The face in the mirror is the same face: blue eyes, pale skin, large nose, bow lips, with a mess of fine, blond hair all around it. In all the old paintings, I see this face, though there’s always something off about it.
They never painted me laughing, or even really smiling, and God knows I did enough of that. The closest is the portrait of me at twenty-one, as a Chevalier of the Order of the Golden Spur. It’s still my favorite portrait, though the title I received with that medal is a bit fruity, I realize.
In my later years, Constanze’s brother-in-law painted me as the serious, muse-inspired artist — Mozart at the Keyboard, all very Romantic. He painted Constanze, too, and his wife Aloysia — Constanze and Aloysia Weber, the loves of my life. The Webers had Bohemian blood — dark eyes, dark hair, red lips.
I miss Stanze sometimes, painfully. The lilt of her voice, her laughter. She could sing, too, a sweet soprano. Girls now don’t learn to sing, I’ve found; if they do sing, their voices are hard and as low as mine was when I dictated the Lacrimosa to Süssmayr on my deathbed.
I died young. Even after more than 200 years, people shake their heads and say, “Only thirty-five! What a tragedy!”
Now, here, I’m about twenty-five, I’d say. Not a bad age — the first time around, I was in Munich, enjoying the success of Idomeneo. But this time I didn’t have to go through the circus of my childhood, the death of my dear Mama in Paris, the loving tyranny of my father, the silent disapproval of my sister.
Carissima sorella mia Nannerl! I wrote a concerto, a grand thing for two pianos, for her and me to play when I was last twenty-five. And even if we had long outgrown our wunderkinden finery, for those moments while we played, we were the little prodigies once again, marvels of nature.
Nannerl married some hoity-toity of our father’s choosing, went from being horse-faced Nannerl Mozart to Frau Maria Anna von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg. He had a passel of brats already from a previous marriage, and then Nannerl had a boy of her own. Old Leopold took it on himself to try to raise Little Leopold himself; he wanted to turn the child into another sideshow attraction, I presume.
My children — the two boys that lived — died without marrying, without issue, without composing. It is a disappointment. And not just for me. Something ended after they were gone, some hope of magic. There would be no more like me.
Somewhere, a yearning that my existence somehow fulfilled — I say this not out of arrogance, but out of knowledge. I know full well what the world thinks of me.
The love the world holds for me is a curse as much as it is a blessing. Love can be selfish; it can be greedy. The world needs my existence, so it has sustained it, throwing me into new lives as it wills. The people around me never question my presence: when I appear, they see me as a familiar part of their lives. I don’t know what creates this deception.
I keep looking into the mirror to make sure I’m still myself, studying my hands to see that the lines are the same.
I have no direction.
Papa would stand above me now, face stern, gray eyes as hard as metal — “Make your place among great people,” Papa would say. “Aut Caesar aut nihil.”
God help me, I miss Papa.
I am standing on a chair and singing to Papa. Everyone likes it when I sing. They say I have a sweet voice, and I never miss any notes. I like to make other people happy, especially Papa, so I sing Oragna fiagata fa to him every night and then he tucks me into bed.
“I love you more than anything, Papa,” I say, kissing him on the end of his long nose.
Papa smiles, but then looks stern. “Wolferl, you know your Almighty Creator should have the first place in your heart.”
“Yes,” I say, climbing under the covers, “but next to God comes Papa. When you grow old, I’ll take care of you. I’ll keep you in a glass case so nothing can ever touch you.”
Papa’s eyes get shiny and he kisses my cheek as he tucks me in. He lights a small candle on my nightstand before he leaves the room. I’m afraid of the dark.
Papa told me that we’re going to take a trip soon, not so very far away, and I’ll sing and play the clavier for important people. I am excited, and a little frightened, but Papa says that as long as I practice and act like myself they will be pleased. I hope so. I do love to make people smile at me.
The people in the small crowd that has gathered around me in the station smile as I play, and I try to smile back. One young woman, standing near my elbow, looks as if she wants to cry. I see her every day.
I decided to play the violin today. Some days I bring a keyboard, but the violin is easiest to carry around and it seems to be especially fascinating to the throngs of commuters coming in and out of the train. The violin is a curiosity to them, which is a pity.
I don’t mind playing in these humid, crowded, underground stations. Recently, I went to the symphony hall to hear a performance — of my own work, actually — and there were no calls for encores, no cheering between movements, only polite applause and coughing. The audience hardly let the music touch them.
