Wednesday, December 4, 2013

She Never Rides That Bus

Normally I see her on the afternoon bus, when I see her at all.  She goes to the church where I used to be choral director.  I was essentially fired from the place a few years ago, but she keeps me informed.  I was especially happy to hear the news that the minister who got rid of me had so divided the congregation through the years that he left before he was drummed out.  She always takes an earlier bus in the morning.

Monday morning, she was on the 8:05.  She always takes an earlier bus.  The seat beside her was vacant and she asked me to sit with her.  She'd had an upset stomach and missed the bus she usually rode.  We made the usual small talk, with me being sympathetic about her tummy problem.  She got a strange look on her face, reached into her bag and pulled out a program from a church service a couple of weeks earlier.  She said she'd been keeping it for me.  She opened it and at first I didn't understand what it had to do with me.

I noticed a familiar title for the offertory.  It was a rag I wrote a long time ago, back when I was living the ragtime life.  I noticed at the bottom of the program that the offertory was dedicated to the pianist's grandparents and it was explained that the rag was written by "the much loved former director" of the church choir.

At first, I was startled.  I had assumed I was formally excised from church history, an unmentionable.  Then it hit me later in the morning that a piece I'd written many years before was played (and I knew the pianist, so I knew it had been played well) for people who had no idea who I was.  And it hit me that I actually was a composer and strangers heard my work...certainly not an established composer, but a good pianist took the black dots off the page and turned them into music I'd created and people heard it.  I'm far more prolific as an arranger.  I was used to conducting my arrangements.  Arrangements take imagination; it's difficult for me to come up with an original melody (let alone the 3 or 4 required in a rag).  But there I was, absent but entertaining people for just under 4 minutes.

I sent an email to the person who was my supervisor at the church and is the mother of the pianist.  I told her I was surprised and delighted that her daughter played the rag and happy that I was a footnote in the church's history.  I'd figured my 22 years as choir director had been deleted.  I asked that she forward my thanks to her daughter.  She replied that I was much more than a footnote and that I was dearly loved.

What bothers me is that I can't relate this to my partner.  He was as surprised as I that I'd been told to resign (my resignation was written in pencil on yellow legal paper and said only "I quit" and my signature, which I figured was all they deserved) and almost immediately turned it into him no longer having a place to sing.  He's an only child so everything tends to be about him.  Unfortunately, he was raised in an atmosphere of never forgiving someone who's wronged you and to nurse that grudge 'til the end of time.  Mentioning the church would aggravate him.  To mention the names of either or both of the women who set him into a rage.  I'm tired of that.  I'm also tired that everything centering on him.  I'd much prefer him to be happy for me, but I know that's not possible.

He would not understand the joy of the serendipity of the bus ride.  He wouldn't understand that I was delighted that the pianist picked one of my compositions to play.  He would excuse the audience as members of "that" congregation and all of them are, if not evil incarnate, at least despicable.  He would instead think that he hadn't been asked to sing, that they had taken that from him, and fuck them anyway, they deserved to be deprived of his talent.

Odd that I can put this out there for the world to see but can't tell my partner about how happy I feel.  I hope you understand.  I had to share it.  You chose to read this.  Thank you.

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