The Deadliest Piano Piece
D – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D! This is… a D Major scale.
I am playing the notes on an imaginary piano. I am Grace George, a celebrated classical pianist who has been confined in a mental health unit. Also, I am Skye Stoltz, a genius ghost composer who has been running the show. However, I am simply Grace George, a good mother to a good fifteen-year-old boy.
Why do truths have so many layers? Is there a truth that supports the solid one? Is there a universal truth that mankind must only observe? Is there a practical truth that is proven by a personal experience? Truths cloud my reality. Maybe I’m just exaggerating a simple thought. Who am I? I am a good mother. That is according to my son, little Danny. I am Grace George, the good mother. It should be enough to know.
But why am I not a good daughter? What has my mother done to me? Why am I accepting these truths now? I have no choice. My mind is controlled by something that is more powerful than my insanity. Madness can kill. Madness can create genius arts. Madness develops the world.
Please, just let me speak with my own voice. That is not me!
My fingers run across the piano keys like tempestuous creatures. The turbulent music strikes down the cotton ball walls. Beethoven’s deepest pains are storming out of my improvisation. He is watching me from the end corner with his fiend look that only encourages more resentment accompanied by courage. His crossed arms that scream forbearance. His awkward stand that still fights for life.
I can hear his mind, “Everything must come out. Never leave an ash of anguish. It is necessary for you to be free. Don’t worry about hurting a loved one. That is necessary, too. Do they worry about your feelings? Do their hearts ache for you every time you get your heart broken? Do they make time to embrace you or get to know you? They only find you important because you can stop their tears for a little while or get rid of their harrowing frustrations through your sincere intentions. Don’t be a fool anymore. You can be who you want to be. You can choose your own madness and not feel guilty about it. You can compose music or write down your fears without worrying about what they say. What they always say is a reflection of who they aspire to be. Never believe them. Only believe your own madness. The madness that stops their tears and gets rid of their harrowing frustrations through your sincere intentions. At the same time, everything else must come out. Because that’s what life is all about. You are bound to set yourself free to meet who you should be. You are meant to move lives and ideas. Be proud of your madness. Let it out. Don’t worry about hurting a loved one.”
“Do you know me?” I ask him.
“Nobody will ever know you,” he replies. “It’s a painful truth that I dealt with myself. They only knew me as a madman or a cocky genius or a delusional man who would always dare to woo noble women because being Beethoven meant ranking second to God after all. But nobody ever knew what my heart grieved over. Because nobody had time to sit down with me and make time to understand what I was going through. Because they thought I was a miserable, angry prick who could go through days alone. But maybe I was a miserable, angry prick because I would also hope for a heartfelt connection with someone. A friend. Just a friend would be enough. So to answer your question, I may only know a fraction of what you can do and what you cannot do. What you’re trying to accomplish from this is to impress me. This is why your life is a deranged roller coaster because you always want to impress everybody around you. How exhausting has it been for such a fragile and innocent mind to embark on a challenge that delivers deadly consequences.”
“Do you know my name, at least?”
“You can choose a different name everyday, and it wouldn’t change how your heart and mind define your character.”
“What is a character?”
“A character is the testament of your moral principles.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have moral principles to live by.”
“Being a good mother is one.”
“How does a child know he has a good mother?”
“He just knows. That’s the wonder of it all.”
“I can’t remember being a good mother though,” I cry.
“You will,” he assures me. “Just keep playing the piano. It will refresh your memory. You will see the truths flashing through your mind as you go along.”
“I only have an imaginary piano right now. And I can’t play the real one. I’m supposed to be just a good mother. Not a pianist.”
“Being just a good mother is already enough for you to learn something more in life. Like learning how to play the piano without all the standard teachings to comply with.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“Pick one scale that speaks the most to you.”
“Learn the notes. Find your rhythm technique. Apply Bach’s theory. Press the keys at the right time. Apply my theory. Let go of your hands. Go wild and free. Make the piano as your only love that your heart always goes home to.”
“But how do I get out of here?”
“Not until you have already sufficed your dream of becoming a piano genius.”
The door flings open. Two fat and ugly figures appear standing by an old upright piano. The strangers look familiar. They must have done something to me in the past. Something that could have put me in here. Locked in here. Locked in my insanity. Locked from the truths.
“Delivery!” says one of the fat and ugly figures.
