maybe I shouldn't think too much on it, but I can't help it. There is such a vast gap between us. I am fair-skinned, and dark haired, while he is tan and blonde. He's loud and abrasive, and a closet rambling poet. I tend to listen more readily and let my fingers speak for me when they have to. He is so strong and brave, and I ... I am not.
Look at the difference, he said once, during a drunken ramble. He was holding my hand in both of his, and I, sober, was trying to subtly free my hand from his grasp. Even in the most intimate situations, I don't much enjoy people touching me, especially my hands. See, yours are soft and delicate, and mine are big and clumsy.
Not clumsy, I corrected him. No dealer can be clumsy. He'd said it enough times himself.
You're using your hands for creating beautiful things... I'm just using mine for ruining ugly things... Better destroy ugly things than beautiful things, right? Then he laughed too loudly and moved on to speak of other things.
What he'd said stuck with me, though, and I am thinking of it now.
I open the door to our bedroom, to find two still bodies tangled in the rumpled bed sheets. One of them is my lover, a fallen tree, naked and asleep. The other is a wisp of a creature, with long, wavy red hair and blue eyes. His face is thoroughly made up.
He looks at me through heavy lashes, his mouth a delicate, dark, bruise colour. He looks frightened, and then casts his eyes down at the sheets covering the lower portion of his anatomy. Are you angry? he asks.
I half smile, and shake my head slowly. I will let them leave when they feel ready. I reply in a whisper, more to myself than to this effeminate willow of a man, it's best to let the ugly things ruin themselves.



Owari