The Death of a Violinist

Multās per gentēs et multa per aequora vectus
adveniō hās miserās, frāter, ad īnferiās,
ut tē postrēmō dōnārem mūnere mortis
et mūtam nēquīquam alloquerer cinerem,
quandoquidem fortūna mihī tētē abstulit ipsum.
heu miser indignē frāter adēmpte mihi,
nunc tamen intereā haec, prīscō quae mōre parentum
trādita sunt trīstī mūnere ad īnferiās,
accipe frāternō multum mānantia flētū,
atque in perpetuum, frāter, avē atque valē.
- Gaius Valerius Catullus, Carmina CI

A note died in my ear, here, at your … funeral.
I need to call it that, a funeral, even if the program here says Celebration.
It is a sad day for me. And for H. And I want to feel it all.

A note died in my ear today. My left ear. It hummed to a singular pitch, just moments ago. This note held itself there, in this ear, sharp and clear, a direct line to my brain… then died. A hair in a cochlea sang its last song, and hummed to a tremble, then ….

A note died in my ear today, while I cried through that recording of your performance of Barber with the Orchestra.

I cry and H intones, tearful but clear, proud and, with entendre to spare, he says “I cannot imagine my life without you.” He cries. I cry.

A note died in my ear. A single hair. A tone.

You had few words.
I hear the celebrant say “that his music spoke for him” as a way of…. I remember your small mouth when I think of your few words. H and I had so many. Always have so many. That’s how we are. For that whole trip I was positively bursting with them. Every time we stopped for some Harak and a taste of the local place there were words. You would drink in the place with your eyes and your ears, but you wouldn’t say much. You have a small mouth, and few words. You had a small mouth. Had few words. I don’t know if they came easy to you, as few as they were, those words. I think they did. Easier than mine…

I will regret thinking you cheap, rather than frugal. I do that with the ingenerous. I remember that the only time I asked you to get me a drink, you did. I had to ask you to return the favour, but you didn’t hesitate much, and you were quick when you realised. I will remember that time. That moment where your hands, pointing down to the earth as if posed at a piano, turned together then up. You said “Yes.” And you listened to one sentence… and really listened… I regret thinking you cheap. I will be more forgiving of others. I will not let my own generosity be a lever for my anger and resentment, for my sense of injustice or (more sharp) my sense of abandonment. I will be better to people in this way, in memory of you, those hands, that moment, this one. And that tone I will never hear again.

I regret that you took to the back seat of the car. I regret that you weren’t there with H in the passenger seat next to him. It was your last time together– not that any of us knew that then. I promise I’ll be a great friend to him in your absence. I am here with him today. I will be here again for him later. I will be there for him even if I’m physically somewhere else. I promise that to you too.

I regret that I cannot forgive. Anyone. Not really ever. I don’t forget anything. And I also never forgive. I know this is bad. I promise to live up to the memory of the love that S described in you. That letter. That Goodbye Letter to you. Those Great qualities that I barely saw in you. I will try to “love so much that I can forgive.” This will be hard for me, It will not be natural, but I will do it because it is Great. I will do it in memory of you and I will do it because a note died in my ear this day.

The Ocean, all these words of the Ocean— The Ocean! Oh, the Ocean! I didn’t even know that we shared that. All our time was in the Desert… The great silences of the ocean. Is that where your silences come from? Where they came from? I will remember you in the Ocean. I will remember it for you. I will remember it in you. I will be there with it, and I will see my own soul and yours in its passions and its silences. And I will cry salty tears into it for you, and for me.

A note died in my ear today.
I will never hear that tone again,
but I will do all these things in memory of you.

And so,
looking to the horizon and your sea, friend, I bid you Hail and Farewell.

atque in perpetuum, frāter, avē atque valē.

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