The Lesson

This is a short piece of work I had to do for class.  The professor asked us to write a reflective piece on someone we knew.  I wrote about a teacher of mine that I never had the opportunity to say goodbye to but always wished I had, so this is partially a work of fiction.  I found it on my computer today.  I thought it was interesting that my writing style has changed a bit, even in the course of three short years.


All was quiet in the room except for the constant beeping of the monitors.  He looked as if he were peacefully dreaming. At least he was peaceful; at least he wasn’t suffering from the pain, anymore.  The doctors had given him so many drugs to chase away, well, pretty much everything.  He was only just still alive; hanging in there just so I could whisper my gratitude and thank him for all the wonderful moments he’d shared with me.

I met Mr. Lawson when he was in his sixties, so I never really knew him as a young man.  My mother had forced me to choose an instrument to help me become a well-rounded person, and when I chose the violin fate guided me onto Mr. Lawson’s path.  I was shy and didn’t really talk all that much, but he was patient, he understood, and he waited.  Just as he was doing now.

We had our lesson every Monday afternoon for an hour.  How I dreaded those hours!  I didn’t care much for practicing my allotted half an hour a day as I was supposed to, and I always felt uncomfortable being left alone in the music room with only one other person.  I was also afraid he would one day find out I didn’t know how to read music.  I was first chair in my school orchestra, and we had worked our way to a level six violin book.  That was the level where you start having notes higher than human ears can hear or so it seemed as I made my fingers stretch further than my skin told me they were supposed to go.  I learned it all by listening to him play it first.  He thought I just wasn’t a good sight-reader, so he would play it and I would match the sounds.   He never discovered that I never read a single note.

A lot of the time he would take breaks so I could rest my fingers.  He had been playing forever so I knew the breaks were for my benefit alone.  He was kind that way.  Since I never talked he would tell me stories about his life.  He told me about working on the Panama Canal, living through the Depression, and fighting and losing his brother in the war.  He talked about his family most of whom were long gone or had moved away leaving him pretty much alone in his little house.  I loved that whenever one of his cats dropped by for a mid-lesson visit he always let me stop to pet it.

I looked at him now.  Each line on his face told me those stories again.  The whispers of air that came from his shallow breaths asked me to remember.  To remember the stories, remember the music, and to remember him.

The beeps of the machinery kept tempo like the tapping of feet.  I smiled remembering how he always had to get me to keep the rhythm on my feet during the lesson.  My feet always wanted to surge ahead with the fast notes, and nap along with the bow on the slow ones.  His foot always steadily tracking our movement through the songs we played, patiently guiding my foot to eventually do the same.

He was having trouble keeping pace now; the machine began to beep a little more loudly to alert the nurses that something was wrong.

“Can you stand back, just a second please?” the nurse bumped me out of the way appearing from nowhere.

It took only a few listens of the stethoscope and a quick glance at the monitor to see the life slipping away, like the deepest notes we played together, disappearing beneath the staff to finish their journey elsewhere.

“You might want to say something now.”  The nurse kept her fingers against his wrist to keep track of his pulse.

“I…” There were so many things I wanted to say but couldn’t seem to find the right words.  Once I did, a large thick knot kept me from breathing any life into them.

“Thank you.” I managed to whisper as the rhythmic beats of the monitor changed into one long note.  Then the machine malfunctioned slightly causing a sort of wavering in the sound.  Vibrato.  Not five seconds in heaven and he was already making music.


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