The inspiration for this month is a waltz. Written by Sir Anthony Hopkins it was conducted by Andre Rieu and has quickly become one of my go to YouTube videos. The piece is at times melancholic and joyful all at the same time.
For my submission (the only one) this month I thought I would try my hand at writing a very short story where the song is an invisible character. Written on my porch as the sun set (mood, it’s all about the mood) I tried to match each section of the story with one section of the composition.
By Priya Chhaya
waltz. A dance in which a couple moves in a regular series of three steps.
Yellowed with age the photograph was no longer defined by the sharp edges of newly printed photo paper. Raggedy bent corners revealed where the image had been pasted into an album and at the edge a faint fingerprint heightened it’s significance as evidence of human handling.
The scene depicted in the aged item was common enough. Two people, arms around each other, facing forward. His eyes are wide, unblinking – hers tired, creased with an undefinable worry. In the background phantom attendees of this long ago event are caught in time, faces blurred and unfocused.
Written along the edge, though some numbers are missing due to the aforementioned edge disintegration, was a semblance of a date. January 1, 2—. An archivist’s assumption. Short strokes of a pencil attempting some context.
On the back in an almost faded purple ink are two names: Ferdinand & Natalie.
Ferdinand had died unexpectedly in his sleep. No one in the family had been prepared, for even at the age of 87 his vigor felt unyielding. He hadn’t expected to live past the mid-century, always telling anyone who would listen that the 21st century had become a bit unpredictable, even for him.
She smiled for a moment, switching on the music and blinking back tears as it filled the air. At least that prediction came true. That would have brought him joy.
His possessions had scaled down to this single room with built in bookshelves lining three of the walls, a bed agains the fourth. There weren’t as many stories as there once were. Ferdinand liked to loan them out, not realizing (or perhaps, not caring) that the scarce supply of the physical object meant he was unlikely to ever see them again.
She paused in front of crudely framed photographs, just as a swell of violins reverberated through her senses. She had helped Ferdinand dig through the wreckage of his studio, pulling these photographs from shells of burnt out albums. Only three images avoided both flame and water damage.
With a sigh, feeling the tempo change, she ran her fingers over the faces of her grandparents. Her heart ready now to begin the business of letting go.
To say goodbye.
As engagement photos went it wasn’t her favorite. Taken by Roland seconds after she had popped the question the image felt surreal. Natalie knew she was worried about Fred’s response and he hadn’t quite fully comprehended what she had just asked. They looked unbearably unhappy.
But Fred loved the picture. Ever the photographer, he thought the picture made them human. He insisted on keeping it in thier album as a reminder that they were distinct individual people.
Maybe he was right. What she remembered were the moments after: Fred’s response and the heady feeling as they twirled around and around and around.
The snapshot showed two people on a precipice, uncertain but committed to the future, imperfect as it may be. But it was, in a way, like the swell at the end of a waltz clicking all the pieces together.
One. Two. Three. One. Two. Three. One. Two. Three. With care, Natalie placed the picture into the album, making sure it was secure. Only joy could follow.