“I think they did something horrible to me,” I whisper to Beethoven.
“I know,” he says. “But it was fated to happen. You couldn’t do anything about it.”
“What did they do?” I cry.
“They took the life of somebody that you really loved,” Beethoven replies.
“Who?” I ask.
“Your piano playing will tell you everything you want to know,” Beethoven says. “Make sure it is devoutly done.”
My chosen major scale is ready to get to work.
Who is she? Sitting at a messy study table in a dingy basement. Her frantic hands scribble away across the fancy red notebook. Her outrage blazes on to the screen. Her long black hair that reaches down to her waist is like a havoc of secrets hidden in every strand. Empty wine bottles lay around with loftiness that seem to be sacred. Cigarette butts overflow from three different ashtrays. What is she working on?
I recognize the place. This is not the haven for the ordinary. Get me out of here! I did not intend for my mind to visit a nightmare. I am supposed to play the piano and discover the truths.
What must I sound like? Logic is a hierarchy of thoughts. Imagination is a subconscious door into dreams. Truth is a lesson learned from every ending. I don’t know who I am. All I know right now is I have a mother and a son, and my name is supposed to be Grace George. Ludwig Van Beethoven’s presence has urged me to make a dream come true. To unfold my memory. To get to know me. To make amends with my madness.
This is all a lie! How did I get into a room with cotton-ball walls? A mental health unit. The black balloon. Beethoven. The two fat and ugly figures. The old upright piano. Now I am in this dingy basement. Recall. It looks familiar. Recall. She looks familiar. Recall. The senses feel familiar. Bach’s air on the G string serenades the room. Bach’s air. Bach. I have already been through this before. Do you remember who I am? Do I make sense? Do you know this woman in here?
I am screaming at you! Can you hear me? Do you understand what I really want? Where is this leading me to? Help! Help me get out of here!
“Go back into your room with cotton-ball walls,” she says.
“You’re aware of me,” I reply, shaking.
“Fuck,” she says, lighting a cigarette, “why shouldn’t I be? I know your shit. I’m inking your goddamn story for public consumption. You’re fucking evil. You deserve being thrown into hell like that.”
“I’m a good mother,” I insist. “That’s what my son says.”
“Yeah. Maybe. So what? You’re evil to other people. You just deserve to die.”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, son of a bitch. You’re such a fucking idiot. I’ve just told you who I am and you’re still asking the same goddamn question. How old are you, slut?”
“Please stop swearing and cursing at me.”
“You deserve every bit of it!”
“What have I ever done to you?”
“Oh, a lot! You’ve tried to kill me several times before, that’s why I’ve been hiding away in this dingy basement!”
“Why would I kill you?”
“Justice. ‘Cause I can never give you what you want.”
“Why would I want something from you?”
“Because I’m your only hope! They’ve already abandoned the idea of getting you up there! I’m the only one left who’s still fucking toiling over your ending that would only compel them to burn this shit down! There’s no point, but I gotta do the fucking job anyways. I mean, after all, it’s still a good honey. Regardless.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about exactly.”
“Me neither. Whoever the fuck is scribbling away all these words is responsible for it. Not us.”
“Just fuck off, okay? You’re wasting my fucking time, for God’s sake!”
“How did I get in here?”
“You got yourself in here,” she answers. “I got nothing to do with it.”
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“I ain’t got a name. They say nitwits don’t deserve a fucking name. So they didn’t give me a name.”
“What is this? I mean, what did I get myself into?”
“It’s your fucking reality, man. This is it, right here. You wanna understand how life betrays us? Stay wherever the fuck you are in right now.”
“Will I die?”
“We’re all gonna fucking die, you moron! Why, do you wanna live on like a fucking vampire? You’re in the wrong lane, motherfucker. Find yourself a storyteller that only makes you feel great about who you are and keeps you in her protective castle. You are such a pussy. Frankly, I can’t even trust my thoughts wallowing in your fucking head. Because it sounds like a pretentious son of a bitch that damages the truths.”
“You know my truths?”
“Fuck, no! I’m working on it! That’s why I’m here!”
“Do you know my name?”
“I haven’t given you a name either,” she answers. “I still can’t decide whether you’re supposed to be Grace George, Skye Stoltz, or a complete stranger.”
“Or Dr. Agnes Berry.”
“We’ve already settled that.”
“How? My memory settled it for me.”