But the train station is a democratic place. There was much talk of democracy during my life — democracy and brotherhood. I took oaths of brotherhood when I was a Freemason, and it was all just beginning in France when I died. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
But I’m digressing from my purpose. I am here to make music. It is for others to listen to that music and philosophize. My music doesn’t belong to me; it never did, really. As it ran through my head and came pouring onto paper it did, but once others heard it, it was not mine anymore. My music belongs to the world. I belong to the world. I don’t think I ever really belonged to myself, as much as I wanted to, and as much as I tried.
I’m playing a cadenza. Improvisation has always been my forte, ever since I was a child. The young woman at my elbow is wearing an expression of rapt fascination. She’s like the Weber girls — dark eyes, dark hair, red lips. The waves of her hair cascade over her shoulders. Stanze looked like that, in the morning, sometimes, when she’d come into my study, still in her slippers and dressing gown, to talk to me while I wrote out my compositions.
I stop playing at seven o’clock and leave the late commute to other musicians — there’s a group of three black men who sing a cappella, an old Chinese man who plays the zither, and a woman who is quite clearly mad and sings along with recorded music. None of them is as good as I am, but égalité, égalité.
They glare at me sometimes as I leave. Jealously. I’m used to it. Envy and intrigue have been part of my life since I was a mere child. In that life that is so far away and yet seems close enough to touch, musical directors sought to have my operas suppressed and my character smeared. I try to be friendly with these other musicians, but they think I am condescending. It is one of the prices of genius.
“Hard work is the price of genius, sometimes, Amadeo,” Padre Martini tells me. “It is not enough for you to make beautiful music. The music must have form.”
I look down at the neat rows of notes I’ve inked out. I pull out a fresh sheet of paper and begin anew. “I understand, Padre,” I say.
He watches over my shoulder as I write. “Good, good. When you take your exam, remember counterpoint: all parts of the music must blend together as one, even if each is its own melody. You must bring them together somehow.”
Padre Martini is not there when they put me in the room by myself for the exam. I have nothing to work from but a pen, ink, several sheets of paper, and the antiphona that I must set into four parts. I write for three-quarters of an hour and then present my work for judgment.
The members of the Accademia Philharmonica vote by putting black and white balls into a box, black for no, white for yes. All of the balls that they cast are white.
I am fifteen years old, their youngest member.
Papa is not here as they applaud me, for they have locked him in a room so they are sure that I did not get any help from him. After I have thanked the other members, I go to him quickly and tell him my good news. He smiles and looks very proud.
“Well, then,” he says finally. “I do hope news of this spreads quickly, for it will be good for your opera.”
My hands are beginning to ache for composition already. Papa is proud of me. He likes the honor the best, a bit more than he likes the money.
I take the coins and the bills out of my violin case before I put my violin away. People have always been extraordinarily generous to me. These passing commuters have replaced the long list of my subscribers — the bourgeoisie and proletariat have usurped the nobility and elite as my benefactors and patrons.
“Are you stopping already?” the young woman asks me.
She looks down at me as I kneel to put my violin away. I can see the pleading quite clearly in her eyes, but I also recognize a bit of playfulness. She wears a half-smile, wonderfully seductive.
“Yes,” I say. “It’s quitting time for me.”
I snap the case shut and stand up. She still looks down at me — her height tops mine by two or three inches.
“Oh, of course,” she says. “I should know by now. But it’s always too soon when you stop playing. Your music is wonderful.”
“Thank you,” I say. In another time, I would have bowed to her and maybe she would have offered her hand to kiss. Now, I nod and start walking to the stairs.
“I’m Charlotte,” she says, hurrying after me and offering her hand — to shake, I realize, not kiss.
I put my hand around hers and say, simply, “Wolfgang.” It’s a strange name here, a strange name that usually draws strange looks. But she stares at me for a moment, and then whispers the rest.
They find me sometimes — these people who know who I am and can find it in themselves to believe it. I never know how to handle them, really. Usually, they don’t speak to me, but I sense the recognition in their faces. For a moment, they look shocked and then they shake their heads, as if to say, “No, of course not, what could I be thinking!”
I start walking again and Charlotte keeps pace with me.
“May I–” she begins, “may I go home with you?”
Ah, this is familiar. Sometimes it was a note slipped into my hand, a look over a fan, a few whispered words in passing. “Music is the food of love,” Shakespeare wrote, but maybe “love” is a bit too lofty a word.
