At Greg’s Piano

My guest blog today is provided by the fabulous Piper Bayard, who blogs with her friend Holmes at http://piperbayard.wordpress.com. She’s @piperbayard on Twitter.

When my mother called to tell me he died, I didn’t believe it. He was born to perform Carnegie Hall concerts, to quip with talk show hosts, and to devastate heiresses into seclusion and suicide. In fact, I can still hear his music in my mind, so he must be playing his piano somewhere.

Most people I remember with one face, one voice, and in one setting. But Gregg? I saw his hopeful youth and his pensive maturity; his joyful tenor and his biting taunts; his fingers racing on a keyboard, and his feet speeding down the football field. We watched each other grow up, or, at least, I watched him.

I caught my breath when I walked into the choir room that first day of 7th grade. A boy taller than me! His long, feathered, platinum blonde hair would have turned Jan-Michael Vincent green. His blue eyes sparked wit, and his smile warmed a face that could be twin to Michelangelo’s David. And he sauntered in his twelve years more gracefully by far than I hid in my eleven. I was more than smitten. I was home.

Unable to compete with his swarm of admirers, I chose to compete with him, instead. I heckled him at every opportunity, and he responded in kind, but not for the same reasons. If he’d had pigtails, I would have pulled them daily. Where I found him irresistible, I believe he found me mildly annoying and more than a little laughable.

With all the secrecy of a YouTube post, I shadowed him through three years of middle school. I asked around to discover his class schedule, and then I walked miles to casually pass him in the hallway. If he saw me and nodded, it was a good day. If he smiled and said, “Hello,” I floated through the rest of the week. And I blessed the gods of alphabetized seating charts that so frequently assigned his “B” to sit in front of my “C,” allowing me to stare at the back of his head for at least an hour a day. For three years, these private ecstasies were my raison d’etre.

Throughout junior high, we sharpened our wits on each other. We competed for the highest grades, tied for fastest time in typing, travelled together on school trips, and worked together for choir competitions, all the while exchanging friendly insults, and sometimes meaning them. Occasionally, we were even kind. In spite of my infatuation, we achieved a genuine friendship of sorts.

But somewhere between the battle of wits and my silent pining was the music. By 7th grade, he was playing pieces that most pianists don’t aspire to in a lifetime, and, because he played for the Girls Choir, I got to hear his concerts five days a week.

We besotted songbirds leaned against his baby grand and sighed as his hands delivered commanding concertos and tender nocturnes. During lunch, during choir class, after school—I never missed an opportunity to hear him play. I dreamed at his piano for hours each week, pouring my soul into his music as his notes echoed back an understanding of emotions I did not yet comprehend myself. And sometimes, he would glance up at me and smile.

Finally, those years were over, and it was 9th grade graduation day. My grandmother had made me a special dress for the occasion—green and flowing and complimentary to the curves I’d woken up with about two years before. Mama had given me her pearl earrings to wear, and my Farrah hair had come out just right. I was a bit self-conscious in my first heels and makeup, but I was not awkward, and I knew I hinted of a woman that day as I walked into the choir room to find that he was there alone.

He sat at our teacher’s desk, writing a good-bye note with promises to visit. Smiling and greeting each other as I joined him, we talked about the day’s events as he finished his missive. And then, just like in the dream I had dreamed each day for years at his piano, he looked up at me and paused, studying me as if he were seeing me for the first time. Straight from the script I wrote for him so long ago, he said, “You look beautiful today. Very elegant.”

I froze. Then, to my own surprise, the tension and yearning of years rushed from my pounding heart, and I felt it calm within my breast. That one drop of reality dispelled all of the fantasies and stirred a new feeling deep in my soul. For the first time, the woman I would become lifted her eyes to meet his, and, for a reason I could not then explain, I simply smiled at him and said, “Thank you,” and I let the moment pass.

Through high school we continued our friendly competitions, but, just as often, we competed together on academic teams and in choir contests. He was accepted to Julliard before our senior year, but he didn’t go. There were rumors, but I never asked him why. I’m sure we parted ways at graduation with a smile and high hopes for the future, but I don’t really remember.

I thought of him now and again through the years when I heard a Chopin nocturne or saw a beautiful head of blonde hair. And I’m sure I heard his ironic laughter once in my mind to think I had grown up to be a bellydancer. And sometimes, I looked at old pictures, and I wondered what had become of him.

Now I know. Mama called to say he died. I don’t believe it, because the timid girl inside me is still leaning on his piano, dreaming to Mozart and Bach. He must still be playing somewhere. . . .

Tonight, I will wear my green scarf when I dance, because it makes me feel elegant. And, perhaps later, when I sleep and I dream, I will stand beside Gregg’s piano. And if it is a very good dream, my green scarf will catch his eye, and he’ll look up at me and say, “You look beautiful tonight.” Then the girl I used to be will catch her breath and meet his eyes through the eyes of the woman I have become, and she will simply say, “Thank you.”