“Not your memory, you idiot. Your thought.”
“You’re confusing me.”
“It’s simple, okay? I’ve just been hired to do this fancy red notebook shit that doesn’t even fucking make sense because you’re a fickle-minded son of a bitch who refuses to accept her vicious truths and cozies up in her mental catastrophe instead.”
“What vicious truths?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out here. Jesus fucking Christ. You are such an ignoramus motherfucker. Why don’t you just fucking cooperate with me and help me get to the end, instead of you barging in and asking me all these pathetic questions.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Do what Beethoven said,” she says. “I have to finish this before Christmas eve. Or they’d kill me.”
“Who would kill you?”
“I just don’t fucking know who they are, alright? I just know that I’d be murdered if I wouldn’t finish your shit!”
“Why is this important?”
“You’re fucking asking me that question? You’ve started the whole fucking thing, you motherfucker! You’re the evil deal here. Get over yourself already. I’m fucking sick of you.”
“Why are you so angry at me?”
“Because you’re a fucking moron! So shut the fuck up now or I’d go get your son killed! Are we clear?”
I smile. “No. Because you’re in my territory. I can get you killed first, and it would be a horrific murder. How’d you like that, huh? Ding ding. I’m back, motherfucker. Thanks for stopping by. Welcome to me.”
Who was that?
Make them fall in love with the instrument first. Make them play something right away. Don’t shove a standard music book into their faces yet. It would only intimidate them. Whoah. There’s so much to learn. A lifetime of practice wouldn’t be enough. Even a professional classical pianist performing in front of a cynical and meticulous audience who might have already devoured the genre long before he was born will never be fully confident about his talent. The only difference between us is he plays every note he has memorized off a masterpiece while I play off blank music sheets.
D major scale. That’s all it takes for me. Running my fingers from the first octave to the seventh over and over until they have found their comfort and certainty to catch their own rhythms resounding with a harmonized melody. Bach’s theory: press the keys at the right time. Beethoven’s theory: let go of the hands. Go wild and free. Now I am playing a sweet piano piece gushing out of my heart. Just. Like. That.
My empty hospital bed lays patiently while I am at the upright piano slamming away my emotions. The thunderous melody vibrates against the cotton-ball walls. The ceiling starts to shake. I glance at my bed. I smile at its serenity. It knows something that I have been wanting to know. Perhaps it’s one of the vicious truths. Will I die in that bed? Will I become one of its numbers? I promise to give it the best story ever told in its history. I promise to be a good company until then. I just wish to die in my sleep. While I am dreaming of making them proud. While I am on stage wiping away their tears with my piano pieces. While I turn cold hearts into wistful songs. See? I am a good person. I am not going to hell after all. I will find out everything in time. Soon. Very soon. I am such a genius.
It’s easy. You close your eyes and think of it. Think of what’s to come. Think of what to expect and what to do. But close your eyes as your mind meets your chosen reality. Close your eyes and be firm of what you want to see and experience. Close your eyes with great anticipation and enthusiasm. You are nothing without it. You will wonder for the rest of your life if you refuse to seek knowledge that is either threatening your goodness or invaluable to your reputation. Just close your eyes and you will meet the real you. At least, an authentic part of you, that is. Do it. It will challenge your courage.
The only question that deserves an honest answer is – what would you like to accomplish before you die? Me? I have already accomplished it.
Being a good mother.
But why am I breaking my own mother’s heart? This truth makes me a hypocrite. I am evil. Am I? How? I swear I did not kill anybody. No matter how cruel mankind is. No matter how much they have mistreated me. No matter how much sufferings I have gone through as a result of injustice. I would never commit murder. I may have lost my sanity for the rest of my life, but I would rather face the cotton-ball walls than kill.
What about you?
Oh, sure. Let’s do music together. Pick one scale that speaks the most to you. Learn the notes. Find your rhythm technique. Apply Bach’s theory. Press the keys at the right time. Apply Beethoven’s theory. Let go of your hands. Go wild and free. Make the piano as your only love that your heart always goes home to.
It is not that hard to become a genius after all. All you need is enthusiasm. A lot of it that it overwhelms your present reality and delivers you into your chosen one.