She puts her hand on my arm. It’s so small and smooth and beautiful that I know I couldn’t bear to leave this young woman behind, unfulfilled — and I think a bit of a romp will do me some good, as well.
“It’s a long walk,” I say.
“I don’t care.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“I know you well enough,” she says. “I’ve watched you every day. I know who you are.”
I smile at her and she smiles back and then laughs. It’s wonderful to hear a woman laugh for me again. I hold her hand as we walk back to my apartment.
Every time we pass a store window I can’t help but glimpse my reflection. I look so unlike myself — the face and the body are the same, but the clothes, the clothes! So uninteresting compared to the lace-trimmed satin waistcoats and silk stockings. I’m drab in black jeans and a faded gray T-shirt. The shoes, more comfortable than any other shoes I’ve had, are black and thick-soled. I watch them as I walk sometimes, hardly believing my own feet are inside of them.
Charlotte talks a bit as we walk, and I ignore the shouts from the loiterers on the street who call out, “Maestro! Play us a song, huh?”
My apartment is very small. There’s one room, and the kitchen has cracked tile on the floor. But I’ve stayed in worse places, at inns with mattresses that had to be checked for bedbugs and monks’ quarters that I shared with Papa.
Charlotte quickly pulls her coat and sweater off as soon as I close the door. Women’s underclothes are so much simpler than they used to be — no lacings, no tiny buttons and hooks, no hoops and petticoats. It’s almost disappointing.
Her eyes are bright with merriment, though, and her mouth is delicious. She giggles as she pulls my shirt over my head. I guide her to the unmade bed and we fall down in the rumpled sheets and blankets.
Bäsle and I are playing hide-and-seek while everyone is out taking a walk — a childish game, but one we both enjoy.
“Little cousin,” I call as I enter her bedroom, “I’m coming to find you — find you, bind you, grind you! I’m going to jump on you — jump you, lump you, hump you!”
Muffled laughter comes from a rather large mound under the thick quilt. I lift the covers at the foot of the bed and grab at her, mostly getting a handful of her skirt. Bäsle shrieks and slaps at my hands, and then finally pulls me under the quilt with her.
“You’re an awful brat,” Bäsle says and begins tickling me.
I laugh and scream and shout in agony, begging her to stop. She has me pinned down on the bed and is laughing almost as furiously as I am. Her blonde hair is slipping out of her cap. A tendril nestles between her breasts, which rise, white and smooth, over her dress.
She pulls me close to her and I kiss her nose, her pink cheeks, her smooth forehead. We pull the quilt over our heads and descend into a delight of exploration.
Charlotte has full, round breasts and soft hips. She sleeps next to me with the expression of a baby on her face. I wonder if she can sing. I’ve always had a tremendous weakness for sopranos. I listen to her breathe — she takes deep, strong breaths. I’ll give her voice lessons. I’ll make other people love her voice.
I’m in love with her already.
I get out of bed and pull my clothes on. I compose at night, or rather, I write down what I played during the day in the subway station.
I don’t use the synthesized sounds on my keyboard to compose. Its violin can never sound like Thomas Linley playing, nor the piano like the delicacy of my finest pianoforte — those are what I hear in my head.
I use an old-fashioned pen to compose, quickly drawing the individual notes, and somehow fancying that they’re the footprints of the little muse in my head, or of some long-forgotten bird that only I can hear sing.
The streets outside are noisy at night, a weave of new, unfamiliar sounds. It’s like being on the moon, it’s so different. And yet, here and there, I recognize something — the shout of voices, the whinny of a policeman’s horse in the park, the call of a street vendor — and it’s as if time doesn’t change anything.
I write without interruption until one o’clock, when Charlotte stirs and then comes over to my writing desk. She’s wearing one of my shirts and nothing else. She draws her bare legs to her chest as she sits in the chair next to me. A strand of hair falls over her eyes, and she brushes it aside with a quick movement.
“What are you writing?” she asks.
“Just the music I was playing today.”
She picks up a piece of the music paper and traces her finger along the lines of notes, humming under her breath. She can sight-read, and though she misses a note here and there, I am certain that, in her head, she knows how it should sound.
“What are you going to do with it after you have it all written down?” she says, placing the page back on the stack on the table.
“Nothing,” I say. “I had my chance at greatness. I write what I want now — not for profit or anything like that.”
Charlotte shrugs. “I think it’s an awful waste,” she says and goes on humming what she’s read, veering off my melody, composing little variations with her breath. I keep on scratching the notes onto the paper. I can feel the warmth of her body next to me.
