The Old Man

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso

The old man takes his seat at the top of the balcony with only minutes to spare. He breathes in the musty smell of the old opera house. Memories of a time long ago wash over him. Anticipation is thick in the air. Even with the curtains drawn he knows the dancers are scurrying into their starting positions. The musicians alert, instruments held at the ready, waiting for the conductor to step to the podium. He closes his eyes, he experiences it better this way.

The conductor raises the baton and the curtain opens, he feels the eerie sweet first note resonate from the oboe. Reverberating from wall to wall, from ornate domed ceiling, to hitting him square in the chest. Although he had front row tickets waiting for him at will call -all the retired musicians did- he paid for this specific seat. The best in the house; for it is the acoustic center of the entire room. He cares not that he cannot see the ballet rather he wants to feel the music.

His poor, arthritic hands move on their own volition. Fingering the notes in the air. He doesn’t need the sheet music in front of him, he memorized this ages ago. This was his favorite piece. No longer could he hold the cold brass horn to his lips to produce the intoxicating melody but a musician never forgets the music that touches their soul.

Tonight, is a special night for the old man. His prodigy is debuting as lead oboist. His little girl; star of the show. How her mother would be so proud. If only she could be here, holding his hand as the velvet sounds filter through his very flesh. He could smell the faintest wisp of jasmine, from her favorite perfume.

The tempest grows as the music swell. Percussion and bass build from below his feet to rise like electrical pulses through him. The true heartbeat of the sound. A crescendo of the full brass section peeked by the crash of symbols. Then silence once more.

The faintest sound cuts through the nothingness. His little oboe girl once more. Soft tender notes melt his heart. He knew, if his eyes were open, he would see the white swan. What he sees instead is far better. He sees a frustrated but determined little girl re-learning how to play her instrument with braces. He sees his elated wife, hugging their grown child who has been accepted to Julliard. He sees the beautiful woman she has become in the orchestra pit playing with pristine calm accuracy.

From the distance he hears a whisper. A woman’s voice trying to pull him from his revelry. “Sir, the performance is over. Time to get up.”

Here in this moment he has found true peace. He pays no mind to the distant voice. Again, jasmine fills his senses. Now he sees the loveliest image of all. His wife, whom he longs for, hand stretching toward him. Coming to bring him home.