Mom! I’ve already told you, I am not going for piano lessons anymore! The teacher is so ruthless that she’s hiding the piano code from me. She said there was none. No genius has invented it yet. But I wouldn’t believe her. I also know that you can teach me the piano code, so I wouldn’t have to learn music anymore. So I could make you proud. So I could just go up there and play my heart out for your peers and maybe even for strangers. Please, don’t make me go. I’d just like to stay home and read a book. Please, mom! Please, I’m begging you!
“Oh, sweetheart!” Ethel appears by the door. “You can play the piano!”
“Did you force me to take piano lessons when I was a kid?” I ask her.
“I must admit,” she says, “I did.”
“Because I was embarrassing you?” I exclaim.
“People mocked me for it. You have no idea.”
“Mother! Your daughter just wanted to read books! I loved music very much, but I didn’t wanna learn it myself! What was so bad about what I wanted to do in my spare time anyways, huh? Would it make me dumb? Would it?”
“I was under pressure. Somehow it tarnished my reputation.”
“Bullshit! This is why the world is fucked up because everyone would kill for a reputation!”
“Oh, sweetheart. I am so sorry.”
“What else did you do? Did you punish me for it? What happened? Tell me! Tell me everything!”
“I punished myself for it!” she cries.
“How?” I counter.
“I had to give you up.”
“You mean, for adoption?”
“No. You were just with your father a lot of times. I was hardly around.”
“Where would you go?”
“Wherever there was a good symphony orchestra to catch.”
“Did we ever talk?”
“Once in a while.”
“Why did you come back into my life now?”
“Because I want you to get better,” she replies.
“Why?” I laugh. “Is this really that bad? So now you want to reclaim your place as my mother? Are you out of your freaking mind?”
“Oh, sweetheart! Forgive me! I didn’t mean for all this to happen!”
“You did. Of course, you did. So where’s my father?”
“He’ll be here soon.”
“Does little Danny know you?”
“Little Danny –”
“What about him?”
“Little Danny disappeared when he was three years old. He’s never been found.”
Pitch dark. A toddler’s cry gusts along with my piano playing. My son could have been dead by now. I should have accompanied him to heaven. I do not deserve to be here anymore. Why is God still keeping me alive? Let me go. I want to be with my son now. Now!
How is my little Danny doing up there? Wait for mommy, okay? Mommy will be there with you very soon. Don’t cry anymore, my baby. Don’t. Can you feel mommy’s hugs and kisses? She can’t sing a lullaby, but she she can play a piano lullaby for you. She will play piano lullabies for you forever. From her blank music sheets.
My son has long been gone. My memory is still basking in a heyday of making a buffoon out of me. My mother serves me a bowl of hot butternut squash. I am sitting up in the hospital bed, gaping down at my meal. The cotton-ball walls wave at me for comfort. The upright piano plays Sunset over Empire by itself to take the sting out of my grief. The ceiling light buzzes off a spark to let me know it has a life of its own. I have a life of my own. Nothing is left of me. Except having the piano code programmed in my hands. Trust constantly fights for its rank everywhere. Greed will always be the king. Pride reigns like a queen. The rest struggles to breathe.
The seven deadly sins were created for a reason. Ancient humans were the wisest of all. They wrote the Bible. For what? What am I trying to say here?
Get out of my head!
No no! Keep going. I need to hear this. I have been primed since day one anyways. What else is there for me to believe? Okay. The seven deadly sins. Why are we talking about this now? Why does it make my mother nervous? She has just granted me a devious look. Can she read my mind? Holy shit. Of course. She works for her. I should stop wondering. Right? This is all just a game. They keep on perverting my truths around, leaving me helpless around the cotton-ball walls. I have to get out of here. I have to see the evil again. I have to end my life. This ballyhoo sustains my madness. Now the seven deadly sins are digging my grave with their sharp shovels. Yet I insist my innocence.
Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. I am innocent. I lost my son. My mother abandoned me. Dr. Edwards hurled me into this psychiatric ward. Beethoven and I have had a meaningful talk. The writer detained in the dingy basement is another living villain. I don’t know who I am. I’m not even sure what my name is. I don’t know how I crash from one scenario to another. My consciousness taps all my senses alive. They seem intense yet real. Terrified yet curious. My senses are aware of short-term truths. The now is truth. No matter how alarming it may be. It has a hint of truth. Remember, I am the victim here. I always have been. I don’t understand why…
Get out of my head!
… you’re deliberately showing me the seven deadly sins. Ancient humans were the wisest of all. They wrote the Bible. For what?