I can still hear Mama breathing, God be praised, as I inscribe my piano sonata. A-minor. A-minor is empty, hollow, all white keys, except where an accidental breaks through.
Paris is dreadfully ugly, dreadfully stupid. The doctors don’t know what to do. One says give her water, another says give her wine. Mama asks for water, so I bring it to her and help her drink. She looks so small and pale, but she smiles at me and tells me not to worry.
The last doctor bled her, but she did not improve. He told me to send for a priest.
I have resigned myself, as has Mama — I can tell by the serene expression she wears as she sleeps. I can only hope that she will remain calm and out of pain until the Creator deems it time to take her to Him.
I can only do what I do best: write music. The piano sonata I am working on is not meant for Paris, though. I will leave this awful place and never return. The sonata is mine. Papa will not approve of it. He will say it is too difficult, too melancholy. Papa hides his feelings. None of his music tells anything about him.
The candle flickers a bit and Mama groans quietly. I put down my pen and press her hand in mine. It’s very cold — so different from the hand that soothed and caressed me as a child. The ink on my hand smears onto hers. The blots look like bruises. I lean my head over our clasped hands and weep.
The priest will be here soon, and I wait for him. In some strange stretch of logic, I think that when the priest comes he will bring death with him.
My crying has awakened Mama, and she shushes me, very quietly.
“Do you remember, Wolferl,” she rasps, “the games we used to play in the old days to pass the time?”
I nod and do not speak. The illness has affected her hearing and I would have to shout for her to hear me.
“Don’t cry, Wolferl. Let’s play a game, shall we?”
Charlotte and I play a game in which we run the length of the subway train and then slip into a car just as the doors are closing. We’re both laughing, but it almost hurts me to see her, her hair flying around her face, her mouth spread wide. I don’t know why it should hurt.
We’re not going anywhere — just riding back and forth between the stations. It’s not the destination that matters, Charlotte says, but the journey.
But I remember my trips as the final destinations, except those I took when I was very young and delighted in driving fast and making up stories with Nannerl. But the rest is all Milan, Munich, Rome, London, Mannheim, Prague, Paris. Ah, Paris, how I hated it.
Charlotte and I sit on the train’s worn upholstery, out of breath. We watch the reflections of the other passengers in the windows and sway as the train moves.
The train is close to empty. It’s before commute time, so the riders are housewives and the homeless, or maybe some people returning from lunch hour meetings with their lovers.
When four o’clock comes, I must cast off the role of a passenger and once again become the subway musician, the poor young man who trades music for spare change and occasional dollar bills.
As we travel towards the station near my home, I tell Charlotte that this is the first time I’ve lived in San Francisco. And that I’ve lived in Guadalajara, in London, in Melbourne, in Tokyo. “Don’t ask me when,” I say. “I don’t remember.”
I really don’t. They’re like ghost existences, those other places. This place will become a haze as well, once I leave it. I hate to think that I’ll lose the whir of the trains in the subway, the soft skin of Charlotte’s face, the sound of the zither the Chinese man plays. I’ll even miss the smell of this city, so much like the stench of other cities — piss, shit, rotting food.
But I’m not meant to learn from these brief moments of life. They’re meant to learn from me. I think that’s how it works. I don’t think that it’s fair. I say so to Charlotte.
“But you don’t need to just obey,” she says. “Tell the world to screw itself. You don’t have to forget. You don’t have to lose this. Hold onto it.”
“I can’t hold onto what I can’t even get between my fingers,” I say.
“Well, then grasp for it, for God’s sake, Wolferl! Make your life belong to you!”
She sounds like Stanze now — Stanze when she saw me worried over another of Papa’s letters that poured me full of guilt for having dared to try to make myself my own. I put an arm around her and pull her close.
“I’ll try, then,” I say. “I’ll stay in this place. I’ll belong to myself.”
Charlotte buries her face in my shoulder. Her breath turns the fabric of my shirt hot, moist. She breathes as if asleep. I remember most of the women in my life sleeping: my mother, my sister, Bäsle, Constanze. I won’t remember Charlotte.
There’s a man in a green knit cap across the aisle. He’s wearing a mud-spattered trench coat. He reads a newspaper and whistles while he turns the pages. I recognize the melody. I wrote it.
My starling is whistling in the next room. The smart little thing knows how to whistle the closing melody of one of my piano concerti, though he’s added a sharp on the G.
