When I recall all the scattered fragments of that initial encounter, I never should have asked her to play for me. The first Muse is the cruellest, ripping at our complacency, slashing at our innocence, setting our desires upon impossible horizons.
She was a schoolgirl with unbound hair, eleven years old, (and I not much younger). But she smiled so sweetly and led me by the hand through corridors echoing with the voices of children.
When we reached the silence of the music room, she opened up the polished wing of the grand piano that was the colour of chestnuts, and asked me to sit down by the window. There was a reverential silence as she positioned herself comfortably at the keyboard. Then she reached out exploratory hands to the keys, and let loose the music.
I did not know anything so beautiful could exist in the world! The music swept into my soul, illuminating the darknesses never before discernable to consciousness. The path to my innermost being had been divined with such simplicity and ease that I could have cried out in all my newfound weakness. I was never the same again.
When she had finished, the piano of smouldering chestnut still spoke of her playing. I wanted to remember everything just as it was at that moment: the quality of the light, the textures of the room, her unbound hair stained with an intensity of black, the shapes of her hands that could open up at times to swallow a third of the keyboard. But most of all, I wanted to remember the feeling of being buoyed up in that intimate sea of love.
For a while, we stood holding the piano between us, the only barrier between our two souls. I would have liked to have been received into deeper areas of friendship, but before I could say, “Please, play something else”, she had disappeared back along the corridor leaving only her presence behind.
I returned home that evening seduced to the innermost core of my being, my innocence shattered.
Since that afternoon, I have pursued the music that she played with all the ruthlessness of a seasoned hunter. I squandered my youth stalking it. I lay traps for it, practicing Etudes until my fingers became numb. My school friends went out to enjoy themselves while I remained behind relentlessly pounding away into the night on my humble upright.
Today I can play these pieces well enough. I have acquired the technical skill necessary. But there is still some indefinable element missing, something which she, the first Muse, possessed in abundance. In my frustration, I play the pieces over and over again hoping in vain to capture that elusive something I know will never possess.
From all this I have learned there are things in life that we can never have, never attain, and yet must constantly strive for. The goal is always on the horizon. The yearning, the despair, the infatuation, (the process of giving up and the starting again a hundred thousand times) is part of the whole restless process, perhaps the very essence of Love itself.
The first Muse rouses us to Life. But once roused, there is no peace for us, and no rest. Rest – for the Heart – is Death.