For mankind to become men and kind. For men and women to become aware of Adam and Eve’s ranks on earth. For fathers and mothers to teach their kids the godly privileges of ritual sacrifices.
Sacrifice an animal. Sacrifice a son. Sacrifice everything that you have worked hard for. Burn them all! As the smokes from their souls travel up to the skies, blessings start to form before your eyes. A new life awaits somewhere else. A new you is taking over. The evil you. The virtuous you. You must realize you are in control of your own reality. The world sits back and observes you for a while. Until it’s ready to provoke the evil or the virtuous in you. You can only choose one. Choose life. Choose death. It’s all up to you. But it always, always leaves you with just one choice.
So what did I choose?
Yeah yeah. Okay.
Get out of my head!
Who is this?
Oh, the cotton-ball walls. They’re beautiful and comforting. The upright piano is still playing Sunset over Empire by itself, embracing my hope to search for the truths. The ceiling light keeps its vibrant life over me. My mother sits by the bed, reading an imaginary book. What is she reading about? Oh, damn it. She works for her. I should keep that in mind. It would be the only thing my memory would remember for as long as I’m alive. The black balloon has already left the room nights ago. Sanity check: Today is November 2nd. The year is 2017.
How could I remember the date?
It is not the right date. This is not your present. You’ve got it all wrong since the first entry. You have been brainwashed. You are not aware of time. Time is aware of you. Time works against you. Time is the villain. You are in here to save somebody. To save time. To save your past, present, and future. To save your lies.
Save my lies! What about my truths?
Your truths are serving their time as a punishment for taking your life. You don’t want them. A truth is designed to kill. A truth distorts a virtue no matter how morally good it may seem to be. A truth challenges innocence. You don’t know me. I know you. Very well. You are the master of seven deadly sins. Pledge your innocence. It’s only right. Because all humans are masters of seven deadly sins. One of them will kill them in the end. They’re just oblivious to it. They always try to appear innocent one way or another. It’s a humanly concept. Because it’s easy to live through lies and secrets. This is the primitive truth that no one dares to face. It’s easy to pretend to be somebody and know something. This is the basic truth that one must possess to win over society’s respect. All sufferings are conceived by the strong presence of seven deadly sins. You may argue it, but I know that.
All forms of happiness arrive after a ritual sacrifice. You may be aware of it or not, but every life taken around you is a celebration of a grand wish coming true. Never wish for happiness. Neither work on it. Make sure you keep a good feeling in there while leaving a scar in someone’s heart without you knowing it. That’s the best part of it. Because every evil thing that you do is judged as a logical rule for survival. A ritual sacrifice is a logical rule for survival.
All I need is a memory back. One memory of me and my son together. Before he was taken away.
“As a ritual sacrifice,” Ethel utters.
“It’s you!” I scream in horror.
The mind creeps into possibilities, realities, or delusions. Not the other way around. It is the most dangerous radial point of human existence that could destroy innocence every second. Not a blessed possession to exult about. It measures intellect, talent, or wisdom with character. Not to flaunt a piano code hacker.
The mind will never know what you truly want as it throws a hundred decisions at your feet. Where to go. What to do. Who to be with. When to run. How to dance. Even these are the hardest to accomplish. Think of it. How easy does your mind give you a right answer to a simple question? There is no simple question. There is no right answer either. Anything concrete and invisible are felt. There is no concrete thought. Neither an invisible essence.
What is your name? You may give it away or shut up about it. You give it away each time the question provokes you. It is an ordinary habit. It is only polite. You’re a part of the society. You’re a fellow human. Stop being a prick. Just give it away. In a snap. No questions.
What happens after that? You expect a meaningful question. Maybe even three or more. How has life been? How’s your heart? What’s important to you? What do you love about falling in love? How does love protect your mind from madness? Who cares deeply for you? Who keeps your sanity clean? How do you save yourself from getting hurt? What kind of partner would you like to grow old with?
Am I right?
I am a selfish son of a bitch. We all are.
I am worn out. I can’t even tell which one controls me more. Is it my imagination or my lonely thoughts? I am still groping for reality. Everything is blurry. My eyes see darkness. My ears hear eerie voices of familiar strangers. Would you happen to know who they are? My skin feels an angel’s touch. I know where I am. Still around the cotton-ball walls. Am I?