Stanze is sleeping in the bedroom — she’s fat and round and rosy. Pregnancy wears well on her, though I fear for her health after the death of our dear little Raimund. I insist that she stay abed several hours at a time.
I’m writing down another piano concerto — they devour them in Vienna, always wanting to hear more, always wanting to see me play them. An artist I know wants to draw my hands, though they’re not especially beautiful. The fingers are curled from constant writing and from playing the piano and the viola. I find it harder to perform simple tasks with them all the time. Stanze has to help me button my coat and cut my food.
I stop writing for a bit, thinking of this. Stanze warns me to take good care of my hands, not to forget to warm them while I’m writing. My joints get very sore. It seems as if my talent wants to make it impossible for it to manifest itself. The more I write and play my music, the more my talent increases, and the more I must write and play my music. But the more I write and play my music, the more my fingers become crippled, and the less I am able to write and play my music.
It makes me melancholy sometimes to think of such things, and my friends try to cheer me up with impromptu concerts and serenades at my window. Jaquin has been over often to talk to me — how I do love that fellow! I would gladly compose hundreds of love songs for him to woo all the ladies with.
Jaquin is convinced there’s more for me in this world, as is Papa. I hope I’ll be able to live up to my father’s expectations before I die, or before he does.
I’m making loads of money, and God knows that impresses Papa, but I don’t think he approves of freelancing.
“Find yourself a post with some nobleman,” he tells me. “Otherwise, you’ll be forgotten as soon as tastes change.”
Still, they sing my praises all over Vienna, all over Austria, over the whole of Europe. I surpass even the old masters. What more could Papa want?
Papa feeds off my success. He feeds off my failures, too, because they confirm to him that he is right and that I am wrong. A placement of a note, a change of key, a change of residence, a new frock coat — he can turn them all into triumphs for himself, conquests over me.
I once had a kingdom of my own making. I don’t tell Stanze or Jaquin, but I often think about the Kingdom of Back. Nannerl, ma très chère soeur, is the only person in the world who knows of it now. I imagine I’m there sometimes — where I am Trazom and everything I do belongs to me, and not even my father has influence over me. There, in that place, I can make Papa look at me the way he once did — with the expression I haven’t seen since I was a child playing my fiddle.
He glares at me now, from the miniature I keep near me when I write. What does he disapprove of? Too much.
There’s a man with a saxophone, glaring at me, when I arrive in my usual place in the subway station. His eyes are hard and black. They seem to have no irises, just empty holes in the white. He has tangled brown hair and dirt under his fingernails. He’s glared at me before. He envies me. I am used to envy.
The man scoops the money out of his case and nearly throws his saxophone into it. He shuts the case with a slam and leaves the station, his eyes fixed on me all the while. In another time he would have plotted with the primo uomo to sing badly and ruin one of my operas, or with others of his ilk to spread rumors about me. But intrigue doesn’t work the same way in the subways as it did in the court.
I have my violin again. Charlotte is at my apartment with the keyboard. I composed a little melody for her and she promised to have a variation on it completed when I return.
I warm my fingers by blowing on them. I think of all the breath I’ve felt against my skin, wondering just how much I’ve forgotten. I can remember Raimund’s sweet-sour baby breath; Bäsle’s, fast and mischievous; Mama’s last gasp. The breath of other people takes residence in the memory of your skin, phantom flickers against the hair on your arm, the back of your neck.
There are a few people waiting near me expectantly already. They like to hear me before they go home. Perhaps I give them a topic for conversation over dinner, or in bed.
There used to be women who would arrive early to my subscription concerts, hanging on the scales I played to ready my hands. There were men who attended every performance of my operas, anticipating every note, mouthing the words along with every aria. I used to be pleased and annoyed with them at the same time, for, though they loved my music, they took it away from me and made it part of their possessions. “Our dear Herr Mozart,” they used to call me, emphasis on the possessive pronoun.
There are some that do not care for my music, of course. There always have been. They say I try too hard. They are right, perhaps. I try desperately to do something in this music, as if I’m striving towards something. I’ve never known what, or if I ever discovered it, I no longer remember.
I know of music critics who say I was not a true artist because I did not suffer for my art, that the music sprang out of me with no birth pangs. They are wrong. But I took joy in the pain of creating. I remember composing fugues as Constanze shouted in childbirth, thinking, “It is all the same, the same.”
