Your cello case still stands in the corner of our bedroom. Covered in the stickers you put on it over the many years it traveled with you from gig to gig.
But it is empty now.
A musician friend of yours from college drove me into Julliard today so that the curator of instruments there could take a look at it and see if he could use it for their loan program. I would loan it to them for a set amount of time. In return, I don’t have to worry about keeping it humidified, the broken string, the warping that happens if it’s not played.
There is a photo of you in one of your albums, standing outside Julliard, giving the middle finger. You went to Berklee and thought of Julliard as snooty and classical. You lied and told your mother you applied there. You never wanted to do classical.
So, with that in mind- I have slightly mixed feelings about loaning your cello there, but it seems to be the best and safest option.
After we park in a garage, your friend carries the cello for me. I try to move behind him for a second and squint so I don’t actually see him- just the cello being carried- so I can feel what it felt like just one more time to walk beside you. The three of us walked together so many late nights in Manhattan or Brooklyn- in the subway tunnels, you changing that cello from one side to the other so you could hold my hand. The three of us, you- me, and the cello.
But I can’t imagine it’s you- not even for a second. The way you walked gives everything away. I can’t even pretend.
We head into the grandiose, newly built lobby of Julliard. Then I meet the curator. You would not have liked him. He wore plaid pants and a checkered tie and striped shirt- all colorful. He had too much hair and a pointed nose and glasses and pointy shoes too. He looked at me with a weird smirk asking if the tone was good. You would’ve called him a few names. I leave it with him though…he says he can probably lend it to visiting faculty or the pre-college students- as he makes a note to tell me most students entering school there already have an instrument of that caliber or greater. OK, fine. He tells me I can keep the bow- and puts it back in the case- which I will keep. OK, fine – I’ll take the bow.
Still- it is hard to walk away, leaving him there holding your cello. Extremely hard. I think of the rich, unearthly sounds you produced with such ease…the look on your face as you played the first time I saw you sitting with it at CB’s Gallery on July 3rd, 1999. The times we led worship in church together and I heard your music rising up behind me as I sang and could barely continue because of the beauty The way you stood holding it in your tux, singing into a microphone at our wedding…then sitting down to play the instrumental in the middle of the song you wrote for me. I think of how we fought over all the tension that cello caused in our marriage- “Do you want me to just destroy it?” you asked me more than once. That cello. I leave there…
I cry in the hall and as we are led to the second floor so the administrator can make a copy of the appraisal I brought. I’d asked you to get it appraised last winter because you were traveling a lot. “I’ll just add it to our rental policy,” I’d said. I never even got the chance. But the appraisal has come in handy.
You left us both- your cello and I. But tonight your cello case, standing there the way it has for years- is deceptive. It looks the same. It’s standing. It’s got all the physical embellishments- stickers and scuffs that I recognize- but it’s empty.
am much the same