The upright piano is grieving. Demonic laughters erupt, deafening me. I scream. No voice comes out, though in my mind I am screaming at the top of my lungs. Panic is punched into my chest. The scent of a distinct flower gasps along with me. I don’t know what it is. I can only recognize the rose’s whiff. This fragrance is breathing out of a sympathy flower. I cannot move. I start wheezing. I am running out of oxygen. I am locked up in a trunk. I am about to die!
Close your eyes!
No, it is not a trunk. I am laying in a soft white box that looks like cotton-ball walls. I am dressed in a white gown. I am barefoot. My toes are stiff and pale. I am sweating, fighting for breath, and succoring my mind to a silent prayer. I still want to live on a little while longer. I must have sealed a deal with someone. Or truths await somewhere. It is not my time yet. Help me get out of here! Please! Help me!
Open your eyes!
Darkness. The flower scent lingers on. The upright piano plays Sunset over Empire. This version gives me air to breathe. Panic dies off. Comfort sets in. Someone feels my forehead and holds my hand. I am safe.
Close your eyes!
I am laying in a coffin, panting, and struggling to move. Snakes slither in. They look at me as their provoking tongues stick out at once. Their damnable eyes regard me with strong contempt.
One… two… three…
Open your eyes!
Fingers snap. Hands clap three times. I whirl down on a floor. I lay on my back. I gasp for air. I open my eyes and see a distorted face. He feels familiar. He bends down to tend to me. His image starts to form. He grips my wrist and smiles. It is Dr. Edwards. The man is still alive. The man who has been working hard on saving my sanity. The man that my guts loathe. He is still up to harass my mind. There is something about me or in me that he has been hankering after. What is it?
I am at the cozy studio. No more questions to ask. No more memory trace to do. No more wandering inside my thoughts. I should be relieved to be here. Regardless of how close my end looms in. “I’m dizzy,” I tell him.
“That was a good session,” he says. “You went all out.”
“I thought I had died,” I say.
“You were able to let go of some of your fears,” he says, “and guilt.”
“Guilt?” I sit up. “What guilt?”
He rises and scratches his head. “Little Danny.”
“What about him?” I jump on to my feet.
“Oh,” he sighs, “I suppose I’ve got it wrong then.”
“What about little Danny?”
“You didn’t really want him.”
I grab him by the throat. “Take that back! That is not true! Why wouldn’t I want him? He was my son, for God’s sake! I would do anything for my him! Take it back, you motherfucker!”
“He was three years old,” he continues. “You always neglected him. Then he just disappeared one night. Still missing.”
“I can’t remember any of it happening at all,” I insist. “Why would I not want him?”
“Because he was conceived by rape,” he says.
“What? Who raped me?”
“His name was Eli. Does it ring a bell?”
“Yes,” I cry. “I remember the name.”
“You were a virgin,” he says. “You almost died. But you managed to escape somehow.”
“Why, thanks for planting innocent guilt in my conscience.”
“Your mother will be here soon. I shall see you –”
“Wait. My mother? Who’s my mother?”
“She’s on her way now. From Windsor.”
“Windsor. She lives in Windsor?”
“Yes, Gracie. She does.”
“I’m sorry. Miss Grace George?”
I run towards the sofa chair and rock myself in it. Dr. Edwards sits across from me. “What’s been happening to my memory?”
“It has been in denial and tarnished by your thoughts,” he explains.
“It’s not amnesia, is it?”
“No. It’s far from it.”
“What do I do to bring it all back?” I beg.
“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” he replies.
“What we’ve been doing is making it all worse. It’s killing me.”
“You’re challenging your fears. Once you’ve let them go, you’re free.”
“I just want to remember some moments with my son. That’s all I want.”
“You don’t want to remember hatred burning in your heart. Drop it.”
I look at the grand piano and play Sunset over Empire in my mind.
My name is Grace George. Who I was or who I am is uncertain. It has nothing to do with fading memory. It is an intentional agreement between consciousness and conscience. It is easier to deal with life that way. It was supposed to be. Until it escalated into a deeper exploration of thoughts and reality. I am stuck in between. I have been faced with vicious revelations that I may or may not believe. I have been betrayed by loved ones who may or may not have existed. I have been thrown into chilling ordeals which may or may not have happened. You see, it is a mind trick. Everything around me is one playful mind trick after another. It is a test of courage and survival. Fears must be destroyed. So the journey has begun. You are a witness. You may have even known more than what my memory could grasp. But I will never know until I keep moving and playing along.
