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The Last Intermission
at the wasted body in the hospital bed and looked
his watch. "Why did it have to be today?"
he asked himself. It was
getting late. He had to go over the nocturnes
again, there was something in
them he wasn't bringing out. He drummed his
fingers on the windowsill and
looked at Carol.
She hadn't taken her eyes from Walter.
The nurse came in and checked the IV drip, then
smiled at the two visitors. "He'll be dropping off
soon," she said. "He
should sleep for hours. You can
Jerry looked at his watch again and whispered to
Carol. "What do you think?
She made a shushing sound and put her finger to her
lips, and in a voice so
low he could barely hear her, said, "It's only a
matter of time I guess."
"Do you think he can hear me?"
They waited a minute until Walter's eyes closed
and his breathing became deep
and steady -- Then Jerry spoke up again, "I don't
know how I'm going to get
along without him, I wouldn't be where I am if it
wasn't for Walter."
"You'll find another agent, Jerry."
"I only had to think about the music, he did
everything else .... I feel so alone."
"You're not the only one who's going to miss
him you know; I loved him too. What's more, he loved both of us ....
look at me like that." Jerry
turned away, walked to the window and stared out at
the fog drifting over the
hospital lawn. "He loved you too much to take
advantage, you know that .... I
would have let him, I think .... but both of us
loved you too much."
He put both hands to his face and brushed his hair
back. "I didn't think he
was that far gone, you know? I knew it was cancer
-- so did he .... but I
thought .... we all thought ..."
"He wanted you to think that, Jerry. I knew it.
You should have known it too." She shook her head in pity,
like a child, aren't you. We kept
everything from you." She opened her purse and
took out a letter. "I want
you to hear this ...."
Carol, Carol, how beautiful you are when you're
sleeping. Your lips slightly
parted, your breathing as gentle as a baby's.
There's a glow about you --
perhaps it's the light, but more than likely it's
coming from you. It's a
privilege to be here with you ... to be in your
presence while you sleep. I
am the most fortunate of men and I only wish I
could say the things I really
But there will come a day, I promise you, when I
find words to fit your
beauty. Be patient with me Carol ....
"Did he write that? It's beautiful."
"No Jerry, you did. Before we were married --
The first half of the concert went passably well.
Jerry was not completely
satisfied, the Beethoven pieces focussed the
attention of the audience on the
composer rather than the pianist. Beethoven had a
way of overwhelming the
performer, diminishing him ... that was the one
thing Jerry didn't like about
But the second half. The Chopin! That's where he
would shine! He ran over the
fingering again in his mind and he was sure he
could do some things even
Chopin couldn't do. He sipped the Perrier and
stretched out full length on
the chaise. The muted murmur of voices from the
green room were barely
audible from outside -- but he would allow no
visitors. Not 'til later. After
The crowd outside the door fretted as Carol and the
stage master reasoned
with them. "The maestro must concentrate on the
Chopin, he cannot -- must not
be disturbed. He will be happy to meet you after
the performance. Please
return to your seats. Intermission will be over in
ten minutes -- remember,
you will not be permitted to enter the auditorium
after the performance begins."
They were all women on the downhill side of fifty
and all of them were
mesmerized by the maestro's intensity of
expression, his tousled hair and the
impetuousness of his playing. He reminded many of
them of near forgotten
flings with other impulsive youths before their
marriages of convenience. "How unkind of the
management!" ... "If he
knew we were standing here, I'm
sure he would come out to talk to us."
It was something Carol had seen again and again. No
one could get in to see
Jerry at intermission -- only Chopin. On second
thought, she reminded
herself, even Chopin, if he were alive, would not
be welcome during
intermission. She marveled in the beginning how ego
and arrogance made Jerry
what he was; did he really think the people came to
hear him rather than the
music? She gave up wondering long ago.
The ten minute bell struck softly and the ladies
reluctantly headed back to
the auditorium. They wore expressions of petulance,
like children denied an
extra ten minutes before bedtime. Carol and the
Stage Manager breathed a sigh
of relief. Before returning to her seat, Carol
knocked lightly on Jerry's
door. He would rouse himself, she knew, limber his
fingers on the mute
keyboard and do his exercises. Before returning to
her seat she made a quick
phone call to the hospital -- she regretted it.
Walter died in his sleep shortly after they left.
The nurse was upset that he
Carol stood at the entrance door to the auditorium.
The thought of listening
to Jerry play the second half seemed impossible
tonight. She had a momentary
impulse to go back, burst into his dressing room
and shout, "Walter's dead,
Jerry! Still feel like playing?" Pampered child.
Fragile temperament ... the
facts of life would destroy him. No, she could
listen no longer -- neither
could she watch him play. She was not in the mood
for music. The thought of
Walter not being here to listen with her or to share in
ruined it for her.
Instead of finding her seat down front she walked
up the side aisle of the
auditorium and pushed her way through the
upholstered exit doors. She stood
with her back to the wall and heard the burst of
applause that signaled Jerry's return. She could almost see him bowing
ever so slightly before
sitting at the piano, smiling the shy shit-licking
smile of fake humility. He
would then extend his arms in front of him to draw
his cuffs up snug to his
wrists and look heavenward as though receiving a
blessing from Chopin. How
phony it all was -- how self-serving!
It was over for her. She could stand it when Walter
shared it with her; but
not alone. Not without him.
She fished in her purse for the old letter -- "there
will come a day I
promise you ..." She read it one more time, then
crumpled it up, its dry
creases digging into the palms of her hands.
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