Chapters 4 & 5
It’s already 5:30 PM. I have to get ready for the recital. I have to practice the kids for the first and last time before they hit the stage later that night. So I took a quick shower and got ready for leaving. I brushed my teeth a couple of times to get the smell of the nasty rum off. It took me about half an hour prepping myself before I finally left my new house.
There I was, in front of the gates of my apartment. I looked to the right and saw people gathering around a few blocks from my house. I wanted to check what the commotion was all about, but I don’t have enough time for I might get late for practice. So I tried to catch a ride as quickly as possible. I finally got a taxi after fifteen minutes.
I sat comfortably at the backseat of the car. The air conditioning was just right for relaxation.
“CCP tayo, manong.”
The driver nodded as I lay my back down the cushion. I looked out the window, trying to see anything interesting. But the memories started to go around in the back of my mind, taking over me once more. There I was, looking outside the taxi window, looking at nothing, and my mind was flying back to the past once again.
I never saw the girl again after that incident. But I could not forget how I felt that day. It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before. I really don’t believe in love at first sight, but it seems it got the better of me. If she really was a ghost, I don’t care. All I know is, there’s something about her that I know can fill something that I am longing for.
I tried to concentrate on my music and studies, but her face just keeps bugging my system. Every time I try to write or play a song, it just reminds me of her. And the feeling grows deeper and deeper as days pass. I have to see her again, I really have to. Even if this means I have to miss practices and lessons.
One day, I decided I went back to the room where I first saw her, trying to see if she’s there. Classes are ongoing so I sneaked near the rear window just to have a peek inside the room. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see her there. I waited for the class to finish, about half an hour. I was close to snapping out due to extreme boredom when the teacher finally went out. I tried to look inside again, but still I couldn’t see her. I went inside to see more closely and thoroughly.
There I was, beside the classroom door, looking around a few more times. But there was no sign of her. I then realized that the whole class was looking at me. The class president kindly asked me what I was doing inside their room. I was totally embarrassed.
“Ahmm… sorry, mali ata yung room na napuntahan ko. Akala ko room ‘to ng pinsan ko eh. Sige, salamat.”
I politely excused myself to everyone, and ran out right away. Even if I can’t see it, I can feel that I am as red as a ripe tomato. Since then, I never went to find the girl again. But the memories of that rainy afternoon still linger deep inside my mind, and I know it’ll be there until I can get the answers to my questions.
Recitals week came for our orchestra group. The practice schedules were horrendous. It was so hectic that we don’t attend class anymore just to perfect our pieces. We even spent almost a week over a single piece, going over and over until every note we hit is perfect.
“Everything in music has to be perfect! Or else it won’t be called music!”
That’s what our music professor always tells us. But for me, music isn’t just being perfect. It has to have heart and passion for it to grow. And I can see that our group is not in the mood to put those elements into action.
“Let’s just call it a day guys. Mukhang ‘di natin kakayanin ‘to hangga’t hindi tayo babalik sa mood natin.”
As the leader of the group, I had the authority to say those words. Our mentor just shook his head and went straight to his office. I convinced my group to concentrate for the next practices so we can perform at full shape for the recitals, which is just four days ahead. We still have a lot to practice, and we all need rest. I talked to our professor, and he apologized to me for being too harsh on us. He just wants the best for us, and we understand that. I told him to get some rest, too, and we went home together. We smiled as we think about giving the best performance of our lives at out recital which is four days away.
But my recital, with my new current group, with my friend Albert’s students, is just an hour and a half away. I went back to my senses and tried to see where I really was. There is moderate traffic ahead, about a few meters long. I was almost there; I can already see the CCP building.
“Dito na po ako Manong. Pakitabi na lang”
I gave him my fare and ran towards the venue. The kids were already in the practice area when I got there. I caught some of my students using their cellphones, which my friend Albert strictly prohibits when they have practices going on.
“Kids, hindi ba pinagbawal ni Sir Albert yang cellphone? Hindi dahil may sakit siya ngayon at ako ang magko-conduct sa inyo eh aalisin din natin yung mga rules nya.”
I said those words with a smile so the kids won’t get scared or something. I don’t want to add to the nervousness they’re feeling right now. Rico, the group’s bass player, came to me and smiled.
“Akala ko hindi na kayo darating sir.”
I smiled at him and we went out to the stage together. It was time for our performance. As I stepped up the pad in the middle of the stage, I remembered the words Rico said. Those were the exact same words I myself once said to my professor moments before our group’s first performance.
After years of hard work and exhausting practices, it all comes down to this one very special night. It was the first performance for our orchestra group. We prayed hand in hand before our performance, hoping neither one of us will get nervous and hit a wrong note, because if that happens, it will spread like a virus, infecting each and every one of us.
We played four pieces of symphonies and two contemporary pieces consecutively. Our prayers were heard and answered by God. The performance was fabulous. It was the most fantastic performance we have ever had. I even saw our mentor shed some tears at the backstage. We really felt proud of ourselves, but most of all our professor who helped us overcome all these things.
“Salamat sir.” He was still crying when I approached him.
“Hindi, salamat sa sipag at pagtitiyaga ninyo. At lalo ka na. sige na, lumakad ka na. It’s time for your solo.” He smiled and watched me as I walked back towards the stage.
I prepared myself for my solo performance. I checked my violin for tuning, and I made sure everything is up and working on the sound department. I wiped off some tears and finally went back to center stage. This is it. My own moment. All of my hard work and dedication to music will be put to a test.
I pulled the first of my two pieces with ease. It wasn’t that hard anyway, just an original piece I made in G minor. I took a short break before I perform my second piece, just to catch up some deep breaths and get the tension out of my system. I may have practiced meticulously and for a very long time, but still I admit I’m a bit nervous.
The group had already left so the backstage was dark. They probably had gone to the dressing room to change their clothes. I thought I was all alone in there, so I tried to scream a little and paced back and forth to relieve some stress.
I was dazed when I heard that sound. I went towards where the sound came from. I couldn’t see well without that much light, so I went closer and closer to a dark image near the corner. I extended my arm and reached towards the apparition, and felt a soft muscle where my hand landed.
I was stunned when she suddenly slapped my face, but I don’t blame her. I accidently touched her breasts, but I explained that I can’t see well especially without any lights. She laughed and said it was alright. She was the one who surprised me anyway. I took a sigh of relief.
She went into the light. It was her, the girl from the dark room. I was stunned, but in a good way. The best way, in fact. All the tension and nervousness I felt just popped up like a bubble. I felt so alive, like I want to jump around the backstage, full of energy, and love.
“Mikko, ready na? You’re on in 30 seconds.” It’s time for my second piece. But honestly, I really did not want to leave the room that time.
“Sige, kita na lang tayo after ng performance mo. Good luck!”
Her smile was so pure, and her face is so angelic that night. I was so inspired that I pulled the best performance of my life just like opening a candy bar. The crowd stood up as I play the last few notes of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major. I made a huge bow in the middle of the stage, everyone still standing and giving their applause to me. My group, together with my mentor ran up to the stage and hugged me, congratulating me for a great performance.