It is not a game. It is an absolute attack of morals. Straightforward. Harsh. Deadly. What would you do if you were me? I was a mother to a missing three-year-old son who was conceived by rape. I was evil. They were right. My conscience was right. How evil I must have been to an innocent soul who could have brought me happiness and inspiration. It is only right that I should be punished. For now. As my grave has already been waiting for me. I already know that.
The funny thing about keeping the fancy red notebook is how mind wanders into secret corners, guilt alleyways, and the horrors of fears. It has caught me into situations that have assaulted my sanity. I can check on my thoughts right now and refuse to get to the bottom of facts. I can check on my reality right now and believe that the grand piano is playing by itself. I can turn my cozy studio into cotton-ball walls. I am powerful. That is the kind of arrogance that I can be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a storyteller. I simply let my mind, certainly not my imagination, control over me. This is the result. Whether it is real or not, I could care less anymore. Whether I am psychotic or not, I have to deal with the challenge. The challenge to breathe, to eradicate guilt, and to escape from myself. For I am evil. I must die. Now.
More revelations are coming. More fears are yet to be smashed in my face. More of me is to be dreaded. I am alone. I know I am alone. I have been alone as far as my memory can tell me. For how long, I don’t know exactly. I am not interested to find out either. It is pointless.
Where is my red wine? Oh, I need my bloody red wine. One bottle. Two. Perhaps, three. Oh, it may never be enough. I feel my heart more when I consume it. I can accomplish a desire once it streams down into my veins. My confidence ignites into the world whenever I have sufficed my thirst with it. I can function without fears. My red wine is my magic potion. I can never lose it no matter what they do to save my sanity. I can save my sanity, thank you very much. Jesus, I sound like a cowardly bitch. Who am I again? Please, do not drop the name. I am so sick of hearing it. The wise words become hypocritical. The sickening events become lies. Madness is respected. Its truth is feared. I know. Oh, trust me, I know.
Subconscious functions like a beast once you let go. It is like playing the piano as Beethoven’s theory goes. It is like chasing after your thoughts as you tend to the fancy red notebook. The thoughts that speak of everything hidden inside of you. The thoughts that claim to be true. The thoughts that are not merely thoughts but simply judgments. Life is a thought. A thought of existing reality. A thought of being human and fighting to keep its dignity. A thought of intelligent being that only desires for narcissistic achievements. It guzzles you down each time you take a breath.
Ethel serves me a bowl of butternut squash and joins me at the table. “How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
“Where have you been?” I ask.
“What do you mean?”
“Where were you all my life?”
“Oh, sweetheart,” she cries. “I can apologize to you everyday for as long as I live, but it will never be enough. What I did was unforgivable, and I don’t blame you for hating me for the rest of your life. I’m so sorry!”
“You abandoned me,” I reply, “because I was an embarrassment. My father pretty much raised me alone. You wandered around like a gypsy to catch all the best symphony orchestras in the world, then came back to make amends with your dying daughter. Right?”
“Yes!” she yelps.
I almost jump out of my chair. “So that conversation really happened?”
“Yes. We’ve talked about it recently. Again.”
“Your name is Ethel Feinstein?”
“That’s right,” she sobs.
“I’m Grace George,” I say.
“Grace George is your stage name.”
“Stage name for what?”
“Oh, sweetheart!” She holds my hand. “You’re one of the greatest pianists in the world!”
“Okay,” I shrug. “And little Danny? Is it true about what happened to him?”
“What have you found out?”
“He was conceived by rape. He’s been gone missing. Is that true?”
“Yes,” she chokes, “it’s true.”
My grief explodes. Ethel catches me with a tight hug. “I’ve kept him alive, you know?” I cry, “I met him as a young man.”
“Oh, sweetheart. I am so sorry I wasn’t there for you. I didn’t know.”
“What’s my real name?”
“Marla,” she mutters.
“What?” I exclaim.
“Marla Feinstein. That’s your real name.”
A memory squirms back in. Poor old Marla is dead. I am living for the unknown.