In Memory of Gregg B. 1963 – 1996

How did your first crush help you grow?

 

Piper Bayard was once a happy and normal aspiring writer. She spent her days cleaning guns and belly dancing in between shuttling her children to and from schclip_image001ool and crafting stories of spies and sci-fi adventure. But she felt there was more. Then, out of nowhere, White Sands beckoned with shocking visions of mushroom clouds and annihilation. Something called to Piper day and night, whispering, “The end is near.”

Piper left suburban safety and trekked through the New Mexico wilderness in search of that apocalyptic explosion. But, alas, she stood too close. Armed only with a ball cap, sunscreen, and her Maui Jim shades, Piper wandered through the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, wondering, “What the hell am I doing?”

By day, Piper followed mirages, leaving sand angels instead of footprints. By night, her nightmares returned. Mad Max and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, until one night, the voices finally gave her the answer she sought . . . the key to the identity foreshadowed in her visions of the annihilating blast. “. . . and there came a Pale Writer. . . .”

The next day townsfolk found her, tube of sunscreen in one hand and a dried rib of saguaro cactus in the other, Piper scribbling madly in the sand. “Who are you?” they asked in wonder. “And why aren’t you sunburned?”

To which Piper replied, “I am the Pale Writer of the Apocalypse.”

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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31 Responses to At Greg’s Piano

  1. This is a very good entry. Piper has a remarkable ability to sum up key details that span a good length of time into a few paragraphs. It is a good lesson to learn from as it might seem rather difficult to do such things. I know I try to remedy it by actually inserting a scene to spice up what I really want to bring across, only to actually bloat the book with unrelated scenes.
    The summary Piper established in the beginning paragraphs is a good and valuable lesson in my opinion.

    With that said, Piper just simply has an awesome grasp on time in general! I don’t understand much of the bio in the italics, but Piper seems like a well-experienced writer because she can make a huge amount of time flow comfortably in a matter of sentences. She’s a master of time I guess.

    anyway, thx for the read.
    bye

    O, you know, I had honestly thought this was a journal entry at first. Whoopsie me. :3

    Like

  2. Barb Estinson says:

    David thanks for sharing this poignant and beautiful memoir of Piper’s. She is an incredible writer. And I was right along with her, in her girlish adoration of the beautiful blond boy.

    Like

  3. Sandy says:

    I really enjoyed reading Piper’s story. I thought it was well written and captured my attention from the start. I didn’t really think of my junior high crush but remained focused on her story and was left with of feeling of wonder as to what happened to Greg and what a tragic end to a beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing this memory of Greg.

    Like

  4. Jane Sadek says:

    His name was Tommy Moody. He lived across the street and about two doors down. Also blonde-headed, but each hair was held in place by Brylcreem. Crystal blue eyes sparkled with mischief and joy. My big moment was when he invited me to ride around the block on his mini-bike. But my heart was fickle and it wasn’t long until Paul moved in, down at the end of the street. Since Tommy had been oblivious of my devotion, I doubt he missed it.

    Like

  5. DM says:

    Wonderful blog. It did bring back memories of my first crush. It was a great tribute to this young man.

    Like

  6. hawleywood40 says:

    What a beautiful written memoir and tribute!

    Like

  7. malia says:

    Beautiful and well written! I also had a crush on a blonde hottie in jr.high…apparently he liked me too, and when he took me on a walk, handed me a rose and asked me out, something in me shifted and I said…no!

    Like

  8. Piper Bayard says:

    Thank you, David, for hosting me on your blog. It’s an honor.

    Like

  9. Piper Bayard says:

    It’s ok. Gregg died of cancer. He was 33.

    Sounds like you learned an important lesson. It’s interesting. I’ve lived in a variety of socio-economic circumstances. I find it is the have-nots who tend to be less able to live with the relationship than the haves. Good to see you. 🙂

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  10. Pingback: The End is Near (and we deserve it). . . . “Schweddy Balls” is Now an Ice Cream Flavor « Author Piper Bayard

  11. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    This is a beautiful story.

    Like

  12. Catie Rhodes says:

    What a poignant story. What happened to him? I don’t guess it matters, does it? I’m just curious, and you don’t have to answer.

    How did my first crush help me grow? My first real crush happened about the same time you met Gregg. We never became friends, though we knew each other through my family. I think I learned that life isn’t like Pretty in Pink. Different socio-economic classes really do create a divide. And that’s okay.

    Like you, I wonder what happened to some of the kids I knew back then. Sometimes I go cruising on facebook and find them. You can figure out a lot about people’s lives just by looking at who their friends are, where they live, and what they’re doing. 😀

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