We called that child Raimund Leopold. Leopold, Leopold. My father wanted his name on everything. Maybe that was the largest pang of all — giving my creations to my father, with every note thinking, “After God comes Papa.” I please Papa by pleasing others. My fame reflected on him. Now my compositions reflect the genius and potential of mankind. Nothing is mine. Is that égalité or fraternité? I don’t know.
There’s a man standing against a pillar, the gray of his suit the same gray as the concrete. His face is stern and he’s looking at me with eyes that appraise, that examine, that express contempt and envy and joy at the same time. I look away from him as I play, but he’s there, watching me. It’s no use. He’ll always be there.
I concentrate on the strings of the violin. They quiver. “Oh, my liver! Oh, my spleen!” I once wrote to Nannerl in one of the letters Papa and I would send home while we toured Italy. A thousand smacks on your horse-face, Nannerl.
I don’t like the man in gray. I want to stop my playing and run over to him and beat at him with my bow until he goes away. He wants to take something from me, I know. He has before — in all those ghost lives, he’s taken me away after I gave enough to the world. Still, there is something else. He is angry — angry that I got to write my own requiem. That is the one thing that belongs to me: what he, what Papa, what the world, can never have.
I want him to know that I recognize him. I play the Confutatis to tell him that I know where he comes from, that man in gray.
There’s a murmuring in the crowd. I think someone recognized the melody and now that knowledge is spreading, slowly, like a plague, through the people listening to the music. I start in on the Lacrimosa, always the Lacrimosa.
“Listen!” is what I tell the man in gray through the music. “This is what you’ll never have.”
When I look up at the concrete pillar again, the man in gray is gone. There’s a clock over where he was standing. I’ve played past my time. The other musicians expect me to quit at seven o’clock. It’s past eight-thirty.
I pack my money and my violin quickly. Charlotte is waiting for me. I am hit with a sudden desperation to be near her, to press the warmth of her skin and her breath against me. I have remembered what is mine. I have told the man in gray that he cannot have it, cannot have me.
There’s a man waiting for me as I approach the stairs to the street. He’s wearing a knit mask, and his lips, his eyes, and the tip of his nose sprout out of the black yarn like strange, bloated fruit, overripe and too pink.
“You’ve gone too far this time, Maestro,” he says. “You don’t have respect for the rules of the game down here.”
“You play that fancy music, it takes away from everyone down here. We don’t pull in as much as we used to. No one wants to hear us play anymore.”
The man approaches me, slowly, moving with the planned steps of a stage actor, and I see Charlotte behind him, coming down the stairs, sheets of staved paper clutched in her hands.
I’m looking at her face when the man stabs me, the curves of her lips, cheeks, the horror in her eyes. She runs down the last few stairs, the paper in her hand crumpling in her fist, and slips in the puddle of blood forming at my feet. We both fall to the tiled floor and the change in my pocket scatters; my violin case lands with a sharp slapping sound.
“Oh,” Charlotte says, “oh, oh, oh.”
She breathes it out as if she’s singing. The syllables come out as an A, the note an orchestra tunes to, A. A-minor. Empty.
“Look,” she says, thrusting the crumpled paper in her hand at me.
There are notes written out across the staves, carefully formed, black footprints under the smear of red.
“Sing them with me,” she says. Her hand is in mine, warm, slick with my blood.
She starts singing, softly. I don’t know if she’s singing words or not, but I sing along with her. Her voice doesn’t break, even though she’s crying. My blood is across my shirt, trailing down. It looks like a quarter note.
I think I hear timpani.
I hear Sophie and Constanze crying in the next room. The pan of my blood sits on the floor, the handkerchief covering it quickly wilting. The sight, the sounds, the smell of death is all over the house.
Death is in a pile of composition paper next to my bed. I wrote the requiem too well. I called death here.
“Look at this, Papa,” I say. “Look at me. My music commands even death now. I control what you thought only God could. Are you proud of me, Papa?”
Süssmayr comes near to the bed. “Did you say something?” he asks. His face is both concerned and repulsed.
I shake my head. My father’s miniature is on the nightstand, next to the music paper and my composition pen. I cannot see his face.
I try to speak, to sing. Oragna fiagata fa, I sing. It comes out as a stream of brown vomit. Then the Lacrimosa closes in on me. I think I hear timpani.
Copyright © 2002 Jennifer de Guzman
Copyright © 2002 Jennifer de Guzman
Jennifer de Guzman spends much of her time in San Jose, where she attends school and works for the comic book company previous story in Strange Horizons can be found in our Archive. For more about her, see her Web site.