A buzzing noise thunders into my ears. Light gravity pulls me up into air. I open my eyes and look around. The cozy studio looks vivid in its minimalistic presence. The grand piano flaunts its beauty like a majestic throne. A peaceful energy is leading me somewhere. Destination is a mystery. Nothing to be afraid of. For in there I am loved, forgiven, and anew.
A familiar voice barges in, “You still have a price of life to pay. You are not going anywhere just yet.”
Thud! I am back in bed. I know her. Maybe I am not the evil after all. Maybe she killed my son. Maybe she drove me to madness. Maybe Dr. Edwards was wrong about my memory. That it has been in denial and tarnished by my thoughts. Maybe Ethel Feinstein is just an imposter. Maybe these people are in connivance to get what they want from me. Or maybe I really am a schizzo.
Jesus. I hate that word. If I were to describe it as something unnervingly exciting as opposed to it being a mental illness, would you want to share such an experience with me? Or would you, at least, hop in for a little ride. It is a world that exists in someone’s world. It could also be a world that might have been existing in the world. Either way, it is a possibility of an actual subconscious experience. It is also subjective and relative. However you perceive your own reality, it is your own experience regardless of unnecessary interventions of lifelike interactions or images deemed to be as hallucinations.
That is just me. My mind speaks for itself. I am out of it. I am mostly helpless. Sometimes it gives room for my voice. I am already good with that. Because I would never have something insightful to say if I were to defend my human substance as the supposedly intelligent being. I think. I imagine. I see. I hear. I feel. I am aware. But I can never solve my own enigma. The truths of my madness. The life lost. The obsession with death. Anything external is easy to understand. Anything that goes on inside of me will remain unspoken until I die.
For in death, I shall meet my worth and uncover secrets. It is not to be feared. It is to be celebrated. To die is to create a new life. To die is to become an all-knowing being. To die is to rejoice wisdom and understand the purpose of ignorance.
Life and death. Both are always tied together. If so: life means death. Death means life. Life equals death. Death equals life. Life leads to death. Death leads to life. Therefore, death is simply looking forward to living a new life. Wiser and more accomplished in moral integrity this time. Death is a portal to every beautiful thing that I want to experience and discover. I am ready for it right now.
However, the familiar voice is urging me to stay alive. There is still a price of life to pay. I cannot go anywhere just yet. Whose voice is it? I cannot remember anymore. What to do. What to do. What to do. Here I am lying in my bed. The mattress feels like divine hands cradling me. Daylight sparks through the glass windows. Time check, 8.44 a.m. It is November 5th, 2017. My name is Grace George. Or maybe even Marla Feinstein. Now I do not have a name. I do not exist anymore. I never did. My memory and sanity exercise. Mundane.
Ethel has disappeared on me. She is one cryptic lady that no one should mess with. There is something treacherous about her. I have to decide who she really is. Her actions and words do not corroborate with my intuition. Her identity confuses me even more. She is definitely one of the evil ones. They are all after me. What do they want?
“10 o’clock,” the familiar voice whispers. “Queen’s park. You know the drill.”
The voice controls my thoughts. Like wildfire suffocating me. Perhaps, I will find out all truths this time. The truths about Ethel, Dr. Edwards, Eli, Sally, and my son. The truths about my past and my present. The truths about my life and my existence. Even my actual death. Even the reason as to why I must keep this fancy red notebook going until Christmas eve. Even guilt and fears. What is all this for? Why have I subjected myself to this madness that has catapulted me into a massive maze? Who am I?
We sit side by side at a picnic table, puffing away cigarettes. Two squirrels scurry around our feet as if convincing us to play with them. We share a giggle and exchange looks. Her familiar ways invigorate my hopes. I have known her all my life. I just know it. I just cannot remember the name.
“It’s Skye Stoltz,” she says.
“Skye Stoltz,” I say. “I’m starting to remember some things now. Skye Stoltz. Oh, of course. I’ve got it. How could I have forgotten you, for Christ’s sake!”
“If the name stuck around your mind, these revelations wouldn’t show up,” she explains. Skye Stoltz is one cowardly bitch who could make someone vanish but deny her fears and guilt like a pro at the same time. “Somebody is keeping us in their memory,” she continues. “This is the result.”
“Like somebody is keeping the fancy red notebook?”
“No. Somebody is keeping us in their memory. We exist on their minds.”
“So we don’t really exist?”
“You do,” she says. “You’re a thought.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I blurt out.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out myself,” she cries.