Saturday, 16 April 2011
Piano Man. Oh Brother.
Half past three.
I climbed the metal staircase on the outside of the building, the only means by which to get to the upstairs classrooms. All the other boys had left for home, all except for the privileged four, we were the 'talented ones', the four who would get free piano lessons with the 'music brother' after school finished.
He always had treats for us, oranges or bananas, what luxuries for kids from 'the island', exotic wonders to seven year olds from probably the poorest area in a drab 60's Limerick.
He sat me on his lap while 'Muddy McCarthy' did his scales, peeling the orange and teasing me with the segments. I misheard his question as "are you wearing other pants". Why would I be wearing 'other pants'? It was only years later, when the memory of those lessons raised it's ugly head, a memory I must have pushed, wrapped, tied with the string of childhood guilt and hidden in the far reaches of my mind, that I realised he was talking about underpants.
I loved that piano. Loved playing the scales, loved it when I played my first simple tune for the other Brothers who came to see how his pupils were progressing.
'See the monkey on a stick, he can do a clever trick'.
"He really loves his piano pupils" one brother would always say. And I think we really believed that he did.
'Muddy' committed suicide before he was twenty.
To this day I cannot put a finger to the keys without seeing his face, his thick black wavy hair, the dandruff on his soutane, the hairy knuckles.
"Are you wearing other pants?"