When he arrived at his destination it was well into the morning. Rain had given way to sunshine and it created a rather unpleasant mood in one, combined with narrow, muddy streets if a small town in India and the irritating damp heat. The driver had done his job and he had done his job well. He settled his bill for the journey, thanked him and topped it off with a handsome tip, the driver went away for a meal, smiling.
The hospital building was dingy, in fact anyone in his right mind would have never considered the structure to be a hospital but yet it was the best in town. As he entered the premises he was met by his father, mother, brother and the remainder of his father’s closer friends, uncle S—was not the first one to be at the stairway to heaven. Amongst the clamour he was also met by the grim and gloom of the ICU ward. The smell of stale acetone mixed with pathetically fragrant phenyl had rigged the atmosphere of the building. His close informants, his father and mother, filled in him the sore patches, an answer to his inquires. It was all a haze.
“…terminal stage cancer…” “not much time” “cannot shift” “ second opinion” “any day now” “just wait and watch” “asking for You”
“Thank god you came”
Although he was well rested, he was disoriented, he could never have estimated the full scope of the reality bearing down on him. He was free falling, spiralling downwards towards absolute despair. The listless heat caught him off guard and in an outburst he caught himself. Breathing, calming down he took off his tuxedo and sat down. He wanted a drink a real hard drink but he asked for some sweet tea instead.
Drinking his tea he could have been contemplating how to handle his meeting with his first mentor, his godfather, the man who propelled him to be what he today is, or one could say he was not thinking at all, either way it was a silent moment with all his comrades nearby.
Finally, around midday, he conjured himself and led by his father, approached the curtained bed where uncle S—lay. The sight was appalling, tubes and wires came in and out of his shrivelled body, there was no flesh and there was no hair, what lay in front of him seemed to be a ghoulish afterimage of uncle S—and yet it was him in all his material form. His father touched his dearest friend and he slowly opened his eyes, the eyes were there, alive and ready to reach out and in an instant they did and a skeleton hand was raised, crudely pointing at the subject.
At this cue, he moved closer to his godfather and held his hand, struggling all the while not to but without any notice he broke down and cried like a child that he had now become. No dam was ever built to hold back the true tears.
‘Play for me.’
Upon hearing this he looked at his mentor’s face – it was smiling delicately. At once he wiped off his tears and went away towards his guitar case. Then he turned and went to see the doctor and the administration. He was in his senses now, life has its course and it is our lot to traverse it without doubt and with sincerity.
He was tuning his guitar after the doctor had given him his reluctant consent to a guitar recital in his ICU ward. He was also deliberating on the piece that was to be played. Uncle S—liked or rather loved all the canonical pieces written or arranged for the guitar, so the question was what should play? The critical circumstances had decreed that the selection had to be most deliberate and prefect. So, as he tuned, he went over his choices, uncle’s favourites.
Recuerdos de la Alahambra by Tarrega? – No, the season and the setting are not proper.
Asturias by Albeniz? Not quite.
La Cathedral? Barrios? No. something is missing.
Yes! Anonymous Romance by Anonymous! This is it!
As he finished tuning he recalled how at any time of the day and year, uncle S—would stare out from his balcony, smoking, sitting in his favourite wooden, cushioned chair with this song filling the air.
Now to start the performance, Anonymous Romance in the key of E. First minor, then major and again minor. He took his stance. He knew all about the piece, all the nuances and dynamics, but he never really got hold of it entirely. Falling in love helped, falling out of love – even more, but he never felt it the way uncle S—did.
The Concerto began, a beautiful sad melody placed upon and arpeggio-tremolo, simple and earthy. The pace is relaxed, deliberate and yet in a way surrendering to the flow of the notes that came before.
Romance, a song for the romantics, lovers. Then finally it dawned – pining at first, the feelings rush slowly towards a distant future. Then gaining momentum a beautiful romance ensues, a study in E, a study in life and life has its course, we lose our romance to the past and then we long for it in the future. The final longing is eternal, for it too is a romance – caressing an idea that was something, something that now is only an idea. A beautiful sad romance and with the distance past ends the piece.
He had closed his eyes without realizing and now opens them to a blurry image – tears, the recital is over. Uncle S—is in tears, he opens his mouth to say something but instead of words only hhhhh – breathes out. He places his ear near his uncle’s mouth but he hears nothing but instead he feels his hand on his head and finally, a frail
In a most disgusting and rude manner the machine announces the mentor’s departure, he kisses the lifeless forehead –
‘He waited for me.’
All the other comrades rush to the bed and he silently makes his exit as he follows the corridors outside, mechanically, he has no thoughts. But once he steps out into the sunshine it seeps in. The godfather had delivered a final lesson, not Europe but this was his life’s true debut. Calmly he pulls out a cigarette and lights it. He smokes with a satisfied sadness, acceptance of an unfulfilling longing, its beauty and as he smokes he can hear the Romance – with him romancing an anonymous feeling.