"If you had to give up your hands or your feet," she asked him, "which would you give up?"
"Hands," he answered. "Hands down, hands."
"That makes sense," she said.
And without thinking she added, “Your handwriting is shit.”
And without waiting she said, “I’d give up my feet.”
"Because you write," he said.
"Because I write," she nodded.
He bought her an electric keyboard when he noticed how often she played air piano when they listened to music together. Her small fingers stretching for the octaves - the correct ones, too - always going so far as to throw in a glissando. She could be such a show-off sometimes. Her lips tucking in, her nose scrunching up, acting like a rocker with an actual fan base.
During her workday, he let himself into her apartment and assembled it.
"You bought me a keyboard."
He shrugged like it was nothing.
"Don’t shrug like it’s nothing," she said.
He shrugged again.
"I should be writing, not playing."
She signed up for piano lessons with a woman named Gretchen Hutton. Gretchen lived in a brownstone with tall parlor floor windows and heavy oriental carpets slung over mahogany banisters. Twin baby grands sat back to back in the middle of the house like they belonged there.
"For duets," Gretchen said. "Go on, sit down. This one over here."
Her butt slid on the bench. It felt slippery and windexed.
"What do you want from the piano?"
She thought for three seconds. “To write more.”
Gretchen liked that. “Play me something.”
She played the first movement of Clementi’s Sonatina in C Major before Gretchen stopped her with a wave of a stubby No.2 pencil.
"You have very fast fingers," Gretchen commented.
"I know. Thanks," she said.
"You played that very, very fast."
Her right foot retracted from the pedals just as her posture dropped.
"Do you understand what you’re playing?" Gretchen asked.
She hesitated. She wanted to know the answer to this question very badly.
"There is a purpose to music just like there is a purpose to writing."
That seemed correct. “What is the purpose then?” she asked.
Gretchen didn’t say anything.
"It’s good that you’re here," she said. "Now take it from the top."