Play Me(2)

By: Katie McCoy

I remembered being so enamored with him those first few years. Back then I was just out of the conservatory and he was the best piano teacher in San Francisco, so of course I sought him out. I wanted to win the newly established Menuhin competition and he was considered the best person to prepare me. The competition was how I was going to prove to my parents that I could succeed as a musician. It wasn’t the money I was interested in, but the opportunity it would allow. The winner of this competition would have a hundred doors opened to them. Secretly I hoped it would allow me to teach. Even though I had a few students, mostly kids, winning the competition would give me respect and attention in the classical world. I would be able to take on students like Mark took on me. And charge them the same exorbitant fees. Because I would be worth it. And I would be able to keep my current students at their current cost. But I was getting ahead of myself. I had to win the competition first.

My palms began to sweat just thinking about it, the skin on the back of my neck prickled. I had made it through the first few rounds of smaller performances, but each time had to cope with the panic attacks. I hated it, but besides small coping mechanisms and tricks to keep me from passing out before I got on stage, there wasn’t much I else I could do to battle them. It didn’t help that Mark insisted it was all in my mind and that if I just tried harder, I could be over them.

Was there anything more pathetic then a concert pianist who was terrified of performing? If so, I’d love to find out so I could feel slightly less like an enormous loser who had chosen the worst possible career path for herself. But I loved classical music and I loved the piano. I didn’t know how to do anything else. Even so, I was getting to the point if I didn’t win this competition—if I couldn’t prove to my parents, to Mark, to myself that I could make a living through my playing—then I would have to seriously reconsider what I was doing with my life. Either I’d conquer my panic attacks, or they’d conquer me. I had made it through the first few rounds of the competition and I wasn’t ready to admit defeat just yet.

Mark had cared about the music just as much as I did. It wasn’t his fault that we hadn’t worked out romantically. As he had explained, I was just too young. And undisciplined. And unfocused.

His talent had definitely been the thing that attracted him to me in the first place, though he was quite handsome as well. Tall and blonde, with classic good looks, he was known throughout San Francisco for his legions of female fans, as well as his talent as an instructor. “Greek statue” was his nickname, though I was starting to wonder if it was more in reference to his stoic personality rather than his attractive face.

Even though he was nearly ten years older than I was, we had connected over our love of music, and I had moved into his place soon after we started working together. But I had felt a strange relief when I ended things. I had found his touches and kisses enjoyable, but it always felt like there was something missing. Perhaps it was me. Mark certainly thought so and made sure to tell me that our age difference—namely my immaturity—was the real reason I couldn’t handle a relationship with him. Apparently my lack of sensuality in the bedroom was the reason it never would have worked out anyway. That wasn’t a surprise. It had been at the root of all my other break-ups. I was starting to believe that part of me was defective. Along with all the other defective parts of me. Too bad I didn’t come with a warranty. My libido would hardly be the only thing I would send back to be replaced.

But then I thought about one of my neighbors that we had passed on our way in. Tall and lean, he had been wearing a torn shirt and five o’clock shadow. Dark hair, thick and mussed like he had just rolled out of bed, and well-muscled arms that were decorated with tattoos. Normally I preferred my men clean-cut, with clothes that didn’t look like they had survived a natural disaster, but my entire body had gone hot at the sight of him. His brown eyes had caught mine for just a second and I was pretty sure that everything below my waist had melted in that moment. It was a startling sensation, but not entirely unpleasant. One that I definitely wasn’t too familiar with.

“Uh, Ella?” Mark said, bringing me out of my red-hot memory. I felt myself blush as if Mark could read my mind. He wouldn’t approve. “I’m going to leave now.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, shaking my head. “Thanks so much for your help, Mark.”

“Well, just repay me by getting the fifth stanza right next time,” the Greek statue said and left.