When I was twenty-two,
One of the women at work asked if I would be willing to
Give her kids piano lessons: she had a son and a daughter.
I said, ‘sure’. I needed extra money.
They invited me over to their house.
They lived in a huge house right on the water.
Their son had begged off of piano lessons, so
There was just the daughter, who was fourteen.
She looked like she’d rather be anywhere else.
She had dark hair, and dark clothes, and
An even darker expression.
It took a while to figure out that she had braces,
Because she barely opened her mouth;
When she did her voice was barely audible.
“I’m Owen,” I said. “And your name is? –”
“I’m sorry, what?”
We got through the first lesson okay,
I thought she had done really well, and told her.
Then her mother came in, and the girl
Immediately left the room.
A week later,
I came back for her next lesson.
She was already at the piano.
Still all dressed in black.
She had practiced hard; I had given her
Quite a few things to do.
It went well.
When it ended, she asked me, timidly,
If she would be able to play music she liked
As part of these lessons.
I asked her what she liked –
“The Smiths,” she said. “And The Dead Kennedys.”
I said I thought she could, if she kept at it.
I definitely knew she had braces then.
The next week I came in, she
Was wearing all black, as usual, but
With a cool looking knitted hat.
She was also wearing perfume and mascara.
She smiled and looked straight at me.
“Oh, no.” I thought.
She was making incredible progress, but
I was not quite sure what was motivating her.
When I showed her how
to hold her hands correctly,
she blushed up at me, with an
unmistakably adoring expression.
I thought I could ascertain at least
part of her motivation.
“If only I could have attracted
fourteen year old girls when
I was fourteen,” I thought.
I had agreed with her mom that
I would stay for dinner that night.
Gwen asked me after the lesson if
I wanted to walk out on
The dock with her.
“Sure,” I said, but I was starting to panic.
I was twenty-two.
I had never read Lolita.
Only Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
That didn’t turn out well.
The water was beautiful,
very peaceful, as the sun was going down.
She sat down at the edge of the dock;
I sat by her, but
Not close to her.
“You really are a natural at music,” I said.
“You’ll be able to play all the music you want
Within a year or two, tops.
Just keep working hard -”
“You’re the only one who talks to me like this,”
She said suddenly, scooting towards me.
I looked back at the house, but realized:
Her parents had the blinds lowered.
Her perfume really did smell good.
“I mean, you get me, you talk to me like I’m a real person.
They treat me like I’m five.”
I was grateful she hadn’t moved closer.
“So, what are we having for dinner?”
“Steaks. My dad’s round the other side of the house,
Cooking with my brother. Anyway, Owen…”
“Do you think we’ll ever be able to play duets?”
She was so precious. But I was going to
Do the wrong thing if I didn’t move fast.
“Of course,” I said, getting to my feet.
“Let’s do a little extra lesson.”
We went back inside and I taught her a
Duet on the piano.
The next day I called my best friend.
“I’ve got a situation”, I said.
I told him.
“Dude, you couldn’t buy attention
from girls that age -”
“… when I was that age, I know.
What do I do?”
I had no idea either. She was smitten, hard, and
She was just old enough, and
I was just young enough that…
Well, I didn’t want to think about that.
A couple days later I saw that
The local community theater needed a
Pianist for a six month gig.
I went out for it, and got it.
I had to tell Gwen’s mom I
Couldn’t give her lessons anymore,
But that a friend of mine
Who was a great teacher
Would take her on.
She was the best teacher in town.
Gwen’s mom said, “you need to come by
and tell her yourself.”
She knew, damn it.
I pulled up in the driveway
In my old white car.
Gwen was in the driveway, sitting.
All in black.
Her eyes were red. She marched up to me.
“Why can’t we still do lessons?”
“I”m not really a teacher. Lois is
Way better than me.”
“I talked to her. I’m starting next week.”
“That’s great. You have so much talent, you
Were born for this -”
Now she was crying in earnest.
“But I — I thought –”
I couldn’t stand it any longer. I hugged her. I held
Her shaking up to me, and she cried, like
I’d never known anyone to cry.
Then she broke away, and ran in the house.
My buddy called me the next day.
“So… how’d it go…?”
“Sucks, man. It’s the story of my life.”
“I think you made a mistake, dude. If it was me, I would have -”
“I know you would have. That’s why God makes sure things like this don’t happen to you.”
I never saw her again. Her mom left our office within a year, and they moved, I don’t know where.
I really didn’t know what to do.
It is the story of my life.