Piano Lessons

Written by Winona Wardwell
Art by Maria Tyutina


On Wednesday nights, in a small living room on a dead-end street, I play the piano. This stands in awkward juxtaposition to the rest of my world. Here I fumble over notes and mumble apologies at my patient teacher sitting in a wooden chair behind me. I play Mozart and Bach, but mostly I play the simple pieces from the beginner books. I am not good at the piano, but unlike school or rowing, I don’t care all that much. It is something that I do because I enjoy it, and even though practicing always brings me dread, I never seem to want to quit. 

Usually, I sit on the cold, black bench in sweatpants and a crew neck. Sometimes I arrive at the teacher’s door tired, my hair still slicked into a tight ponytail that gives me a headache. She opens her faulty door that you must apply force will also craning the handle all the way to the right to close, before walking quietly into her living room. I can tell the house was chaotic only a few minutes before my arrival; there are always remnants of forgotten dishes on the table, and the smell of whatever was cooking drifts in, reminding me that I have not yet had time to eat dinner. We make small talk for a few minutes before I open my warm-up piece and begin. I arch my palms and press my fingers onto clean, smooth keys that sound elegant and graceful compared to my small electric piano at home. She gives me advice that she explains with hand jesters and drum beats. She motions for me to stand up. Without warning or preparation, she sits down on the bench and plays the song I have been struggling with perfectly. Her aged hands dance along the keys—a reminder of how much I have left to grow.

Then, after forty-five minutes, I leave the same way I came in. I return to a life filled with chaos and anxiety. I forget the warm living room with the grand piano. Until next week.

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